Last week I came back from a 24-days birding trip to West Bengal and Sikkim
(10/4 - 4/5). Wouter Puyk and I visited Lava (which included a one-day visit to
Neora Valley NP) and a few places in Sikkim.
We arrived at Kolkata at 5.30 a.m. local time on the 10th of April by British
Airways (ca.800 Euro, incl. tax.) from London and had a few hours for birding
because we had to wait till noon for our flight by Jet Airways to Bagdogra (218
Euro/return). We took a taxi in the direction of the By Pass to Kolkata city,
and 6 km. from the airport we saw lots of Bengal Bushlarks, Oriental Skylark
(8), Richard's and Paddyfield Pipits, Citrine Wagtail (1 male), Striated
Grassbird (2), Oriental Pratincole (6), Asian Palm Swifts and a group of eight
2. Darjeeling &
View from Tiger Hill
The next morning in Darjeeling we enjoyed the sunrise at Tiger Hill and
afterwards when all the tourists had left, we birded over the road and the trail
around the mountain. Best birds were: Hill Partridge (1 heard), Slender-billed
Scimitar Babbler (a pair), Black-throated Parrotbill (20), Golden-breasted
Fulvetta (12), Chestnut-headed Tesia (10 seen/10 more heard), Aberrant Bush
Warbler (4), Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler (2), Orange-flanked Bush Robin (2),
Golden Bush Robin (1 heard), Broad-billed Warbler (2 seen/6 more heard),
Blue-fronted Redstart (2) and White-tailed Robin (2males).
(12/4 - 15/4)
12/4 we left Darjeeling for a four-day trip to
Sikkim. We hired a van with driver for Rs. 2000 per day from Trek-Mate, Nehru
Road, Darjeeling. We drove to Pelling and took a room for Rs. 450 in Hotel Green
Valley. This hotel has a friendly staff and has also a good restaurant, which is
We had nice views from our room in the morning of the Kanchenjunga and a lot of
birds in the immediate surroundings of the hotel. From our room we saw
:White-collared Blackbird (2), Tickell’s Thrush (a pair), a White-browed
Shortwing was heard every morning, Asian Barred Owlet (1), Grey-headed
Woodpecker (2), Red-tailed Minla and Tickell's Leaf Warbler etc. But the best
bird was a Sulphur-bellied Warbler. The bird walked like a Nuthatch over a
branch a few meters from our window. The orange-yellow supercilium above the eye
was seen well. The bird had a different appearance than the Tickell's Leaf
Warblers. The under parts were more brownish-yellow, the upper parts
brownish-grey (darker and not a hint of green like Tickell's). I suppose that
Sulphur-bellied Warbler is an uncommon visitor to Sikkim (?).
The sites visited in Sikkim were: Pemayangste, Sanga Choeling Gompa and
Kecheoperi Lake. Best birds at Pemayangste: Scaly Thrush (1), Chestnut Thrush
(2), White-tailed Robin (3 males), Hodgson's Redstart (an imm. male), Cutia (a
female heard), White-browed Shrike Babbler (a pair), Red-tailed Minla (3) and
Rusty-fronted Barwing (2).
At Sanga Choeling Gompa workers were busy creating an access road to the
monastery. So here it was a bit difficult birding due to all the noise. On the
last part of the road to the monastery we found a very obliging female Cutia, a
pair of Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, a nice Grey-bellied Tesia (with 5 more
heard), Little Pied Flycatcher and overhead two pairs of White-throated
Needletail. The best birds were found along the trail behind the monastery.
First you pass a small stable-complex and follow the trail along the pipeline.
Pass two tree trunks, a small and a big one, then the path turns round a corner
to the left. From here 500-600 m. further, we heard two pairs of Spotted Wren
Babbler singing. Both birds gave excellent views ! Probably this is a new spot
for this species ?!
Other birds were seen along this trail: Grey-sided Laughingthrush (12),
Rusty-fronted Barwing, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Grey-bellied Tesia, Blue-fronted
Redstart, Black-faced Warbler, Black-throated Parrotbill etc.
Early morning we saw 3 males Kalij Pheasant on the road outside Pelling. We also
had several parties of White-crested Laughingthrush and along the road. 5 km.
before Kecheoperi Lake I heard another Spotted Wren Babbler singing. At
Kecheoperi Lake we had 6-7 more Spotted Wren Babblers singing! So definitely we
were in the peak singing season for this species.
Other birds: White-throated Needletail (2 pairs flying low over the lake!),
Maroon Oriole (2), Tickell's Thrush (a male), Pale-blue Flycatcher (a female),
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (a pair), Dark-sided Flycatcher (1) and Smoky
On the way to Darjeeling we crossed a bridge (sign 10km Pelling/10 km Dentam)
over a waterfall. Here we had a pair of Little Forktails who chased a third bird
out of their territory. We also heard another Spotted Wren Babbler at this
(16/4 - 24/4)
From 16/4 - 24/4 we walked the Sandakphu Trek. A km. after Chitre were the bamboo starts, we found a group of 12 Fulvous Parrotbill, a Broad-billed Warbler (+ 2 more heard) and Rufous-fronted Tits (15). Before Megma
we found our only male Crimson-fronted Woodpecker for the trip.
At the slopes in front of some tea stalls we saw a Plain-backed Thrush and a
pair White-collared Blackbirds and a few
Black-faced Laughingthrushes. We stayed in the Trekker’s Hut at Tonglu. The following morning we had a female Crimson-browed Finch in a bush next to the road (only 100 m. from Tonglu). We also had very good views of a pair Yellow-throated Marten on the road. 3-4 km. before Gairibas, Wouter got a glimpse of a female Satyr Tragopan in the
bamboo. The bird disappeared quickly.
In Gairibas we also stayed in the Trekker’s Hut. We got a double room on the second floor for Rs. 300. The food was o.k. and the Nepalese girls who run the hut were always singing. In Gairibas we stayed one day extra. In the morning we birded the old jeep track in the direction of Kalipokhari. We saw Blue-fronted Redstart (3), Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler (3), Broad-billed Warbler (2 heard). After 3-4 km. we passed a huge fallen tree and then after a 200 meters, we took a trail
along a stream to the left. Here we flushed a female Satyr Tragopan and further on the trail we saw a White-browed Shortwing, Black-throated- Parrotbill, Hoary Barwing etc. Later I followed the stream in the valley which starts in front of the Trekker’s Hut. Here I found a territorial Large-billed Leaf Warbler. Wouter found the Maroon-backed Accentor near the Trekker’s Hut which was also seen a week ago by Carol (from the UK).
On the jeep track on the other side of the stream we had a flock of 15
Fulvous Parrotbills, a pair of Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, a
Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler and Golden-breasted Fulvettas (10). Brown
Parrotbill was heard but not seen. On our second morning at Gairibas we walked
3-4 km. back over the road in the direction of Tonglu. At the place were Wouter
saw the Tragopan. Ca. 1 km. from Gairibas before the first small bridge I saw a
Long-billed Thrush. The bird flew from the roadside into the forest. A little
further we had a pair Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler in the bamboo beside the
road. Then I heard a bird in the leaf-litter and we flushed our third female
Satyr Tragopan. Then suddenly, after a km. I saw a male Satyr Tragopan quickly
crossing the road! So this stretch seems very good for this species. We also had
a pair of Black-headed Shrike Babblers and Large-billed Warbler (3 seen and 2
more heard) along the road.
at Gairibas the Maroon-backed Accentor was still there and gave very good views.
After lunch we walked to Kalipokhri. Enroute we saw a
few Plain-backed Mountain Finch. 1-1,5 km. before Kalipokhri we found a pair
Fire-tailed Myzornis. The birds were feeding on the rhododendron together with a
large flock of Yuhinas. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip!
The next day we decided not to climb down at Kalipokhri
, but to walk back to the place were we saw the Fire-tailed Myzornis. It did not take long
before we found both birds. In the end we saw the birds at 4 m.distance.
Fantastic view! Other birds were: White-throated Needletail(1), Spotted
Laughingthrush (a pair), Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (a pair), Plain Mountain
Finch (60), Dark-rumped Rosefinch (2 males and a female). After lunch we walked
to Sandakphu. When we arrived at
Sandakphu snowing. In the light snow we saw a few White-browed Rosefinches, a female Golden Bush-Robin and a Rufous-breasted Accentor. We stayed
two days extra at Sandakphu. We recommend Hotel Sunrise. The rooms looked nicer and the food was good. We paid Rs. 300, for a small room. Behind PWD-lodge
is a rubbish-dump were I found a nice male Collared Grosbeak.
Later we saw a few White-browed and Golden Bush-Robins and Spotted
On the walk to the northern ridge we saw several Golden Bush-Robins (6 males
and 2 fem.), Fire-tailed Sunbird (10) and Pink-browed Finch (a male and two
fem.). From the ridge we went down through the bamboo into the valley. Here we
saw Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler (2), Fulvous Parrotbill (13), Scaly-breasted
Wren Babbler (2), Dark-rumped Rosefinch (2 fem.), White-browed Bush-Robin (1 and
several heard). Great Parrotbill was heard in the larger bamboo but not seen.
While climbing up from the valley we saw a beautiful male Blood Pheasant walking from one bamboo-patch to another. In the afternoon we birded the southern ridge, were we found Brown Parrotbill (4). The birds gave excellent views. Again, a Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (1), White-browed Bush-Robin on the trail and two singing Plain-backed Thrushes. The next day we found several pairs of White-winged Grosbeaks, 4-5 White-browed Bush-Robins with Golden Bush-Robin easier to see,
White-browed Rosefinch (2 males and a fem.) around the village. 23/4 a nice and bright start to the day with good views of the Kanchenjunga. After breakfast we walked to Rimbik. 3 km. after Bhikebhanjang we saw an Upland Buzzard sitting on a dead tree. The bird took flight and the huge size, long wings with hp-flashes were seen. The light eye-colour suggests a second calendar bird. Other birds enroute: Greenish Warbler (4), Large-billed Warbler (8-9 were heard), a pair of
White-winged Grosbeak, Spotted LT (2), Common Rosefinch (10) and Yellow-breasted Greenfinch (2). In Rimbik we stayed at Hotel Green Hill, a double Rs.350. The next day we took the shared jeep to Darjeeling for Rs. 80, p/p (3.5 hours drive). In the evening we had a very nice diner at Glennary's one of the best restaurants in Darjeeling.
(25/4 - 2/5)
25/4 we left Darjeeling and drove to Lava. Eight km before Lava we saw a
Ferruginous Flycatcher beside the road. At the 4-km marker (before Lava) we met
Carol from the UK and saw Slaty-blue Flycatcher (1), Black-eared Shrike Babbler
(1 male), Red-tailed Minla (4) etc. First we stayed in Yankee Resort in Lava.
But after two days, when there was place at P.P. Hotel we changed to this hotel.
P.P. Hotel is the best option in Lava, the hotel is run by a nice Tibetan
family. The hotel has a restaurant and a small shop and only 8 rooms. So it is
better to book in advance (tel.03552-282211). We stayed 7 days in Lava and on
30/4 we visited
Neora Valley. This was a bit disappointing, because we had hoped to visit this
NP for 3-4 days. But we, and also others birders, could get a permit only for
one day. A permit is Rs. 100 p/p and Rs. 50 for a vehicle. Bring the number of
the vehicle when asking for the permit. Jeep to the park entrance is Rs.700 to
drive you to Neora and Rs. 700 for pick up in the afternoon. Filip Verbeelen, a
Belgium birder who stayed two weeks in Lava, found a male Ward's Trogon at Neora
Valley in April '05. Probably he has more good sightings ?! We had four singing
Blue-fronted Robins in Neora Valley. Two birds gave good views. I also saw a
male Satyr Tragopan. We had another male early morning before our jeep on the
road. In the bamboo along the trail left of the green hut were the rangers stay,
I saw a Hill Partridge. In the bamboo we saw White-spectacled Warbler (2). A
singing male Purple Cochoa was also heard two times, at the same location. The
bird was not seen. Around 13.00 it started raining and from that moment the
birding sadly came to an end.
We found a total of 10 singing males Blue-fronted Robin (incl. the 4 from
Neora). Four birds were heard along the road to Neora Valley NP. One bird was
seen well on this road, 300 m. after a logging track which goes to the right
(don't take this). There lies a small rock from 1 m. height on the right side of
the road. Here on both sides is a territory. Especially the birds on the left
side of the road was seen a couple of times very well. Here we also heard
Rusty-bellied Shortwing and saw a Broad-billed Warbler. But it's very sad to see
that a few 100 metres further the trees were already cut and this spot will not
have a long life. The two other Blue-fronted Robins were heard at the
Rusty-bellied Shortwing spot as described by Dave Sargeant on WorldTwitch. The
song of the Blue-fronted Robin is less obvious than it's relative, the
White-tailed Robin. We heard the first Blue-fronted Robin singing when we
stopped to put our leech-socks on. The song is available at the site of Dave
The Rusty-bellied Shortwing we saw and heard at the spot of Dave S. I also found
another bird along the logging track to the right from the road to Neora NP. At
the Rusty-bellied Shortwing-site we also had 3-4 Slaty-bellied Tesia, Golden
Babbler (2), Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler (a pair seen and 2 more heard),
Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo (1 heard), Spotted Wren Babbler (1 singing), Blue-winged
Laughingthrush (4), Yellow-cheeked Tit (1-2) and Brown Bullfinch (6-10, also
along the road to this spot). Rufous-throated Wren Babbler (1-2) were seen in
the two gully before the 4 km marker (coming from Lava). Here we also found a
nice Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Lesser- and White-browed Shortwing and a
Large-billed Warbler. We also had on one evening 1-2 Lesser Cuckoos and another
calling. Along the Algarah-road between 6-4 km marker we saw Ashy Woodpigeon
(1), Barred Cuckoo Dove (10-12), Plain-backed Thrush (1), Scaly Laughingthrush
(4), Blue-winged LT (2), Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (a pair), Sapphire
Flycatcher (1 male), and Brown Bullfinch (4-6). The first 3 km. from the road to
Neora Valley NP was very good for Speckled Woodpigeons. Some days we saw 12-14
birds flying, but also several birds gave good views while sitting on the top of
Finch was rather common along the Algarah Road, the pipeline trail and the road
towards Neora. The upper trail above Lava was good for Sapphire Flycatcher. We
found at least 3 males and a female. Before dusk a Red Giant Flying Squirrel was
soaring two times overhead and gave spectacular view while it was sitting on a
The only Brown-throated Treecreeper was found along the road in the direction
of Loylegaon, a few km's below Lava. A female Rufous-breasted Bush-Robin was
found on 2/5 along the road to Neora Valley.
Along the lower jeep track we heard 1-2 Spotted Wren Babblers and we heard on
one day another singing Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo. Other birds were: Bay Woodpecker
(1-2), Pygmy Blue Flycatcher (2 heard), Ferruginous Flycatcher (2), Pale blue
Flycatcher (1 male), White-browed - and Lesser Shortwing, White-tailed Robin (3
and more heard), Grey-cheeked Warbler (2), Black-eared Shrike Babbler (1 fem.),
Cutia (a male), Grey-sided Laughingthrush (4-8), Black-throated Sunbird (1),
Scarlet Finch (a pair).
6. Mahananda WLS
On 3/5 we stopped along the main road to Siliguri at the
Mahananda WLS (a few km's in the park by the first small bridge over a dry
riverbed we stopped). Here we saw a Great Hornbill, Asian-barred Owlet (1),
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (a pair), Dark-sided Flycatcher (1), Chestnut-bellied
Nuthatch (3), Oriental White-eye (2), and a Greenish Warbler (2). When we walked
through the riverbed we flushed a Malayan Night Heron! A very good species to
end this fantastic birding trip through West Bengal and Sikkim!
At 13.45 we took a flight from Bagdogra to Kolkata. And the next day we flew
early morning to London and from there to Amsterdam.
Bussum, The Netherlands
Peter Logtmeijer 200