A view of the Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary – truly a biodiversity hotspot.
This was a long awaited trip. After a lot of uncertainty, it finally materialised. And, here I was at the Guwahati airport to be welcomed by the warm and humid conditions. I reached Guwahati on a (21 May, 2006) Sunday evening which made the travel from the airport to the hotel comfortable and quick (due to lack of traffic). Met up with the rest of the group a little later in the evening and had dinner and retired early.
By 7 am. the following morning (i.e. 22nd May 2006), we were in the bus headed to Tezpur. What I expected to be a 3 hour drive actually took in excess of 5 hours. We were met by the drivers of the vehicles that were to take us to Bompu (in Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary). Fuel for the vehicle was taken care of. Now it was our turn to refuel. We stopped by at a restaurant on the road out of Tezpur. The lunch was good and we were soon on our way.
As we reached the foothills, excitement and expectations among the group members soared. We stopped for everything that caught our attention. During the first such stop I photographed a ground orchid by the roadside.
At this time also the vehicle drivers said that they would not be able to go any further as they were not informed about driving into the forest till Bompu and also because they did not have enough fuel to do so and for the return journey. After coaxing them, they agreed to take us to our destination albeit with a lot of resentment as the sun disappeared behind the mountains. Suddenly, some of the group members who were sitting on top of the vehicle screamed and the both the vehicles came to a sudden halt. Some of them saw a Capped Langur while some missed it. Before the ignition keys of vehicles were turned, all of us were treated to a sighting of a Pintailed Green Pigeon. Some of us saw the Rufousnecked Hornbill. I was not very lucky (but eventually got to see the bird very well).
The evening gave way to darkness and the climb over winding roads began slowly. The drivers were scared since they were not familiar with the terrain. And, true to their fear, the roads in some places were at the very edge of precipitous slopes, while at other places very narrow and at times taking sudden hairpin bends.
Finally, we reached our destination. We were greeted by a very pleasant and sweet couple – Nirmal and Asavri from Goa (they took care of the group through the week long stay). We had a round of hot tea while trying to get our orientation at this new place that we were introduced to in the dark. The campsite essentially was a very simple setup. It consisted of an old building (used by army/GREF) used as a kitchen and a dining area. There were tents put up in the adjoining patch of flat land and also two temporary toilets.
We were joined by Dr. Ramana Athreya and Mr. Indi Glow later in the evening. We had a round of introductions and Ramana briefed the group about the project that he had embarked upon and the purpose of it. We quickly adjourned for a simple, tasty and filling dinner. It was a beautiful night. We got into our tents and went of sleep.
The following day started early. We left the campsite early to catch the birdlife. We were not disappointed. We had explored areas around the campsite and roughly at the same altitude. I had in excess of ten lifers on day one. The forest here had tall trees with moss and other epiphytes draping the branches. When the clouds settled over the canopy, it gave a spooky feeling with the trees taking on ghostly shapes in the dim light.
The evening and night of the 24th it rained very heavily and the tents had water seeping in from below. All of us, baggage inclusive, moved to the area that was used for dining purposes for the night (and for the rest of the trip). On day three it was suggested that we go to lower altitudes. It was a wonderful day out in some of the best jungles of India. The butterfly life was very rich and we got to photograph many of these beauties. But The Leopard is worthy of mention here. This beauty of a butterfly took a fancy for my jacket and refused to settle on vegetation for a long time. So, most of the pictures were taken of it sitting on the jacket!.
While wandering in the forest after lunch, we chanced upon a Green Ratsnake – an extremely beautiful snake. It was very agile and fast. After a lot of struggle, I managed to get my hands on the snake only briefly. The precarious position I was in didn’t help retain grip over the snake.
The first four days had yielded thirty lifers among birds! All the birds and butterflies seen during the trip are listed below.
Day five and six were a bit of a let down as far as birding went. It rained non-stop. However, we enjoyed the ever-changing scenery. The clouds, the rain, the trees, the mist and the mountains were playing among themselves. It was a sight to behold. The changes were quick and dramatic.
Day seven saw us having breakfast and packing our bags to return to Tezpur and on to Guwhati. This journey was not eventless. It continued to rain through the morning. The vehicle broke down half way through and fortunately another vehicle heading in the opposite direction helped our driver and the vehicle came to life. The second time it broke down just after we crossed the Missamari Cantt. Fortunately, it had stopped raining. When the driver was busy fixing the vehicle, I got busy with my camera and binoculars. It was here that all of us got a decent look at the Bluethroated Barbet on a roadside tree. I also managed to take some pics of a Banded Lineblue. It was an experience in itself. By the time we reached Tezpur, most of our bags and their contents were soaked in the incessant rain in spite of the protective plastic covering.
Over a decade had elapsed since my last trip to Arunachal Pradesh. And, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip – the birdlife, the snakes and frogs, the rain, the ever changing landscape, … and all else.
To see more trip pics click here