West Bengal has more than 800 species of birds distributed, which is highest in number than any other states of rest of India. This variation of diversed species distribution is due to habitat varaity. The northern part of West Bengal falls partly under Sivalik Himalayas; where altitude varies between 500 ft to 11,930 ft (Sandakphu, Singalila Range). The Mahananada Wildlife Sanctuary, where this birding tour was conducted falls between altitude range of 500 ft to 3,200 ft. In this birding tour, four participants joined as customized vacation. This was from reference of Rathika Ramasamy, one of the most eminent lady wildlife photographer from India. To attain this birding tour, participants stayed overnight at Bagdogra, so that next day we can start early morning. From the details given below, one will get an idea of birds seen during this season of the time.
Route Taken: New Jalpaiguri, Sevok, Kalijhora, Karmath, Latpanchar, Sittong, Mana, Ahaldara, Latkothi, Birik, Rongtong, Shivakhola.
P.S. All the stay arrangements were done in home stay.
Driving: Around 360 kms.
Hiking: 36 kms.
Top five birds from this tour:
Daily tavel log:
7th April 2018:
Started early morning around 5 AM in the morning and reached at Bagdogra to pick up the group from Marina's Motel (Bihar more, Bagdogra). We started at 8 AM in the morning, city traffic was fairly smooth, crossed Sevok bridge at 9:05 AM and drove till Kalijhora (10 AM). At Kalijhora, I (Mentor - Dibyendu Ash) told participants to unpack Lense, Binoculars and other birding gadgets. At Karmath we saw a woodpecker, a flock of Black-crested Bulbuls and two Spangled Drongo. Little ahead near the nursery we stopped again. Here just some regular birds were hanging around - Green-backed Tits, a pair of Pale Blue Flycatchers and a flock of (6 of them) Black-chinned Yuhina on Gooseberries. It took little more than 15 minutes further uphill and we checked in at 12:30 PM. After having a short lunch, we rested for an hour and resumed birding again from 3 PM. Summer time sundown is late. Generally photographic light remains till 4:30 PM to 5 PM, depending on which slope of the hill, you are doing birding. Afternoon birding session, we had good time with Long-tailed Broadbill. Little ahead, male of Rufous-necked Hornbill was seen as well.
8th April 2018:
The target species, that we had to cover was done on the previous day, thus we drove towards latkothi area in Mahananda WLS. In birding trails, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, was the first bird sighted after entering jungle trail. One Ultramarine Flycacther of eastern race 'aestigma' (F.s.aestigma differs from nominate race of western Himalayas by lacking white supercellium). This was considered a good sighting. Little ahead Tickell's Thrush and Erpornis both were sighted just in the parking area. We had packed breakfast with us, thus we didn't return back to home stay. The morning session was so nice, in the afternoon it rained a lot and we had very little birding. We rested for the day in the home stay.
9th April 2018:
Next day we started early since we had to go a long way. Early in the morning around 4:30 AM, we drove out. By 6 we were crossing tree plantation areas and started decending thereafter. Near Shivakhola, saw few Black-crested Bulbuls, a Yellow-vented Warbler, Blue-winged Siva etc. Our main target was Black Baza and Dollarbird. As we were discussing among ourselves about Black Baza; sooner I saw two of them flew over our head and perched on nearby tree. Sighting was very thrilling and continued for more than 5 minutes, till the birds decided to move on to the next tree. We left the place. Inside Nurbang Tea Estate, in a degraded patch of forested area, a pair of Dollarbirds were seen. We spent almost an hour behind them. Photographing, videographing, recording calls etc. On our way to Rongtong, little down we saw a flock of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, but we didn't manage to photograph them, soon they vanished in to jungle. In the afternoon, we came back early and covered a nearby hamlet for Rufous-necked Laughignthrush.
10th April 2018:
Nights were very comfortable here in Latpanchar, however anxity of sightings for next day was there. In the morning session we decided to cover Mahananda and Latkothi area, in the afternoon session hamlets nearby - 72 (locally called 'Battar'). Today Rusty-cheeked Scimiter Babbler and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush both were seen. Post breakfast Rhacophorus tree frogs were seen near a pond. We took nice picture of this rare beauty. In the afternoon session, we tried for Red-headed Trogon in the nursery area. This area is know for this elusive beauty. All on a sudden we had great sighting of this rare beauty. It was first sighting from the summer of 2018. We had some excuse to cherish the day!
11th April 2018:
The last day, we had very little time to engauge ourselves into birding. However, we managed to get 2 hours in the morning session before breakfast. We covered the nursery area, in case we would able to add some nice species to the list. A pair of Barred Cuckoo Dove, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Sapphire Flycatcher are to the few. After breakfast, I dropped the group to Bagdogra Airport (at 11:30 AM), since they had flight (1 PM) to catch for their home town. Tour ended on good notes!
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A loveless life is futile and what could be more satisfying than loving and being loved by nature? Well, this is for you to decide but he always knew that he belonged with nature. At a very tender age he clearly realised that he is increasingly attracted to nature. The constant longing to get away from the city humdrum guided managing partner, Dibyendu to take up birding and wildlife photography as his profession, working in an IT company could never satisfy the hunger of his soul and mind. A very young Dibyendu took interest in animal skull craft for it used to be his favourite pastime, he read his mother’s zoology books which made his interest in animals grow stronger . His love for wildlife groomed him to grow up into a wildlife enthusiast, he is now an avid traveler and has been to many important birding areas in the Himalayas, honing his skills as a naturalist, birder and a wildlife photographer.
With a huge bird list (which is ever increasing) till date he is currently one of the eminent bird watchers in India. Many of his works have been published in domestic and international publishings, books and newspapers.
Breathing life into the frozen moments of nature is what Soumyajit has been doing through his lenses for the last two decades. Trained as an architect, framing comes to him automatically and composition is his high plus point. Given his early schooling in art & painting, the basic concepts of composition and light always titillated his young brain. Being a self taught he strongly believes in the inherent sense of beauty which at all times, is the best guide than the bookish rules of photography. And he got ample opportunities to cross check his concepts with visiting stalwarts of this field. He valued the criticism of professionals as well as laymen and shaped his creativity accordingly. His photographs strike the very chord in the hearts of his audience urging them to react to the strong messages of nature conservation.
Soumyajit had been long drawn by the mystic world of animals and their natural habitat, the jungle. Coupled with this love for nature and unending patience he makes the right individual to practice wildlife photography. The photographs clicked by him play an integral part in altering the monstrosity of the creatures and highlighting their vulnerability.
Soumyajit is currently whetting his tiger tracking skills especially in the Indian Sunderban, exploring the enigmatic mangroves in a whole new light and bringing the wildlife lovers one step closer to the exotic species of Indian Sunderban not only this but also he shares his knowledge with the clients to ensure that they understand better and the awareness is propagated properly. Having said this, it is needless to mention that not only the tigers of Sunderban, Soumyajit’s erudition about other species of the land of Sundari trees is no doubt remarkable for he has acquired such extensive understanding by spending substantial amount of time in the mysterious mangroves, thus playing a key role in rebuilding the forests and providing protection to its inhabitants.
“Love looks not with the eyes, But with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
His love for tigers is unfathomable. The books of Sir Jim Corbett and of course the wanderlust always made him yearn to be at one with nature, the very thought of observing and photographing the majestic Bengal tigers “filled up his senses like a storm in the desert”, the burning eyes of the majestic beast have lured him to leave his job as an IT professional and made him delve deep into the tangled heart of the forests and breath in the redolence of the jungles. Managing partner, Tamanud Mitra developed a strong understanding of nature and its components, first from the books of Sir Jim Corbett and then by absorbing the jungle lore in the Indian jungles over a considerable period of time, his perseverance and strong determination to walk on the path of his long cherished dream have led him into being an excellent, self-taught tiger tracker and a good enough photographer.