Bugun Liochicla, Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel, Arunachal Macaque and more: Eaglenest WLS Dec 2021

Himalayan Palm Civet, among the highlight sightings of the trip

Author: Ravi Kailas

Dates: 25th to 30th Dec 2021

This off-peak season to Eaglenest WLS in western Arunachal Pradesh, turned out duly interesting, with this globally acclaimed birding haven, oozing out its treasure trove of local specialities, including a duo from the only known population of Bugun Liochicla on Earth, the lovely Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-throated and Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren Babblers, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Himalayan Wood Owl, Himalayan Cutia and Tibetan Siskin among a plethora of Fulvettas, Yuhinas and Laughingthrushes – all thriving on several flowering and a handful of fruiting plants, despite the cold weather – over this six day visit. A walk along the Tenga River, around the village of Rupa, also produced Long-billed Plover and the a flock of enchanting Ibisbill, while the lowland forest along the road descending into the Assam’s plains produced a duo of Rufous-necked Hornbill. Mammal sightings were also satisfying, with species like locally uncommon Himalayan Palm Civet and Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel and four different troops the range restricted Arunachal Macaque among the highlights, but we missed seeing any cats, especially Golden Cat, which seem to be seen in Eaglenest relatively regularly, nor the reputedly commoner Leopard Cat and rarer Marbled Cat. The virtually traffic free route of about 60KM to Kellong from the entrance of Eaglenest WLS after the village of Ramalingam, was peppered with scenic vistas of Himalayan Peaks (on the odd occasion when it was clear), multi-hued canopy of temperate-broad leaved forest, especially from around the Eaglenest Pass, the magical, snow laden trail, along the Tragopanda Trail, leading upto and beyond the frozen Tragopanda Lake….

Logistics Etc

Guiding: We lucked out with Khandu, one of the premier guides at Eaglenest, and were duly rewarded with a number of bird sightings that would not have been possible without his impressive knowledge, gained from a decade or more of guiding here. Our sighting of Bugun Liochichla, especially highlighted his superbly honed skills for locating the local bird specialities, where he first heard their alarm calls, attributed their nervousness to a Himalayan Marten, which duly showed up in our view followed by a pair of the birds crossing the road amidst a flock of Rusty-fronted Barwing.

Accommodation: We stayed at the basic jungle camps (no electricity, barring generators for lights and charging devices for about 3 hours each evening, no running water and toilets situated at a bitterly cold strolling distance from the tent) at Lama (2300m) and Bompu (1800m). Food in both camps was simple but tasty, local/indo-chinese style vegetarian, with fillips like soup, hot chai and pakoras to warm up in the rather bitter cold (sub zero nights at Lama, where each morning we woke up to ground frost/smattering of snow) when the sun disappears. We also spent one night in the cozy rooms of Eaglenest Residency in the market town of Tenga, located at a half hour drive from the Sanctuary entrance.

Sunrise from Lama Camp

Transport: We used a Toyota Innova from Guwahati to Lama Camp and around Camp, and a Tata Sumo Gold to traverse the unpaved road between Eaglenest Pass and Kellong. We recommend you use local drivers who know the terrain well (especially relevant if conditions get more difficult, such as with snow or rain).

All logistics as above, were arranged by Tenzing Indiglow of Phuarung Birding (phone: 87299 15566; phuarung@gmail.com)

List of Mammals Seen

Himalayan Palm Civet
Yellow-throated Marten
Himalayan Goral
Red Munjtac
Asiatic Elephant
Capped Langur
Arunachal Macaque
Hairy-footed Flying Squirrel
Himalayan Striped Squirrel
Orange-bellied Himalayan Squirrel
Hoary-bellied Himalayan Squirrel
Pallas’ Squirrel?

Highlight Birds Seen

Beautiful Nuthatch
Ward’s Trogon
Red-headed Trogon
Tibetan Siskin
Spotted Nutcracker
Alpine Accentor
Pale-headed Woodpecker
Darjeeling Woodpecker
Rufous-necked Hornbill
Rufous-bellied Eagle
Himalayan Wood Owl
Long-billed Plover
Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren Babbler
Rufous-throated Wren Babbler
Himalayan Cutia
Fire-tailed Myzornis
Bugun Liochichla
Hill Partridge

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