Friday, June 5, 2015

Birding in Sikkim (South and West) and North Bengal

Sikkim and parts of North Bengal were the birding locations for our summer vacation this year (16th May 2015 to the 31st May of 2015)

It definitely was the best way to escape the summer heat and hustles of Mumbai. Sikkim is known for its climate and birds. Obviously, we were more keen to see the birds, as majorly of which are skulkers.
Himalayan Cutia (Cutia nipalensis) - Aseem Kothiala
Bon farm House, Cottage - Seema Kothiala
Bagdogra, is a small airport but the most convenient and closet airport. The moment we left Siliguri we could see beauty everywhere. Though it was the almost the end of spring, we noticed monsoon had almost set in this little state in the North-eastern part of India, called Sikkim.

Kewzing in South Sikkim was the very first location. Fortunately, inspite of crazy contours the road conditions was good. The drive to Kewzing took about 6-7 hours (140kms) and we reached "Bonfarmhouse"a little later after sunset.

On arrival we were greeted by Mr. Chewang Bonpo who not only would be our host but also accompany us on our journey to sight and photograph the Birds of Sikkim.

While, we had our dinner he briefed us on the itinerary planned for us. "The day breaks at around 4.30 am and we need to leave by 5 am" he said. It was an enough reason for us to hit the bed.

The following day even before the wake call was heard could hear so many birds chirping. Yash said "bird platter" as the chirping echoed in the silence.

Early morning we were introduced to Manoj - who would be driving us around. In the initial two days we went birding to Ranjit Valley, Lower Kewzing and into the buffer areas of Maenam WLS. The place indeed was a paradise for us, as we had already sighted Great barbets, Yuhina's, Bulbul's, Fulvetta, Minla's and so many warblers that by the end of the second day our count was 70, of which 40 odd were lifers.
 Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) - Aseem Kothiala
Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis) - Aseem Kothiala
Red-faced Liocichla (Liocichla phoenicea bakeri) - Aseem Kothiala
Rufous-winged Fulvetta (Alcippe castaneceps) - Aseem Kothiala
The temperatures most of the time for the initial 2-3 days was around 26 deg C, until it started to rain, the mist and fog played hide and seek. Our Morning session soon became a sightseeing trip rather than a birding trip.

Due to which the forest muffed in myriad colours. The temperatures did drop to 12 deg C. There would be sunshine and rain. The howling of the winds in the night did make us wonder if we could go birding the following day or not.

We went birding into the tropical forests where the snow-feed streams kept accompanying us. "Some excellent habitats for the wren babblers" said Chewang. We had realised by now that the much reserved birder not only knew the area well could also identify the birds calls very well.
Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga albiventer) - AseemKothiala
Ferruginous Flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea) - Aseem Kothiala
Brown-throated Treecreeper (Certhia discolor) - Aseem Kothiala
Tickell's Thrush (Turdus unicolor) - Yash Kothiala
We would keep birding amid sprinkles of rain and sunshine and the sudden change in the weather would always bring in mists and grey clouds.

Tashiding which is located on top of a hill that rises between Rathong and Rangit Rivers was an excellent place. Unfortunately, this area where the likely sighting of the Sultan tit and Streaked spiderhunder could not done. Thanks to the rain gods.

This did not bring our motivation down and we traveled out to our next destination, Yuksom. The word "Yuksom" means 'meeting place of the three lamas', referring to the trio of Tibetan holy men who crowned the first Chogyal of Sikkim in 1941.
View from Room, Yuksom - Seema Kothiala
Next morning, we trekked towards the main trail that leads towards the Khangchendzonga National Park. It had been drizzling since morning, however we did sight the Scarlet Finch, Striated Bulbul, Cuckoos and the Yellow-rumped Honey guide. The Tesia's and Shortwing's kept calling while we would halt and peep to catch a glimpse.
Scarlet Finch (Haematospiza sipahi) - Aseem Kothiala
On the way out from Yuksom we visited the Khecheopalri lake where sighted the Large Niltava in midst of the drizzle and stayed overnight in a cozy homestay in Darap. Khecheopari lake also known as the wishing lake lies buried in the deep forest, also considered to be a perfect birding zone.
Khecheopalri lake - Seema Kothiala
At night we drove onto the road that leads into the forest and could hear the hoots of the Mountain Scoops Owl.

Next morning we moved towards Okhrey, enroute we stopped by a waterfall, which was home to the little forktails. As we drove past noticed a slaty backed forktail fly past a small stream near soreng. While, we waited for it to return, Chewang heard and spotted the Hudgons Hawk Cuckoo.
Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri) - Aseem Kothiala
It soon flew under the canopy and stayed there for a while, while Yash and Chewang trekked to get a closer look.
 Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) - Yash Kothiala
Trek into Barsey Rhondodendron Sanctuary - Seema Kothiala
Okhrey a less famed village was on the way to Barsey Rhondodendron sanctuary. The area abounds in forests of Oak, Maple, Chestnut and bamboo grooves. We preferred the region Okhrey and Hilley, as it was motorable and there was good birding enroute. Here we sighted the Parrotbills, Hill Partridge, Khalij Pheasants and a host of other birds.
Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis) - Aseem Kothiala
Sickle-billed Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus superciliaris) - Yash Kothiala
Black-throated Parrotbill (Sinornis nipalensis poliotis) - Aseem Kothiala
Brown Parrotbill (Paradoxornis unicolor) - Aseem Kothiala
Myself, Seema, Yash, Manoj and Chewang (L-R)
We were overwhelmed by the abundant variety of flora and avi-fauna that was tucked under the humongous peaks of the Kanchendzonga range. Indeed a perfect camaraderie of man and nature.

The weather most of the times was good but not favorable for photography. So decided on leaving for Lava and Neora Valley in North Bengal, the following morning. The activity of birds here was even lower though we did sight the Black Eagle, Rufous bellied Eagle apart from other commonly sighted birds of the region.
Golden-throated Barbet (Psilopogon franklinii) - Aseem Kothiala
Yellow-throated Fulvetta (Schoeniparus cinereus) - Aseem Kothiala
The region is picturesique, but our reason to visit this region was purely to watch birds which was a little low. The peak birding season starts from March - April.

Finally, we drove out of lava towards Latpanchar, also pronounced as Latpanchor by the locals. Its forms the highest part of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary with an average altitude of about 4000 ft.
White-throated Bulbul (Alophoixus flaveolus) - Aseem Kothiala
Latpanchar is home to the famous Rufous-necked Hornbill. Its nesting time we were told and there was a great opportunity to probably sight them. There were around 10 pairs in all in the region and one of them had been seen often. The nearby fruiting trees did not bear any fruit in this period so the hornbills have to fly to distant locations.

So in the afternoon after our lunch trekked down towards the area where it was last sighted. After a wait of about 3 hours and no sighting decided to end the day and return to our room. The return trek, which is a little steep (just 15-20 mins) was indeed exhaustive.

Morning session was in the Mahananda WLS sanctuary, where we sighted the white-throated Bulbul, Pale-blue flycatcher, Long-tailed broadbill and few other common birds.

The fog and mist continued to be around us like the infamous leeches all throughout the trip. Chewang asked if we would like to explore the possibility of seeing the Rufous-necked Hornbill again, to which we said ýes'

We were there by 11.30 and till about half past two there was no sign of the bird. The common birds like the Ashy Drongo, Minivets, Woodpeckers were seen. We were patiently waited and even called for our packed lunch to be bought down to us. Soon, we noticed the clouds getting into the forests and it started to pour. Just covering the equipment, managed to find shelter under a huge tree to stay dry.

While, we munched on the lunch, Manoj said his famous dialogue "Aagaya, dekho woh aagaya" and the first reaction was to keep the plate down and rush to the open area to get a glimpse of the bird. It had just landed. Moments, latter couldn't resist but to bring the equipment in the open and while it rained managed to take few frames of the bird taking out the remains of the last feed. The joy was double as we sighted the bird, got an image and it was our 100th lifer of the trip!
Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis) - Aseem Kothiala
Chewang who by now was very friendly even did a celebration dance with us. It was a day well made.

Today being our last day we headed back towards Bagdogra, but this time through the Sukna region, which is again a part of the Mahananda WLS. Enroute we sighted Asian Barred Owlets, Racket-tailed Drongos and a loner Indian Peafowl perched on top of a huge tree.

The trip came to an end with a bird count of  around 190 birds, not including the ones we just heard. Lifers 100. Sincerely thank Chewang Bonpo Sir for sharing his expertise with us without whom this trip would not have been possible. It would be unfair not to mention Manoj again, who was not only a patient driver with a keen eyesight for birds, but also a very humorous person.

Team :
Myself, Seema, Yash, Chewang Sir and Manoj

Bird Images by : Aseem Kothiala and Yash Kothiala
Landscapes by  : Seema Kothiala

Happy Birding!

TwitterFacebookGoogle PlusLinkedInInstagramEmail

Our sighting (Systematic List) - Images will be updated soon: on our Facebook Page

GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae
  1. Hill Partridge (Arborophila torqueola)
  2. Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos lathami)
  3. Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)  

  4. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis coromandus)  

  5. Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
  6. Shikra (Tachyspiza badius poliopsis)
  7. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
  8. Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malaiensis)
  9. Rufous-bellied Eagle (Hieraaetus kienerii kienerii)  

 10. Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis agricola)
 11. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
 12. Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon (Treron sphenura)

 13. Large Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx sparverioides)
 14. Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor)
 15. Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
 16. Lesser Cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus)
 17. Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus)
 18. Asian Drongo-Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris)
 19. Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis)
 20. Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis)

 21. Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides)

 22. Himalayan Swiftlet (Aerodramus brevirostris)
 23. Nepal House Martin (Delichon nipalense)

 24. White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis perpulchra)

 25. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)

 26. Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis)

PICIFORMES: Capitonidae
 27. Great Barbet (Psilopogon virens)
 28. Golden-throated Barbet (Psilopogon franklinii)
 29. Blue-throated Barbet (Psilopogon asiatica)

PICIFORMES: Indicatoridae
 30. Yellow-rumped Honeyguide (Indicator xanthonotus)

 31. Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus)
 32. White-browed Piculet (Sasia ochracea)
 33. Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis)
 34. Crimson-breasted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos cathpharius)
 35. Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus)
 36. Greater Yellownape (Picus flavinucha lavinucha)
 37. Greater Flameback (Chrysocolaptes lucidus guttacristatus)
 38. Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis)
 39. Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus hessei)

 40. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus calidus)

 41. Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae)

PASSERIFORMES: Tephrodornithidae
 42. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus picatus)

PASSERIFORMES: Campephagidae
 43. Long-tailed Minivet (Pericrocotus ethologus laetus)
 44. Grey-chinned Minivet (Pericrocotus solaris)
 45. Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus semiruber)

 46. Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach tricolor)

 47. Green Shrike Babbler (Pteruthius xanthochlorus)

 48. Black-hooded Oriole (Oriolus xanthornus)
 49. Maroon Oriole (Oriolus traillii)

 50. Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus hopwoodi)
 51. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus grandis)
 52. Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)

 53. White-throated Fantail (Rhipidura albicollis)

 54. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius interstinctus)
 55. Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris)
 56. Common Green Magpie (Cissa chinensis)
 57. Grey Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae himalayensis)
 58. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
 59. Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)

PASSERIFORMES: Stenostiridae
 60. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis)
 61. Yellow-bellied Fantail (Chelidorhynx hypoxantha)

 62. Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus)
 63. Yellow-cheeked Tit (Parus spilonotus)
 64. Yellow-browed Tit (Sylviparus modestus)

 65. Striated Bulbul (Pycnonotus striatus)
 66. Black-crested Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus flaviventris)
 67. Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
 68. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
 69. White-throated Bulbul (Alophoixus flaveolus)
 70. Ashy Bulbul (Hemixos flavala)
 71. Mountain Bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii)
 72. Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus psaroides)
 73. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica gutturalis)
 74. Himalayan Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys) 

  75. Hume's Bush Warbler (Cettia brunnescens)
  76. Slaty-bellied Tesia (Tesia olivea)
  77. Chestnut-headed Tesia (Cettia castaneocoronata)
  78. Grey-bellied Tesia (Tesia cyaniventer)
  79. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler (Cettia fortipes)
  80. Yellow-bellied Warbler (Abroscopus superciliaris)
  81. Black-faced Warbler (Abroscopus schisticeps flavimentalis)
  82. Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius patia)

  83. Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus)
  84. Rufous-fronted Tit (Aegithalos iouschistos)

PASSERIFORMES: Phylloscopidae
  85. Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher)
  86. Ashy-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus maculipennis)
  87. Large-billed Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus magnirostris)
  88. Blyth's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus reguloides reguloides)
  89. Yellow-vented Warbler (Phylloscopus cantator)
  90. Grey-hooded Warbler (Phylloscopus xanthoschistos)
  91. Whistler's Warbler (Seicercus whistleri whistleri)
  92. Grey-cheeked Warbler (Seicercus poliogenys)
  93. Chestnut-crowned Warbler (Seicercus castaniceps)

  94. Black-throated Prinia (Prinia atrogularis atrogularis)

  95. Rufous-throated Wren Babbler (Spelaeornis caudatus)
  96. Rufous-capped Babbler (Stachyris ruficeps ruficeps) 
  97. Black-eared Shrike Babbler (Pteruthius melanotis melanotis)
  98. Pygmy Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla pusilla)  
  99. Spotted Elachura (Elachura formosa)
100. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus erythrogenys ferrugilatus)
101. Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga albiventer albiventer)  
102. White-browed Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus schisticeps)
103. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus ruficollis godwini)
104. Sickle-billed Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus superciliaris)
105. White-browed Fulvetta (Alcippe vinipectus chumbiensis)  
106. Rufous-winged Fulvetta (Alcippe castaneceps castaneceps)
107. Yellow-throated Fulvetta (Schoeniparus cinereus)
108. Red-faced Liocichla (Liocichla phoenicea bakeri)
109. Golden-breasted Fulvetta (Alcippe chrysotis chrysotis) 
110. Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striata striata) 
111. Puff-throated Babbler (Pellorneum ruficeps)
112. Long-billed Wren Babbler (Napothera malacoptilus)
113. Nepal Fulvetta (Alcippe nipalensis)
114. White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus leucolophus)  
115. Striated Laughingthrush (Grammatoptila striata)
116. Himalayan Cutia (Cutia nipalensis)
117. Scaly Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron subunicolor)
118. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (Garrulax erythrocephalus nigrimentum)        
119. Spotted Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla ocellatus ocellata)
120. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (Garrulax pectoralis pectoralis)
121. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush (Garrulax monileger monileger)
122. Rufous Sibia (Heterophasia capistrata bayleyi)  
123. Silver-eared Mesia (Leiothrix argentauris argentauris)
124. Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea calipyga)
125. Red-tailed Minla (Minla ignotincta)
126. Rusty-fronted Barwing (Actinodura egertoni)
127. Hoary-throated Barwing (Actinodura nipalensis)
128. Blue-winged Minla (Actinodura cyanouroptera cyanouroptera)
129. Chestnut-tailed Minla (Actinodura strigula yunnanensis)
130. Grey-sided Laughingthrush (Garrulax caerulatus  
131. White-browed Shrike Babbler (Pteruthius flaviscapis)

132. Brown Parrotbill (Paradoxornis unicolor)
133. Black-throated Parrotbill (Sinornis nipalensis poliotis)
134. Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus)
135. White-naped Yuhina (Yuhina bakeri)
136. Whiskered Yuhina (Yuhina flavicollis)
137. Stripe-throated Yuhina (Yuhina gularis gularis)
138. Black-chinned Yuhina (Yuhina nigrimenta)
139. White-bellied Erpornis (Erpornis zantholeuca zantholeuca)  

140. Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris)
141. White-tailed Nuthatch (Sitta himalayensis)

142. Brown-throated Treecreeper (Certhia discolor)

143. Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa peninsularis)
144. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
145. Asian Pied Starling (Gracupica contra)

146. Orange-headed Thrush (Geokichla citrina citrina)
147. Grey-winged Blackbird (Turdus boulboul)
148. Long-billed Thrush (Zoothera monticola) 

149. Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis rubeculoides rubeculoides )
150. Little Pied Flycatcher( Ficedula westermanni)
151. Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)
152. Ferruginous Flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea)
153. Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (Ficedula strophiata)
154. Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra)
155. Ultramarine Flycatcher (Ficedula superciliaris aestigma )
156. Large Niltava (Niltava grandis)
157. Small Niltava (Niltava macgrigoriae)
158. Rufous-bellied Niltava (Niltava sundara whistleri )
159. Pale Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis unicolor)
160. Pygmy Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapella hodgsoni)
161. Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis erimelas)
162. White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus indicus)
163. Plumbeous Redstart (Phoenicurus fuliginosus)
164. White-tailed Robin (Myiomela leucurum)
165. Slaty-backed Forktail (Enicurus schistaceus)
166. Spotted Forktail (Enicurus maculatus guttatus)
167. Little Forktail (Enicurus scouleri)
168. Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus eugenei)
169. Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferrea haringtoni)
170. Blue-capped Rock Thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus)
171. Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (Monticola rufiventris)
172. White-browed Shortwing (Brachypteryx montana crulias)
173. Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia brunnea brunnea) 
174. Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicatus) 175. Tickell's Thrush (Turdus unicolor)

PASSERIFORMES: Chloropseidae
176. Golden-fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons aurifrons )
177. Orange-bellied Leafbird (Chloropsis hardwickii hardwickii)

178. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus)

PASSERIFORMES: Nectariniidae
179. Mrs Gould's Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae isolata)
180. Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis nipalensis)
181. Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata assamensis)
182. Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja labecula)

183. Russet Sparrow (Passer rutilans)
184. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

185. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
186. Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni)
187. White-throated Fantail (Rhipidura albicollis) 

188. Collared Grosbeak (Mycerobas affinis)
189. Scarlet Finch (Haematospiza sipahi)
190. Yellow-breasted Greenfinch (Carduelis spinoides spinoides)


 1. Yellow-throated Marten
 2. Barking Deer
 3. Flying Squirrel
 4. Himalayan Squirrel
 5. Assam Macaque


  1. Wonderful.
    I will come back to check the updates from you.

  2. Lovely with excellent snaps. Enviable trip.

    1. Thanks Gautam, you have been supportive since the inception of this trip. Thanks :-)

  3. Awesome pics n great birding trip 😊 bhai G n fmly

    1. Thank you so much Vaibhav Ji, indeed a great trip.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for appreciating Guruprasad.

  5. Appreciate the trip record and sharing. Great trip. Envy, envy :)

    1. Thank you Amar Singh ji for reading and appreciating, it was indeed a memorable trip :-)

  6. Thanks for introducing me to lovely birds..! Enjoyed the blogpost.

    1. Glad you enjoyed your journey here. Thank you for your kind comment.

  7. Am so glad we met you. What an incredible journey, loved your pictures and am sure we will see many more in the days to come. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. It was indeed a memorable trip. With Kind Regards

  8. Nice trip report, keep up ur good work.

  9. Interesting account. Sikkim is on my list of places to go birding.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Sure you will love birding in Sikkim. Excellent place.

  10. Aseem, I stumbled upon your beautiful blog while searching for birding locations in Sikkim. You have a great account of your trips and I loved your blog so much. Great work and keep posting! Beautiful pics too! Enjoyed a lot.

    1. Thank you Sumeet for reading and appreciating. Glad you enjoyed the pictures as much as we did watching them. Thanks again!

  11. Wou!!what a great trip ...excellent captures of birds made my day ...thanks a lot my friend for sharing such a wonderful journey ..

    1. Thank you so much Vilas, for such wonderful words of appreciation. Glad you liked the captures and the journey. Thanks again!

  12. Dear Aseem, saw your blogs yesterday, beautifully written and lovely birds images. What camera and lens do you use for bird photography?

    1. Thanks for appreciating. Have used Nikon camera and a prime Nikon lens.

  13. Nice and interesting information and informative too.
    Can you please let me know the good attraction places we can visit: Sikkim tour packages price

    1. Thanks a lot Aman for appreciating! Best wishes for your travel.


Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites