Grey Peacock Pheasant feather, Dampa
I spent six days in the north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram on an exploratory survey of the area. I covered the area near Aizwal city and visited Dampa Tiger Reserve, 130 kms
to the west of Aizwal city.
92 bird species
were observed during the trip.
Although the area is rich in birds, aggressive hunting, trapping and liming has made them very wary of all humans and as a result they are difficult to observe and identify. A trip to the area will be more fruitful if there are at least two experienced observers and if the only objective is bird watching without pursuing photography targets.
Even though birding was difficult, I did see some key birds of the area. A pair of Grey peacock Pheasants at dawn in Dampa must rate very high in my list as hitherto before I had failed to catch a glimpse of these beauties. Four Great Slaty Woodpeckers at Dampa almost made my day but the nest making pair of Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds was equally exciting. Other good birds included the threatened Yellow-vented Warbler, Lathami Kalij Pheasants, a Silver-breasted Broadbill, a flock of
Greater Necklaced and (possible) Moustached Laughingthrushes, a variety of bulbuls and leafbirds including a pair of Crested Finchbills. A key species seen in captivity was a pair of Green Peafowls (
Pavo muticus) at Aizwal Zoo. Enquiries revealed that the birds were obtained from near the Myanmar border and were collected from within India. If that is correct then the species may yet not be extinct from the subcontinent.
The star bird from the trip was a pair of Japanese Sparrowhawks (Accipiter gularis).
There is only one previous published mainland Indian record of this species and that record also requires verification.
Day 1: Arrive Lengpui airport (p.m.) and travel by road to Aizwal city ( 1 hr). Stay at Governor's House.
Day 2: a.m. birding around the extensive gardens attached to the Governor's residence. Noon drive to the new (under construction) Zoological Gardens (15 kms). Afternoon birding around Aizwal city.
Day 3: a.m. birding at the Community Reserve Forest managed by Sinners' Friend, Dilkawn, Siphir, Aizwal
Day 4: Drive to Dampa Tiger Reserve (4 hours). Afternoon birding near the Dampa Forest Lodge.
Day 5: Birding on the Damparangpui trail. 16 kms
Day 6: a.m. birding around Dampa. Afternoon drive back to Aizwal.
Day 7: Half day birding around Aizwal. Depart for Lengpui Airport at noon.
Day 1: No birds at the airport and a lone Blue-throated Barbet on a 40 km drive was indicative of the difficulties to be encountered. A relatively tame Grey-backed Shrike and a flock of over 80 House Swifts seen from the Governor's House helped keep the blues away. A calling Brown Hawk Owl was the highlight after sundown.
Day 2: A jet-speed White-throated Fantail, a couple of Wagtail species and a Yellow-browed Warbler were of note in the morning. The zoo held a Brown Fish Owl, a injured Mrs Hume's Pheasant and a stunning pair of Green Peafowls amongst a few other species.
Day 3: The Community Reserve Forest of 50 acres on the outskirts of Aizwal was a revelation. 8 Kalij Pheasants including a displaying pair, Yellow-vented Warblers, Blue-winged Leafbird, Bay Woodpecker, Crested Finchbill,
White-throated Bulbuls, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Streaked Spiderhunter and
surprisingly a male Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. A calling Indian Cuckoo was
notable in the afternoon on a visit to the south of the city.
Day 4: The drive to Dampa had a few overhead raptors which included a Crested Serpent Eagle and a Black Eagle. Feeding Yellow-vented Flowerpeckers and what is a very very rare pair (for India) of Japanese Sparrowhawks
were the highlights of the evening at the Forest Bungalow.
Day 5: The drive to the Damparangpui trail was eventful with many forktails which included both Black-backed and a White-crowned. Emerald Doves, Red Junglefowl and a Kalij pair were also seen from the road. Inside the Reserve a flowering tree was full of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush and a Silver-breasted Broadbill was seen from far. Bulbuls included Ashy, Black, Mountain and a possible Flavescent. Most rewarding was great views of four raucous Great Slaty
mixed hunting party of Greater Racket-tails included Laughingthrushes which came closest to Moustached in description. The evening was uneventful with a Dollarbird being of interest.
Day 6: A calling corvid at daybreak was a cause of excitement and the lone Large-billed Crow was the only crow species seen on the trip. A large owl could not be identified in the near darkness of dawn but by range may have been a Brown Fish Owl or similar. The drive back at mid-day was interesting as there were more birds to be seen on the road at this time. The bulbul and leafbird list grew with Black-crested Bulbul and Orange-bellied Leafbird and a pair of Maroon Orioles were
also interesting as were a flock of Brown-cheeked Fulvettas.
Day 7: A drop in temperature brought in some new birds to Governor's House and a Common Hoopoe and a stunning male Blue-throated Flycatcher increased the variety available at Aizwal.
1)The trip was possible thanks to the generosity and hospitality graciously extended by His Excellency A. R. Kohli, Governor of Mizoram. Thanks are also due to his staff and to the Officers of the Department of Environment and Forest, Government of Mizoram for their assistance and support. It was a perfect trip.
2) Thanks are due to Krys Kazmierczak for the background papers on Mizoram, for his help with identification and mostly for his encouragement.
3) Thanks are also due to Dipankar Ghose for sharing his considerable experience of the area, to Bill Harvey for helping to identify birds from some very dodgy images.
4) Krushnamegh Kunte for helping to identify the butterflies.
5) Lastly in acknowledgement ~ Mr. Lianthanga's hospitality and the experience of what he has achieved in Mizoram were very very special.