A birding field report on Dzongri Goecha La trail inside Kanchendzongha National Park


Editors note: This is not a post on beautiful “Bird Photography”, rather to encourage similar trip and field reports from birders. Check the original report published on eBirds here.

We (Avisek Chatterjee, Dipabali Paul and Subhajit Chaudhuri) started our journey on 29th Sep 2016 from Kolkata on Darjeeling Mail and reached NJP on 30th Sep 2016.  Then we took a car ride to reach Yuksom, our trek base. HIMALAYA TREKKERS looked after our trek and other logistics arrangements.

Trip Highlights:

Location: Dzongri Goecha La trek, West Sikkim, inside Kanchendzongha National Park.
Trail Length: Nearly 80 Km.
Trail Altitude variation: From Yuksom (1710 m/5600 ft) to Goecha La 1st View Point (4600 m/15100 ft).
Time of visit: 1st Oct to 8th Oct 2016.
Bird species found: 84 species (+5 other taxa)

Continuous rain and accompanied cloud cover hampered the mountain peak views and bird watching to a great extent. The trail became extremely slippery and muddy along with yak and horse dung everywhere. However overall terrain is fantastic and great for birding. We were disappointed by the adverse weather due to a sudden depression formed in bay of Bengal. To give you an idea, below are some photos of the trek. All documentation purpose and records shots are shared by Dipabali Paul.

We camped beside deserted Bakhim Forest hut
Tsokha Trekkers Hut

We followed the below itinerary:

Trek Day 1 – 01st Oct: Yuksom (1710 m/5600 ft) – Sachen (2200 m/7200 ft) – Bakhim (2620 m/8600 ft). [Good weather]
Trek Day 2 – 02nd Oct: Bakhim – Tsokha (2960 m/9700 ft). [Good weather]
Trek Day 3 – 03rd Oct: Tsokha – Phedang – Deorali Top – Dzongri (3950 m/12,950 ft). [Rainy and Cloudy]
Trek Day 4 – 04th Oct: Dzongri – Kokchurang (3700 m/12,135 ft) – Thansing (3940 m/ 12,920 ft). [Rainy and Cloudy]
Trek Day 5 – 05th Oct: Stay Thansing. [Rainy and Cloudy] (we can’t camp at Lamuney due to heavy rain)
Trek Day 6 – 06th Oct: Thansing – Lamuney – Samity Lake (4320 m/14,170 ft) – View Point 1 (4600 m/15100 ft) – Thansing – Kokchurang. [Rainy and Cloudy]
Trek Day 7 – 07th Oct : Kokchurang – Phedang – Tsokha. [Rainy and Cloudy]
Trek Day 8 – 08th Oct: Tsokha – Bakhim – Sachen – Yuksom. [Rainy and Cloudy]

Here is the list of bird species that we observed on the trail. I hope that this will give you a fair understanding of the avifauna distribution on this trail during autumn.

Bird species identified on Goecha La trek
Common name (Scientific name) – Numbers observed – Remarks/place
Hill Partridge (Arborophila torqueola) 1 Continuous calls at Tsokha and Bakhim
Tibetan Snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus) X Call heard while going from Samity Lake to View Point 1.
Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) 8 Seen 7 (5 Male 2 Female) on the way from Phedong to Deorali Top on 03rd Oct 2016, Seen 1 Male on the way from Kokchurang to Phedong. Head calls near Dzongri Top 0n 04th Oct 2016
Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus) X Call heard at Tsokha, Bakhim and Thansing
Rufous-bellied Eagle (Lophotriorchis kienerii) 1 On the way from Dzongri to Kokchurang.
Snow Pigeon (Columba leuconota) X Plenty in Thansing. Few in Dzongri and Tsokha.
Oriental Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) 5 Tsokha
House Swift (Nepal House Swift) (Apus nipalensis) 1 Seen quite a few in Yuksom 1st Bridge over Pha Khola 01st Oct
Great Barbet (Psilopogon virens) 3 Sachen to Bakhim and Tsokha – Bakhim while coming back.
Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis) 1 Yuksom – Sachen
Long-tailed Minivet (Pericrocotus ethologus) X Phedong to Dzongri
Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus) X Sachen
Black-eared Shrike-Babbler (Pteruthius melanotis) 1 Bakhim – Tsokha
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) 2 Sachen – Bakhim
White-browed Fantail (Rhipidura aureola) 2 Bakhim
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris) X Plenty at Tsokha
Eurasian Nutcracker (Spotted Nutcracker) (Nucifraga caryocatactes) X Plenty at Tsokha
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) X
Common Raven (Northern Raven) (Corvus corax) X quite a few above Samity Lake to View Point 1 [14,500 ft – 15,100 ft]
Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) 1 Bakhim – Tsokha
Yellow-browed Tit (Sylviparus modestus) 2 Tsokha
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) X Tsokha and above
Rufous-vented Tit (Periparus rubidiventris) 2
Grey-crested Tit (Lophophanes dichrous) X Bakhim – Tsokha, Tsokha, Phedong. At Phedong they came very close to Trekkers Hut in search of food.
Green-backed Tit (Parus monticolus) 3 Bakhim – Tsokha
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris) 2 Sachen – Yuksom. In a hunting flock.
nuthatch sp. (Sitta sp.) 1
treecreeper sp. (Certhia sp.) 1 Phedong
Striated Bulbul (Pycnonotus striatus) 1 Tsokha
Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) X Yuksom
Himalayan Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus) 1 Yuksom – Tsokha
Chestnut-crowned Bush-Warbler (Cettia major) 1 Bakhim
Aberrant Bush-Warbler (Horornis flavolivaceus) X Dzongri, Thansing.
Tickell’s Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus affinis) X Plenty in Bakhim, Tsokha.
Ashy-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus maculipennis) 2 Tsokha
Pale-rumped Warbler (Lemon-rumped Warbler) (Phylloscopus chloronotus) 1 Bakhim
Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) 2 Thansing
Western Crowned Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus occipitalis) 1 Bakhim
Whistler’s Warbler (Seicercus whistleri) 1 Seen 1 at Tsokha. Eyering was not broken.
Chestnut-crowned Warbler (Seicercus castaniceps) 4 Bakhim – Tsokha, Tsokha
White-browed Fulvetta (Fulvetta vinipectus) X Plenty Bakhim – Tsokha, Tsokha, Tsokha – Phedong and Phedong – Dzongri.
Striated Yuhina (Yuhina castaniceps) 1 cantaniceps subspecies. Bakhim – Tsokha
Whiskered Yuhina (Yuhina flavicollis) X Sachen, Bakhim – Tsokha, Tsokha
Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) X Sachen
Rufous-capped Babbler (Cyanoderma ruficeps) X Yuksom – Sachen
Rufous-winged Fulvetta (Schoeniparus castaneceps) X Everywhere from Yuksom to Tsokha
Spotted Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla ocellata) X Head calls continuously at Bakhim
Black-faced Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron affine) 6 Phedong and Tsokha. Comes very near to Phedong Hut for food
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron erythrocephalum) X Seen few. heard at Bakhim and Bakhim – Tsokha.
Rufous Sibia (Heterophasia capistrata) X Everywhere from Yuksom to Tsokha
Red-tailed Minla (Minla ignotincta) 5 Yuksom – Sachen, Tsokha
Hoary-throated Barwing (Actinodura nipalensis) 1 Bakhim – Tsokha
Blue-winged Minla (Actinodura cyanouroptera) 1 Phedong
Chestnut-tailed Minla (Bar-throated Siva) (Actinodura strigula) 1 Yuksom – Tsokha
Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis) 2 Yuksom
Rufous-bellied Niltava (Niltava sundara) 1 Tsokha – Phedong
Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus) X Sachen, Bakhim, Tsokha. Not many were present.
Blue Whistling-Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus) X Everywhere from Yuksom to Tsokha
Black-backed Forktail (Enicurus immaculatus) 1 Yuksom to Sachen near 3rd bridge
Rufous-breasted Bush-Robin (Tarsiger hyperythrus) 1 At Dzongri
Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra) 1 Tsokha – Phedong
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher (Ficedula strophiata) X Sachen – Bakhim, Sachen, Kokchurang
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni) 1 Tsokha – Phedong
Blue-fronted Redstart (Phoenicurus frontalis) X Tsokha, Dzongri
White-capped Redstart (Phoenicurus leucocephalus) 2 Kokchurang, Thansing
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) 1 Tsokha
Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferreus) X Bakhim, Tsokha
thrush sp. (Turdidae sp.) 1 Thrush with scales and big white eyebrow roaming on ground. Tsokha – Phedong
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus) 1 Tsokha – Phedong
Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata) X Sachen – Yuksom
Gould’s Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae) X Sachen – Yuksom
Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis) X Sachen – Bakhim, Sachen – Yuksom
sunbird sp. (Nectariniidae sp. (sunbird sp.)) X
Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) 1 Yuksom – Sachen
Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) X Dzongri – Kokchurang
Rufous-breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata) 1 Dzongri
Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) X calerata 1st Winter. Plenty at Thansing and Samity Lake
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 1 At Tsokha
Rosy Pipit (Anthus roseatus) 1 Dzongri
Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) X Dzongri
Plain Mountain-Finch (Leucosticte nemoricola) 2 Dzongri – Kokchurang
Black-headed Mountain-Finch (Brandt’s Mountain Finch) (Leucosticte brandti) 1 Samity Lake – View Point 1. This individual just sat in front of me.
Red-headed Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythrocephala) 10 Phedong, Kokchurang, Kokchurang – Phedong.
Dark-breasted Rosefinch (Carpodacus nipalensis) 10 The group was having meal on forest bed from Kokchurang – Thansing. Mostly female.
Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) 20 Bakhim, Bakhim – Tsokha. Just a little down from Bakhim TH they come in plenty with Greenfinches.
Scarlet Finch (Haematospiza sipahi) 1 Yuksom – Sachen. Unlike Scarlet finch, this individual sat for quite long time unmoved.
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch (Chloris spinoides) 2 Bakhim.
finch sp. (Fringillidae sp.) 2 One male and female finch at Phedong could not be identified or photographed.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 4 Yuksom

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About Author

Avisek Chatterjee
Avisek, a software engineer working in Kolkata is an avid nature lover. Apart from his yearly visit to the Himalayas, he is keen on birding and supporting documentation.


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