Male Satyr Tragopan
The five day
trip to Zuluk was organized by Wandervogel Adventures, Kolkata with Siddharta
Goswami executing all arrangements most satisfactorily. It was a six member team
with various levels of interest in birding and photography. Zuluk formally spelt
Dzuluk, is a place of great scenic beauty in eastern Sikkim and it used to be
connected to the silk route from China.
An overnight train from Calcutta took us to New Jalpaiguri in the morning and we
set off in a Tata Sumo from the station for Zuluk via Teesta
Bazar-Kalingpong-Algarah-Pedong (NJP station-Kalingpong is around 70 kms). At
the Reshi check post you enter east Sikkim (Innerline permits are needed for
this part of the country and can be got at Rongli) and then go on to
Rongli-Lingtam-Padamchen and finally Zuluk - this last phase of the journey is
about 30 kms and the altitude gained is 4000 ft to 9000 ft. The total distance
clocked from NJP - Zuluk was
151 kms and an almost non-stop journey would take 6 hours.
A bit of birding in the late afternoon around Pedong gave us Grey Bushchat,
Grey-hooded Warbler, Rusty-tailed Treecreeper, White-crested Laughingthrush and
as darkness descended, close to Lingtam, the headlights of the car fell on a
small feline figure on the side of the road. Siddhartha, who had seen and
photographed one in the Sunderbans, confirmed it to be a young Leopard Cat. Alas
it escaped being photographed but what a moment !
During the next four days when the weather permitted (almost two days were lost
to rains), we made various trips up beyond Dzuluk to Longthu (18 km/ 11,000 ft -
Himalayan Monal zone) and then to Nathang Valley up to Kupup which is another 15
km from Longthu at an altitude of 14,300 ft. The other birding route was going
down from Zuluk to Padamchen for a distance of about 10 km. These were the two
areas where we scoured for birds.
The birds seen between Dzuluk to Longthu were Fire-tailed Sunbirds (very many),
Chestnut-tailed Minla, White-browed Fulvetta, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and
Scaly Laughingthrushes, Olive-backed Pipit, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush,
White-capped Water Redstart, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Greenish and Whistler's
Warblers and Aberrant Bush Warbler, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Grey-backed Shrike,
Little Forktail, Dark-sided Flycatcher and White-collared Blackbird. A female
Himalayan Monal scurried across the road on the second day but we caught no
sight of the male. It seems the best time to see monals is from Nov-May.
though the morning was sunny and clear, there were hardly any birds at Nathang
valley and Kupup (very close to the Indo-China border). All we saw were Blue
Whistling Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, Blue-fronted Redstart, Black Redstart,
White-capped Water Redstart and White-collared Blackbird.
No finches or choughs or any other high altitude birds
that I thought we may see there.
The sector between Zuluk and Padamchen gave us Barred Cuckoo Dove, Common
Stonechat, Striated and Whiskered Yuhina, Oriental Turtle Dove, Common Hoopoe
and Satyr Tragopan.
Great views of
the Kanchenjunga can be had at
Tambi viewpoint on your way to Longthu. The sighting of the Brown Goral (N.g.
hodgsoni), a stocky goat-antelope was a high point of the trip. Pale Weasel and
Himalayan Tahr were also seen though not by all members of the team. There were
plenty of pikas/ Himalayan Mouse-hares around.
Also some good butterflies like the Himalayan Barred Woodbrown, Himalayan Large
Silverstripe and Yellow Owl.
Kanchenjunga from Tambi Viewpoint
On our way down
to NJP on the last day, we saw Verditer Flycatchers, Ashy and Spangled Drongos,
Shikra and White-rumped Needletails. Despite the rains and the number of bird
species being not too high, it was a good trip and personally for me most
memorable for the momentous sighting of the tragopan.
A word about a sighting at Rambhi, 10 kms ahead of
Sevoke on the day that we were
returning to New Jalpaiguri station. An accident had created a huge traffic jam
and as I waited in the car, a little bird on a small tree on the left by the
Teesta bank, caught my attention. It had a loud and distinct call and was rather
restless. By the time I got down to taking a shot, our car started to move and I
managed a few bad shots. On my return, after consulting with a few experts and
listening to the call, I am certain that it was a Rufescent Prinia.
Zuluk has opened up for visits quite recently and permits are not that easily
acquired I am told and there seems to be some restrictions regarding transport.
Siddharta would be the right person to talk to for any query - Ph. 09933160778.
We stayed at one Mr Gopal Pradhan's home stay.
He also arranges for transport. Ph. 09609860266.
Gopal Pradhan's Homestay, Zuluk
En route - New Jalpaiguri to Zuluk
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Grey Bushchat - male,female,juvenile
Fire-tailed Sunbirds - in large numbers
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
White-capped Water Redstart
Aberrant Bush Warbler
Himalayan Monal - female
Barred Cuckoo Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove
Blue Whistling Thrush
En route - Zuluk to New Jalpaiguri
Soma Jha 2011