by Rajneesh Suvarna
26th - 30th March 14
Nestled against the backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas lies the grassland and forest habitat, Manas. Reputed to be one of the most beautiful parks and encompassing a wide range of habitats and holding a correspondingly large number of species both avian and mammalian, it was our first stop as we decided to traverse the full altitude range from the near sea-level riverine grasslands to the high Eastern Himalayan passes in adjoining Bhutan.
Large Indian Civet
Our group of five, Subhash, Pradnya, Niket, Garima and yours truly gathered at Guwahati airport, some old friends and some new ones. The drive from the airport was pleasant passing thru villages ticking off some common species of the Northeast including the Great Myna, while we had multiple sightings of the Adjutant giving good photo-ops. We tried to reduce stops on the way so that we could put in some evening birding at Banasbari, the lodge that has become synonymous with Manas. That certainly turned out to be a good idea as one of the first sightings as we got out of the lodge was a large Indian civet resting on a tree in a tea garden. The activity was still good as we made our way back to the camp with the fading light.
The next morning the main target was the Bengal Florican. Our progress was slow as we had good sightings of the Crested Serpent Eagle, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush among others, getting our guide worried if we would miss our tryst with the Florican. All my previous attempts to see the Florican had included long searches resulting in a blink of a sighting, so I was expecting a long vigil as we opened up our breakfast boxes at the watch tower. I had hardly bitten into the sandwich when a Florican sailed right in front of us in a flight longer than I imagined it to fly. As if that wasn't enough, in the next 10 minutes, an adult walked across in the clearing in front of the grasslands putting up a good display, and in general, giving us a long sighting. We left the grasslands with a pair of Pied Harriers circling.
Indian One-horned Rhino
In the afternoon, we did the road by the river and into the forest for some productive birding, and a large flock of large woodshrike and Rosy Minivets were amongst the sightings. A handsome Red Junglefowl and a very cute baby Rhino with her not so cute mom, who crossed right in front of the path, cheered the group. However, the most exciting moment though was when we passed a herd of elephants after waiting patiently for them to pass did not yield satisfactory results. This elephant moment was soon to be surpassed when an elephant started a mock charge quite close to our vehicle.
Day 3 was supposed to be
our longest day with a full day safari. We started off at 5.15am
so that we could be at the gate for the 6am opening. The drive
though took us more than 2.5 hrs with dollarbirds, pale-footed
bushwarblers, chestnut capped babblers and mainly a displaying
pair of oriental honey buzzards that got into the act being the
cause of delay. This, as we realized later, was the first of a
string of amorous couples we would come across on the trip.
Day 4 started off with some Rufous-necked Laughingthrush that climbed right upto the canopy so much so that I kind of anticipated one of them would fall off after an attack of vertigo. This was followed by a fortuitous sighting of a Bay-banded Cuckoo and the oh so cute/regal Crested Treeswift, perched on an impossibly small nest. And this was followed by a juv. CSE just right above us. We were later halted in our tracks as 2 pairs of Shamas fought and put up a grand display for us right there.
A group of Long-tailed Broadbills then captured our attention, these 'clown birds' then flitted around giving excellent views while a Green-Billed malkhoa vied for attention. As if this wasn't enough we had one Jerdon's Baza coming and perching right in front of us.
On our last safari we decided to do the riverine forests by the river on the western edge of the central range, we had to get out of the forest early as some had to reach Bhutan while others a flight to catch. We headed straight for the broadbills but not before some close views of the Rufous Woodpecker. And sure enough a pair of Silver breasted broadbill flew right in front of us, giving splendid views. We continued to the river where we had our breakfast; it was a wonderful spread. Here, we sighted a pair of Pallas's Fish Eagles, Grey-headed Lapwings, scores of Small Pratincoles over the river while in the forest the Pale-chinned Flycatcher and Abbot's Babblers showed up amongst other lovelies. The drive back was just as exciting with a pair of Long-tailed broadbills showing up this time. Fully satiated, we made our way out of the park and to Bhutan
Click here for Images from this trip
Bird list for the Trip
© Rajneesh Suvarna 2014