Friday, March 25, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Dirbu Saikova National Park and surrounds, Assam

Our birding trip had an interesting start.   Our flight arrived albeit a little early (it took off 20 minutes early as everyone had boarded).   We collected our luggage and then headed out.   We were expecting to be met by someone with a sign, this has never not happened before.   We walked out, it was a beautiful late morning, there were a few people there some with signs but none with our name on.

We waited.   We turned our phones on, no signal (it turns out all non-Indian SIMs are blocked in this whole region).   Hmmmm.    Then a kind fellow passenger saw we were milling around, declining taxi rides so he asked if he could help.   He was returning from a trip to the UK as it happens, in his capacity as a manager of a number of Yorkshire Tea estates. We dug out the number we had for our guide.   It turns out he was one of the people milling around the entrance.   He did have a sign, he just hadn't held it up and he can't have been looking for us because we were stood not 20 paces from him for over fifteen minutes.  We should have realised then what lay in store...

We then drove to a Government office so that he could sort out his pass for Arunachal Pradesh, and sat in the car for an hour while that was sorted out.   Then we headed on to our first hotel in Tinsukia, The Centre Point Hotel.

We were given a fairly spartan room, with a double bed as hard as a door and no bedding, or towels, or loo roll.    The staff very grudgingly provided some loo roll and some towels and some bedding for a single bed.  So we took that back and they dropped off some stuff to fit.   Then we requested a mosquito coil, there being no net.   Then we made our bed.  Interesting hotel.

After a very salty lunch we drove to Majuri Bheel and then got in a canoe lined with individual plastic garden chairs.  In hindsight i wish i'd taken a picture of this craft,

We punted out onto the water, gently drifting around in the fading afternoon light.  It was frankly very relaxing and a pleasant form of birding.

We saw Asian Openbills:

And a bird I never thought I'd actually see, a vagrant Baikal Teal, splendid bird:

Bar-headed Geese:

Lots of Citrine Wagtails:

Ferruginous Ducks:

And a beautiful sunset:

After a rough night on our bed we started early as we had a long walk the next day, carrying a lot of kit, to try and located Black-breasted Parrotbills.   We walked over 15 miles with our guide, a local guide and a forest guard, over a beach, through a village with loud music blaring ahead of a forthcoming wedding and then along some rural tracks to our destination.

It was a long walk and quite tiring but we did get to see the target bird though we missed a few others.

One bird that was clear enough to photograph was this Paddyfield Pipit:

Another was this Pale-chinned Flycatcher:

As the morning wore on butterflies started to appear:

We completed the walk although by about three quarters of the way through our guide needed to keep pausing as he was discomforted by a previous injury which had left him in pain and unfit.

In the late afternoon we had another boat trip onto the Dheel, seeing more species including this Spot-billed Ducks:

The local guide proved very adept at spotting the rarer ducks and pointing them out to everyone.   We also enjoyed a lovely lunch and drinks at his house between the walk and the boating.   Then it was back to the hotel.

Unbeknownst to us they had a wedding party staying on the second night, they had a ceremony right outside our room that evening involving three ladies in some form of blessing of a chap, though to be fair we have no idea what was going on.   What we did work out though was that like in America it's considered normal to hold shouted conversations in the corridor of a hotel, at any hour you feel like it and that wedding parties even in the room opposite people trying to sleep party hard and loud all night.   They left just as we got up at 4am, exhausted.


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