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Trip Report symbol © Sumit Sen                                 North Bengal
                                 by Sumit Sen
                                 31 March -03 April 2004

 


© Sumit 2004
Himalayan Griffon

Trip List


Introduction

This report covers a short break in the Eastern Himalayas, the prime aim being to photograph some of the birds in the area. I covered Lava (8000 ft) Loylegaon (6500 ft) and Suntalekhola (2500 ft) in North Bengal over 4 days. The appended list of 120 birds were observed during the trip. Many species could not be identified due to the focus on photography plus the fact that there were no additional observers present.  
The weather overall was cloudy, but luckily it only rained at night. This delayed starts and affected the count. Even then, I did get to see some good birds, none better than a male Rusty-bellied Shortwing at Loylegaon.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Bagdogra (p.m.) and travel by road to Lava ( 3 hrs). Stay at West Bengal Forest Dev. Dept.'s Nature Resort Cottage.
Day 2: Lava  covering Algarah Road (4th - 6th mile) and approach to Neora. Afternoon to Loylegaon (21 kms) and stay at WBFDD's Rest House.
Day 3: Morning Loylegaon, Jhandidara Peak area. Noon depart for Suntalekhola via Lava and Damdim. Stay at  WBFDD's Cottage.
Day 4: Morning Suntalekhola.  Depart for Bagdogra and Kolkata.

Highlights

Day 1: A short detour to the Siliguri garbage dump area was very rewarding with 200+ Himalayan Griffons and a Cinereous Vulture.
Day 2: Morning start with the 1st bird being a pair of Rufous-capped Babblers at the 4th Mile on Algarah Road. Other good birds included fly through Speckled Wood Pigeons, Red-tailed Minla, Maroon-backed Accentor, Golden Spectacled Warbler and pair of Small Niltavas. Drive to the village yielded Grey-winged and White-collared Blackbirds plus a few Dark-sided Flycatchers. A 10am visit to the lower part of the approach to Neora Valley National Park was very disappointing.  A 4 km walk through heavily degraded forests yielded 3 birds. A similar walk from the upper reaches in November 03 was as disappointing.
Left for Loylegaon in the afternoon and stopped at the secluded viewpoint. This was very rewarding with all three Minla species, both Barwings, Kalij Pheasant, Short-billed Minivet and Whiskered Yuhina plus Warblers and Green-tailed Sunbirds.
Day 3: AM visit to Jhandidara viewpoint had Olive-backed Pipit, Blue-winged Minla, Red-faced Liocichla, Grey-chinned Minivet, Hume's and Grey-hooded Warbler and the star of the trip, a male Rusty-bellied Shortwing in a gully on the cattle path leading off the viewpoint. The Rest House had a Tickell's Leaf Warbler and the only Black-throated Tit of the trip.
The return visit to the viewpoint on the road to Lava yielded Grey-cheeked Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Yellow-browed Tit, White-browed Fulvetta and many other small birds.
5th mile on Algarah Road had Striated Bulbul and a striking  Gold-naped Finch pair.
Day 4: Four birding hours yielded both species of Necklaced Laughing Thrushes, Himalyan Swiftlet, Common Green Magpie, White-crested and White-throated Laughing Thrush, Greater Yellownape, Spangled and Ashy Drongo, Hill Myna, Red Jungle Fowl, Maroon Oriole, Crested Serpent Eagle, Scarlet Minivet and the 1st Grey Treepie and Black Bulbul of the trip. The Treepie and Black Bulbul was the most common bird at all altitudes during our November visit. 
A single soaring White-rumped Vulture on the way back from Suntalekhola was the only sighting of this endangered species.

Site details

Altitudinal Zones: The Tropical Zone (Teesta valley, Gorumara and Chapramari, Suntanekhola) upto 4000 feet which extends down to the foothills of the outer Himalayas and the Moist Temperate Zone ( Kalimpong, Lava) extending to 8000/9000 feet

Forest Type: Dense evergreen jungle (lower reaches) and sub-tropical evergreen forests.

Climate: Day: Warm ( 28oC ) foothills. Pleasant ( 14-18oC ) higher altitudes.
              Nights: Pleasant ( 18oC ) foothills and cool ( 5oC) heights.
              Wet  and misty on all days in the hills. Bright and sunny plains.

LIST OF BIRDS OBSERVED IN North Bengal

1. Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
One at Suntalekhola 
2. Kalij Pheasant  Lophura leucomelanos 
One male flushed at the viewpoint on the road to Loylegaon
3. Greater Yellownape Picus flavinucha 
Pair at Suntalekhola  
4. Great Barbet Megalaima virens 
Heard everywhere.
5. Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica 
Suntalekhola
6. Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
Siliguri
7. Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis affinis
One on the way to Sevok. 
8. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
One on the way to Sevok. 
9. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis 
Recorded at Suntalekhola. 
10. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus 
On the road to Siliguri. 
11. Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus 
Common at all sites
12. Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus 
Heard at Loylegaon. 
13. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
Siliguri area.
14. Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria 
Road to Lava in the plains
15. Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri 
In flight on the way back from Suntalekhola
16. Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis 
Plains 
17. Himalayan Swiftlet Collocalia brevirostris 
Suntalekhola
18. Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus 
Heard all nights and at dawn
19. Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus 
Heard all nights and at dawn
20. Rock Pigeon Columba livia 
21. Speckled Wood Pigeon Columba hodgsonii 
3 birds at Lava  
22. Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 
Common in the hills
23. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 
24. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 
Siliguri area
25. Black Kite Milvus migrans 
Common in the lowlands but not seen at higher elevations. 
26. White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis 
Single on the road just before reaching the plains 
27. Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis 
200+ birds at the Siliguri dump
28. Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela 
Singles at Loylegaon and Suntalekhola
29. Shikra Accipiter badius 
One bird at 2500 feet on the road

© Sumit 2004

30. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
One bird on the drive to Lava
31. Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger 
5 on a tree on the way to Sevok (lowlands). 
32. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
2 birds in the lowlands.
33. Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
1 in the lowlands. 
34. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis 
Common lowlands.
35. Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii 
Siliguri area
36. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 
On the road from Siliguri to river Teesta 
37. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 
ssp. Tricolor seen at 3000 feet on the way to Lava 
38. Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 
39. Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis 
Common at Suntanekhola 

© Sumit 2004

40. Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda 
One in the lowlands
41. Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 
Common at Suntalekhola. None seen in the higher reaches
42. House Crow Corvus splendens 
Siliguri 
43. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 
44. Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii 
Suntalekhola
45. Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 
2 at Loylegaon 
46. Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris 
Pair, Lava
47. Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus 
Pairs were common at all sites

© Sumit 2004

48. Yellow-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hypoxantha 
One at Lava. 
49. White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis 
Lava and Loylegaon 
50. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 
Common in the lowlands but not recorded anywhere in the hills. 
51. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus 
Common
52. Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 
Breeding birds at Suntalekhola
53. Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus 
Pair on the Algarah road. 
54 Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus
Common everywhere on the trip.
55 White-collared Blackbird Turdus albocinctus 
Single female, Algarah Road
56. Grey-winged Blackbird Turdus boulboul 
3 birds on Algarah Road
57. Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra
Male seen well at a gully off the cattle track leading away from the Jahandidara viewpoint, Loylegaon
58. Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica 
3 birds at Lava.

© Sumit 2004

59. Snowy-browed Flycatcher Ficedula monileger 
Lava.
60. Red-throated Flycatcher Ficedula parva 
Single at Suntalekhola.
61. Slaty-blue Flycatcher Ficedula tricolor 
Loylegaon
62. Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina 
Lava  
63. Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara 
Common at Lava. 
64. Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae 
Pairs at Lava

© Sumit 2004

65. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 
Lava and Loylegaon
66. Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis 
Lowlands. 
67. Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 
Lava.
68. White-capped Water Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus 
Lava, Suntalekhola and on the road

© Sumit 2004

69. Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus
1 bird on the Damdim Road. 
70. Grey Bushchat Saxicola ferrea 
Common at Loylegaon, some seen on the Damdim Road 
71. Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnus malabaricus 
Pair at Suntalekhola 
72. Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra 
Lowland areas. 
73. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis 
Lowlands 
74. Hill Myna Gracula religiosa 
Suntalekhola 
75. White-tailed Nuthatch Sitta himalayensis 
Loylegaon
76. Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus 
Small numbers Loylegaon and Lava.
77. Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus 
Lava
78. Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus 
Single bird seen at the resort at Loylegaon
79.  Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica  
Gorubathan
80. Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus striatus
Lava
81. Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus
Single bird on the Teesta
82. Himlayan Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys 
Pair on Damdim road at 4000 feet
83. Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer 
84. Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Pair at Suntalekhola being the only observation
85.Hill Prinia ?
3000 feet on the way to Lava

86. Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 
Suntalekhola
87. Grey-sided Bush Warbler Cettia brunnifrons 
Gully at 4th Mile, Lava
88. Tickell's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis
Loylegaon 
89. Hume's Warbler Phylloscopus humei 
Loylegaon 
90. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 
Lava 

© Sumit 2004

91. Golden-spectacled Warbler Seicercus burkii
Single at Lava
92. Grey-cheeked Warbler Seicercus poliogenys
With mixed flock at viewpoint to Loylegaon

© Sumit 2004

93. Grey-hooded Warbler Seicercus xanthoschistos 
Common
94. Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps
With mixed flock at viewpoint to Loylegaon
95. Black-faced Warbler Abroscopus schisticeps
With mixed flock at viewpoint to Loylegaon
96. White-crested Laughingthrush Garrulax leucolophus
Noisy flock at Suntalekhola
97. White-throated Laughingthrush Garrulax albogularis
Suntalekhola
98. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax monileger
Common at Suntalekhola

© Sumit 2004

99. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax pectoralis
Suntalekhola
100. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush Garrulax erythrocephalus
All sites
101. Red-faced Liocichla Liocichla phoenicea
One bird seen briefly on the cattle track next to Jhandidara viewpoint, Loylegaon
102. Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyris ruficeps 
Pair at Algarah Road, Lava

© Sumit 2004

103. Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus
Siliguri area
104. Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea 
7 birds at Loylegaon
105. Rusty-fronted Barwing Actinodura egertoni
Lava (gully near 5th Mile) and Loylegaon viewpoint
106. Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis
Loylegaon viewpoint
107. Blue-tailed Minla Minla cyanouroptera 
Pair with Warblers at Loylegaon and large flock at the road viewpoint. 
108. Chestnut-tailed Minla Minla strigula 
Large flock recorded at Lava in mixed hunting flock. Single bird at Loylegaon viewpoint

© Sumit 2004

109. Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta 
Lava and Loylegaon. Fairly common.
110. Rufous-winged Fulvetta Alcippe castaneceps 
Lava and Loylegaon
111. White-browed Fulvetta Alcippe vinipectus 
One bird positively identified at Lava.
112. Whiskered Yuhina Yuhina flavicollis 
Hills
113. Stripe-throated Yuhina Yuhina gularis
Only one flock of 4 birds seen at the 6th mile on Algarah Road. 
114. Rufous Sibia Heterophasia capistrata 
Not as common as expected. Hills.
115. Green-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga nipalensis 
Common at Lava and Loylegaon. 
116. House Sparrow Passer domesticus 
Lowlands
117. Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 
Lava
118. Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 
Plenty at Loylegaon and higher parts of the road to Damdim
119. Maroon-backed Accentor Prunella immaculata 
6 birds seen on both days at Algarah Road, Lava
120. Gold-naped Finch Pyrrhoplectes epauletta
Another star bird for the trip. Pair seen well at gully between 4th and 5th mile, Algarah Road.
 

REFERENCES 
[1] Birds of the Indian Subcontinent; Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp & Tim 
Inskipp; Christopher Helm; 1998. 
[2] A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent; Krys Kazmierczak & Ber 
van Perlo; Pica Press; 2000; 
[3] A Birdwatchers' Guide to India; Krys Kazmierczak & Raj Singh; Birdwatchers' 
Guides, Oxford University Press

© Sumit K Sen 2004 
 

   
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