ADVENTURE

Two of Meghalaya’s national parks, the Nokrek and Balpakram are home to some of its rare wildlife such as the golden cat. Approachable from Tura, Balppakrem is located in the spectacular grand Canyon-like environs of the Balpakrem plateau, which separates the Garo Hills from Khasi Hills. The Nokrek biosphere reserve is just 2 km away from Tura peak.

Siju and Nongkhyllem are two more sanctuaries, which are fast becoming popular with visitors. Siju is also reputed for its limestone caves close to the Naphak Lake and the Simsang game reserve. The stalagmite and stalactite formation are similar to those of the blue Grotto on the isle of Capri.

For those who enjoy caving, Meghalaya is just the place for it has about 780 caves in the state, many of them unmapped and unexplored. Out of the ones surveyed, five are amongst the longest in the Indian sud-continent.

The important cave includes:

Near Cherapunjee :- Krem Mawmluh, Krem phylutt, Soh Shympi, Krem (east Khasi hills) Dam.

 

Things To Do

 

Nature Treks and Walks

 

Trek to the Living Root Bridge, Ummunoi.

 

Duration: 3-4 hours from the Resort.  Distance 4 km down and up 1000 feet approximately.  Trek open throughout the year.

 

This trek starts from the Resort premises and goes down hill through village Sohsahrat. The steps are relatively steeper in two short stretches.  Half the distance is covered by steps going down hill.  Then there is a jungle path going along the sides of the hill leading to the Living Root Bridge with a few steps after short stretches of sloping foot path.  Moss thrives on these sandstone steps during the monsoon and makes them slippery.  However, the steps can be negotiated easily with little care by locking the hind of your feet in the depressions between stones in the steps. Our walking staff comes handy to steady you.  The path thru’ the jungle and bay leaf gardens is quite interesting.  As you near the bridge you hear the sound of water flowing by the stream.  After admiring the Living Root Bridge and taking snaps, get down into the stream and take a refreshing bath in the stream.  En-route you get to see snails, millipedes, butterflies and spiders in their webs.

 

After seeing the bridge you move ahead to a naturally formed Dolomite archway.  Notice how the villagers tap the water from the stream by bamboo pipes running long distances to drip irrigate the betel leaf creepers during the dry season in winter.

 

Trek to Double Decker Root Bridge and Natural Swimming Pools

 

Duration: 9 hours involving 7 hours walking, down hill 2500 feet and up. Total distance of approximately 25 km of which 10 km is by a beautiful mountain skirting road commanding a beautiful view of the valley and through three interesting Khasi villages and can be done by vehicle if anyone wants to save time and energy. Trek open throughout the year.

 

This is one of the most beautiful and very popular treks.  The high points of this trek are the Double Decker Root Bridge and the natural swimming pools in the river bed.  The people of the gorge village Nongriat where the Double Decker Root Bridge is located are very friendly and very special.  The trek down stone steps is steep for almost half of the trek down.  This trek is open through-out the year and are being used by the villagers of Nongriat, Nongthymmai and Mynteng daily, when it rains and when the sun shines. The steps become slippery during the monsoon months and have to be negotiated with little care to avoid slipping.  The rivers in spate and streams and waterfalls in full flow during the monsoon months add magnificence to the root bridges spanning these rivers and streams. Contemplate the raw force of nature standing on the Steel Rope bridges strung taut across the river 45 feet above normal water level, when the river is in spate after very heavy rainfall.  You need to be strong willed and brave.

 

Before reaching the Double Decker Root Bridge you come across the more Living Root Bridges and Steel Rope bridges.  The valley scenery is very impressive.  Beyond the Double Decker Root Bridge you walk on level ground another 2 km (say 20 minutes) to reach Mawsaw Steel Rope Bridge.  From here you access our famous natural swimming pools.  The larger pool is deep and we recommend only good swimmers to attempt it.  The smaller pool can be used by others.  However, when the river is in spate please don’t attempt swimming.  When the flow is normal, you see the bottom of the pools very clearly, so clear is the water.  The colour of the water is so inviting for a swim.  After a refreshing swim, it is time for lunch.  Please bring back the garbage for proper disposal.

Leave the pool side by 2:30 p.m. to reach the top before it is dark.

 

Trek to Mawsiekhriah / Khlieh Mawlong

 

Duration – 2 hours. Distance 6 km approximately. Open throughout the year.

 

This is a light trek on the top of the hill almost on level ground passing through the forests of Laitkynsew, passing by the vegetable gardens in winter, a vast natural rock garden and a steep rock cliff face dropping off a few hundreds of feet overlooking Mawlong village and the limestone mines of Ichhamati.  Along the way you pass by a few mountain streams and can hear some flowing by underground channels. The Sylhet plains of Bangladesh spreads across to your south from the foot of the hills.  You get a captivating view of the plains and can see Sylhet, Chhatack towns in Bangladesh from here. Now Border Area Development Authority is developing a road to this place for developing a new park in this area.  This trek was earlier open only in the dry months.  With the road being laid, this shall become accessible throughout the year.  One can retrace the steps to return to the Resort or can take a foot path leading up a flight of steps to Village Sohsahrat and reach the Resort by a different route.  The view of the farm houses and farm lands from the top of the steps is impressive.

 

This trek can be extended in the dry months.  Near the rock cliff face you look for three power lines going down to Mawlong village.  Adjacent to the electric posts you can locate a foot path leading down Mawlong.  It would be about a kilometer and a half to the village.  Reach the road and walk back by the road to the Resort via village Mawshamok.  This will make it a trek of  14 km.

 

Trek to Mawshamok by Lovers Road

 

Duration – 2 hours. Distance 8 km. Open throughout the year.

 

This is a light trek by road along a beautiful valley with fascinating formations of clouds sweeping through the pass between Mawshamok and Laitkynsew hills during the monsoon season.  You see many waterfalls streaking the sides of the hills during the rainy season.  Most of these waterfalls become much bigger when the rains are lashing the hills and thin out soon after. During the monsoon season one can walk in the rain admiring and soaking in the rains.  Young couples would love to walk by this road and we call it the Lovers Road.  Don’t miss to do a rain walk by this road in the monsoons.

 

After reaching Mawshamok village take the road to the right leading to Mawlong village.  From one km from there onwards you will get small waterfalls where you can enjoy a bath in waterfalls.  Trek back to the Resort.  The gradient uphill is steady till you reach the resort.  Don’t forgot to walk hand in hand.  All you need is to be young at heart.

 

Short Village walk through Laitkynsew and Nongwar villages.

 

Duration – 2 hours. Distance 8 km. Open throughout the year.

 

Laitkynsew and Nongwar villages are located on the ridge tops of Laitkynsew hill.  They are ancient villages and command a beautiful view of the valley between Laitkynsew hill and Mawsynram hill on one side and the Sylhet plains of Bangladesh on the other.  You can see over two dozen waterfalls including Nohkalikai, Daiñthlen and Laipateng Khohsiew from here after good rains.  These two typical Khasi villages were some of the earliest to receive education. The people are friendly and you can expect to be greeted and enquired about.  This walk is by the road built along the top of the ridge.  At the end of the road at Nongwar you see the Ramakhrishna Mission school established in 1928.  Go down the flight of steps to reach a road that leads to a new valley viewpoint constructed by the Border Area Development Authority.  Walk up by the new road to the Mot I Love viewpoint and walk back to the Resort.

 

David Scot Pony Trail Trek – Laitkynsew Hill portion

 

Duration – 2 hours. Distance – 7 km. Open from November to March.

 

David Scot the then Political Agent of the British Empire constructed a pony trail from the Sylhet Plains in present day Bangladesh to the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam across the Khasi hills.  This trail starts at the foot of Laitkynsew hill reaches the top, proceeds to Sohra, Ladmawphlang, Mawphlang, Mairang on to Boko in Assam.  The trail consists of stone paved paths and steps.  The trail from the Resort by the pony trail takes one uphill and proceeds to Mawshamok.  The last portion is descended by steps.  The return is done by the PWD road that has a steady gradient.  You can do some bird watching in this trek.

 

 

David Scot Pony Trail Trek – Ladmawphlang to Mawphlang

 

Duration : 6 hours. Distance approximately 18 – 20 km.  Best done from November to March.

 

This is an interesting trek taking off from the PWD road at Ladmawphlang.  The trek starts off downhill along a new road being made along the pony trail, crosses a small stream the climb uphill starts.  The stone paving is well preserved here.  At the top of the hill you pass through a pass and the trail is almost on level ground for quite a distance till you reach Village Laitsohma and Village Mawbeh.  En-route you cross a stream by a typical arched stone bridge built by the British that is held together without mortar. After that the trail starts downwards by a narrow path along a ledge leading to the bottom of the valley doing a semi circle of the valley below. From the start of this descent the trek becomes more interesting.  At the start of this descent you can see the houses and a Mobile tower in a distant hill top which will be your destination – Mawphlang.  As you reach  the bottom of the valley you wade through tall withered grasses and duck under jungle growth keeping yourselves to the stone paved trail.  In some parts of this trail there is no stone paving but usually you can make out that it is part of the trail.  You cross a stream by walking through the water or doing a hopping act over the rocks.  The trail is dead after this for some distance.  Take to your left going downstream on the opposite bank.  It skirts a hill and enters another valley through a pass which brings into view a large river.  The path leads you to a old dilapidated steel frame and timber bridge held taut across the river flowing deep down about 50 feet.  The timber looks heavily weathered and some of them that are missing and had been replaced by undressed logs.  Walk along the frame holding on to the railing.  After crossing the river the trail proceeds to run along the river upstream and then takes off in a winding climb up hill.  From here onwards it is a climb all the way.  As the trail nears the top there are short cuts to reach the upper parts of the winding path by stone steps.  The climb is not that laboured as is in the trek to the Double Decker Root Bridge or the Trek to the Warm Swimming Pool.

 

Trek to the Warm Swimming Pool and Angling Spot

 

Duration: 8- 10 hours. Distance: 14 km approximate. Good from November to March.

 

This is a trek to the river bed at the western end of Laitkynsew hill. After walking to Nongwar village by road this trail takes off downhill by steep stone stairway.  At the start the steps are steeply inclined.  Later part proceeds along the top of a spur till it reaches the steep banks of the river.  It takes about 2 hours to reach the river bed.  There are nice angling spots around here.  One can venture walk upstream.  In winter the river flows along one side of the river.  On the other side you get stagnated pools of water left behind as the water level receded.  These pools get warmed faster by the winter sun and the water is warmer to swim here than in the flowing water.  It is nice to cook your simple meal here using the jungle deadwood after few swims in the pool.  If you are lucky with your angling, fish fresh out of water is great to taste.  Start back on to the trail by 2:30 p.m. or so to reach the top before it is dark. You will be needing your torchlight for the return journey in case you take more time climbing back.  Please take back up batteries and spare bulbs for the torchlight.

 

 

 

Trek to Shella –The ancient trading route to the Plains

 

Duration: 7 – 9 hours. Distance: 26 km approximate. Open throughout the year. Best from November to March.

 

This was the route that people of the hills of this area and from Cherrapunjee town used to reach their produce to the plains.  Boats from the plains sail up the rivers to barter rice, fish, dry fish, vegetables, salt etc. for the produce of the hills such as oranges, fruits, bay leaf, betel leaves, betel nuts, pepper, citron fruits, timber, the iron implements and nails of highly malleable steel then produced at Cherrapunjee for the boat industry in Sylhet and of course limestone.  We follow this ancient foot path leading downhill through Mustoh village, Shella village and Sholab situated along the Umiam river.  It is an interesting trek of about 13 km through betelnut gardens, limestone karst areas and tropical rain forests. On reaching Sholab one can take a conveyance to return to the Resort by vehicle or have to retrace their steps.  You can notice the change in the people’s attitudes and behaviour as one reaches the foothills.  The people at the foothills are more exposed to the plains people and are more business-like than the village people of the hills.  One can notice the change in the vegetation as one goes down in altitude. The return climb can take upwards of 3 hours.

 

 

Trek through Village Siej to Ladumrin

 

Duration: 6-7 hours. Distance: 20 km. Best from November to March.

 

This trek takes off from the Resort goes downhill through village Sohsahrat, Village Siej, through betelnut and betel leaf gardens and tropical rainforests to reach Ladumrin.  One reaches the limestone mining areas of Mawlong and has to follow the road back to the Resort on foot or vehicle a distance of about 15 km, most of which is through tropical rain forests. It is an interesting walk through War Khasi villages where you can also meet migrant labour families working in the limestone quarries.

 

Swimming

 

We have many natural swimming pools in the river bed.  The flowing water is so crystal clear and transparent that any avid swimmer can not resist the temptation to swim. The flowing water is warmed by sunrays and the heat radiated by the huge boulders that they flow through.  These pools are reached by treks down the hill.  All our international guests are thrilled by the swims in these pools.  Our Natural Swimming Pools are very popular with expats working in Bangladesh in Embassies, United Nations organizations and many International Voluntary Services operating in Bangladesh.

 

Bathing in Waterfalls, Mountain Streams and Springs

 

During the monsoon months take thrilling baths in waterfalls, mountain streams and refreshing cold water springs. These are stuff that make up Dream Holidays that City Dwellers rarely have chance to have.  You are certain to forget all that bothers you in a mundane routine life chasing one deadline after another.  Take a break.  Take time to live.  The whole family will fondly remember these events for the rest of your life.  Kids will have great fun.

 

Dance in the Rain

 

The monsoon rains bring magic and romance to the heart of the young and the old.  What can be a more romantic way of welcoming the monsoon with a dance in the rain soaking your clothes to your skin and the closeness bringing love pouring out in celebration of life.

 

Angling

 

There are many angling spots in the river flowing at the bottom of the valley.  These spots are reached on foot going down hill 2000 to 3000 feet.  The scenic spots add to the thrill of angling.  I am not able to identify the fishes available in these rivers.  Perhaps, some enthusiastic anglers can help us to list the species available here. The best time for angling in these areas is from September to December.  One can enjoy the thrill of angling even till March or during the monsoon months in some spots.

 

Bird Watching

 

Our Guest and friend Morten Kattenhøj from Denmark who was with us in March 2006 had helped us with a list of birds sighted around our place. This was in response to our request to help us document the bird species available around here to promote this place as a bird watchers destination and to enable implementation of bird protection measures planned. We acknowledge with gratitude his much appreciated contribution to this humble effort.

 

List of bird species observed by Morten Kattenhøj at Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort 24-26.03.2006

 

Besra - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  Accipiter virgatus

Crested Goshawk - - - - - - - - -Accipiter trivirgatus

Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle - - -  Hieraaetus kienerii

Kalij Pheasant- - - - - - - - - - -  Lophura leucomelanos

Green-billed Malkoha- - - - - - -Phaenicophaeus tristis

Asian Koel- - - - - - - - - - - - - Eudynamus scolopacea

Fork-tailed Swift - - - - - - - - - Apus pacificus

Dark-rumped Swift - - - - - - - -Apus acuticauda

Great Barbet- - - - - - - - - - - - Megalaima virens

Blue-throated Barbet- - - - - - - Megalaima asiatica

Long-tailed Broadbill - - - - - -  Psarisomus dalhousiae

Blue-winged Leafbird- - - - - -  Chloropsis cochinchinensis

Asian Fairy Bluebird- - - - - - - Irena puella

Slender-billed Oriole - - - - - - Oriolus tenuirostris

Barn Swallow- - - - - - - - - - - Hirundo rustica

Red-rumped Swallow- - - - - - -Hirundo daurica

Striated Swallow- - - - - - - - - Hirundo striolata

Black Drongo- - - - - - - - - - - Dicrurus macrocercus

Bronzed Drongo- - - - - - - - - -Dicrurus aeneus

Large Woodshrike- - - - - - - - -Tephrodornis gularis

Brown Shrike- - - - - - - - - -  - Lanius cristatus

Black-winged Cuckooshrike - - Coracina melaschistos 

Scarlet Minivet - - - - - - - - - - -Pericrocotus flammeus

Black Bulbul- - - - - - - - - - - - -Hypsipetes leucocephalus

White-throated Bulbul - - - - - - -Alophoixus flaveolus

Red-vented Bulbul - - - - - - - - -Pycnonotus cafer

Ashy Bulbul - - - - - - - - - - - - -Hemixos flavala

Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler- - Pnoepyga albiventer 

Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler- Spelaeornis longicaudata 

Grey-throated Babbler - - - - - - Stachyris nigriceps

White-browed Shrike Babbler- - Pteruthius flaviscapis

Nepal Fulvetta- - - - - - - - - - - -Alcippe nipalensis

White-bellied Yuhina- - - - - - - -Yuhina zantholeuca

Red-throated Flycatcher - - - - - Ficedula parva

Pale-chinned Flycatcher - - - - - Cyornis poliogenys

Aberrant Bush Warbler - - - - - Cettia flavolivacea

Common Tailorbird - - - - - - - -Orthotomus sutorius

Yellow-browed Warbler - - - - -Phylloscopus inornatus

Hume’s Warbler- - - - - - - - - - Phylloscopus humei

White-rumped Shama- - - - - - - Copsychus malabaricus 

Chestnut-vented Nuthatch- - - - -Sitta nagaensis

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - - - - - -Sitta frontalis

Olive-backed Pipit- - - - - - - - - -Anthus hodgsoni

Little Spiderhunter - - - - - - - - - -Arachnotera longirostra 

Oriental White-eye- - - - - - - - - -Zosterops palpebrosus

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird- - - - - - -Anthreptes singalensis

Purple Sunbird- - - - - - - - - - - -Nectarinia asiatica

 

We invite bird watchers to come and enjoy birdwatching in these pristine hills and help us to add to the list of birds sighted around here.


 

Birds observed in and near Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee, 15–20 march 2007

 

Stefan Ericsson

Ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap

Umeå universitet

SE-901 87 Umeå

Sweden

stefan.ericsson@emg.umu.se

 

 

Laitkynsew is a great place for birders. The landscape is diverse: deep valleys with forest and boulder filled streams, villages surrounded by cultivation, second growth and bamboo groves, eerie steep cliffs with waterfalls and, on top of it all, a barren plateau clad with grassland and pines. Since the altitude varies from 200 m a.s.l. in the valley bottoms to 1200 m on the plateau, the faunal composition is far from homogenous, the birds one encounters change with habitat and altitude.

During my short stay I was birding almost constantly. The result is an impressive list of 197 species, a high score reached through my effort to cover all levels (12 species were only seen in Mawmluh), and all types of habitat. If I had stayed on the grounds of the resort in Laitkynsew the number would probably not have exceeded 50 species. There was, however, certainly more to be seen out there, and more species can be added in other seasons.

 

Why birding in Cherrapunjee ?

Meghalaya is situated in a transition zone with a bird fauna composed of species belonging to several faunal elements. Many species belong to a western Indian fauna, while others represent a south-eastern, Indo-chinese or Indo-malayan, fauna. The western birds tend to be found in drier, more open habitats, while a large proportion of the southeastern ones are found in humid forest. In the Indian subcontinent, some birds in the latter group reaches the Ghats and Sri Lanka, but most of them are only to be found in the northeast. A third faunal element includes a number of hill birds, found on the lower slopes of the Himalayas and on the slopes and summits of the northeast Indian hills, of which Meghalaya is a part.

Most interesting, however, at least for an experienced birder, is a more local fauna confined to the hill tracts of northeastern India and Myanmar. Some of the species in this group are endemic to this region (i.e. they are found nowhere else), but most of them reach southwestern China and northern Thailand. In general, they have a montane  (montage?) distribution, and are restricted to areas with high rainfall, such as the southern slopes of the Khasi hills.

Finally, a large portion of the birds found in Meghalaya during winter are migrants from nesting grounds further north. They arrive from the Himalayas, Tibet, China or even Siberia. Many of them are wintering, i.e. spending a long period here, holding territories or straying around, depending on the species. Others are only passing through on their way to and from wintering grounds further south.

The coexistence of these faunal elements in a small region makes Meghalaya, and particularly the humid southern flank of the Khasi Hills, an ornithological hotspot. Laitkynsew near Cherrapunjee is located right on this slope, making the nice and friendly Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort an optional place to stay for any birder. And, it’s not raining all the time! In fact, during winter, Cherrapunjee is mostly dry, with nice and sunny weather. Since that season coincides with the time when birds from Siberia and China hang around, winter is the period to spend birding in Cherrapunjee.

I found the Laitkynsew area especially good for flycatchers, babblers and other insectivores, but frugivores like pigeons were scarce, probably due to the season. Only a few owls were heard, and no nightjars. These, and skulkers like bush warblers and cuckoos, will probably be more conspicuous during the breeding when they are calling. There were only a few raptors around, and no water-birds whatsoever. According to Denis many migrating birds are passing in February, when flocks may abound on the grounds of the resort, but I have no clue to the identity of these birds. During my stay, Phylloscopus warblers were abundant, but as usual a pain to identify. After having seen the most likely species I started to ignore them, but they made up a large portion of the birds in bird waves.

 

Notable localities

My experience of the Laitkynsew area is very limited, but I can point out a few localities that seem more fruitful. Starting from below, the area around the root bridge far below in the valley south of the resort was very good. The trail (3 km), which for the most part is a steep staircase (altitude difference: 350 m), passes through second growth, bamboo groves and grounds with Areca palms (grown for betel nuts), and all these hold birds, but it is the lowest section, where there still are large trees left on steeper slopes, which is the best. Parts of this forest can be viewed across clearings, and several species were only seen down there. Similar forest as well as patches with bamboo, can also be found on the slope to the northwest of the resort. A warning only, the slopes and stairs are very steep.

If you prefer more level ground, work along the road to Lumwahkrem, which leads to the south (right) from a junction about 500 m back from the resort. A walk along this road in the morning can be rewarding, and there are several paths leading into the jungle on both sides. Some sections still hold larger trees on humid ground, but most of the road passes through second growth, and a large clear-cut gives me creepy feelings…

From the road junction mentioned above, a trail which soon divides into three paths leads off to the northeast. The path to the left, the “Pony Trail”, may at first be difficult to spot, but starts after only a few meters, follows the road ditch and disappears into the jungle. This old, partly stone paved path, closely follows the escarpment high above the road for 2 km, where a staircase descends to Mawshamok village. The path, and the ground above, is very good for birds, but there are locals around, cutting down trees for fuel.

The main path from the above junction, the “Ridge Path”, passes a cemetary, continues as a short staircase, and follows a power line. It leads to a cultivation with a few houses, after which it follows the crest of the ridge towards Mawshamok village, above which it ends at spectacular viewpoint (not visited by me). For the most part the terrain here is rocky, and is more exposed, with lower and more scattered trees, than that along the Pony Trail. The habitat is thus very different. Since the two paths run parallel, it is possible to work through the forest in between. The best way to do this is to use the minor paths that connect them. A rough map showing the Pony Trail and the Ridge Path can be obtained at the resort

The third path leading from the junction, is a level path branching to the right from the Ridge Path at the point beyond the cemetery where it reaches the powerline. It continues parallel to, but higher than, the Lumwahkrem road, an arrangement that makes it convenient to work through the forest and clearings in between  – you can’t get lost. After a little more than a km, the path arrives at a cultivation, before which there is dense and humid forest to be found on the slope up to the left.

The Pony Trail is excellent for canopy watching, as is the road from Laitkynsew towards Mawshamok (3 km). Good views can also be obtained during a long (10 km) but very rewarding road walk from Mawmluh on the rim of the top plateau (the village with the cement factory) back to Laitkynsew. There are good views from many points along this stunning road. The upper stretch is also essential for several “high altitude” birds, and many species were only seen up there. Along some sections close to the top the ground is more level, making it possible to enter into forest of a very different appearance from that found below Laitkynsew. At some points shortcuts through hairpins can be taken by using the stairs.

 

Hints for successful birding

·    Always use a complete bird book. A book containing only the commoner birds of India is of little use in Meghalaya.

·    Buy the book well in advance and study it carefully. Mark the birds that are likely to be found in the area you intend to visit, and memorize their general looks. Once a bird is spotted, you have no or little time to check the whole book, and the bird will be gone – finding the right plate quickly is of invaluable help.

·    A telescope is of little use inside the forest, it’s bulky and birds are seldom spotted from long distances. It may however be of some help when the canopy is scanned from a high viewpoint, but such opportunities are rare. More important is to have a good pair of binoculars, preferably with a wide field of view and the abilty to be focused at closed distances, 3–4 m or less.

·    Most forest birds are more active in the early morning and before dusk. In the heat of midday, a tropical forest can thus be a very quiet place. The constant hammering of barbets might be about all there is to hear. So get up early and do some birding before breakfast, do other business during the hottest hours, and go out again a few hours before sunset.

·    Walking and talking reduces the attention on sounds coming from birds, like wing flaps, fruits falling to the ground, scratching among leaves, and the hammering of woodpeckers. To keep silent, and to walk without making too much noise, is essential. Moving silently along a road is not that difficult, but to do it when passing through dense forest is an art. Also, stay silent when a bird has been spotted. Fellow birders that points, waves and advertises birds have scared many shy birds away. Birding alone means total control.

·    Actually, moving along a forest path without making sounds is almost impossible. Leaves are scratched, twigs are snatched, etc., so the birds will surely be aware of you long before you spot them. Therefore, try a better method: be patient and wait for the birds! To do this properly, find a secluded place with a fairly good view, like a glade, a slope, or an opening by a stream or a pool, check that the light is falling in the right direction, sit down on a log or a boulder, and be sure that you are comfortable there. You don’t have to hide, but it might be good if your presence is not too obvious. A site near a trunk is excellent, and sitting on a thick branch a few meters up in a tree is formidable. Then wait at least 15 minutes. If no birds appear, wait longer, or move to another site. Sooner or later there will be birds emerging from nowhere, and this time you’ll spot them first!

·    Many birds in tropical forests travel in bands called “mixed species flocks”, or “bird waves”. A bird wave can include anything from a few up to over a dozen species or even more, traveling at different levels. They are not as prominent in Meghalaya as in some other tropical areas, but they are around. Bird waves can often be heard at some distance, but are not always moving in your way. If you suspect that you have detected a bird wave, try to figure out where the birds might cross a path or a glade, move there quickly and wait. If you are lucky, you will soon be surrounded by birds, and these birds are usually not at all as weary as the lone ones. They are actively feeding, and don’t take much notice of you as long as you are silent. The birds may even permit that you follow them for a distance. The major problem with bird waves is that you have to identify a number of species simultaneously, and the show might be over in a few minutes. So try to avoid looking in the book until the wave has passed – it pays!

·    Birds hiding in dense thickets can be very frustrating – easy to hear but impossible to see. The eager birder can lure them out by recording the bird and replaying the recorded sound. This method can be surprisingly useful, but has to be used with care, since the bird might abandon its territory, believing that the recording is a rivaling male.

·    Good views of canopy birds are difficult to obtain. They are difficult to spot from below, and if you actually see them, the background light turns them into spooky silhouettes. Instead, try to study the canopy from higher points, e.g. from a slope, or simply from a distance by a glade in the forest. An often fruitful method is to watch the canopy from above from roads or paths running along steep slopes.

·    If you distract a bird in its nest – turn around quickly and leave in a manner that  convinces the bird that you are gone. Abandoned nests are an easy prey and quickly attract scavengers.

·    Finally: be patient. Remember that only a fraction of the birds you see can be identified, and many of them only by experts. Birders identify most birds using their ears, and that requires skill and experience. By observing calling birds, you can extend your knowledge of bird calls with a few additional species each day, and later on sort out calling birds that are new to you.

 

List of birds

This list include all birds identified by me near Laitkynsew and along the road between Laitkynsew and Mawmluh during the period 15–20 march 2007. The sequence and names follow Grimmett, Inskipp & Inskipp 2001: Birds of the Indian subcontinent (Helm, London). In other books, some birds might have different names.

Under “Status” I have tried to analyze the probable status of the individuals I have seen of each species, i.e. if they were likely to represent resident [R], wintering [W] or migrants [M]. For many altitudinal migrants, the status is difficult to judge, since both resident and wintering individuals might be present..

Under “Notes” I have given additional remarks of some species, mostly rarer or less encountered ones. In this column, “Low“ indicates that the species was seen along the trail to the root bridge below Laitkynsew, “High” that the bird was seen along the steep part of the road below Mawmluh.

 

 

Scientific name                                English name                          Status  Notes

Arborophila atrogularis                White-cheeked Partridge                  R        Low. Two seen crossing path.

Lophura leucomelaenos               Kalij Pheasant                                  R        At least two above the Pony Trail.

Sasia ochracea                            White-browed Piculet                       R        Two seen in bamboo. Low and high.    

Celeus brachyurus                       Rufous Woodpecker                        R

Hemicircus canente                      Heart-spotted Woodpecker             R        Low. A single female.

Dendrocopus macei                     Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker        R

Picus chlorolophus                       Lesser Yellownape                           R

Picus xanthopygaeus                    Streak-throated Woodpecker           R

Picus canus                                  Grey-headed Woodpecker               R

Chrysocolaptes lucidus                Greater Flameback                           R

Megalaima virens                         Great Barbet                                    R

Megalaima lineata                        Lineated Barbet                                R

Megalaima franklinii                     Golden-throated Barbet                    R

Megalaima asiatica                       Blue-throated Barbet                        R        Very common, heard almost constantly.

Megalaima australis       &nb