Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Water Flow To Yandina Creek Wetlands Plugged



The extent of the Yandina Creek Wetlands is revealed by this image taken from Mt Ninderry
Works have been completed to plug the major source of tidal water flowing to the Yandina Creek Wetlands, ensuring that at least half the 200-hectare site - which is of national significance according to federal Government guidelines - is in the process of being drained.

New Floodgates on Yandina Creek
The wetlands are comprised primarily of two large adjoining properties - Lots 3 and 4 RP148079 - which abut the Coolum Creek Conservation Reserve. They were replenished twice daily from tidal flows from the Maroochy River through broken floodgates connecting Yandina Creek, a tributary of the river, to canals that criss-cross land formerly used for sugarcane production. New floodgates have now been installed - along with the construction of levy banks and other works - to block the main canal flowing to Lot 3. This will have the consequence of draining Lot 3 and will have unknown consequences as well for the wetlands on Lot 4, as the two properties are connected by canals.

Drainage Works at Yandina Creek
The landholders of Lot 3 had indicated their intention to fill the wetlands for cattle pasture, but they are instead leasing the property to its former sugarcane farmer-owners, who intend to replant cane as soon as the wetlands are drained (see here). This move was evidently intended to circumvent possible action by the federal Government to block the landfill plan, as the wetlands are habitat for the endangered Australian Painted-Snipe and large numbers of protected migratory shorebirds, including the critically endangered Curlew-Sandpiper. The federal Environment Department has inspected the area to determine if Commonwealth law may be breached by drainage work. However, the department refuses to reveal the outcome of its investigation, suggesting that the Commonwealth has come to the conclusion that its hands are tied, at least while the landholders keep to the sugarcane plan.

Yandina Creek Wetlands on Lot 4  - looking east to Mt Coolum
The Sunshine Coast Council has rejected proposals to acquire the wetland properties under its Environment Levy Plan (see here - this post includes links for protest emails) but other possibilities remain for funding, including grants from the Commonwealth and/or Queensland governments. Bushcare Australia is also considering acquisition.

Wetlands photographed from Mt Ninderry - Lot 4 on left, newly drained Lot 3 on right
In one encouraging development in an otherwise bleak picture, the landholders of Lot 3 have indicated a willingness to discuss the long-term future of the area, and as the drainage works undertaken recently on their behalf by the sugarcane farmers are reversible, it is worth considering. The landholders have suggested a mixed development of wetlands protection, farming and ecotourism. The idea has merit, although the viability of any such scheme would be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of - or at least access to - Lot 4, which contains the most significant wetland habitat.

The owners of Lot 4 have declined to discuss the matter. The address of the family trust that owns the property is the same as the office of Vantage Building Group, a big Sunshine Coast property development company. The degree of co-operation between the owners of Lots 3 and 4 is uncertain; the two properties are presently being patrolled jointly by men riding quad-bikes to deter trespassers.

Yandina Creek Wetlands 
Images of the wetlands taken from nearby Mt Ninderry reveal the impressive extent of the habitat. Though several kilometres distant, extensive areas of open water and swampland are clearly visible against the backdrop of the coast and Mt Coolum. The water in these images, taken this week, is largely on Lot 4. The water in Lot 3, immediately to the east, appears from the images to have already been drained; access to Lot 3 is not allowed so it is is not possible to know for certain.

Where to next? It is worth pursuing the idea of the Lot 3 landholders in the absence of anything else on the table, though the attitude of the council, and of the Lot 4 owners, needs to be determined. The council has been asked to clarify its position, while efforts to connect with the Lot 4 owners continue.

At the same time, pressure needs to be increased on the federal and state governments to come up with the goods and provide funding to the council so that it can acquire the area. The Queensland Environment Minister, Steven Miles, is set to visit the Yandina Creek Wetlands soon. The minister told Peter Wellington, the local MP and parliamentary Speaker, that he was interested in the wetlands. But at the same time, his department was telling the media that the wetlands are only of "local" importance because they are "highly modified". These assertions are as misplaced as they are irrelevant. Wetlands around the world are being created artificially because there is precious little of them remaining in a natural state. Moreover, the conversion of fallow caneland at Yandina Creek has re-established a habitat that was there naturally.

Critically Endangered Curlew-Sandpiper occurs at Yandina Creek Wetlands
The Sunshine Coast Council also needs to be persuaded to depart from its view that the wetlands are not "high priority". The mayor, Mark Jamieson, has told ABC Radio that although acquisition had been ruled out this financial year, the prospect remained of acquisition in future years. The mayor said the existence of three separate titles over the wetlands (a small section occurs on a third property) made acquisition difficult, but the council has been told that protecting even one of the major properties (Lot 3 or Lot 4) would suffice to protect much of the habitat.  The mayor said the proposal had been assessed by the council, but there has been no assessment of any substance. It did not go unnoticed that while the council has no funds to save wetlands, it is spending $260,000 to scare flying foxes away from populated areas.

Talk to Noosa Parks Association on Yandina Creek Wetlands
The campaign to protect the wetlands is in full swing. BirdLife Australia has urged its thousands of members and supporters to become involved. Several people have expended considerable energy in getting things moving. I gave a well-attended talk on the wetlands to the Noosa Parks Association. Media coverage is picking up. ABC Radio ran an extensive interview (scroll down on this link for sound); an online story can be found here. The Sunshine Coast Daily has run a series of good articles - see this piece for coverage of  Canberra's interest; state government involvement is reported here; and the paper ran an extensive weekend edition report.

As reported in the following post on this blog, there is presently an abundance of birdlife on the wetlands of Lot 4, which have yet to be drained. Several hundred ducks of various species are feeding in the shallows. At least 10 pairs of Black Swans are sitting on freshly built nests. Dozens of raptors are patrolling the skies. Many thousands of swallows and martins are hawking for insects. It's quite a sight.

A petition has been launched for the federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to provide funding to the council to enable it to acquire the properties:  see here for the link .

Monday, 29 June 2015

Yandina Wetlands: Pink-eared Duck, Lewin's Rail, Kites Feasting on Swamphens

Whistling Kite Feeds on Purple Swamphen
I accessed the eastern edge of the Yandina Creek Wetlands after taking my kayak up Yandina Creek. Creek banks can be accessed by the public but note that the landholders have denied entry to this superb wetland to birders, so entry by foot or vehicle is unfortunately not possible. I was immediately struck by the superabundance of waterbirds and other birds during this visit. They included a relatively large number of Whistling Kites (20+) and it soon became apparent what they were feeding on - the even larger number of Purple Swamphens.

Whistling Kite
Several Whistling Kites were feeding on bits and pieces of swamphen, suggesting that they were killing the birds and not just scavenging. Other raptors about included a Swamp Harrier and a Black Kite. Black Kite was common around the Sunshine Coast for quite awhile after an influx began in August 2012, but they have been generally absent in recent months.

Black Kite
A pair of Lewin's Rails were calling loudly and closely - unusually for winter - but they failed to appear, as did a calling Spotless Crake. Waterfowl were in good numbers - an estimated 600-800 birds.

Grey Teal, Chesnut Teal, Pacific Black Duck
Most were Pacific Black Duck, Chesnut Teal and Grey Teal, but I saw a pair of Australasian Shovelers and 2 Pink-eared Ducks; this is the first record of Pink-eared Duck for the Yandina Creek Wetlands.

Black Swan on Nest
Black Swans were in unusually large numbers (60+) and about 10 pairs were attending recently constructed nests - seemingly a little early for the breeding season.

Black-necked Stork
 A male Black-necked Stork looked glorious as usual in the morning sunlight.

Australian Pelicans
More common fare included the usual assortment of Australian Pelican, 4 species of egret and 4 species of cormorant.

Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred and Azure Kingfishers were about the wetlands. Little Grassbird and Tawny Grassbird were both present. Also of interest were huge flocks (several thousand) of mixed Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin and Fairy Martin, the latter generally being scarce in south-east Queensland in winter.


Elsewhere around the Sunshine Coast, I saw a Square-tailed Kite quartering over open forest along the Tewantin-Cooroy Road, near its junction with Beckman Road. While nearby at Noosaville, near the shopping centre, a male Glossy Black Cockatoo was feeding in one of its favoured Allocasuarina haunts.

  

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Yandina Creek Wetlands Update: Council Rejects Pleas for Protection

Royal Spoonbills at Yandina Creek Wetlands
The bad news at hand is that the Sunshine Coast Council has rejected numerous appeals to acquire the nationally significant 200ha Yandina Creek Wetlands for a reserve under its Environment Levy Plan. The council is not interested in purchasing even one of the three properties containing the wetlands and has declared that their protection is not a matter of “high priority”, although work began at the site recently to drain the area (see here). The Mayor of the Sunshine Coast, Mark Jamieson, has refused requests to meet a delegation of concerned citizens to discuss the proposal.

The good news is that both the Commonwealth and the Queensland governments are showing an active interest in the wetlands. Following intervention by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, a team from his department recently inspected the wetlands to determine if the drainage works presently underway breached Commonwealth laws that protect the endangered species and migratory shorebirds that frequent the area. The department continues to consider its position.

Yandina Creek Wetlands
Following a recent meeting with local state MP Peter Wellington - the Queensland parliamentary Speaker, who holds the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament - state Environment Minister Steven Miles has agreed to inspect the wetlands. Mr Miles has also requested a briefing from his department. The minister has been asked to ensure that state wildlife protection laws are complied with; to assist the council with funding to acquire the wetlands; and to have the wetlands formally assessed by his department. (The council has indicated it is open to offers of funding from other sources to acquire the wetlands.) 

The regional Sunshine Coast councillor, Stephen Robinson, has advised that the council believes that other areas have greater priority for the council. It is uncertain what the council needs precisely to determine what constitutes high priority. The Yandina Creek Wetlands as a site ticks all the boxes: extraordinary diversity; the most extensive and diverse wetland of its kind in the region; a host of rare and threatened species; enormous potential as an ecotourism attraction; and an obvious way of helping to mitigate against the widespread flooding that occurs with regular monotony in the area.

Work to Drain the Wetlands has Begun
The rejection came on the same day that the council approved funding of $7.7 million for the Environment Levy Plan in 2015-16.

As has been reported (see here), the wetlands were created because floodgates on canals on former sugarcane land have fallen into disrepair since the properties were sold by the cane farmers more than a decade ago. This has allowed the area to be inundated twice daily with tidal water from the Maroochy River. Although in a sense this means the wetlands are artificially created, the result has been the restoration of a habitat that occurred widely in the area before the development of the sugar industry, but which is today naturally almost non-existent in the Sunshine Coast region. Yet the council appears to have seized on the "artificial" source of the wetlands as a reason to dismiss their importance.

Organisations which have written to the council and state and federal governments in support of the campaign to protect the wetlands include BirdLife Australia, BirdLife Southern Queensland, Birds Queensland, Protect the Bushland Alliance, Noosa Parks Association, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, NSW Field Ornithologists, and National Parks Association of Queensland. Numerous individuals have also lent their support. That campaign continues and has recently been intensified.


Birdlife Southern Queensland convenor Judith Hoyle has pointed out to Councillor Robinson the council's own assertion that priorities for Environmental Levy funds are determined through a technical assessment process. However, there has been no effort on the part of the council to formally assess the value of the wetlands. The Protect the Bushland Alliance has offered the services of a qualified multidisciplinary scientific team to undertake a formal assessment of the flora and fauna of the wetlands - at no cost to the council – but the council has not had the courtesy even to respond.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Yandina Creek Wetlands
The properties containing the wetlands are presently zoned rural. They are zoned Regional Landscape and Rural Production under the South-East Queensland Regional Plan. It has emerged that the Sunshine Coast Council is now reviewing zoning in the canelands surrounding the Maroochy River - a region that includes these properties.

The landholders had indicated their intention to use the land for cattle grazing, but have leased it back to the original owners to re-establish sugar plantations. Their objective evidently is to establish an “existing use”, thereby circumventing Commonwealth environmental laws. The long-term intentions of the landowners are uncertain, but these people include well-known figures in the Sunshine Coast property development industry who have substantial holdings in the Maroochy River canelands.

The Queensland Deputy Premier and Planning Minister, Jackie Trad, has been asked to affirm that there will be no changes to the SEQ Regional Plan that might allow the destruction of the wetlands. Ms Trad has also been asked to ensure that any attempt by the council to rezone the properties in question to allow their development for real estate is prevented.

Those agreeing with this position may wish to write to Ms Trad:
Hon Jackie Trad,
Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning,
PO Box 15009,
City East. 4002.
deputy.premier@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Work on the drainage plan that began recently appears appears to have been stepped up, with the movement this week of large concrete pipes near one of the main broken floodgates. It would be timely to again write to the Queensland Environment Minister asking him to do all in his power to intervene to protect the wetlands:

Hon Steven Miles,
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection,
GPO Box 2454,
BRISBANE QLD 4001.

Finally, it is worth increasing the pressure on the Sunshine Coast Council by writing again to the mayor, urging him to do the right thing by his ratepayers and ensure that the properties are acquired for conservation purposes:

Councillor Mark Jamieson,
Mayor,
Sunshine Coast Council,
Locked Bag 72,
Sunshine Coast Mail Centre QLD 4560.
mail@sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

North-East India Part 4: Karizanga to Tinsukia including the Mishmi Hills



Black-breasted Parrotbill
Following our visit to Eaglehawk Wildlife Sanctuary (see following post) we embarked on a long drive -  stopping for lunch at Nameri Eco Camp (our first stop for the trip - see here) - to Kaziranga National Park. The contrast between the cold uplands of Eaglehawk and the steamy lowlands was stark. From the roadside shortly after crossing the park boundary, we saw a total of 8 Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros over a stretch of 2 km in grassland to the north of the road; the animals were uncomfortably close to villagers who were tilling fields to the south of the road. Also in the grassland were large numbers of Hog Deer and smaller numbers of Swamp Deer and Asian Water Buffalo.

Indian One-horned Rhinoceros with Hog Deer
Our accommodation for two nights was the delightful Jupurighar Resort. The park is closed at this time of year so we birded second-growth scrub around the resort. Birds included Hair-crested Drongo, Large Cuckoo-shrike, Greater Necklaced Laughing-Thrush, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Striated Swallow. We searched unsuccessfully in the morning for Blue-naped Pitta - the star avian attraction for this site - only hearing it call. In the afternoon, after climbing a hill to an area of bamboo, we finally nailed a calling pitta.

Brahmaputra River Vehicular Ferry
The next day we embarked on another long drive, stopping en route for a couple of nesting Slender-billed Vultures, to Saikhowa Ghat - the crossing of the mighty Brahmaputra River. Birders regularly report great difficulty negotiating the crossing as watercourses and sand bars are constantly changing, making the river difficult to negotiate for the armada of small vehicular ferries.

Brahmaputra River Ferry
There was plenty of water in the river for our visit, however, so we had no such trouble, although driving on and off the ferries on planks of wood was.... interesting. The great expanse of river was criss-crossed by a colourful flotilla of ferries. We added Oriental Pratincole to the list on the way.

Mishmi Hills
We arrived in the town of Roing for an overnight stay in the basic but homely guesthouse. The next morning saw us heading into the Mishmi Hills, part of the Eastern Himalayas - and up there with the Eaglehawk Wildlife Sanctuary as a magnificant wilderness with a dazzling array of birdlife and spectacular montane scenery.

Pygmy Blue Flycatcher
As we entered the bamboo zone not far from Roing, we were surprised to encounter another Blue-naped Pitta, this one offering much better views roadside than the Kaziranga bird. Soon after, a feeding party included a pair of Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, which had been something of a bogey bird for me. Then we had a nice Chevron-breasted (Cachar Wedge-billed) Wren-Babbler by the road.

Oriental Honey-Buzzard
Oriental Honey-Buzzard perched nonchalantly during a roadside lunch while Ashy and Mountain Bulbuls and Thick-billed Green-Pigeon were added to the list. We were pleased to see a male Yellow-rumped Honeyguide guarding a bee nest on a small cliff face. High up the road we encountered our first Hume's Bush-Warbler of the trip.

Gaur-Cattle Crossbreeds
An interesting side attraction in the Mishmi Hills is the population of semi-domesticated crosses between gaur and cattle. These animals keep strictly to the roadside, unless anywhere else in India where cattle roam, rest or do whatever  they like on the roads.

Mayodia Guesthouse
We checked into the Mayodia Guesthouse - another basic but adequate lodge, at 2300 metres - for a two-night stay, before heading further up the road to Mayodia Pass(2650 metres).

Bar-winged Wren-Babbler
A Bar-winged Wren-Babbler performed nicely in a gully below the road - this one a different race with a distinctive call from the bird we saw earlier along the Mandala Road (see here).

Manipur Fulvetta
Another welcome addition to the list was Manpipur (Streak-throated) Fulvetta - quite common in the shrubbery and a specialty of the region.

Mishmi Hills Road (car circled top centre)
Once again, the road had been precariously built into extraordinary steep mountain slopes and nerves were slightly frayed as we negotiated our way back to the guesthouse. We noticed thrashing movements in bamboo by the road and a guide in our vehicle saw an animal briefly which almost certainly was a Himalayan Black Bear; so near yet so far.

Hoolock Gibbon
The next morning saw us below the lodge where we tried to see a Mishmi Wren-Babbler we had heard the day before; two of us saw the bird well and the others managed just glimpses. We heard a much sought after Purple Cochoa and pinpointed a vociferous male cochoa after some effort. We set about searching for Blyth's Tragopan, which we dipped on in Eaglenest, in the mid-elevation bamboo. After a good deal of effort, most of us were rewarded with awesome views of a male tragopan - a stunning species. We also obtained excellent views of a pair of Himalayan Cutias. A good day continued when we saw our second Spotted Elachura of the trip, with the bird singing loudly from its perch; a couple of others were heard elsewhere in the Mishmi Hills. Then we came upon a a group of Hoolock Gibbons (2 males, 1 female, 1 juvenile) a short distance down the road; this species is India's sole primate.

The First Bengal Florican Spotted
We left the cold climes of Mayodia to return for two more nights in Roing. As it was raining in the morning, we headed downhill, seeing small numbers of Rufous-necked Laughingthrush near the township. In the afternoon we visited an area of privately owned grassland, Ninizam Ghat, seeing a Hooded Pitta on the road in. In the grassland, Abid spotted a male Bengal Florican, another species high on our wish list. We eventually had excellent flight views of a total of 4 floricans - 3 males and 1 female. Other birds included Barred and Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Zitting and Golden-headed Cisticolas, Slaty-breasted Rail,and Blyth's and Paddyfield Pipits. Pale-headed Woodpecker was again seen, this time in bamboo on our way back to the lodge.

Bengal Florican
Thefollowing day was essentially rained out. We returned to higher elevations on the road, trying unsuccessfully both to connect with Rusty-bellied Shortwing and to score better views of the wren-babbler. Conditions were miserable. That evening we heard Hodgson's Frogmouth and Mountain Scops-Owl lower down the road but failed to see them.

Elephant at Work near Roing
Also near Roing we saw an elephant being used to haul logs during roadworks.

In the boat at Maguri Beel
Leaving Roing, we were off for another long drive and another precarious crossing of the Brahmaputra before arriving in the bustling town of Tinsukia, the nicely appointed Hotel Centre Point our base for the final two nights of the trip. That afternoon we were off to Maguri Beel, an area of wetlands and reedbeds adjoining the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. We sat on plastic chairs in a canoe as we were rowed to an area of reeds where we scored Jerdon's Babbler - one of the targets of these grasslands. In another area of reeds, some of us had brief views of a skulking Marsh Babbler - another target. Other birds included Cinnamon, Yellow and Black Bitterns; Indian Spot-billed Duck; calling Swamp Francolin; and Chesnut-capped Babbler. Also nice was a Gangetic River Dolphin surfacing near the boat. As were were rowing back to the shore in the early evening, a White-winged Duck flew overhead; this was a real surprise as we had looked hard (and successfully) for this rarity at Nameri.

Black-breasted Parrotbill
We returned to Maguri Beel the next morning, this time scoring much better views of the Marsh Babbler and unexpectedly seeing a Spotted Bush-Warbler. In another area of reeds, we tracked down one of the stars of the trip - a vocal and much wanted Black-breasted Parrotbill. It was pleasant birding as we rowed between the reedbeds; Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Watercock and the distinctive regional race of Cotton Pygmy-Goose were among the birds about.

Asian Water Buffalo
A wild male Asian Water Buffalo looked intimidating as it studied us from a small island when we rowed past. We wondered what might happen as we watched it swim towards the populated shoreline of the "mainland". We learned later that the animal wreaked havoc, charging people and vehicles before being chased back to the wetlands.

Chesnut-tailed Starling
The next morning saw another early start to drive to Digboi, an area of second-growth forest outside Tinsukia near an oil refinery. Commoner species included Ruby-cheekd Sunbird, Dark-necked Tailorbird and Chesnut-tailed Starling. Two of us had brief views of a pair of Chesnut-backed Laughingthrush and better views of a Collared Treepie. It was then time to begin the drive to Dibrugarh Airport and the long journey home.










Monday, 1 June 2015

North-East India Part 3: Eaglehawk Wildlife Sanctuary

Ward's Trogon
After checking out the Sangti Valley (see following post) we began our much anticipated week-long visit to the famed Eaglehawk Wildlife Sanctuary. From the town of Tenga, we wound our way up yet another steep mountain road before birding a nice area of bamboo and mossy forest a few hundred metres below Lama Camp - our destination for the first two nights in the reserve. We were in the forest a short time before we saw at close range the recently discovered Bugun Liocichla, endemic to this region and a major target for birding tours. At the same time, we saw a party of its cousin, the Red-faced Liocichla, foraging in a gully below. We were astonished when a little while later, we stumbled upon another Bugun Leiocichla right by the track; this species is usually cryptic and difficult to find.

Lama Camp
We were fortunate to secure good views of another elusive species - Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush. Other birds chalked up before we arrived at Lama Camp (altitude 2300 metres) included White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Scaly Laughingthrush, Black-throated Prinia and Striated Bulbul. Like Bompu, the other camp in the sanctuary, Lama was comprised of a line of suitably comfortable tents with camp beds; outside toilets and bathing cubicles; and a built dining room.

Below Eaglehawk Pass
The next morning saw us up early at Eaglehawk Pass (altitude 2750 metres) where Temminck's Tragopan was heard. In dense stands of bamboo and pockets of mossy forest we saw Black-headed Shrike-Babbler and Rufous-fronted Tit. The bamboo had seeded and died, so we failed to see Brown Parrotbill. A pair of Mountain Hawk-Eagles soared overhead. Signs of elephant were everywhere; this is the highest site anywhere frequented by Asian Elephants.

Eaglehawk Wildlife Reserve near Lama Camp
Back around Lama Camp, we had fine views of two skulkers - Blue-winged Laughingthrush and Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler. Yellow-throated Marten was a nice find at the camp. More common species around Lama included Green-tailed Sunbird, Scarlet Finch, and Bhutan and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes.

Green-tailed Sunbird
The scenery along the road was spectacular, with clouds swirling between and around the forest-clad Himalayan peaks amid a landscape that was a kaleidoscope, ablaze with an abundance of glorious flowering Rhododenron and other flowers.

Flowering Rhododendron
The following day saw us shifting camp and heading south along the road - built in 1962 by the Indian Army during a time of border tensions with neighbouring China - to Bompu Camp (altitude 1900 metres), our stop for the next three nights.

En route between Lama and Bompu Camps
On the way (again doing our best to ignore the huge roadside drops)_we were pleased to connect with a Long-billed Thrush, a rarity in this region, while other goodies included Broad-billed Warbler, Streak-throated Barwing, Brown Bullfinch and Yellow-browed Tit. Probably the commonest bird in the area was Stripe-throated Yuhina, followed by its close relative, Rufous-vented Yuhina.

Stripe-throated Yuhina
Shortly before Bompu, we stopped at a gully to play the tape for our Number One target for the trip - Spotted Elachura. This bird was wanted especially by Tony and I as we are both keen on ticking families; the species had been split recently from the wren-babblers and put in its own family.

Spotted Elachura - Pic by Tony Palliser
We had an immediate response and were soon enjoying close views of a  Spotted Elachura singing loudly a couple of metres above us in a small gully. This species is often missed on trips so we were mightily relieved.

Bompu Camp
Soon after, just below the camp, we had close views of another prime target - Blackish-breasted (Sikkim Wedge-billed) Wren-Babbler, also by the road. We then had close but brief views of a skulking White-gorgeted Flycatcher. Late in the afternoon we headed into an area of bamboo where we managed just brief glimpses of another target - Blyth's Tragopan.

Rufous-vented Yuhina
The next morning, we headed downhill, birding bamboo and forest above and below the old camp of Sessne (1200 metres). We had fine views of a Pale-headed Woodpecker in the bamboo along with a party of Black-browed (Lesser Rufous-headed) Parrotbills and a Large Blue Flycatcher. Lower down, around Khelong (700 metres) we saw a Spot-throated Babbler at a place evidently once visited by the Dalai Lama.

Plaque commemorating Dalai Lamai visit - Khelong
Lowland species such as Blue-throated Barbet, that we first encountered at the beginning of the trip, put in further appearances.

Blue-throated Barbet
On the way back we had close views of a Long-billed Wren-Babbler, again right by the road. A male Rufous-necked Hornbill flew close overhead when we stopped again at Sessne. Shortly afterwards, we enjoyed the sight of a pair of Beautiful Nuthatches foraging along a moss-laden branch. Other birds seen or heard this day included Kalij Pheasant, Rufous-throated Partridge, Red-headed Trogon, Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Nepal Fulvetta , Rufous-backed Sibia, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-chinned Yuhina, Rufous Sibia, Sultan Tit, Long-legged and Himalayan (Common) Buzzard.

Long-billed Wren-Babbler
During our second full day in the Bompu area, above and below the camp, a Chesnut-breasted Partridge was seen nicely on the road, while Himalayan Cutias showed somewhat distantly. A party of Black-throated Parrotbills put in an appearance while another search for Blyth's Tragopan was again frustratingly fruitless (this problem would be resolved later in the trip). We opted to do this trip in May largely because Spotted Elachura and other birds would be singing; May is the beginning of the wet season, which coincides with their nesting. However, the cost was that some time was lost due to rain and fog, including this day.

Grey-sided Laughingthrush
We returned from Bompu to Lama Camp for our final night in Eaglehawk, adding Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Yellow-bellied Fantail and Ferruginous Flycatcher to the list. Leaving Lama on our last morning in the reserve, we retraced the road we had traversed when driving from Nameri to Dirang. At a roadside stop, we were pleased to find a  Blyth's Kingfisher on a branch above the rapidly-flowing stream. We then moved on to Karizanga and Mishmi Hills.