DibruSaikhowa, Maguri and Jeypore
by Rajneesh Suvarna
28th Dec '13 - 2nd Jan '14
Dibru-Saikhowa has long been over shadowed by its more famous Assamese siblings- Kaziranga and Manas. Off late though the growing birding community of Tinsukhia have showcased the true potential of this region. It's geographical location along with the multiple habitats it hosts, makes it a very productive place for the serious birder.
Spotted Bush Warbler
An afternoon landing of 1.30pm would have meant the sun right over the head in any other place but in the east it was like four in the evening. Looking at the light we made it straight for Maguri Beel where the Spotted Bush Warbler showed up as soon as we landed at the grassland.
A new day and a new habitat as we explored the Dehing Patkai WLS. As we drove along Digboi and explored the Saraipung reserve forest. We spent time birding on various sections and ist surroundings of this park. The brilliant red headed trogon, collared treepie, the flashy Sultan Tit, maroon oriole and the tesias were notable sightings from this day. A short drive got us to Jeypore forests, ending the day at the local IB with fantastic dinner.
Today we explored the paths thru the reserve forests which turned out very productive yielding notably the Silver Breasted Broadbill, Blue naped pitta, Pygmy and Streaked Wren Babbler.
The next day we decided to get deeper into the forest stopping by to watch White-crested and Black-backed forktails feeding in a stream, keeping an eye on the opposite back for an elephant that seemed to be passing by and only when we thought it had gone past did we see that it had crossed the stream and was charging a little maruti that was trying to negotiate the crater filled road. The stuck gears, roaring engine told the tale of terror the driver of the car might have felt watching a huge trumpeting elephant charging his car. The elephant despite its 'cute' image is an extremely dangerous animal and its always prudent to vacate the area at the first sight of them. This though was the first of the numerous sightings that we had through the trip. The forest was dense, the trail long and time short but as the calls and sightings that we had cerpainly pointed to the fact that more exploration was required than we could aith the time at hand. The food on this leg was a definite hilight competing with the sightings of the winged beauties.
We drove back to spend New Year's Eve in Tinsukhia, safely in bed as the year rolled by so as to make the early morning walk into the Koklapani grasslands. Mother nature had other plans though, the new year swepth in on a bank of thick fog that refused to go off, completely eclipsing the sun forcing us to have a leisurely morning watching it while downing countless cups of tea with pakoras. But the time was not all wasted as a pair of Northern Lapwings and Pin-tailed Snipes were feeding just by our resort. We finally set off despite the fog and were awarded with two Bush Warblers, Spotted and Baikal; both new additions to the Indian list, the black browed red warbler, eastern race of the Bright-headed cisticola and the Black-faced Bunting apart from other denizens of the grasslands. As the sun finally peaked out we headed for the woods and to have another look at the perenial favorite, Rusty-bellied Shortwing in the short time we had before we headed to Maguri beel to looks at the ducks. The beautiful beel though is heavily silted and hosts a lot of haycinth. The ducks were in numbers but certainly didn't hold flocks one is accustomed to seeing at Maguri. The Falcated gave us a miss but we did have a look at an odd bird that looked like a hybrid.
I have always loved the dreamy quality of Dibru-Saikhowa's waterways, today it was wrapped in thick fog giving it a surreal feel as we set out on the boat. The water levels were quite low this year and that combination with the thick fog meant that the boatman eschewed risk and dropped us 3 kms before our scheduled landing spot. As we walked the path we saw fresh footprints of a large elephant all thru the track corroborated by large deposits of fresh dung, fortunately the seemed to be headed the other way. A boat crossing and a brisk walk later we reached the forest camp for a refreshing cuppa before heading off again. The effort was rewarded with good sightings of multiple pairs of the Black-breasted Parrotbill in the vast reedbeds, the Spotted Bush Warbler showed up again and so did a Pale-footed and also very very vocal Marsh babbler. The walk did throw up the usual suspects but the Jerdons Bushchat had decided to give the area a pass this year. The slow long ride back in the twilight was serene allowing a rewind of the whole trip as I soaked in the beauty of the place until a silhouette of a Ketupa showed up, frenzied maneuvering of the boat to get a closer look at the bird was of no avail as there wasn't enough light to read the markings on a bird which I like to think was a Tawny Fish Owl..
Twilight turned to darkness and the river took a different form, the cool breeze fanned us while the far off lights from the town beckoned us. us. As we wearily got off the boat and said good bye to the now familiar river, another trip into the unknown beckoned us as we were to head to Walong the next day.
Bar-headed Goose flying over Maguri Beel
Click here for Images from this trip
Bird list for the Trip
© Rajneesh Suvarna 2014