report covers the best part of a week spent in Darjeeling and Sikkim,
starting off at Kurseong for a few days before moving to Glenburn and
then onwards to Biksthang (Sikkim). As usual
this was not by any means a full-on birding trip - though I
spend a whole day birding in the vicinity of Kurseoung and
had a number of early morning walks.
One thing to consider when travelling in this region is the time taken
to move from one place to another. The roads were very poor at times
and distances between places did not reflect the time taken to travel
between them. We were perhaps slightly unlucky in this respect as the
area had been pretty much closed off immediately prior to our visit due
to some political unrest so
little or no maintenance had been done on the roads. Some hotels had
only recently re-opened as tourists had been unable to enter the area.
For bird photography I usually found myself using settings that I
sometimes have to use back home in Norway on a very dull and dark
November day - there is not much in the way of light in the undergrowth
of the forests.
I found the identification of various groups of species something of a
challenge - notably the warblers (I heard a lot of calls of what
sounded like Yellow-browed Warblers and others I know well but it was
impossible to get onto them) and the Drongos (almost invariably too far
off to identify specifically and I am unfamiliar with the calls).
We used the Lonely Planet guide extensively for planning and during the
This is the field guide I took with me, it did the job and became very
well thumbed during our trip. It also coped well with Bhutan:
This trip was part of a wider combined trip covering Darjeeling,
and Goa. See the following links for further details:
peace in quiet (something of a commodity over much of India) this
area was wonderful. Tranquil surroundings, stunning views and (for me
at least) a very nice climate
- cool in the mornings and evenings and pleasantly warm during the day.
saw a total of over 80 species during our stay not including a dozen or
so other species that were not specifically identified.
in Darjeeling and Sikkim: 06
November 2017: Delhi - Bagdora -
November 2017: Kurseong 09
Kurseong - Glenburn 10
November 2017: Glenburn - Biksthang 11
November 2017: Biksthang 12
November 2017: Biksthang 13
November 2017: Biksthang - Bagdora From
Bagdogra we flew to Paro, Bhutan
- Bagdogra - Kurseong 06 November This
was essentially a day of travelling. We had to change terminals
at Delhi between our arrival from Helsinki and departure for Bagdogra.
This transfer provided the first birds of the trip with Black Kite,
Common Myna, Asian Pied Starling, Hoopoe and White-throated Kingfsher
species seen between the two terminals. We were picked up at Bagdogra
and drove from there to
Kurseong - not much was specifically identified during the journey
other than Cattle Egrets.
Kurseong we stayed at the Cochrane
They organised pick-up
from the airport, had local birding guides available and were generally
very helpful indeed. The food in the hotel restaurant was nothing short
of excellent and our evening meals here were probably the best meals we
ate during the entire holiday.
had planned to take the Toy Train ride as recommended in the Lonely
Planet guide but this was not operating during out stay due to damage
to the line during the previous monsson that had yet to be repaired.
Turtle Dove, Kurseong, India, November 2017
Warbler, Kurseong, India, November 2017
Minla, Kurseong, India, November 2017
Hotel, Kurseong, India, November 2017
Kurseong - 07
November I spent the whole
day birding in the hills surrounding Kurseong with a local guide. This proved to
be the best day for number of species seen during the entire India and
Bhutan holiday with almost 40 species noted.
Much of the birding was in heavily vegetated areas so a lot of time was
spent peering into bushes for glimpses of the birds like Laughing
Thrushes. This area was good for raptors too with Steppe Eagles (no
adult birds seen), Eurasian Hobby, Crested Serpent Eagle, Kestrel and
Perhaps the most unlikely sighting was a flock of three Ruddy Shelduck
migrating down the valley. Mixed flocks of feeding birds like
Red-tailed Minla, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and
Long-tailed Minivet provided the mainstay of the birding. Black Bulbul,
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Verditer Flycatcher, Grey-hooded Warbler,
Mrs Gould's Sunbird and Olive-backed Pipit were among the other species
Barbet, Kurseong, India, November 2017
Kurseong, India, November 2017
View from Cochrane Place Hotel, Kurseong, November 2017
- 08 November This was a
touristy day, we visited a monastary and did the almost compulsory
visit to a tea factory as well as a stroll through some tea
plantations. Birding highlights for me were Blue-throated Barbet, Great
Barbet and Grey Treepie. Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey Buschat and
Green-backed Tit were among the commoner species.
In the evening
flocks of House Swifts swarmed around the hotel.
Black Eagle flew past during breakfast at Cochrane Place, Kurseong.
Other raptors seen from the balcony here were Crested Serpent Eagle and
Hawk Eagle, Glenburn, India, November 2017
Afternoon tea, Glenburn Estate, India, November 2017
This was an essential before our afternoon walk
Kurseong - Glenburn,
day was largely another day of transport but we managed to see some
Kurseong before moving to Glenburn (not far from Darjeeling). We also
had a productive afternoon stroll at Glenburn.
Breakfast at Cochrane Place gave us good views of a Black Eagle and
rather more distant views of Racket-tailed Drongo (not specifically
The walk at Glenburn gave us Mountain Hawk Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and
Himalayan Bulbul among the species noted. In the grounds of the
Glenburn Estate Green-billed Malkoha, Yellow-bellied Warbler and even a
Brown Hawk Owl were seen - the latter hunting in the grounds of the
hotel after dark. A sunbird was also seen briefly in the hotel gardens.
Glenburn provided a unique experience with its charming rooms and
wonderful grounds and we wished we had time to stay
another night here. The road (possibly not the right word to describe
what we drove along) to Glenburn was an experience in itself
but the car (and not least driver) they sent to pick us up coped with
this very well and we enjoyed a nice packed lunch they had sent along
with the car. The evening meal was taken together with the other
guests - something that worked very well.
Long-tailed Minivet,Glenburn, India, November 2017
Indian Peafowl,Glenburn, India, November 2017
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher,Glenburn, India, November 2017
Part of the excuisite grounds
of the Glenburn Estate
Yellow-bellied Warbler, Himalayan Babbler and Green-billed Malkoha were
among the species seen in this part of the grounds during the day.
After dark a Brown Hawk Owl (Brown Boobook) hunted here.
Stunning views from the
garden at Glenburn....
I started the day with an hour or so birding around the grounds of the
Glenburn Estate with one of the multi-talented staff. The tea
plantation and surrounding woodland was heaving with birds and I had no
chance of identifying
everything. During our stay here I had a number of species that were
not on this
species list on the hotel
Species seen at Glenburn included Grey-backed Shrike, Brown Shrike,
Indian Peafowl, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Large Cuckooshrike,
Greater Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Rock
Thrush, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Tickell's Leaf Warbler and Grey-headed
Flycatcher. Common Green Magpie, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Bronzed
Drongo and Common Myna were all seen from the terrace / during
The rest of the day was spent driving to Biksthang along roads of
mildy-put varying quality. We had to sort out a permit / visa in order
to visit Sikkim along the way although this was a very straightforward
Asian Barred Owlet,
Biksthang, Sikkim, November 2017
Himalayan Bulbul, Biksthang,
Sikkim, November 2017
Together with Red-vented Bulbul these were a common species both around
Glenburn and at Biksthang
Biksthang, Sikkim, November
I started flipping through the following book at the hotel. It was
fascinating so I bought it after we got home:
11 November A
short pre-breakfast stroll in the hotel grounds produced Blue-throated
Barbet, Common Green Magpie, Himalayan Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Black
Bulbul, Oriental Turtle Doves, a few infruriating phylloscopus warblers
and a flock of Neckaced Laughingthrushes (not specifically identified).
Overhead were flocks of Himalayan Swiftlets.
A walk along the road into the nearby village gave us cracking views of
Barred Owlet, Scarlet Minivet, Oriental White-eyes,
Red-tailed Minla and Grey-hooded Warbler.
Biksthang, Sikkim, November 2017
A flock came flying past as we came out of the Lheuntse
monastary - toghether with
a Steppe Eagle or two
Sikkim, November 2017
A bonus bird during breakfast.
Spangled Drongo, Biksthang, Sikkim, November 2017
(also known as Hair-crested Drongo)
India, November 2017
(thankfully we were not at work ourselves and therefore avoided a vast
amount of paperwork).
One of the many nice things about Sikkim was there was little in the
way of noise. Even work being done on the premises was done using hand
swimming pool at
Biksthang looked very tempting at times....
Evening view of the
12 November The
pre-breakfast stroll gave a number of new species with my favourite
being Pygmy Wren Babbler. Great Barbet, Spangled Drogon, Buff-barred
Warblers, Small Niltavia, Rufous-bellied Niltavia were among the other
After breakfast we walked up to the monastary. The walk was relatively
quiet bird-wise but when we came out of the building a flock of
Himalayan Vultures came past at close range together with a couple of
immature Steppe Eagles.
13 November The
morning walk in the hotel grounds proved difficult identification wise
but Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, the usual Common Tailorbirds and
Oriental White-eyes, Himalayan Bulbul, Grey Bushchat, Chestnut-bellied
Nuthatch, Oriental Turtle Dove, Green-backed Tit, Grey-hooded Warbler
and Grey Treepie were all seen. Highlight was a Speckled Piculet.
We spent the afternoon driving to Bagdogra to catch our flight to
Bhutan. Along the roads whilst still in Sikkim I added White-browed
Wagtail and White Capped Redstart to the trip list.
Near Saligura we had flocks of Glossy Ibis flying over the road, Cattle
Egrets and the ever present Common Mynas.
A nightjar put in an appearance after dark in the grounds of our hotel
in Bagdogra but was not identified specifically.
Apart from abundant (and noisy) insects and butterflies the only other
wildlife we saw were a gecko or two and the Macaque monkeys which were
abundant with famlily parties common along the roads and singles or
small groups seen in the woodland.
were a common sight - usually family parties sitting by the side of the
road but were also seen feeding in woodland around the tree plantations
feature of walks in this area was the constant din from the insects -
this cicada was one of the culprits.