Kaziranga January 2016 Trip Report – Part 1 (Nameri)

Every year we embark on an epic wildlife tour of Assam, where the mighty Brahmaputra River nurtures a unique and diverse ecosystem. But this year was an especial species fest.  Sourabha Rao reports on the specifics of the epicness starting with this first part which contains the story of Nameri.

After landing in Guwahati, the Skippers took the Tour participants to a dump site in the outskirts of Kaziranga, as is the somewhat quirky custom. This visit, which seemingly stinks of unpleasantness, is made with a very clear purpose: to photograph the rare greater adjutant stork.

Skippers Sachin Rai and Santosh Saligram were pleasantly surprised at how readily participants braved the malodour and the ubiquitousness of Guwahati’s refuse to step out and take a few valuable pictures of a flock of them adjutants perched on a mound.

The group then drove to reach Nameri in the evening, where the cosy, basic, tented camps at the Nameri Eco Camp were waiting to keep them warm and rested well.

Close to the banks of the river Jio Bhoroli, among the tall trees, the Skippers and participants heard the calls of the great Indian hornbill, and spotted owlets on the property itself. In the nippy evening, participants introduced themselves to the group and had fun discussing the course of the Photo Tour and some photography concepts with the Skippers. Nameri Eco Camp is known for its great food, too, and after a delicious dinner, the group called it a night.

In the misty morning, the group walked up to the river and got into canoes that took them to the far bank. Mist fell on the water, obliterating their vision and leading them on a metaphorical journey into a seeming oblivion, the two rowers reminding one of Hesse’s ferrymen, Siddhartha and Vasudeva. In the silence, a flock of cormorants flew by, surreally dotting the thick white fog.

 

 

On reaching the other side and disembarking the boats, although the place looked almost alien as the group walked on the dry but soft riverbed, it was welcoming.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

A brisk five-minute walk brought them to a forest camp, where they paused briefly, before commencing the birding walk in right earnest.

 

© Sheila Verghis

© Sheila Verghis

 

The modus operandi was very much conventional, where you enjoy your presence in the wild, walk through little-trodden paths, and enjoy the sights in completely non-orchestrated conditions. And a few participants had signed up for the Tour for precisely this reason: for the privilege of walking inside virtually the only Indian tiger reserve that allows such a luxury.

Tens of bird species were met on the walk that started with a yellow-breasted bunting right near the camp.  Blue-throated barbet, orange-bellied leafbird, spot-winged starling, brown-capped pygmy and lesser yellownape woodpeckers and red-breasted parakeet followed in quick succession.

At one place, the group had to walk on logs spread across water bodies, which added to the sense of adventure on the trek.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

A black-breasted bulbul perched on a shrub gave enough time for everyone to admire it and make some stunning images. The Skippers helped the participants to stalk it without disturbing it unduly.

 

© Chander Ramsay

© Chander Ramsay

 

When the group came to a stream, they saw a slaty-backed folktail taking off. They decided to breakfast at the watch tower from where the view is serene and where on a previous Tour elephants had been seen. When the forest guard checked and confirmed that it was safe, the group breakfasted and resumed the walk.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

A yellow-footed green pigeon and even more excitingly, a wedge-tailed green pigeon showed up in due course. Then they walked into an open patch, populated only by grass, where a Hodgson’s bushchat regaled the thirsty eye.  Walking past it after a common buzzard on a big tree in an open patch of the forest followed to enthral the participants. Having had a productive morning trek in the forest of Nameri, the group returned to the camp, only to see another avian wonder: the peregrine falcon perched on an old, leafless tree in the forest quarters. Because the weather was a challenging condition for photography, the Skippers helped the participants to make some high-key, graphic-like images of the majestic bird.

Later, walking back to the boat, the group saw the gorgeous ruddy shelduck and heard a white-cheeked partridge. On the way to the camp, they saw a brown shrike and at the camp, a beautiful pale-chinned flycatcher, a verditer flycatcher and an adorable hoary-bellied squirrel.

 

© Sachin Rai

© Sachin Rai

 

After lunch and rest, they drove 10 kilometres to reach the beginning point of a raft ride. With only two people to be embarked on each raft, there was ample space for the participants to make images while rafting.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

The river, juxtaposed with tall red silk-cottons, was quite calm with not many rapids to be braved.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

More Brahminy ducks embellished the calm river waters. A male and two female goosanders, the graceful ones, were spotted walking on the banks and later flying, and were photographed.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

Soon to follow was the sighting of a river lapwing and an adorable common greenshank. You wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to disembark and beach the boat and walk barefoot on the cool waters and the cold rocks when you see ibisbills.

 

© Sachin Rai

© Sachin Rai

 

The group stalked three ibisbills until they got them in one spectacular frame and withdrew before disturbing them. They also saw two ospreys flying overhead, followed by flying mallard ducks. More ruddy shelducks and a white-capped water redstart were also spotted.

 

© Chander Ramsay

© Chander Ramsay

 

The group then climbed up to their cars at the end point of rafting to go back to their camp.

A little later in the evening, the Skippers got the resort to arrange for a lovely performance by the locals, which was very well received by the participants and added a lovely cultural flavour to the experience, while a big bonfire kept them warm.

 

© Sachin Rai

© Sachin Rai

 

The following morning, which was equally foggy as the previous one, a common stonechat was spotted, followed by the sighting of a black-headed oriole, whose vibrant yellow plumage broke the while monotony of the morning mist.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

A small cat’s pugmarks were found while the group walked on the riverbed. Long-tailed minivet, both male and female, also offered some wonderful images to the participants. On the other side of the boat ride that morning, a large niltava, an orange-bellied leafbird, a lesser racket-tailed drongo (rarer than the greater racket-tailed drongo) were found.

In a wild, idyllic, sequestered place in the forest, the group longed to spot for the rare white-winged duck. But they couldn’t find one; it was a dream that had to wait for another Photo Tour.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

They had breakfast at yet another scenic spot where there were many birds for company, including the great stone plover.

 

© Santosh Saligram

© Santosh Saligram

 

They later resumed walk and were greeted by a female large niltava, which offered them the opportunity to make portraits from a close distance.

When the participants joined the main path of the trek after making some beautiful bird images, they saw tiger pugmarks. Later, the quirky striated heron and a female blossom-headed parakeet were seen and photographed. Upon returning to the property, they saw another pale-chinned flycatcher and a verditer, which were soon joined by a grey-headed canary.

Later, as the group prepared to checkout of the property for the next phase of the Kaziranga Photo Tour, they enjoyed eating the delicious star fruit or the carambola as a Daurian redstart made a special appearance. They headed towards Kaziranga, with the warm memories of over a hundred species of birds they saw in Nameri alone.

To join our next Nameri-Kaziranga Photo Tour, click here.

Here’s a list of all the birds they saw in Nameri:

1 Red jungle fowl
2 Ruddy shelduck
3 Mallard duck
4 Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker
5 Lesser yellownape
6 Blue-throated barbet
7 Oriental pied hornbill
8 Indian roller (affinis)
9 Pied kingfisher
10 Common kingfisher
11 Chestnut-headed bee-eater
12 Red-breasted parakeet
13 Vernal hanging parrot
14 Asian barred owlet
15 Blue rock pigeon
16 Green imperial pigeon
17 Spotted dove
18 Wedge-tailed green pigeon
19 Common sandpiper
20 Common greenshank
21 Great thick-knee
22 Ibisbill
23 Small pratincole
24 Common ringed plover
25 River lapwing
26 River tern
27 Osprey
28 Black kite
29 Pallas’s fish eagle
30 Crested serpent eagle
31 Common buzzard
32 Peregrine falcon
33 Little cormorant
34 Great cormorant
35 Cattle egret
36 Great egret
37 Asian openbill
38 Black stork
39 Lesser adjutant stork
40 Greater adjutant stork
41 Orange-bellied leaf bird
42 Grey-backed shrike
43 Large billed crow
44 Maroon oriole
45 Black-winged cuckooshrike
46 Large cuckooshrike
47 Scarlet minivet
48 Spangled drongo
49 Black drongo
50 Lesser racket-tailed drongo
51 Black-bellied thrush
52 Verditer flycatcher
53 Hodgson’s redstart
54 White-capped water redstart
55 Plumbeous water redstart
56 Black-backed forktail
57 Common stonechat
58 Chestnut-tailed starling
59 Spot-winged starling
60 Jungle myna
61 Common myna
62 Sultan tit
63 Red-vented bulbul
64 Black-crested bulbul
65 Black bulbul
66 Red-whiskered bulbul
67 Greenish warbler
68 Streaked spiderhunter
69 House sparrow
70 Common crow
71 White wagtail
72 Asian fairy bluebird
73 Yellow-breasted bunting
74 Common teal
75 Greater yellow-nape woodpecker
76 Fulvous-breasted woodpecker
77 Wreathed hornbill
78 White-throated kingfisher
79 Blue-bearded bee-eater
80 Rose-ringed parakeet
81 Emerald dove
82 Indian thick-knee
83 Striated heron
84 Golden-fronted leafbird
85 Black-hooded oriole
86 Long-tailed minivet
87 Bronzed drongo
88 Greater racket-tailed drongo
89 Common iora
90 Blue whistling thrush
91 Pale-chinned flycatcher
92 Little pied flycatcher
93 Grey-headed canary flycatcher
94 Small niltava
95 Large niltava
96 White-rumped shama
97 Daurian redstart
98 Velvet-fronted nuthatch
99 Chestnut-bellied nuthatch
100 Pin-striped titbabbler
101 Ashy bulbul
102 Indian pond heron
103 Hill myna

 

 

Categories: Featured, Nature, Photography, Tour Reports, Travel
Sourabha Rao

Sourabha is a staff writer at Toehold who dexterously gives verbal form to the inexpressible, and with her passion for travel, weaves immersive stories that transcend space and dissolve time.

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