I was keen to visit the high altitudes of Eastern Himalaya in summer to experience birds breeding at these altitudes. In addition, I was eager to bird in these unique habitats -- coniferous and alpine -- which turn breeding grounds in summer. Target birds were the likes of Gould's Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Finches, Grosbeaks, Grandala, Leaf and Bush-warblers, etc. Shashank Dalvi and other bird tour leaders specializing in North-east India usually combine high altitudes of Western Arunachal with Eaglenest and lowland jungle like Nameri, Pakke and Kaziranga.
I got the opportunity to visit these areas in June when Shashank, Vishnupriya and I found a week after completing a month-long Nagaland biodiversity survey. We met in Guwahati and headed straight to Arunachal Pradesh breaking the journey at Eaglenest. A landslide between Seppa and Tippi caused a delay of a few hours.
The places we birded were:
Eaglenest -- Lama camp
Dirang -- About 25 km west of Bomdila on the Tezpur-Tawang highway lies Dirang which serves as the birding base for sorties into the Shangti valley, Mandala and the road to Sela pass which provides the boundary in Arunachal Pradesh between West Kameng and Tawang districts. Dirang itself is a reasonably large town with the only decent hotels in the entire region.
Shangti Valley -- The Shangti valley lies at 1600m and forms a dry inner valley with pine stands and cultivation cloaking the valley itself. The river produces both gravel banks and sand banks along its length in the valley providing suitable habitat for Ibisbill, Long-billed Plover and wintering Wallcreepers. The flat marshlands contiguous with the banks of the river, although cultivated with rice, form the only wintering area in India for Black-necked Crane as well as Black-tailed Crakes.
Dirang-Mandala road -- This road climbs from Dirang up through temperate broad-leaved forest andscrub. Treeline vegetation is dominated by conifers, birch, rhododendron and birch scrub. A great location for Gould's Shortwing and Myzornis (although this highly sought-after species was not encountered on this trip)
Dirang-Sela Pass -- This road runs some 61 km from Dirang itself climbing all the time towards the Sela Pass. The habitat on the way up is similar to the Dirang – Mandala road.
Jang -- we actually camped here to accessed Sela pass on multiple mornings.