The Rusty-throated Wren-Babbler (Spelaeornis badeigularis) was described by Ripley in 1948, based upon a unique female specimen mist-netted by the Ripley party on 5 January 1947 at an elevation of 5,100 feet (1545 m) at Dreyi, on the Lohit River drainage of the Mishmi Hills, eastern
Himalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, India.
There were no additional records or field observations of this bird for almost 58 years. On 18 November 2004 Ben King and Julian P. Donahue rediscovered the species at an elevation of 6000 feet (1800 m) on the Roing-Hunli road, in the Dibang River drainage of the Mishmi Hills. The bird initially responded to a tape-recording of its nearest relative, the Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler (Spelaeornis caudatus); those responses were then recorded and played back, with excellent results.
We had little difficulty locating the furtive, active bird, from its vocalizations and the movement of the dense roadside undergrowth, but it took an hour of effort to observe enough "pieces" of the bird to conclusively identify it. (We never observed the Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler in the Mishmi Hills, nor did Ali and Ripley in their 1946-1947 expedition.)
On subsequent days we learned that the species is easily located (but still excruciatingly difficult to observe) on the roadside between Roing and Hunli, on both the north and south sides of Mayodia Pass (elev. 2,655 m), in broadleaf evergreen forest at elevations of 5100-7700 feet (1545-2330 m); one day we elicited responses from seven different birds along just one kilometer of road.
Julian P. Donahue
Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A
Ben King is a Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History, and owner of KingBird Tours; this trip was a Kingbird exploratory tour.
Julian P. Donahue is a retired curator (of Lepidoptera!) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Support staff included: Bamin Chada (guide) and Michi Tajo (managing director), Himalayan Holidays North East (Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh); drivers Mahendra Chetia and Farukh Hazarika. Overall tour operator: Reet Hazarika, IVAT (International Ventures & Travels), Gurgaon, Harayana.
Mishmi Hills section