Japan Nature Guides Overseas Adventures

In April 2013, Japan Nature Guides dabbled in a new venture and set off overseas for the first time. We went on an exciting journey through Arunachal Pradesh, India.

If you haven't been to the northeastern hill states of India, these have international borders making them particularly sensitive and hence require Restricted Area Permits. Having acquired our permits we were allowed to venture into one of the least populated parts of India and experienced exciting birding in the species-rich mountains of Kameng province in western Arunachal Pradesh. After leading so many general wildlife trips in recent years it was wonderful to indulge in birding from dawn to dusk - though that said our main personal priorities were to enjoy rhododendrons and magnolias in flower and to see the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas while watching birds. 

We began at Guwahati in Assam, stayed first at Nameri National Park, then cross the border into "AP" and headed for Dirang. Our highest point reached was the c4,000 m Sela Pass (complete with snow), and we also explored the slightly lower Mandala Ridge which was rich in rhododendrons and birdlife. We spent much of our time in the remote Eaglesnest Sanctuary staying at two very basic camps with spectacular views of forests and mountains, enjoying the challenges of bucket showers and early starts for some great hikes.  

Mayumi and I, accompanied by two fellow travellers/birder/naturalists from the USA and from South Africa, were exploring the area for the first time with local ornithologist Sudesh and were amazed at the species on offer. 

In our 13 days in the field we logged nearly 350 species of birds, heard wild elephants trumpeting in the forest nearby, saw Capped Langur, Assamese and Arunachali macaques, and a host of different squirrels. We debated long and hard over our Top Ten bird sightings and though we eventually agreed on the contenders we disagreed over the first two as to which should take top spot.

The Top Three were a stunning eponymous trio: Blyth's Tragopan, Hodgson's Frogmouth (on its nest!), and Ward's Trogon, any one of which would have made the trip worthwile. Completing our Top Five were: Beautiful Nuthatch and Green Cochoa. In the next 'five' we shoe-horned six species: Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Sultan Tit, Red-tailed Minla, Long-tailed Broadbill and Rufous-backed Sibia, because they were all so stunning we couldn't decide between them! 

Our 'Top Ten' included some of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen and our sightings of them were at close range, with many of them also seen through my telescope. While we set out to see some stunning species our goal was to simply enjoy what we saw regardless of what we missed, and as a result our days were filled with enjoyment. 

Having enjoyed such a great first sortie overseas in great company, we have decided to make an annual Japan Nature Guides journey. We are already contemplating destinations for 2017 and top of the list right now are Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The area fits the bill because it has great scenery (views of the Tien Shan Mountains), has a great cross section of habitats (semi-desert and steppe to forests and high mountains), and bridges the biogeographical gap between Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with hints of Mongolia, China and India thrown in. The area has some stunning species to look for, but as with our trip to Arunachal Pradesh our emphasis is not on listing, instead we aim to focus on having fun and laughs in good company, in a small group of like-minded friends while enjoying wonderful localities, exciting habitats and great views while seeing some beautiful birds and mammals.

If you think you might be interested in joining us in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in late April and early May 2017 (or on journeys to other destinations, or if you wish to return to Japan with us), do drop us a line and we will keep you updated with details as plans for the trip develop.

© 2015 Mark Brazil & Chris Cook

Last updated: 20150722