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Trip Report – Jainti - 28thMarch to 1st April 2009

Author:Miss Soma Jha
Travel Date:28th March, 2009
  This was primarily a three day stay in Jainti with short visits to Rashikbeel and Cooch Behar and Chilapata forest and Phuntsholing thrown in. Such good things are said about Jainti by those who have visited it, that a team of three of us looked forward to spending a few peaceful days of birding.

After a fifteen hour journey from Calcutta, we detrained at Alipurduar, the nearest railhead to Jainti and drove 30 km north to our destination.The location and ambience of the Forest Rest House takes your breath away and we were immediately greeted by a White-capped Water Redstart that turned out to be a resident bird of sorts appearing everyday in the compound.The trees around the CESE guest house “Abakash” and further down the road, are really bird-rich and here we saw -Crested Goshawk, Imperial Pigeons,Scarlet Minivet, Black-headed Bulbuls,Black Bulbuls,Common Woodshrike, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Hill Mynahs, Red Junglefowl and Asian Fairy Bluebird- the last being my first ' first-time’ bird of the day !

The rest of the day turned out to be exciting, not by way of birds but for getting the chance to add some beautiful butterflies to my nascent collection (the White Emperor being the rare one) and in the evening , getting to spot a pair of the no-so-oft-seen Crab-eating Mongoose that ran along the forest path ahead of our car. A herd of Gaurs were seen way down the dry riverbed of Bala and finally at a watchtower we were literally ‘gheraoed’ by 26 elephants who refused to leave the salt-licks for about three hours! Other mammals seen were Sambhar,Barking Deer and several Wild Boars and a biggish brownish squirrel that was identified as the Hoary-bellied Himalayan Squirrel.

We found the area across the Jainti river towards Bhutiabasti, teeming with birds. While driving on the dry riverbed, we found Blue Rock Thrush -male and female, Siberian Stonechat, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Ashy Woodswallows, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Common Iora, Chestnut-tailed Starlings,Red-collared and Oriental Turtle Doves, Collared Falconet, Barred Cuckoo Dove, and Black Baza-in flight – the last three being lifers for me. The other birds on the road to Hatipota were –Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Greater Yellownape, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Small Pratincole and River Lapwing. A trip to the forest yielded the Ferruginous Flycatcher, Green-billed Malkoha, Grey-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Kalij Pheasant-female, and on the Bala river bed, a grey-headed, rufous-bodied bird with no spots on it turned out to be a Lesser Kestrel - the fifth lifer of this trip !

Brief trips to Rashikbeel ( 25 km south of Alipurduar )and Chilapata Forest ( 40 km north-west of Alipurduar ) gave us - Spangled Drongo, Large Cuckooshrike, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Jungle Mynah, Lesser Whistling Teal, Common Teal, Little Cormorant ,Purple Heron, Black Redstart, Olive-backed Pipit, Emerald Dove, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard. The total bird count in the five days was around 70.

Jainti puts a spell on you and you find yourself making a promise to return soon. I wish to thank Maitreye Das, Bhaskar Das, Kollol Shome, Amit Kr Ghosh and Soumen Mondal for sharing useful tips regarding the logistics of the place and its bird rich spots.

Soma Jha