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West Bengal

Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus Caeruleus ©Laurence Poh Website

The best birding region comprising the state if Sikkim and the adjoining parts of North Bengal - Darjeeling and Kalimpong, lies between Latitude 27 and 28 degrees North, and Longitude 87 to 89 degrees East. It is a rugged strip of vertical mountain country. Wedged between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and the North Bengal Plains of India. This tiny region is just 90km wide and 150km deep. The country rises from near sea level to 8,500 meters, in a very short distance, The great Himalayan Range with its giant spurs – Singelila and Chola, virtually enclose this region in a titanic horseshoe. Starting from the plains of North Bengal tangled interlacing ridges rise range after range to the foot of the great wall of high peaks and passes opening into Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.

The climate varies between the tropical heat of the valleys and the alpine cold of the snowy regions. With rainfall averaging 348cm, it is the most humid region of the Himalayas. Dry season is from November to March. The altitudinal zones of vegetation range from Tropical, through sub-tropical and temperate to Alpine. In some places only 10kms in a direct line separate the palm growing valleys from perpetual snow. This telescoping of terrain has created marked altitudinal zonation in the humidity, rainfall, climate and vegetation. This factor is responsible for the great variety and abundance of the resident bird life, making this area arguably one of the richest areas of its size anywhere in the world. Dr Salim Ali -one of India's foremost ornithologists has recorded 527 species of resident birds. In addition there are vagrants, and transients on migration. It is estimated that more than 30% of the species of the Indian Sub continent can be seen in this region.

The main towns in this region are Gangtok in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the mountains of North Bengal, and Silguri in the plains of North Bengal. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra near Siliguri in the plains.

Top Sites

Lava

Information

Satellite View

This is the prime birding destination in this region, located 35Km from Kalimpong (1¼hrs). It is 85Km from Darjeeling via Kalimpong. (4hrs) Alternativly it is 115Km from Bagdogra Airport via Kalimpong (4hrs). It is a small bazaar, once a halting place for caravans on the trade routes to Bhutan and Sikkim. It is now a tiny forest Village with a Buddhist Monastery amidst a sea of evergreen forests at an elevation of 2100m. Surrounded by very large tracts of protected forests ranging in elevation between 1600m and 2400m, it includes the remote and uninhabited Neora National Park. It is a bird watcher`s delight. The forests have rough roads and walking trails. Birding is feasible from the main roads. However for deeper entry, forest department permission and a guide is required. Some of the sought after birds that have been recorded are: Satyr Tragopan, Ashy Wood-pigeon, Rufous-throated and Spotted Wren Babblers, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Red-faced Liocichla, Cutia, Rusty-belied Shortwing, Blue-fronted robin & Long-billed Thrush. Even though densities are not high, it is possible to spot in excess of 200 species in 4-5 days of birding.

Samthar-Ponbu - Dong

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The Samthar area at an elevation of 1500m, is connected to Lava by a 52Km forest road, which is partly a wilderness trail. This forested drive via Lolegaon, offers good birding. Driving time from Lava is 2½hrs and from Kalimpong 3½hrs. This is still an unexplored area, and birders with a pioneering spirit and strong legs will love the experience. The terrain around Samthar comprises interlocking ridges with forest cover on the top and terraces lower down. Water courses (local name Jhora for smaller ones and Khola for larger ones) form deep valleys, with bio-diverse flora. They feed the Samthar Khola on the North, The Lish River in the East, the Suruk Khola in the West and the Ponbu Khola in the South. All lead to the Teesta River. Large tracts of reserve forest also exist. The area is criss-crossed by many easy walking trails. Several birding hot spots have been identified. Many virgin areas await exploration. Most of the species like Pigmy Blue Flycatcher & Long-tailed Broadbills occurring below 2,500m around Lava are present around Samthar -Ponbu- Dong areas. February-March and November-December are good months as altitudinal migrants are present. Added attractions are sunrise and sunset views and staying at the atmospheric Samthar Farm House.

Singelila (Sandakphu) Range

Information

Satellite View

The Sandakphu Ridge of the Singelila Range is located at an elevation of 3,600m. Maneybhanjan, 30km from Darjeeling (2 hours by jeep) and 70Km (4 hrs) from Kalimpong is the starting point for a 5-8 days trek, which provides good birding in Bamboo, Oak, and Rhododendron forests between 2,000m and 3,000m elevation. Some of the best species recorded are, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Hill Partridge, Collared Pygmy Owlet, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Brown & Black-throated Parrotbill, Spotted and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Plain Mountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak, Dark-breasted & White-browed Rosefinch, Plain Mountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak, Dark-breasted and White-browed Rosefinch. There is also the attraction of breathtaking views of Khangchen Dzonga, and glimpses on Mount Everest, apart from the delightful forests.

Contributor

Peter Lobo

Gurudongma Tours & Treks

Kalimpong

gurutt@sancharnet.in

Number of Species

State Bird: White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis

Useful Reading

* Field Guides & Bird Song

For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder

Useful Information

State Bird

White-throated Kingfisher

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Sinclairs Bird Watching

Tour Operator

Hotel Sinclairs offers three exotic destinations for bird lovers, namely Dooars, Portblair and Ooty. A pursuit for families, groups and individuals, birdwatching is becoming increasingly popular today. Birding is easy and inexpensive, requiring minimal equipment, skill and physical fitness. With their diverse habitats and hospitable climate, it is easy to see why the three destinations among the best for birdwatching in the Indian sub-continent…

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2015 [02 February] - David Stanton - North Bengal, Sikkim & Manas National Park

Report PDF

...I had high expectations from this trip, especially with regards as to seeing Flycatchers, Thrushes and Laughing Thrushes. This was not to be. Numbers of birds however were very impressive, with feeding parties of over a hundred.

2015 [05 May] - Aseem Kothiala - Sikkim & North Bengal

Report

Latpanchar is home to the famous Rufous-necked Hornbill. Its nesting time we were told and there was a great opportunity to probably sight them. There were around 10 pairs in all in the region and one of them had been seen often. The nearby fruiting trees did not bear any fruit in this period so the hornbills have to fly to distant locations.

2016 [04 April] - Dibyendu Ash - Neora Valley National Park

Report

...We started very early around 5 AM in the morning and light was too poor then. In the morning birding session we covered Sillerygaon birding trail. We had packed breakfast with us. In the morning birding session in Sillerygaon we had seen Himalayan Cutia twice; otherwise we saw Little Bunting, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Tickell's Thrush etc...

Places to Stay

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Elgin Hotels

Accommodation

Welcome to the Elgin Group of Hotels - a chain of exclusive four star hotels nested high in the Eastern Himalayas at Darjeeling, Gangtok and Kalimpong. New Elgin at Darjeeling, Nor-Khill at Gangtok and Silver Oaks at Kalimpong form the chain of Elgin Group of Hotels…

Garumara Jungle Camp

Accommodation

Garumara Jungle Camp is located at Chalsa (West Bengal, India). The camp is a few minutes drive from Garumara National Park (Home to One-horned rhinos) and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and fabled by numerous rivers, streams and picturesque tea gardens.While the Garumara National Park located on the bank of rivers Murti and Raidak has vegetation of riverine grasslands interspersed with savannah woodlands, Chapramari is more of woodland with very tall trees and thick canopy cover…

The Ffort Radisson Resort

Accommodation

72 kilometres from the airport, 60 kilometres from Howrah Station, 50 kilometres from Calcutta city centre, and just 90 minutes away from the grease and grime of citylife, a brand new world awaits you…

West Bengal Forest Development Lodges

Accommodation

The West Bengal Forest Development corporation has a number of lodges well-located for birding in West Bengal.

Windamere Hotel - Darjeeling

Accommodation

It is "One of the three Jewels of the Raj", said a celebrated travel writer of The Windamere Hotel. Established in the 19th century as a cozy boarding house for bachelor English and Scottish tea planters, it was converted into a hotel just before the outbreak of the Second World War….

Reserves

Jaldapara Sanctuary

Information

Satellite View

Jaldapara Sanctuary is of 26 sq. km where one-horned rhinoceros, elephant, sambhar, barking deer, spotted deer etc. can be spotted. The drive to Jaldapara takes you over the coronation bridge through the dense forests to the Bengal Plains and through the tea gardens to Madrihat.

Sunderbans National Park

Website

Satellite View

This park is located in the vast swampy delta of two great Indian rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Ganga, in West Bengal. It extends over a vast area. mangrove forests, swamps and forested islands, covering over 1,300 sq. km. Sunderbans is home to nearly 200 Royal Bengal tigers. Part of the forest lies in Bangladesh and it is estimated that the combined population of tigers in the region could be about 400. Adapting itself to the saline and watery environment, the tigers at the park are good swimmers.

Other Links

Bengal Birds

Website

Bengalbirds is an initiative made by some amateur birders who aims to guide common people to identify local birds, know about different types and helps to understand bird conservation…

Birds of Kolkata

Website

This web site is aimed at introducing the birds of Kolkata in their natural environment, the city of Kolkata. The key to this web site will be a photographic guide to the birds of the city. All pictures appearing on this site will be shot in the 250 square kilometers of the city depicted in the accompanying map, the actual Kolkata as the residents know it.