NE India, Days 14-17, 20-23 March 2023 - Eaglenest

Our much-anticipated Eaglenest leg of the tour. Unfortunately the weather for a large chunk of the 4 days was not what we'd hoped for. Rain and low cloud with visibility down to just 10 yards at times. This made birding and photography difficult. Our accommodation at Lama Camp (1 night) and Bompu Camp (2 nights) was also very ropey! These camps are extremely basic with no running water, sleeping in damp and cold permanent tents, virtually no electricity at Lama and food that was poor quality! Bompu Camp had better food and it is pretty much essential to stay there for the birding. Lama Camp was truly awful and there is no need to stay there as the town of Tenga is only 40 mins away with the perfectly nice Eaglenest Residency Hotel. Indeed we were supposed to spent our 4th night at Eaglenest back at Lama Camp, we refused and paid extra to stay in Tenga instead!   

Despite tye odds being against us we didn't give up and with perseverance and our dedicated guide and driver we saw some really awesome birds. Exploring the whole range of altitudes both sides of the Eaglenest Pass.

On the way up from Tenga on day 1 we stopped at the Glow Bari NR not far from Lama Camp. This is the famous spot where the incredibly range-restricted Bugun Liocichla was discovered in 2006 and this was obviously our no.1 target fo the day if not the whole trip! Named after the local tribe this species occupies just a 2km square! Walking our way along the path through the reserve we started clocking up good birds almost immediately with a brief perched Gold-naped Finch followed by a Rufous-breasted Accentor feeding on the path. A Rufous-throated Wren Babbler (the sister species of Mishmi Wren Babbler) gave us some wonderful views followed by Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Sikkim Treecreeper, Rufous Parrotbill, Yellow-browed Tit and Short-billed Minivet. Then we got onto a small group of Rusty-fronted Barwings moving through to the right of the path. Lobsang got onto a bird which I then reloctaed a couple of minutes later that was tagging along with the barwings - a stonking Bugun Liocochla! The trip was made! Sadly it was a bit too far away for a photo and faded away all too quickly but what a magical moment. Everyone had got onto it too. Also there we had White-browed Shrike Babbler, Black-throated Tit, Green-backed Tit, 8 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Black-faced Warblers, Ashy-throated Warbler and Blue-fronted Redstart making it a truly memorable morning.


After a terrible lunch at Lama Camp and a dry out by their woodburner we headed up towards the pass for the afternoon. The weather had really closed in so the sight of a Northern Goshawk in the murk was a surprise. Then, in a brief break in the cloud the sun appeared for 2 minutes in which we enjoyed some great views of a bird our guide has been searching for in the spot - Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. The best of the rest that afternoon were 4 Rufous-capped Babblers, 5 Beautiful Sibia, White-tailed Nuthatch, 2 Pygmy Flycatchers, Himalayan Bluetail, c12 Green-tailed Sunbirds and finally 4 Streak-throated Scimitar Babblers, another new species.


Day 2 at Eaglenest dawned grey and damp again but we were pleased to be leaving Lama Camp! Making our way slowly over the pass and down to Bompu Camp we stopped at several spots at varying altitudes. In the fog we failed to see a calling Hill Partridge but 4 Kalij Pheasants and a Black Eagle were some recompense. A small flock of Rufous-vented Yuhinas and Stripe-throated Yuhinas plus Fire-tailed Sunbird were also picked up in the trackside gloom near the pass. Another stop in a more wooded area had 2 Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers giving us the run around while I picked out a Black-crowned Scimitar Babbler in the same spot. In another spot I scored with both Broad-billed Warbler and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush as we moved on to an area known as the 'Rhododendron Forest' - a lovely Long-billed Wren Babbler responded to playback and sat calling in a bush for several minutes allowing even me to get a decent photo. Also seen that day were Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Yellow-browed Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Yellow-throated, Brown-throated and Rufous-winged Fulvettas.       


Day 3 and after following a Black-throated Thrush along the track our first real stop was to look for our declared target for the day. And after much work and staring down steep wooded slopes Lobsang led us down a small path a little off the main track. Here we enjoyed a real mega (but all too brief) view of our bird - a stunning male Blyth's Tragopan as it ran between trees. Any species of this genus has been towards the top of my wanted list for years! Another stop revealed a female White-browed Bush Robin and a Rusty-flanked Treecreeper I was lucky enough to get on while nearby an active flock of 20+ Black-throated Parrotbills were very entertaining. A Chestnut-headed Tesia also gave itself up eventually and then we were royally entertained by a showy Black-eared Shrike Babbler. After lunch the weather birghtened a bit and in that weather window we scored with c5 Himalayan Cutias high in trees, another top target. Also making it onto the list were Crested Goshawk, Golden-throated Barbet, 2 Buff-barred Warblers, 2 Grey-cheeked Warblers, Black-crowned Scimitar Babbler, Sikkim Treecreeper, Large Niltava and Pygmy Flycatcher plus many of the species seen the day before.


Our last day at Eaglenest was spent exploring the lower slopes well below Bompu Camp. Along the way we stopped and after a couple of false starts saw 2 Rufous-necked Hornbills in a distant tree and with a huge amount of patience a White-gorgeted Flycatcher gave some reasonable views. With a lot of signs of recent Elephant activity along the track going downhill our driver and guide were noticably cautious but all was well and we reached a spot he was keen to check. And he knew exactly what he was doing as we all enjoyed views of a distinctive Eyebrowed Wren Babbler. The other highlight of the morning was some nice views of a male Black-headed Shrike Babbler plus perched views of Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Grey-chinned Minivet, Short-billed Minivet, 2 Sultan Tits, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Slaty-bellied Tesia and the usual variety of warblers. The afternoon session was one that saw us heading slowly back up, over the pass and back down to Tenga. About 2km before the pass we hit the jackpot with a male Temminck's Tragopan in front of the vehicle on the verge of the track! Complete and utter luck but sadly not for AbdulRahman who was blindsided in the car. A quick stop at Glow Bari on the way down proved very quiet after the excitement there a few days before. Blue-fronted Redstart, Blyth's Leaf Warbler and Green-tailed Sunbird being the highlights. Nearby on the roadside however we enjoyed some really close views of a Hoary-throated Barwing that nearly too my ear off as it flew in from over the road responding to playback!




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