Birding Tour along Sikkim’s Silk Route
Birding Tour along Sikkim’s Silk Route
Birding Trip for a non Birder
It was a hot summer afternoon in a cafe in Salt Lake, Kolkata, I was having a discussion with Siddhartha of Wandervogel Adventures on my future blogging projects. As the discussion progressed Siddhartha briefed me about Wandervogel Adventure’s next trip to Sikkim a Birding Trip along the Silk Route of Sikkim.
The briefing was soon complete and to my utter surprise Siddhartha invited me to join the Birding Trail of East Sikkim. Wild life tours and photography has never been cup of tea and joining a group on experienced birders on a birding trail is the last thing I imagined.
Obviously my answer was no. The other reason for the negative answer was that, I was on the same area only a few months back
I was there in mid April for the Lampokakhari Tourism Festival. It was during the festival I meet Siddhartha for the first time.
Siddhartha kept on insisting me to join the Birding Trail of East Sikkim and finally I decided to be a part of it.
The reasons were not really birding or wildlife but visiting the Eastern Himalayas in the fag end of monsoon (the trip was in early September) has a charm of its own.
The lush green hills along with the occasional views of snow capped Kanchenjunga through the the sea of clouds is something not to be missed. (Also read: Sikkim’s Silk Route during Monsoon)
As the preparation of the tour progressed Siddhartha came up with some good news for me.
Nikon India was to be a partner in the Birding Trail of East Sikkim and will provide lenses to the participants.
This was a welcome news for me as my Sigma 70 – 300 mm, non VR lens was not suitable for bird photography. I also decided to carry my two Nikon DSLR bodies the old D60 and the new D7000.
Finally I boarded the Darjeeling Mail for the Birding Trail of East Sikkim, next morning I meet with my tour participants at the New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Station. It was a group of experienced birders and veteran wild life photographers and I did feel out of place.
There conversation centered round strange sounding bird names like Himalayan Monal, Stayr Tragopan, Brown Dipper, Blood Pheasant, Citrine Wagtail, Goral and Pika. It was only much later that I understood that the last two names Goral and Pika were not birds but mammals.
But the conversation was soon over as we hit the road. As we drove past the meandering Teesta River we started sharing our travel experiences and at last I started feeling at home.
I spoke about my personal travel experience and how my writing, photography and blogging compliments its. Soon after, a short break for momos made me an integral part of the birding trip.
We were soon at the Mangaldeep Resort & Hotel in Rongli and after a late lunch we were soon out to exploring the birding possibilities.
We followed a zig – zag stone trial to a small stream, but it soon started to drizzle and we were back to the warmth of our hotel.
In the evening we had our first inert active session with Nikon India and apart from valuable wild life photography tips I also received the 300 mm prime lens from Nikon, but the bad news was that the lens was returnable at the end of the trip.
Next morning it was an early start, but I was out off the hotel even earlier to test my new gear. Soon we were on our way along Sikkim’s Silk Route. Each car housed 3 to 4 birders along with a guide or mentor.
Our fist stop was Lingtam, I was out with fellow birder with their big lenses. Even my 300 mm looked tiny compared with the big 500 mm and 600 mm lenses of my fellow participants.
The first wild life I shot was a spider, probably the easiest wild life to shoot, as it hardly moved during the entire period of my shot. later on I came to know that the spider is commonly known as Orchid Spider.
I did try out difficult things like shooting birds, most of them extremely small in size. After several filed attempts I did get my prized catch an very small bird. It was much late I came to know that the bird was called Oriental Whit Eye.
Next stop was the Kuekhola Waterfall, an ideal place for attempting slow shutter or long exposure photography. This was one of my favourite areas of photography and I spent over an hour to get a perfect shot.
But it was at Kuekhola Waterfall I manged to shoot a few wildlife also. They included a Little Fork Tail, a small black & white bird and a butterfly named Hill Jegebel.
We continued along the Silk Route of Sikkim, with frequent stops for bird photography. Finally by late afternoon we made it to Zuluk (Dzuluk).
After lunch it was time to explore the surrounding of Zuluk and the day ended with an interactive session with Nikon India.
The second day had a very early start, we meandered through the Sikkim’s Silk Route famous zig – zag road in complete darkness. It was still dark as we drove passed the Thambi View Point.
By the time we reached Lungthung the first rays of the rising sun have struck the eternal snows of Kanchenjunga, turning the white snow into a bright shade of crimson.
We were all out to capture the grand spectacle, not with our big tele lenses but with our small wide angle lenses. We tried out our skills in High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Time Lapse Photography and a few even tried out a selfie with the mighty Kanchenjunga.
As the sun rose, I recalled that just about about five months ago in April 2016 an unprecedented snow had forced me to return from Lungthung and the cloud blocked all possible views of the snow peaks. (Also see: Non Seasonal Snow on Sikkim Silk Route)
After a glorious sun rise we headed deeper in to the silk route with frequent photography stops. One on of these stops I did manage to capture a Jungle Pika. It was a almost out of the frame but still consider it as a great achievement, because before the shot I had no idea what a Pika was!!!
By the time we reached Kupup Lake the clouds have reigned supreme and the return journey to Zuluk was uneventful. It rained all night in Zuluk and continued next morning and the return journey from Zuluk to Rongli was completed without any photography halts.
At Rongli I returned the Nikon 300 mm prime lens and finally made it to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) marking an end to my first Birding Trip along the Silk Route of Sikkim.
- Moushmi di, Siddhartha and Soven of Wandervogel Adventures for the wonderful birding trip of East Sikkim
- The amazing team of birding guides of Ayan Mondal, Anirban Patra, Kushankur Bhattacharyya and Souvik Mukherjee
- Soumyajit and Joydeb of Nikon India for the all the photography tips and for the usage of 300 mm f4 prime lens
- Dilip Raj Pradhan and Gopal Pradhan for the warm hospitality in Rongli and Zuluk respectively
- Last but not least my fellow birding trip participants for accepting a non birder, like me, with open arms!