NE India, Day 19, 25 March 2023 - Sela Pass, Jaswant Garh & Sangti Valley

A 4am start today for what proved to be a memorable one. We needed to start early to make the 2.5 hour drive from Dirang to the Sela Pass and get there before the Saturday tourists. 

Stopping a few km before the pass we exited the car and immediately saw White-browed Rosefinch in a roadside bush followed by 2 Plain Mountain Finches in treetops. A little further along and above the clouds White-winged Grosbeak and Alpine Accentor shared almost the same spot while overhead we had Red-billed Chough and Himalayan Buzzard. Above the cloud base it was sunny and a joy to be out and about, especially in such spectacular scenery. Lobsang got a call from a fellow guide with a tip-off so we drove to where he was rather fast. With snowy/icy roads, few barriers and only a 2-wheel drive car it was a nerve-wracking 10 minutes but we arrived unscathed. Here we were treated to the rare and elusive Snow Partridge, 2 'glow in the dark' Grandala and a flock of 25+ Black-headed Mountain Finches gradually working their way downhill towards us. Then a distant thrush was spotted on a rock which proved to be a male Tibetan Blackbird.


Moving up and over the pass we went past Sela Lake which held 5 Shelduck! Stopping a few km further down by a roadside stream/pool we feasted our eyes upon a Solitary Snipe that showed amazingly well. A distant Blood Pheasant hinted at what was to come too!


Further along the road is the small hill station of Jaswant Garh where we stopped for a while. Initially we had c6 Nepal House Martins circling below us then a lovely flock of c40 Snow Pigeons flew around for a while. A rubbish-strewn steep drop by the road was attracting birds with Nutcracker being the most obvious. With some patience we also added some other fantastic species here - White-collared Blackbird, Black-faced Laughingthush and a stunning Spotted Laughingthrush being the highlights. Blue Whistling Thrush and Green Shrike Babbler were also not to be sneezed at.


Back up at the Solitary Snipe spot we then enjoyed 2 Blood Pheasants as they responded to playback and ran down a mountainside towards us. Stopping on a rock together they showed beautifully providing one of the moments of the whole trip. At the same spot we also had c6 White-browed Rosefinches, Wren (singing rather differently to the ones at home), 2 Tufted Duck and 2 fly-over Goosander.


After a lunch at a roadside shack by the pass we ventured back over the top and down a few km. By now the thick cloud/fog had returned but we did still manage Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, Grey-crested Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Coal Tit and Goldcrest before we began our descent.


Back down in the Dirang area we had an hour or two to re-visit the Sangti Valley. After drawing a blank the previous day there was a rather special bird we desperately wanted to see. Along the wide shingley river we found a Wallcreeper strangely hopping about on the rocks in the river. Apparantly they breed in rock crevices by the water - who knew?! Lobsang then thought he might have spotted what we were looking for. Putting the scope up in haste I got onto it quickly to confirm it was indeed a marvellous Ibisbill! Driving down to the meadows by the river enabled us to even get some shots.


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