Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary
and Dirang - Tawang area
Birds of Western Arunachal Pradesh, India by Ramana Athreya
Sub-tropical forests clothing the western ridges of Eaglenest
Area: 218 sq. km
Altitude: 500-3200m (accessible 100-3200m including adjacent areas; road 100-2800m)
Lat-Long: 27.1N 92.4E, in W. Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh, India.
Forest HQ: Seijusa1 (DFO), Tenga / Singchung (Range Office)
Entry points: Tenga from the north (recommended), Doimara from the south.
Vegetation Type: lowland evergreen forest (better at Pakke); broad-leaved forest, bamboo, conifers; roadside scrub and farmland - all these in both subtropical and temperate altitudes;
Best Season - Birds: November-May. More birdsong in April-May but fewer winter birds.
Best Season - butterflies / herps: monsoon, especially May and October.
Speciality Birds: Rufous-bellied hawk-eagle, northern goshawk, pied falconet, common hill-partridge, temminck's tragopan, ashy wood-pigeon, tawny wood-owl, rufous-necked hornbill, ward's trogon, golden-throated barbet, crimson-breasted pied-woodpecker, bay woodpecker, pale-headed woodpecker, grey-chinned minivet, rufous-bellied bulbul, maroon-backed accentor, eye-browed thrush, fea's thrush, gould's shortwing, white-browed shortwing, blue-fronted robin, little forkail, golden bush-robin, rufous-breasted bush-robin, puple cochoa, grey-sided laughing-thrush, scaly laughing-thrush, black-faced laughing-thrush, red-faced liocichla, coral-billed scimitar-babbler, slender-billed scimitar-babbler, 6 wren-babblers (wedge-billed, bar-winged, pygmy, spotted, rufous-throated and scaly-breasted), gold-headed babbler, cutia, rufous-bellied shrike-babbler, green shrike-babbler, white-hooded babbler, red-tailed minla, 6 tit-babblers/fulvettas (incl. golden-breasted, brown-throated, and yellow-throated), 3 sibias (incl beautiful, and rufous-backed), 5 yuhinas (incl. black-chinned, rufous-vented and white-naped), fire-tailed myzornis, 6 parrotbills (greater and lesser rufous-headed, brown, grey-headed and fulvous-fronted), mountain tailorbird, 3 tesias (chestnut-headed, grey-bellied and slaty-bellied), 8 flycatcher-warblers (incl. broad-billed, white-spectacled, chestnut-crowned and black-faced), 4 niltavas (incl. vivid and large), 13 flycatchers (incl. white-gorgeted), rufous-bellied and grey-crested tits, sultan tit, beautiful nuthatch, wallcreeper, brown-throated treecreeper, yellow-bellied flowerpecker, mrs gould's and fire-tailed sunbird, gold-naped black-finch, beavan's bullfinch, brown bullfinch.
Bhalukpong-Tenga Road: Passes along the eastern borders of the Eaglenest and Sessa sanctuaries and provides an excellent birding transect from 300-1600m altitude, that is, apart from the traffic. The corresponding areas inside Eaglenest are, naturally, better but this is an option for birders who don't have the time for Eaglenest.
Tenga: 1200m. Farmland and habitation.
Ramalingam: 1780m. Subtropical farmland, scrub and degraded forest.
Lama Camp: 2350m. Temperate broad-leaved primary and degraded forest.
Ridge: Temperate bamboo, conifer and broad-leaved forest and scrub.
Eaglenest Pass: 2800m; Bra-Top: 3200m; Piri-La: 3000m?
Bra-Top and Piri-La are the only 2 locations on this list not accessible by a vehicle and can be accessed by steep trails from Chakoo and Lama Camp. There has been much confusion involving these 2 names and Piri-La has been used to refer to both (even in Athreya & Kartikeyan 1995, and Choudhary 2003). The trail from Chakoo is signposted "Piri-La Trail". It climbs up to the ridge at 3100m and then bifurcates, the right branch climbing up immediately to Bra-Top and the left one following the ridge to Piri-La some distance away. Survey of India topo sheets show both these places. The Chakoo - Bra-top trail is tough but it passes through excellent birch, fir, rhododendron and bamboo and I've seen on that trail temminck's
tragopan, fulvous-fronted parrotbills, black bear and even a red panda!
Sunderview: 2465m. Temperate broad-leaved forest and roadside scrub.
Chakoo: 2405m. Temperate broad-leaved forest, meadows in ancient clear-felled patches.
Bompu: 1940m. Subtropical broad-leaved forest and bamboo, large patch of open scrub
Sessni: 1250m. Broad-leaved forest. Old jhoom patches with secondary scrub.
Khellong: 750m. Tropical forest, grazing meadows and degraded scrub.
Kamengbari - Doimara: 100-350m. Tropical forest, grazing meadows, shingle banks and cultivation.
The sanctuary extends from Eaglenest Pass to a little above Khellong along the road. The entire stretch from Lama Camp on the northern slope, up across Eaglenest Pass and down the southern slope to Khellong is prime birding area. Doimara and Kamengbari are also good but the corresponding areas in Pakke tiger reserve are better. A broad jeep track runs from Tenga to Kamengbari through Eaglenest Pass which makes for very comfortable roadside birding. It is this combination of roadside scrub adjacent to primary forest just 20-30m away, apart from 3200m of altitudinal range, which makes Eaglenest a prime birding site. The large altitudinal range and the extraordinary bird assemblage requires a minimum of 6-10 days with a jeep and 10-14 days on foot to do justice to it.
The Gorichen range, the state's highest, separates Tibet from Tawang from Bomdila
Area: This sprawling region spread over 2 districts is not part of any protected area.
Altitude: 1500-4300+ m (all of it accessible by road)
Lat - Long: 27.5N 92.1E, W. Kameng & Tawang districts, Arunachal Pradesh.
Nodal Locations: Dirang (W. Kameng) and Jang (Tawang)
Vegetation Type: Dry inner valleys, cultivation, temperate broad-leaved and conifer forests, scrub, alpine meadows.
Best Season - Birds: April-June & October-December, depending on snowfall.
Best Season - butterflies / herps: Monsoon, especially May to September. Butterflies were active even in December but not in April.
Speciality Birds: Monal pheasant, blood pheasant, Satyr and Temminck's tragopans, black-necked crane, long-billed plover, ward's trogon, alpine accentor, eyebrowed thrush, white-throated redstart, slender-billed scimitar-babbler, brown-throated tit-babbler/fulvetta, coal tit, rufous-bellied tit, rufous-fronted tit, eurasian treecreeper, fire-tailed sunbird, beavan's bullfinch, brown bullfinch, white-winged grosbeak, red-billed chough.
3-5 days is required to cover this vast area which has some really special birds. Doing this area by public transport, other than Sela Pass, is not possible.
Dirang (W. Kameng)
Sangti Valley: (1600m). Dry inner valley with pine stands and cultivation. The only black-necked crane wintering area in India (1-10 birds in late November-February only)
Mandala - Sela ridge road: (2200-3700m). Temperate broad-leaved forest and scrub, extensive conifer stands and summer pastures.
Sela Ridge: 3500-4500m. Demarcates the W. Kameng - Tawang district border. Treeline vegetation (conifers, birch and rhododendron, dwarf scrub) and alpine meadows. The highway itself has decent roadside birding between Baisakhi (8 km beyond Sengay) and Sela Pass and also further beyond on the Jang side. A road goes off from the Pass to Chabre La and then to B.J.Gompa. This passes through extensive alpine meadows and tree-line vegetation.
Jang - B.J.Gompa road: 2800-4300m. Temperate bamboo, broad-leaved and fir forests; alpine meadows. The entire road is open during summer; snow conditions determine access rest of the year, when it gets quite chancy above 3500m.
Jang - Rama Spur road: 2800-3800+m. Temperate bamboo, fir and rhododendron forests with clearings. The road begins to descend beyond the highest point at 3800m. But one can climb higher on foot.
[Editor's note: The information below may be dated, please double check from your tour operator]
Boarding & Lodging
Camp style accommodation, whether in tents or in empty sheds, is genrally the only option available. Check with your tour operator.
Eaglenest Biodiversity Project: Ramana Athreya
More Information on the area: Ramana Athreya email
Bird Tours: Kaati Tours & Mr. Indi Glow (President, Bugun Welfare Society)
Mr. Glow : Tenga Market, Tenga, W. Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh, Ph 91-3782-273359; Kaati Tours:Ph +91-2132-245770 email
1. Arunachal entry permits are required for both Indians and foreigners and are checked on entry into Arunachal at Bhalukpong. The Circle Officers at Tenga / Singchung / Bhalukpong / Bomdila can issue fresh permits to extend the stay (for Indians only).
2. Forest entry permits are issued by the Divisional Forest Officer, Pakke Tiger Reserve, Seijusa. E. Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh. Phone +91-3778-222229 (off), 222230 (res), who also has additional charge of Eaglenest Wildlife sanctuary. The nearest Forest Dept presence is the Range Forest Office at Singchung.
3. The Bugun tribe of Tenga which lost its ancient rights over Eaglenest (along with the Sherdukpen tribe of Rupa) now charges an entry fee of Rs. 500 per day for foreigner and Rs. 100 for Indian visitors, which goes into the Bugun Welfare Society (and not Govt coffers). It has been proposed to reduce this to Rs. 250 and Rs. 50 respectively and charge Rs. 1000 per day for each 4-wheel vehicle (for both Indians and foreigners), to encourage trekking visitors and make vehicles pay for the damage they do to the fragile mountain road. The money collected will be used to provide local employment for patrolling the area and maintaining the road for visitors.
a) Walking is permitted inside the park.
b) To / From Tenga: Tenga is on the Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang highway and connected by buses from Itanagar, Tezpur and Guwahati (Rs. 250 from Guwahati) and by shared jeeps from Tezpur (early morning and noon - Rs. 160 per seat). Full jeeps may also be hired from Tezpur, Balipara or Bhalukpong (Rs. 1200-1600) which will also facilitate birding the excellent Bhalukpong-Tenga stretch. The 135 km long drive, mostly in the hills, takes 3-5 hour.
c) Tenga to Eaglenest: The options are:
1. Trek all the way with porters/camp staff
2. Vehicle drop-off at Eaglenest Pass or beyond and a trek downhill with porters/camp staff. Drop-off vehicles can be rented in Tenga for Rs. 1000-1500
3. Vehicle hired for the entire visit. Vehicles are available at Tenga and Bomdila for Rs. 1000-2000 per day plus fuel.
d) Inside Eaglenest: Access on foot through the broad jeep track is possible all through the year. Mountain bikes and motor-cycles (none available on hire locally) may also be used all through the year. Jeep access is usually limited to between November and April (May). The main rainy season is from May to October but heavy rains are a permanent threat and could cause a temporary road block (for jeeps) during any month. Snow on the ground is a possibility above 2000m for a few weeks from mid-January to early March.
e) Exit from Eaglenest: One can
1. Trek back over the Eaglenest Pass to Tenga
2. Trek downhill and catch the daily bus from Doimara (6 days a week, with occasional no-shows)
3. Arrange for a jeep pick-up inside Eaglenest and exit via Doimara or Tenga
This is a region of early starts and long commutes with Dirang and Bomdila being the only place for those who require very comfortable sleeping quarters. Bomdila, Dirang, Sela and Jang lie on the Tezpur-Tawang highway and are served by several daily buses and shared taxis. But the Sela Pass is the only area which can be accessed solely by public transport.
All other localities are off the highway and may not have any traffic for days on end. So a reliable jeep and good weather are essential for visiting these places. Diesel vehicles must be capable of handling sub-zero conditions. The army is responsible for keeping these roads open and are quite efficient at clearing snow and rocks from the highway but sometimes it can take a day or two in case of heavy snowfall in winter (January - March). It is best not to attempt the side roads after the first winter snow (usually in late December). Visiting these places by public transport will require a travel overhead of 3-4 days ex-Guwahati and one should keep a buffer for bus truancy. With a private vehicle the travel component will be 1-2 days. Logistical organisation will require a day at Tenga (alternatively, have Mr. Glow to do the organisation beforehand).
All arrangements in Tenga - porters, camp staff, provisions, vehicle booking, local entry and accommodation permits etc - are best done through Mr. Indi Glow who lives in Tenga, is aware of the needs of tourists (especially birders) and has been intimately associated with the Eaglenest Biodiversity Project. In association with the EBP he is involved in the process of identifying and training a reliable team of camp staff who understand that for birders "breakfast at 5.30 AM" means breakfast at 5.30 AM and that many visitors do not consider chilli a vegetable!
This webpage is a part of the Eaglenest Biodiversity Project report, which was funded by a grant from the Rufford Foundation (UK) to Ramana Athreya.
The information contained herein may be freely used, provided that these webpages and/or the project report (Athreya 2005) are appropriately cited. The images are copyright and may not be reproduced without permission from Ramana Athreya. The author would also appreciate an email from people who found this webpage useful, whether to a scientific study or to a vacation in the area ~ Ramana Athreya
Copyright © Ramana Athreya 2005