Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler in the Mishmi Hills

An early morning at 5:50 am in the Mishmi Hills. The morning sun, not yet there, will shine again from a cloudless sky. Only above the Brahmaputra can one see the first white clouds, which can also be morning mist. It is 6:30 a.m. and we are at 1,900m above sea level at a mighty jungle giant that is beautifully illuminated by the first morning light. Here we hear the first birds calling.

For us, that’s the sign to fall out of the car: It’s worth it. So we quickly see striped Striated Laughingthrush (Garrulax striatus), Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa), Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (Garrulax erythrocephalus), Rusty-fronted Barwing (Actinodura egertoni) and Beautiful Sibia (Heterophasia pulchella). The tree seems to be filling up more and more. Because a little later, a Golden-throated Barbet (Megalaima franklinii) is added. A Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos macei) is hammering its way through piles of old primary forest. A real dream in a dream weather. Suddenly the birds all become quiet. We all suspect that a raptor has settled somewhere and the birds are now avoiding excessive activity in order not to attract attention. Then there is movement in the bird world again. Because the next flock will come again. This time it’s Scaly Laughingthrush (Garrulax subunicolor) along with Rusty-fronted Barwings. The Scaly Laughingthrush then turn out to be a flock of Sikkim Wedge-billed Babblers (Stachyris humei). That electrifies us all. The sighting was striking, showing a dark, compact bird with a strikingly wedge-shaped beak and a subtle plumage pattern of brownish stripes above and tiny gray scales below. The side of the head is prominent with a whitish crescent behind the face that breaks up into a series of whitish stripes on the side of the neck. The bird already has its own history in the systematic behind it. It was formerly treated as a conspecific of the Cachar Wedge-billed (Wren) Babbler (Stachyris roberti). But it differs in various characteristics, especially in the singing.

The name has also changed over time. The black-breasted bush malia – as it is actually called in German – was already known as the Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Blackish-breasted Babbler and Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler. Quite apart from that, both (today’s) species were originally grouped together as Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler.

Its preferred habitat is the jungle floor and the undergrowth in evergreen deciduous forest. However, only a few details are known about the exact habitat. He is said to have a preference for the rather higher, tree-like areas in his native habitat. It is quite common in dense undergrowth near streams.

We stay where we are and intensively search the shady thickets for the (Wren)babblers. We then succeed in first identifying an individual, which is later joined by others. Great, albeit very hidden. We spend like 1 hour. As I am about to continue walking, I see my friend and the guide standing over me. They point me to look further down. Lo and behold, there are Sikkim Wedge-billed Babblers on the move. Later I hear that after many unsuccessful attempts they were actually able to lure out 1 male and 3 females with the singing from the tape recorder. And in such a way that the Sikkim Wedge-billed Babblers sat on a stone for a good 2 minutes. Luckily I was able to record the little flock of Sikkim Wedge-billed Babblers as they slip through the thicket. Checking the photos yields – albeit filtered through the foliage – photos of a Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler looking very impressive with its pointed beak.

Nice additions to the images of Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler sightings in the GaoligongShan, China.

Great weather – with some clouds high in the mountains. This is quite normal in winter in the Mishmi Hills!

The Mishmi Hills are located on the northeastern tip of India, in central Arunachal Pradesh. They are also part of the Shan Malaysia Plate. The Mishmi Mountains area can be divided into two major sections: the flood plains of the tributaries of the Brahmaputra River and the Arunachal Himalayas, which consists of snow-capped mountains, lower Himalayan ranges and the Shivalik hills. Steep landforms, subtropical evergreen forest vegetation and high rainfall characterize the area. Supposedly nowhere else in the Himalayas can you find so much untouched forest and intact biodiversity. The natural vegetation here stretches in an uninterrupted sequence from the subtropics to the mountain tundra. Subtropical evergreen forests are the most heavily modified forest form in the Himalayas and the Mishmi range is one of the last strongholds for many species dependent on this forest type. Bird watching up to Mayodia Pass can therefore be very interesting

The Mishmi hills is known not at least because the endemic Rusty-throated Wren-Babbler or Mishmi Wren-Babbler can be seen here. This Wren-Babbler was rediscovered here in 2004, known previously from only a mist net specimen collected in 1947. There are about 680 bird species. A fine selection with e.g. Ward’s Trogon, dark-sided Thrush, Green and Purple Cochoa, Rusty-bellied and Gould’s Shortwing, Beautiful Nuthatch, Rusty-throated and Wedge-billed Wren Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Sclater’s Monal, Blyth’s and Temmink’s Tragopan, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Rufous-necked Hornbill, at least four Parrotbill species, Black-headed Greenfinch, Scarlet Finch and Grey-headed Bullfinch can be watched.

In order to cope with the growing demand for top images of the rarer species of the Palearctic, endeavors to further expand the range of images of birds in the Western Palearctic. Trips to nearby and remote locations to snap pictures of rare birds of the Western Palearctic have been very successful. The image of proof on the blog is just a first impression, which you can find very soon in the gallery in the “Picture Shop“. Just leave a message if can serve with a picture.

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