Welcome to my blog of our fantastic birding trip to NE India in Feb 2012. The trip was organised by Jo Thomas of Wild about travel and it went without a hitch!
Tour members: myself (Dave), Mandy, Paul and Rachael. We were guided by the brilliant Abid and driven everywhere safely by Kanik.
The trip starts straight off the plane in Delhi with a day at Sultanpur Jeel on the southern outskirts of the city.
Next day sees us flying 2000km east to Guwahati where the real fun begins, starting with two days birding the fabulous Nameri National Park.
Then it's onward to the Himalayan foothills with three nights at Dirang, birding up to 13 700 feet over the terrifying Sela Pass!
On then to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary for four nights before finishing the trip in relative luxury for four nights close to the awesome Kaziranga National park.
Want to know more? Then read on!


The taxi arrived at some ungodly hour, Paul and Rachael arrived soon after and then we were off down the A10 to Heathrow. An uneventful journey followed along what would be the most civilised roads we were to see for the next 17 days.

We had a bit of time to kill at the airport and I soon realised that not only did I have no credit in my brand new smart phone but that I also did not even know how to turn it on! It was a good job that Rach knew what to do.....though little did we know that UK SIM cards don’t work in Assam. We easily killed a few hours in the swish new BA terminal and boarded the plane at 2.50pm.
I managed a few hours sleep on the plane (thanks to the two bottles of wine with the meal) and we landed in Delhi in the dark at 5am.


The long customs queue eventually snaked its way down to us, passports duly stamped, we stepped out into the airport proper to change money and freshen up after the long flight.  We found our guide Benni for the day, but the luggage didn’t fit in the vehicle and some of it had to be tied on the roof rack with a bit of flimsy looking string borrowed from another taxi!
Rufous treepie

The plan was for a day’s birding at Sultanpur Jeel and we were soon getting our first taste of the chaos that characterises India’s traffic. As the light increased, our lethargy from the flight eased away and in the growing daylight we were soon ticking off the first birds of the trip. Gradually, the sprawl of Delhi was left behind and we began to see some countryside. Cattle egrets and black kites were everywhere and we arrived at Sultanpur after a ninety minute drive.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning; still cool after what must have been quite a chilly night. The first 'on-foot'  birds of the trip such as Oriental magpie robin, taiga flycatcher and greater coucal were seen around the car park. We had an excellent breakfast (curry and puris) from the small cafe at the reserve entrance. We then birded quite a chunk of the reserve which consisted of a lake, muddy margins and scrubby woodland. Later on we moved to a dry area to look for Indian courser (which we dipped) but did see ashy-crowned sparrow lark, tawny pipit and Indian bushlark

Rose ringed parakeet
Benni had been a good guide and by the end of the day we’d seen more than  seventy species. By 4pm we were all whacked and decided it was time to head back to the hotel. The traffic on the way back was even more chaotic than in the morning and we eventually checked into the Hotel Singh Palace in the Karol Bagh district before dark.

We had a bit of a walk into the surrounding streets to look for somewhere to eat, eventually deciding to eat at the hotel where our food was brought up to the room....nice spicy dhal and rice. We were in bed by 9pm....our pick up time for the flight to Guwahati being 3.15am the next morning! The real adventure was about to begin!!

Images from the day are here


Greater adjutants and people on the dump
The taxi arrived at the hotel’s deserted streets bang on time and after a short drive we arrived at Delhi’s domestic airport. Check-in was straightforward for most of us......but there’s always one that insists on their luggage being searched - isn’t there Rachael? At the gate for our 5.50am flight Paul remarked that we were the only westerners on the flight...which added to the sense of adventure. A clear dawn broke as we were bussed out to the plane and we realised that if it stayed like this, we should get eyeball to summit views of most of the high Himalayan peaks including Everest!

Landing at Guwahati, we were greeted by our guide Abid and our driver Kanik. I’ll never forget the sense of excitement and anticipation as we unpacked the optics on the car park at the airport, the smile on our faces said it all! With luggage on the roof, daily essentials and birding gear now unpacked, the four wheel drive vehicle was just about perfect and we set off in search of birds!

Spotted owlet outside our cabin
First birding stop - the inevitable dump, a sprawling mass of refuse, birds and (sad to say) people eking out a living on the acres of rotting food and refuse. Our target bird, greater adjutant was soon ticked off along with hundreds of cattle egrets and black kites. The next few hours were spent driving until by mid afternoon we had checked into the comfortable Nameri Eco Camp.

Our accommodation consisted of a couple of cabins in an elephant proof enclosure, two hundred metres from the camp headquarters. Basic but entirley adequate, we did some unpacking and organising before setting out on an exploration of the nearby fields. Striated grassbird, Indian roller and long tailed shrike were seen and a pair spotted owlets nested in the tree just outside the cabins.

It was soon time for our evening meal and we had some fabulously tasty traditional Assamese food which was a feature of our stay at Nameri. The checklist was done in the open air restaurant, with an early night to was a pre-dawn start next day complete with armed guard for our trip across the river into the wildlife park proper! Serious birding!!

Images from the rest of today here.


The alarm clock disturbs a great night’s sleep. Not the chill of a Delhi dawn down here at Nameri, it’s pleasantly mild as we leave the cabin in the dark and head for some pre-breakfast birding. We start off along the trail down to the river, scaly thrush soon falls along with great hornbill and greater flameback and that's before the sun has risen!

On the river bank we are met by our armed guard who will accompany us as we bird the National Park side of the river. The main purpose of the guard is to protect us from elephant, leopard and tiger which roam the park's pristine forests.

The rowing boat soon takes us across and we set off into the forest with white-winged duck being the main target bird. Species of all shapes sizes and colours including Siberian rubythroat and streaked spiderhunter come thick and fast and after a 45 minute walk through the forest we carefully approach a small forest pool and there they are, a pair of white-winged duck. Relief! The birds soon detect our presence and fly off, so we settle down for our packed breakfast.

Sultan tit - what a stonker!
While scoffing our eggs, fruit, jam and bread, one of Paul’s most wanted birds puts in an appearance...Sultan tit, what a stonker! Little pied flycatcher soon follows along with goodies such as black-winged cuckoo shrike, wreathed hornbill and blue-bearded bee-eater. Several Indian thick knees are seen on the far bank but no such luck with the skulking white-cheeked partridge which responds to the tape but refuses to show just a few feet away from us in the undergrowth.

Asian barred owlet
It’s soon back to the camp for an excellent lunch followed by a canoe birding trip down the river for Paul, Mandy and Rachael, their species target being ibisbill. Having seen ibisbill in Sikkim, and being a poor swimmer, I opt out and bird around the camp on my own for the afternoon. Two hours later and they're back having seen, amongst a load of other stuff, ibisbill and Pallas's fish eagle. I have to be content  with good views of Asian barred owlet and small niltava.

Another great meal followed by some unsuccessful night birding... so it's not that early when we hit the sack and guess what? We are off at dawn tomorrow for the long drive to Dirang and some high altitude Himalayan birding.

Rest of today's gallery here


We say our goodbyes to Nameri and set off on the long drive to Hotel Pemaling at Dirang. Initially, the drive is along a flattish river valley where we saw ashy woodswallow and hordes of migrant Nepalese workers repairing the road. It looks like unbearably hard work and many of them are living with children under simple tarps right next to the road. The Health and Safety Act work act is non-existent.

Rufous-gorgeted flycatcher
Soon we are heading up into the mountains. Breakfast is taken on a pull out on a sharp bend in the road on a steep pass.  Abid hears a bird and declares ‘Rufous-gorgeted flycatcher’ and soon enough we are admiring a nice male as he perches on a 20 foot high length of bamboo.

Further up we stop for rufous-necked hornbill which we can hear calling on the other side of the steep valley. We fail on the hornbill but a skulking  red-headed trogon is seen by way of compensation.

The long drive continued up and down endless valleys with many birding stops. The highlight of which for me was one of my bogey birds - wallcreeper. We had a very spicey (but nice) meal at a small roadside town just after the wallcreeper.

Typical valley town
Eventually we arrive at the hotel as dusk falls. Though we can’t see the landscape, it feels like we are somewhere really special and we are made to feel really welcome. Though basic, the rooms are perfectly adequate with electric heaters (we didn’t bother with them), hot water for the bucket shower and comfy beds. The dining room somehow seems colder than outside and we dine well wearing fleeces, hats and down jackets!

More images from today here.