Mishmi Hills

 
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Hilly area symbol © Sumit Sen 
Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh


Mishmi Hills ~ the name itself conjures up mystical images of monals, mountains and mist. And the reality is magic! 

© Sumit Sen
Male Sclater's Monal at Mayodia Pass (8700 feet)

 Images   Trip Report    Checklist   Birding Map



Introduction

The Mishmi Hills is a southward extension of the Great Himalayan Mountain Range - its northern and eastern reaches touching China. This is breath catching terrain thrown up by the sharp twisting of the Himalayan ranges as they turn from a southeasterly to a southerly direction and descend rapidly to the tropical forests of China and Myanmar. 
Geomorphically, the Mishmi Hills area can be divided into two broad sections: the flood plains of the tributaries of the Brahmaputra River, and the Arunachal Himalayas consisting of snow-capped mountains, lower Himalayan ranges and the Shivalik hills. Steeply sloping landform, sub-tropical evergreen forest vegetation, and high rainfall characterize the area. Nowhere else in the Himalayas can one find so much pristine forest and intact mega-biodiversity. The natural vegetation here stretches in an unbroken sequence from the sub-tropics to the mountain tundra. Sub-tropical evergreen forests are the most severely altered in the Himalayas and the Mishmi area is one of the last strongholds for many species dependent on this forest type.

© Sumit Sen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dibang Valley

Much of the Mishmi Hills falls under the Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh. The Dibang Valley district is named after the Dibang River - one of the key tributaries of the Brahmaputra River. The Dibang originates in China and flows through the length of the valley in a north-south direction. Other river systems that flow through the area include the Ithun, Ason, Chipu, Aba, Iphi, Sisiri, Datung, and the Deopani River.
The Dibang Valley district is divided into Lower and Upper Dibang Valley. The headquarters of the two districts are Roing and Anini respectively. Roing is in the plains close to the Lohit River. Anini is at an elevation in the mountains and is close to the China border. The Valley is bounded on the north by China, on the East by the Lohit district and McMohan Line, on the west by the Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh and on the south by the Tinsukia district of Assam. The district rises from the Himalayan foothills to the middle ranges with the highest point of Mayodia Pass at a height of 2655 meters. Snow-capped peaks, turbulent rivers, deep valleys, and abundance of rich flora & fauna are the main features of the district. The district is well known for its large cover of thick green forest, which clothes about 82% of the area.

People

The area is sparsely populated and predominantly tribal. The major tribes of this district consist of the Adis and Idu Mishmis of Indo-Mongoloid and Mongoloid lineage. 

© Sumit Sen
Idu lady

The population density is estimated at less than 10 persons/km2. The tribal communities are mainly dependent on natural resources for their sustenance. Due to sparse population density, pressures on the forest and wildlife are minimal despite prevalence of traditional hunting. Most of the land area of the state is under tribal ownership and is managed under their customary practices.

Mithun (Bos frontalis) The mithun is a bovine of Indian origin. This unique livestock species is found in the steep slopes of the hills North-east India, Bhutan, Myanmar and China and is considered to be a descendent of wild gaur. This animal has religious significance and is intimately related to the socio-cultural life of the Mishmi people. The mithun is considered to be a source of personal prestige with an economic value far in excess of the material contribution. Mithuns are an unit of wealth and are allowed to move freely in jungle till used for food on festive occasions or for barter. 

© Sumit Sen


Flora and Fauna

Mishmi Hills is situated in the Eastern Himalayan province ( ‘Eastern Himalaya - Province 2D; Rodgers and Panwar’s (1988)), the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and one of the Mega bio-diversity hotspots of the world. The complex hill system of varying elevations receives heavy rainfall, which can be as much as 4,500-5,000mm annually in the foothill areas. The pre-monsoon showers start from March and the monsoon is active till October. The humidity in the rainy season is often over 90%. This diversity of topographical and climatic conditions has favoured the growth of luxuriant forests which are home to myriad plant and animal forms. Over 6,000 plants species, 100 species of mammals, 681 species of birds, 500 species of orchids, 52 species of Rhododendron and a large number of butterflies, and insects can be found in these forests.

© Sumit Sen

Such an unparalleled occurrence of life forms can be attributed to the location which is at the junction of the Paleoarctic, Indo-Chinese, and Indo-Malayan bio-geographic regions, Biotic elements from all these regions occur in this area making it very rich in floral and faunal resources.
The vegetation here can be classified into the following forest types: Tropical Evergreen, Tropical Semi-evergreen, Sub-Tropical Broad Leaved, Sub-Tropical Pine, Temperate Broad Leaved, Temperate Conifer, Sub-Alpine Woody Shrub, Alpine Meadow, Degraded, Bamboo, and Grasslands.
This area is possibly the center of origin for some crop plants such as the banana.


© Sumit Sen
Wild Banana

Mammals: There is great mammal diversity in the area. Tiger, Common Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard, Golden Cat, Jungle Cat, Marbled Cat and the Leopard Cat represent just the cat family. The endangered Red Panda is found in the northern reaches and the Hoolock Gibbon is abundant. One of the most unusual ungulates found here is the Mishmi Takin. 

© Sumit Sen
Juvenile Mishmi Takin

This animal occurs here in small herds at elevations over 2500 meters. Other important mammals include Serow, Musk Deer, and the Himalayan Black Bear.

Bird life: The area supports around 680 bird species (see Checklist). It is, perhaps, one of  the least explored birding areas in all of Asia and many new species await discovery here. Specialties include the Sclater's Monal, Blyth's and Temmink's Tragopan, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Pale-capped Pigeon, Ward's Trogon, Dark-sided Thrush, Green and Purple Cochoa, Rusty-bellied and Gould's Shortwing, Beautiful Nuthatch, Rusty-throated and Wedge-billed Wren Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, at least four Parrotbill species,  Black-headed Greenfinch, Scarlet Finch, and Grey-headed Bullfinch. 

Mishmi Hills birding hotspots:

Roing area: The Roing area is the 1st stop in a Mishmi Hills bird tour. Roing is located in the foothills and the altitude stretches from 200m to 550m. The Mishmi Hills rise around the Dibang River Basin and the Roing area is a mix of extensive floodplains and outer Himalayan foothills. 

© Sumit Sen
Itapani River, Roing

Birding here is good from the 12th mile (on the road to Mayodia) all the way downhill to the Itapani River. 
Location: 95o50' E 28o10' N in the Lower Dibang valley.
Habitat: Dense tropical evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, sub-tropical broad leaved forests and a swath of semi-evergreen forests along the upper Brahmaputra River plains.  
The Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary (281 sq. km.) is located in this area. The Sanctuary stretches over three eco-zones and undisturbed tropical evergreen forests, sub-tropical & temperate forests,  temperate broad leaved forests and temperate conifer forests can be found the area. The sanctuary is home to key species like Temmink's Tragopan, Rufous-necked and Great Hornbills, Rusty-throated Wren Babbler and other key species. Mammals include Tiger, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Red Panda, Mishmi Takin, Hoolock Gibbon.
Key species:
Many Himalayan foothill species can be found in the Roing area. Key birds include  Black Eagle, White-browed Piculet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-throated Bulbul, Daurian Redstart, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spot-throated Babbler, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Sultan Tit, numerous scimitar babblers, laughingthrushes, shrike-babblers, fulvettas and yuhinas.

Mayodia Pass: At 2666m this is the highest point on the road from Roing to Anini and is 56 kms uphill from Roing town. Mayodia is rocky with a certain cold barrenness about it. 

© Sumit Sen

Location: 95o55' E 28o14' N
Habitat: The habitat comprises of temperate forests. Strangely there is a lack of conifer growth even at this height and extensive bamboo brakes dominate the roadside vegetation.
Key species: Mayodia is a must visit for those seeking the high-altitude Sclater's Monal. It is also one of the few places where the Blyth's Tragopan is regularly encountered. Many other rarely observed species like Darjeeling Woodpecker, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Ward's Trogon,  Grey-sided, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Gould's and  Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis etc can be found here and the area is possibly the best place to encounter the now elusive Mishmi Takin. 

Hunli area: The little administrative town of Hunli is located on a flat shelf-like valley at about 1,250M on the Roing-Hunli-Anini road and is about 90 kms from Roing. The main birding here is on the 18 km downhill stretch from Hunli to the Ithun River bridge.

© Sumit Sen
Ithun River

Location: 95o58' E 28o19' N
Habitat: The area is covered in
tropical evergreen broadleaved forests. The main plant species are Terminalia Myriocarpa, Terminalia Bellirica, Altingia Excelsa, Jalauma Phellocarpa, Abizzia Lucida, Abizzia Procera, Abizzia Arunachalensis, Abizzia Sherriffi, Acacia Caesia, Canarium Strictum, Largerstromia Flostregina, Duabanga Grandiflora, Michelai Champaca, Messua Ferra, Dillenia Indica, Castanopsis Indica, Bischfia Javanica, Magnolia species, Ailanthus Grandis, Kedia Calycina, Bombax Ceiba, Schima Wallichri, Ficus Altissima, etc. Bamboo and canes mainly include Dendrocalamus Giganteus, Dendrocalamus Hamitonii, Phyllostchya Bamusoides, Bambussa Pallida, Pseudotaehiyum Polymer etc.
Key species: Many of the same species encountered in the Roing area can be found at Hunli and surrounding areas. Particularly common are the smaller babblers like yuhinas, fulvettas etc. Good birds include Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Red-headed and Ward's Trogons, Great and Golden-throated Barbets, Bay Woodpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-backed and Slaty-backed Forktails, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Striated Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared Mesia, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler,  Streak-throated and Rusty-fronted Barwings, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Beautiful Sibia, White-naped Yuhina, White-spectacled and Black-faced Warblers, Yellow-cheeked and Sultan Tits, Beautiful Nuthatch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Gold-naped Finch, Green Magpie, Long-billed Thrush and many others.

Other nearby Birding Hot Spots:


Dibru-Saikhowa National Park:
A part of the 765 sq. km. Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve, this 340 sq. km. National Park
is one of the biodiversity hot spots. It is situated on the floodplains of the Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers near Tinsukia in Assam.

Read more about it here

 

© Sumit Sen
 

Jokai Reserve Forest: This is a small forest about 12 km from  Dibrugarh town on Mancotta - Khamtighat road. The meandering Era-suti stream flows along the northern boundary of this pretty little forest. There is some interesting bird life here and a visit should always be rewarding.
Where to stay:
Mancotta Chang Bungalow, Dibrugarh run by Purvi Discovery. 
www.purviweb.com


© Sumit Sen
 


How to reach

Approach to the Mishmi Hills area is from Sadiya Ghat which is on the north of the Lohit River.

© Sumit Sen
Ferry crossing on the Lohit

Sadiya Ghat is reached by river ferry from Saikhoa Ghat which is about 70kms from Tinsukia town in Assam. Tinsukia has a railhead and the nearest airport is Mohanbari at Dibrugarh 40 kms away. The recommended access is Dibrugarh - Tinsukia - Sadiya Ghat via National Highway 37. Roing town is 65 kms from Sadiya Ghat and is usually the base for a Mishmi Hills trip. Mayodia Pass is 56 kms from Roing and Hunli is another 44 kms on the same road. The road is black-topped and motorable. Landslides and washed away bridges are a feature of the area.

Where to stay 

Roing:
Dibang Valley Jungle Camp:
This is a Chang Bungalow at the 12th Mile marker on the road to Mayodia. Set on a hillside commanding a fantastic view of the Dibang River basin, the facilities here are basic but comfortable.

© Sumit Sen
Dibang River basin from the resort

Mayodia Pass:
A Govt. Inspection Bungalow and a Coffee House cum Guest House a couple of kms. below Mayodia Pass are the only places to stay in. Both are basic and command stunning views. For bookings contact Help Tourism.

© Sumit Sen
                    Coffee House, Mayodia

Hunli:
The Inspection Bungalow (IB) here is well equipped and maintained. Bookings are difficult to get and there is every possibility that a local heavy-weight can usurp your booked room. Help Tourism arrange for camping here in case the IB cannot be booked.

© Sumit Sen
                  Hunli Inspection Bungalow

Contact and permits

Tourists visiting Arunachal Pradesh are required to get an Inner Line Permit (ILP) / Restricted Area Permit (RAP) as follows:
I. For Domestic tourists
ILPs are issued by the Secretary (Political), Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar and respective Deputy Commissioner and Additional Deputy Commissioner of the Districts. These can also be obtained from Resident Commissioner’s / Liaison Offices located at New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, North Lakhimpur, and Jorhat.
II. For Foreign tourists
Foreign tourists can obtain a Protected Area Permit from all Indian Missions abroad, Home Ministry, Govt. of India and Home Commissioners, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar, for a period of up to 10 (ten) days for a group consisting of a minimum of four and maximum of 14 tourists at a time.
Application for RAP should reach Commissioner Home, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar, one month ahead.

Best Season

November to March. The area is generally inaccessible between May and September/October. Temperatures range from below zero in winter to 380C in summer.

Tips

1) Birdwatching is usually confined to the forest along the road. The terrain does not permit otherwise. There are very few tracks leading off the road. 
2) Electricity is available at Roing. Hunli runs a generator for a few hours each day. Mayudia has no electricity. 
3) Cell-phones work at Roing only. There is a PCO booth at Hunli.
4) There are no fuel pumps on the road between Roing and Hunli. Tank up before you leave Roing.
5) Mayodia can be bitterly cold at night. Carry sleeping bags.
6) Mithuns are often found on the road and some are aggressive. Stay clear.
7) Carry all basic necessities. These are wilderness areas.

Location: 28006' - 28023' N; 95049' - 95059' E


Mishmi Hills Birding Help:

1. Help Tourism - they arranged our entire trip.
67A - Kali Temple Road
Kalighat, Kolkata -700026
Mobile: +91-98310-31980;
Phone: +91-33-24550917; +91-33-24549719
Email: asit.helptourism@gmail.com
Website: http://www.helptourism.com/

2. Purvi Discovery (P) Ltd - covers Roing & Dibru-Saikhowa
Jalannagar, Dibrugarh 786 005
Assam, India
Phone :+91 373 2301120, 2300035 
Email : purvi@sancharnet.in
Website: http://www.purviweb.com/index.htm

References

- Birds of the Indian Subcontinent - Richard Grimmett & Tim Inskipp. Helm Field Guide
- A Field Guide to the Birds of India - Krys Kazmierczak. Pica Press
- Birds of South-east Asia - Craig Robson. New Holland
- Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Vol. I-X) - S. Ali & S. D. Ripley. OUP
- Birdwatcher's Guide to India -  Krys Kazmierczak et al. OUP
- Birds of South Asia ~ The Ripley Guide - Pamela Rasmussen et al. Lynx Edicions 2005
- Indian Wildlife - Insight Guides. APA Productions 1987.

Websites

- WildArunachal 
- Lower Dibang Valley - Official site
- Tinsukia Govt. website on Dibru-Saikhowa
- Bird calls of Mishmi Hills - birding2asia


Sumit K Sen,
Kolkata, India
December, 2007

 

   
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