Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Birding trip to Thin jhura,Part 2

In the morning i was surpise to see the view of morning sunrise because i haven't heard about it .It was really "wow",first sky changes into orange colour and then sun come out.After breakfast we went for birding to nearby place and we saw many birds including yellow billed blue megpie which is very common in that place.list of bird that we saw there is given at the end.
At nine we started to trek and on the way we saw many birds and even heard the sound of many wildlife.Trekking route was virgin but you woun't get lost ,mark has been given there to show the way.After walking for almost 2 hours not so uphill,its totallyt uphill walk and sometime you have to crawl .I must appreciated Amor from kolkatta friend of karma Tempo for his gut.At around 12:15 we reached the top finally.There is three storeyed tower and walking up stair in that tower make you feel like as if you are going to heaven.We were so excited to reached that hill which took 3 hours walk from Goalitar and the starting place can be seen from that tower.Mt.kanchendzonga was so huge from there and Gangtok town is more beautiful .Well trekking down one of our friend(sameer)got injured in his ankle but he made it.when we reached log house some friend from lal market group whoi choose not to trek offered us tea.

Olive backed pipit...........many time
Rofouse breasted accenture..............many time
White throated laughing thrush.......many time
 Chestnut crowned laughing thrush...many time
Scaly breasted wren babler........once
Rofous sibia....many time
Sparrow time
Serpent time
Yellow billed blue megpie...many time
Rofous napped yuhina......many time
Fire breasted flowerpecker....once
Whiskered yuhina...many time
Yellow checked tit.....once
Khalij pheasent...once
one not identified

Birding Trip to Thin jhura,Part 1

Thin jhura is a hill top located at an altitude of 3360mts.from where one can  see view  of whole gangtok town,Mt.kanchendzonga and tiger hill.Since it is located in the Fabongla wildlife santuary,birding  and trekking to hill top would be  lifetime experience.On friday we got permit to do camping in goali tar and the fees was  not so high,they charged us  Rs.50 per tent,Rs.25 per person as entry fee and Rs.20 for camera.They have even  opened online booking and if you want to book  log of Golitar then you must book in month in advance.
On Saturday at 2pm, we started our journey from Tashi View point and from there it is 5km drive to sanctuary gate.Weather forcast was also not showing good sign  but we were very hopeful.As soon as we reached Fabongla gate ,our car tire got punctured and we had to struggle for at least 15min to replace it because we thought if we left it for tomorrow then it would be difficult to replace after 4hours trekking and we did the right thing.Again it took 20 min walk from gate to Goalitar,carrying all food stuff ,tent and sleeping bag was pretty tiresome .We all were excited for this and for  all  my friend it was there first experience but for me it was a third time,first was in Singba sanctuary,yumthang,second was in Pangthang .Even though it was my third time i haven't pitch tent by myself and i was not sure how to do it.When it was a time to pitch a tent,we checked  tent bag and checked all item first,first we got confused.So i called my friend Madan fro help but got network problem but later we could manage to pitch it our self .when  our tent was ready, Care taker of santuary brought some firewood for camp fire and we gave him Rs.400.By the ,it was already dark and we headed toward log house for dinner for which we have brought cup noddles.There we meet some guys from Lal market,Gangtok and they were there for trekking to Thin jhura and they used to come to place annually.They were very nice and friendly and they even offered us their dinner but we feel not accept first but when they insist us again ,we said ok.Food was awesome and never expected that for dinnner and thats the thing about camping.Afer dinner we did camp fire and went to sleep early.

Birding Trip to Thin jhura,Fabongla wildlife santuary

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Glimpse of Sikkim Pargliding festival 2012

Ist Sikkim International Prargliding Festival 2012.

Four day 1st sikkim International paragliding festival 2012  was organised by sikkim tourism and civil aviation department in association with paragliding association of India(PAI)and Sikkim paragliding adventure sports cooperative society Ltd from Oct31-Nov3 here at gangtok.Last year PAI annual paragliding festival was held at Kamshet ,Maharastra,India.This year total of 60 Indian and International paragliding pilot from Nepal.U.S.A,Austria,South Africaand ,Sweden have participated.
Festival was inaugurated by Bhaichung Bhutia ,former Indian Football captain and the  owner of united sikkim football club.Paragliding Association of India has made him lifetime honorary member during this occasion.

This year main event were free flying,spot landing contest and acro show.In addition to that photo exhibition and evening cultural show at M.G Marg added flavor to this festival.Main attraction of the  festival were Sanu Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Sherpa who were voted as 2012 people's choice adventurer of the year by National Geographic for  climbing Mt.everest,paragliding down and then kayaking to the sea.Both of them were felicitated on this occasion for their achievement.
Take-off point was at bulbulay dara,8km from gangtopk and the landing spot was at Reshithang which is 20 min flight from take-off point.
Initiative taken by Sikkim tourism department to boost the adventure tourism in sikkim by organising such festival was really appreciable said tourist from Mumbai.Success of the festival showed the seriousness of the department and the professionalism of  the youths especially Sikkim paragliding adventure sports co-perative Society Ltd.   This festival has shown the potential of the youth who were in this field and scope of adventure sports in sikkim said Addl. secretary ,Tourism Department.
No doubt festival has given exposure to Sikkim in world over and from now onward Sikkim would be known not  only for beauty and nature but also for adventure sports.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip Report of Sikkim by Anjan Chanda

Boarded a Kolkata-Siliguri bus on the 30th of May 2008 from the Esplanade Bus terminus, Kolkata and, -- ONE MORE TIME we were on the way to the HIMALAYAS...

Day 1: Gangtok

We reached Gangtok in the afternoon around 3 pm and checked-in the hotel “Dzong”. Arindamwas eager to watch a movie with the lamas in the “DENZONG” (a well known movie theatre hall in Gangtok). (Un)fortunately he did not - he was not ready for a boring movie like "Tashan".
We tried out our night landscape photography skills – capturing Gangtok from the “Dzong” hotel terrace top in the dead of the night.

It was raining heavily and the roaring sound of the water over the tin roof was deafening. The atmosphere was elec
We discussed our tour plan
in details with our trek organizer (Kishen Gurung) over few glasses of a very famous local Sikkimese beer. Hot chapatis and steaming hot curry served by the hotel boy was what we had for the first night’s dinner. We had a good night sleep after that beer and rain. We were mentally prepared to take up any challenge now – nothing can deter us from reaching our target – The Cholamu Lake, which is the source of the river Teesta and is also the highest lake in India. By now, Cholamu had already become the lake of our dream.

Day 2: Gangtok to Lachen

Non-eventful morning spent at Gangtok. The veg-cheese sandwich tasted good along with a hot cup of coffee. Vishal, our tour guide, came to pick us up from our hotel at about 9 am. He made six copies of the permit, which had Cholamu written on it. Sikkim police do not issue permits for the “Cholamu Lake”, which falls into an army-restricted zone. It is only after our repeated requests to Kishen and because of his father’s acquaintance with the local police officer that he managed to include “Cholamu” into our permit paper.
We had lunch at Mangan, a nice hot "chai" (tea) at Chungthang and finally reached Lachen at around 7 pm – a whole day’s journey. On our way we stopped by some colossal waterfalls; most renowned amongst them were the Bachchan falls (name given by the locals and/or the tourists) and the seven-sisters’ falls.

Evening tea at Lachen; dinner at 9:45 pm; “Chaang” and the local Sikkimese beer before we fell asleep.

Day 3: Lachen to Cholamu to Gangtok

D-Day – we left Lachen in the wee hours of the morning at 4:15 am and reached Thangu at around 6 am. We stopped for a hot cup of tea and some light breakfast.

We agreed to take with us a local per
son from Thangu who would help us to find the way to Cholamu. During this time of the year when there can be occasional snowfall, finding the trails after a snowfall is difficult, practically impossible for a person who is visiting the place for the first or a second time. That was one of the two most important decisions we took during this trip. We were faced with heavy snowfall on the way up to Gurudongmer.

The car could not push itself up the last stretch before the Gurudongmar Lake– we had to walk to reach the top.

We found few of the tourists were already returning back as they could not tackle the high altitude oxygen scarcity and were gasping for breath. We spent for about half an hour there – a hot chai was like “amrita” to us. Now all of us are charged up again for our ultimate target of this trip – the Cholamu Lake.
We retraced back in the car for about twenty minutes, before we came to a diversion; one leads to Gurudongmer, the way we were returning from – the other to nowhere. (!!!) The signboard in the direction of the later read


The local person accompanying us from Thangu immediately knew that this was the way we have to take to reach our destination. Ahead of us laid big boulders and there was little if any left of the road markings with the medium sized stones. The trail was completely washed out with the snowfall that morning. Our driver refused to move ahead with the car. If a boulder damages the fuel chamber underneath the car and the car is stuck then that could mean (gasp!) death perhaps for all of us – due to cold or lack of oxygen or both. No tourist car plies that way and the nearest we have to walk by ourselves to find any human help is at Gurudongmer – a good twenty minutes driving distance from that point.
Another important decision had to be taken – whether we move ahead ignoring the army’s warning and the driver’s will or we console ourselves with Gurudongmar only. The second and the most important decision of this trip was taken at that point of time. We decided to move ahead whatever the consequence be. After a topsy-turvy thirty minutes drive over that terrain, we finally reached a high vantage point from where the lake of our dream could be faintly seen. Yes, we finally had the glimpse of the Cholamu Lake at a distance.

We got down from the car and started to walk towards that mystic blue sheet of ice. The color of the water of the lake from that distance was emerald green.

Snow and mud made the earth slushy beneath our feet and we had to occasionally struggle to get our boots out of that soft snow filled earth.

landscape resembled to that of some prehistoric land. The mountains surrounding the area had army bunkers over the ridges everywhere. Someone is surely spying on us. Lack of oxygen and the fear of getting spotted by a not-so-friendly army personnel made our heads and body heavy.

We could not walk – we literally dragged ourselves. The source of the river Teesta is just a few hundred meters ahead of us and we have come all the way to witness its birth.

I remember, when after an hour and a half, I finally r
eached the bank of the lake I could not stand on my feet. I could feel the oxygen-deprived blood gushing through my veins and my heart pumping vehemently to get in that extra oxygen to keep it ticking. With my mouth wide open, I breathed heavily for some time.

Now that I have atle
ast managed to keep my senses awake, I took my first shot of the lake.

A transp
arent sheet of thickice covered a large portion of the lake and we thought of walking over it. On a second thought – we decided not to – we had pushed ourselves extremely to reach this spot. Now, that we are here we wanted to stay there for few minutes and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Truly, Cholamu is the lake of the dreams.

We made it to the 
holamu (18000 ft) – we made it to the highest Lake in India.

Monday, June 25, 2012

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours Offers Sikkim as Alternative to Tibet

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours Offers Sikkim as Alternative to Tibet

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours launches Cycling Sikkim's Tea Trails tour that visits cultural and natural highlights of this land-locked north Indian province.

Bangkok, Thailand, June 21, 2012 --( Chinese authorities are no longer issuing entry permits to Tibet to foreigners, effectively closing Tibet for 2012, and for those interested in Tibetan culture SpiceRoads Cycle Tours now offers a 10-day cycle tour to rugged and remote Sikkim in northeast India.

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours has had to cancel two Lhasa to Kathmandu tours due to this sudden and unexpected change in permit rules to Tibet.

Sikkim is bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, and the influence is seen in the people, the majority of whom are ethnically Nepali, and the two predominant religions of Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Stops on this cycle tour include the 200-year-old Tibetan Enchey monastery in Gangtok and the Rumtek Monastery, which dates back to the 16th century and is lead by the 16th Karmapa who fled Tibet in 1959 and took over Rumtek as his main seat in exile.

Throughout the ride the Kanchenjunga mountain range of five peaks and includes Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft), is ever present, another reminder of the snow-capped peaks of Tibet.

The Cycling Sikkim's Tea Trails route is 330 kilometres over six days of cycling and also takes breaks to make a wish at Sikkim's holiest lake, sample tea from local plantations, and ride a toy train in the colonial hill station of Darjeeling. The riding will be strenuous as it will consist of exhilarating descents down into valleys and then climbs up over passes (none higher than 2,100 m).

The tour costs US$1,950 with an additional $175 for bike rental. and starts and ends at Bagdgora airport in Sikkim. Included is accommodation, most meals, drinks and snacks while riding. SpiceRoads Cycle Tours has three fall departures and are offering a 10% introductory discount for 28 Oct–6 Nov, 25 Nov–4 Dec, 23 Dec–1 Jan tours.

Contact Information
SpiceRoads Co., Ltd
Patricia Weismantel
+66 (0) 2712 5305

Saturday, June 16, 2012



1.  Aims & Objectives – The aim and objective of registering the travel agent/tour operator is to encourage quality  and
standardization of their services offered to the tourists.
2. Definition – A travel Agency is one which makes arrangement of ticketing, for travel by rail, air, and ship,
passports, visas etc .It may also arrange accommodation, tour entertainment and other tourism related services.
3. Application for registration shall be addressed to The Additional Secretary/ Prescribed Authority, Tourism
Department ,Government of Sikkim, Gangtok
4. The registration  as an approved tour operator shall be  granted by the Department of Tourism , Government of
Sikkim initially for a period of  one year based on  the verification report, recommendations of a Gradation
Committee constituted vide Rule 49 of the Sikkim Registration of Trade Rules, 2008.
5. Application for renewal shall be addressed to The Additional Secretary/ Prescribed Authority, Tourism Department,
Government of Sikkim.
6. The renewal will be granted for one year after inspection conducted by the prescribed committee at the District
level with an application by the tour operator along with the requisite fee and relevant documents.
7. Documents received from the applicant will be scrutinized by the concerned officer. The inspection shall be
conducted by the inspection team.
8. The following conditions must be fulfilled for grant of registration by the Department of Tourism:
i)  The Tour operator has an office with a minimum of two   qualified staff responsible for handling the office
works. He should be well versed with matters related to promotion of tourism. In terms of transport,
accommodation ,currency, custom regulations and general information about travel and tourism related
services with  effective communication skills.ii)  There should be 100% local employment as per qualification and experience. In case of unavailability of
local employees the tour operator should approach the Tourism Department for list of local youths who have
undergone capacity/ skill development programme. Even after procuring these details if the tour operator
fails to identify a suitable person for employment he may be allowed to hire a non-local person  for a
maximum period of one year. The details of employees with their bio-data should be sent to the department
for information. The Department will review the employees list every six months. Tour operators should
employ only local guides, trained and registered with the Department of Tourism, Government of Sikkim.
iii) The minimum office space should be 150 to 200 sq ft. The office should be easily accessible to the tourists
located  within neat and clean environment. The office should have basic facilities required like telephone,
computer, internet , fax machine. There should be enough sitting capacity for the visitors. There should be
space for reception and easy access to the toilet.
iv) Registration will be granted to the head office of the tour operator. Branch office will be approved along
with the head office provided that the details of branch office are submitted to the Department of Tourism,
Government of Sikkim.
v) In order to streamline the tourist traffic and to ensure their safety and to render quality service permits for
restricted and protected areas will only be issued to the tour operators /travel agents registered with the
Tourism Department.
vi) The decision of the Department of Tourism will be final and binding in the matter of registration.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Awesome Kangchendzonga

Our next stop is Pelling in West Sikkim. It is easy to get around Sikkim in "Share Jeeps". They run often & are inexpensive, but crowded. This time we hire a jeep to take us to Pelling. The road is narrow and rough in places & includes very steep climbs and decents. We travel thru beautiful country & what I can only describe as "cloud forest", very lush vegitation, with lots of ferns and moss. 

Arriving in Pelling we walk to Pemyangtse Monestary, one of the oldest & most important in Sikkim. There, we are blown away by the wooden sculpture on the third floor, "Mandala of Padmasambhava's Heavenly Abode". It is a 3D wooden mandalla that took to monk who built it 5 years to complete. 

Next day at dawn, the clouds clear for a while & we get our clearest & clostest view of the Khangchendzonga Massiff, 3rd higest peak in the world. It is considered a diety in Sikkim & it is easy to see why. It takes our breath away just to look at it. 

Next day we rent a Jeep, along with James from Britian, & visit the Holy Lake of Khecheopalri. 
It is considered a footprint of the Goddess Tara & is said to be so holy that birds pick out any leaf that falls in the water. 

That evening, back in Pelling, we see a buffett set up in a nearby hotel. We wander in and are not sure if they are serving the public or if this is for a special group. The workers hustle us in & start filling our plates with delicous south Indian cuisene. Turns out that this was a buffett for a tour group, but they have all finished eating. Now the staff is eating and cleaning up & they want to share with us. They are very friendly and generous hosts and seem to enjoy feeding us almost as much as we enjoy their wonderfull cooking! there is no charge for the meal, but we leave a generous tip and are thankfull for the beautiful day we have had in this beautiful place.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Birding to Highland of Sikkim.

SOS(sikkim Ornithological Society)member toured  Highland land (Gurudogmar lake ,Thangu and Lachen)of Sikkim,India in search of Highland Bird species from 12/05/2012 to 14/05/2012.Detail of trip report  will be publish later.

Niraj Thapa,Karma Tempo and Pempa Tshering(me)


Monday, March 12, 2012

Birding Trip report of sikkim by Mike Prince,2003

Birding Trip report to sikkim by Mike  Prince,2003
Pemayangtse, Sikkim
Pemayangtse is just 1km from Pelling. A trail opposite the Mount Pandim Hotel encircles the Pemayangtse Gompa (monastery). The trail is dark and wet and provides a good chance of seeing some of the laughingthrushes and other skulking forest birds.

Selected sightings: Mountain Hawk Eagle, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Golden Bush Robin, Rusty-fronted and Hoary-throated Barwings, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-breasted and Maroon Accentors.

Pelling, Sikkim
Pelling is a small but fast-growing tourist destination. It is situated at 2060m and is 10kms from the district headquarters of West Sikkim, Geyzing.

Sangachoeling, Sikkim
The Sangachoeling Gompa is about 2kms trek from Pelling helipad. The uneven trail is quite open at the beginning and then goes through dark and moist forest for the last ½ km. It is a splendid trail for birds and can also be taken well beyond the monastery itself.

Selected sightings: Slaty-headed and Blossom-headed Parakeets, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Long-tailed Minivet, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Blyth's Leaf, Whistler's, Grey-cheeked and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Grey-sided and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Streak-breasted and Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Little Bunting.

Rabdentse, Sikkim
Rabdentse, near Sikkim, is now an archaeological site and was the second capital of the Kingdom of Sikkim. The footpath leading up to the ruins passes through good forest and scrub. The scrub at the rear of the throne proved a good spot to see hunting parties in action and the high viewpoint was a good place to observe migrating Steppe Eagles.

Selected sightings: Steppe Eagle, Striated Bulbul, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Dark-breasted Rosefinch.

Khecheopari Lake, Sikkim
Khecheopari Lake is a sacred lake 29kms from Pelling and at an altitude of 1800m. Undisturbed forests and reeds surround the lake. The path leading to the lake was good for tesias and wren-babblers, although both were heard more often than seen.

Selected sightings: Mallard, Goosander, Bay Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Hodgson's Redstart, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Little Bunting.

Mount Narsing (Ravangla), Sikkim
Mount Narsing is a couple of kilometres west of Ravangla. It is situated amidst an unused Tea Garden and some scrub. Apparently it has spectacular views of the Himalayas, although we didn’t see much (scenery or birds) due to poor weather conditions.

Selected sightings: Barred Cuckoo Dove.

Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Sikkim
Maenam is approximately 65kms from Gangtok. The Sanctuary starts from 2575m and climbs up to 3120m. The forest is thick with oak and rhododendron. It is a home of Himalayan Black Bear and Red Panda, and has a good population of Satyr Tragopan.
Selected sightings: Kalij Pheasant, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Broad-billed Warbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-breasted and Maroon-backed Accentors, Dark-breasted and Pink-browed Rosefinches.

Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, Sikkim
Fambong Lho is 25kms from Gangtok and covers an area of 51.76 square kilometres. The main vegetation here is oak, rhododendron and thick bamboo and ferns. It proved a great place to see several species of laughingthrush including Red-faced Liocichla. We actually spent most of our birding time outside the sanctuary from close to the approach road.

Selected sightings: Golden Bush Robin, Striated and Mountain Bulbuls, Brownish-flanked and Grey-sided Bush Warblers, Yellow-browed Warbler, several Laughingthrushes including Blue-winged, Black-faced and Red-faced Liocichla.

Rumtek, Sikkim
Rumtek, situated 24kms from Gangtok at a height of 1700m, is well known for its monastery. It is actually situated outside the south-eastern edge of Fambong Lho. The dirt road to Song mentioned in Kazmierczak and Singh [7] has now been tarred and had relatively heavy traffic. Birding was a bit disappointing here.

Selected sightings: Whistler's Warbler, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Himalayan Griffon, Common Buzzard, Sapphire Flycatcher, Buff-barred and White-spectacled Warblers, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Striped Tit Babbler.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Report from Sikkim + North Bengal, India 27 October - 1 November, 2004, Gary and Marlene Babic Summary

A Report from

Sikkim + North Bengal, India 27 October - 1 November, 2004Gary and Marlene Babic
This report covers a short birding trip to Pelling in Sikkim and Lava in North Bengal, both locations in northeast India. Birding was done at 2200 - 2500 km (7200 - 8250 ft). Overall the birding was slow despite perfect weather, and we were disappointed we did not see as many of our target birds as we had expected. However, the reader is urged to look at the bird trip list as we did see many highly-sought-after mid-elevation specialties of this region. Although Sikkim has some interesting birds, and dramatic scenery, most of the birds can be seen in Bhutan or other more-developed birding locations.
This trip was arranged by our guide, Sujan Chatterjee ( We contacted him after reading a trip report by Mike Prince from November 2003 which Sujan also guided. After we gave him a list of target birds, Sujan selected the itinerary and edited our list to the following 23 life birds which he said we should have "a good chance" of seeing.
Plain-backed Thrush                                   Long-billed Thrush
Tickell's Thrush                                         Grey-sided Thrush
Rusty-bellied Shortwing                              Sapphire Flycatcher
Golden Bush Robin                                     White-browed Bush Robin
Rufous-breasted Bush Robin                        Broad-billed Warbler
Grey-sided Laughingthrush                           Blue-winged Laughingthrush
Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler                        Golden-breasted Fulvetta
White-browed Fulvetta                                Black-chinned Yuhina
Black-throated Parrotbill                             Fire-tailed Sunbird
Maroon-backed Accentor                         Dark-breasted Rosefinch
Dark-rumped Rosefinch                           Spot-winged Rosefinch
Red-headed Bullfinch
Unfortunately, of these 23, we saw only the 8 which are highlighted. Although some of the birds are skulkers which are difficult to see when not calling, other birds such as rosefinches should have been seen but possibly they had not yet arrived (they are altitudinal migrants). It appears that there are two main birding seasons for this region, but neither is ideal. In October - November, the weather is good but the birds are not calling, and some altitudinal migrants may not have arrived. In March - April, the birds begin to call (mostly in April) and are supposedly much easier to see, but that is also when the rain begins, and typically there can be several days lost to rain.  
Most of the birds we saw can be just as easily seen in more established birding sites such as Nainital / Corbett (India), Bhutan, and Nepal. Birders who have been to one or more of these locations are likely to have a limited target list similar to ours. We did not even try for Blue-fronted Robin, which is a difficult skulker even when calling in spring. Higher-elevation birds such as Grandala would require a multi-day trek from Pelling.   
Following our trip, Sujan went to some higher-elevation locations and reported that many of the birds we had been trying to see were present up there. So a trip to Sikkim needs to be longer than ours to allow coverage of different elevations as well as various locations.
The area we visited is located between Nepal and Bhutan, in the foothills of the Himalayas. After flying Jet Airways into Bagdogra, which is in the plains, we drove north about one hour before the elevation began to increase dramatically. The growth of independent airlines such as Jet Airways and Sahara have provided more options and also encouraged Indian Airways to provide better service. However, the systems are still not up to normal standards: when we flew from Bagdogra to Mumbia via Kolkata on Jet Airways, they were unable to check us through to Mumbai. We had to collect our luggage in Kolkata and then check in for the onward flight to Mumbai - and we arrived at the Jet Airways check-in counter in Kolkata just as they were closing it. In Kolkata, as in several other Indian airports, you must re-identify your checked luggage just before boarding the plane or it will not go on the plane. 
The drive from Bagdogra to Pelling is only 160 kilometers, but it took us more than five hours. In many places the roads were in poor conditions, especially near Pelling where the recent monsoons had washed away most of the road. A special permit is required to enter Sikkim, which Sujan secured for us in Sirigura, just north of Bagdogra. Apparently this permit is also available in Delhi, but it takes two days as opposed to 30 minutes in Sirigura.
The scenery is spectacular in Pelling. Kanchenjunga, at 8586 m the highest peak in India and the third-highest in the world, was clearly visible. This view is from our hotel.
Lodging was good in Pelling, with a space heater and hot water. Night-time temperatures dropped to 5 C but daytime temperatures increased to 20 - 25 C. Birding was done within 10 km of Pelling. The sites we visited here, as well as in Lava, are well-documented in Kazmierczak's A Birdwatcher's Guide to India.
After two days in Pelling, we drove over to Lava which took five hours. The accommodation in Lava was a rustic lodge, with no heat and no shower. We stayed one night before transferring to a much nicer hotel, with heat, in Kalimpong. This added about 30 minutes to our drive but it was well worth it. The scenery in Lava is also nice, with nice views of snow-capped peaks, but not as dramatic as in Pelling.
Night-time temperatures in Lava were below 5 C, but day-time temperatures did not rise above 15 C. In addition, Lava has fog and damp weather that made 15 C feel much colder. Birding in Lava was at the Neora Valley park, which is just outside Lava, as well as along the Lava-Algarah Road.      
Day 1, Wednesday 27 October
After arrival at Badgogra airport at 1:30PM, we were met by Sujan and immediately drove to Siliguri to obtain our Sikkim permit. Passport-size photos are required, which we fortunately had. We also stocked up on snacks during the wait, and then continued on to Pelling. The road quickly became winding as we began to climb. We only made one quick stop along the drive as it was getting dark and the road is dangerous - another vehicle from Sujan's company had gone off this road the week earlier in fog. We had to stop at the Sikkim border to show permits, and then continued to Pelling. The road became worse, and during the last 5 km the road was almost washed out. This was a bit distressing to be driving at night. However, after many bumps, we arrived in Pelling and checked into the 2-star Hotel Norbughang. This is a very Nepalese-style hotel, comfortable and quiet with good food. We unpacked and had dinner.
Day 2, Thursday 28 October
We left the hotel at 5AM to walk up the rocky road to the Sangakcholing monastery, which was very close to our hotel. The scenery, which we did not see when we arrived due to the darkness, was spectacular. The weather was perfect. Although we were bundled up, with gloves, etc., by 9AM the temperature had increased nicely. According to Sujan, the road is usually good for rosefinches, but we saw none. The road was mostly washed out and impassable, but was under repair so this noise could have scared away some birds. As the road reaches the monastery, it enters some pine forest and this is where we saw most of the birds this morning. Fire-tailed Sunbirds were seen from the grounds of the monastery before we ate our boxed breakfast which the hotel brought up to us. They also took our jackets back to the hotel. The sunbird was to be the only target bird we would see in Pelling. However, during the walk back down the forest trail we had excellent views of Fire-tailed Myzornis and Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler. The walk back to the hotel was uneventful.
After lunch we drove to Rabdanatse, and walked a trail to the site of an old capital of Sikkim. This was open oak forest, and we only saw the common birds expected in this habitat.
That evening it rained, which we hoped would bring rosefinches down from the mountains where they presumably were still staying.    
Day 3, Friday 29 October
Another 5 AM start, and perfect weather and similar temperatures as yesterday. We drove to nearby Pemeyanste monastery and walked a nice trail leading to the monastery. We did not see anything unusual on the trail. We again had a box breakfast brought to us. After eating, we walked the trail again but still nothing. We then went to a nearby hotel that sometimes has Golden Bush-robin but it was not seen. Because we had a long drive ahead of us, we left the hotel at 11AM with a box lunch which we ate along the way to Lava.
Once we were past the washed-out road near Pelling, the roads to Lava were OK (by Indian standards). We still only averaged 30 km/hr. At 5PM we arrived near Lava and began our drive to our lodging at Rishop. This access road goes through an area managed by the park department, and they do not maintain it. It was in terrible condition, and it took us 30 minutes to cover the 1 km or so. There are several basic lodges here. Electricity was only connected in mid-2004, so conditions were quite rustic but clean. However, it was bitterly cold. After one night, we decided to try to relocate to some place with heat and showers.     
Day 4, Saturday 30 October
Up at 5AM to go to Neora Valley, but the ancient 4WD jeep vehicle would not start right away. Eventually we left and arrived at the entry point at 6:30AM. We walked most of the way up the road/trail before the clouds came in, threatening rain, so we walked back down before reaching the end of the road. We spent a long time tracking down some very elusive Maroon-backed Accentors. We had a nice flock of Golden-breasted Fulvettas come by in a cluster of bamboo. Among them was a single Broad-billed Warbler seen by Sujan but not by us. White-browed Fulvettas were seen at several locations. We also saw one very confiding female Dark-rumped Rosefinch on the trail. We returned to Lava, where Sujan made arrangements for us to transfer to the 4-star Silver Oaks hotel in Kalimpong. This added to the cost of the trip (an extra US 50 per night), but it was worthwhile. Although it also technically added an hour to our drive to Lava, in reality the difference was only 30 minutes because we avoided the slow drive to and from the Rishop lodge. We had a nice lunch at Rishop before driving down to Kalimpong.
Day 5, Sunday 31 October
We left Kalimpong at 4AM to drive to Lava to meet our 4WD at 5:15AM. But he did not show up until 6:15AM. We then made the same drive into Neora Valley. The weather was a bit better, and we walked to the end of the road. The trail does continue over the mountain, but the next major birding area (for Satyr Tragopan) is several hours away. Along the road we saw a few Blue-winged Laughingthrush and a single Broad-billed Warbler. Although we went passed by many nice stands of bamboo, no Black-throated Parrotbills were seen. We had a long walk of several km to the lunch location, where we found the jeep would not start due to dirty fuel.
Sujan is at back left, with a worried look as the driver makes repairs to our vehicle.
Eventually the jeep started, and we went partway down the road. We walked the last several km until dark, but only saw a few very skittish and unidentified female rosefinches. Sujan also spotted a Rusty-cheeked Laughingthrush at the extreme edge of its range. Drove back to Kalimpong.      
Day 6, Monday 1 November
Left the hotel at 4:45 and drove to the Lava-Algarah road, arriving at 6AM. We walked along this road until 7:45 when we started our drive back to Badgodra through some scenic tea plantations. The highlight of the morning was several Grey-sided Laughingthrush which were seen well.     
Bird List ("common" indicates the bird was seen at least three of the five days); our life birds are in bold.
Kalij Pheasant - several crossing the road at Neora Valley
Great Barbet - common at Neora Valley
Himalayan Swiftlet - common
White-throated Needletail - very close views at Sangakcholing
Asian Barred Owlet - one at Pemeyanste
Rock Pigeon - common
Ashy Wood Pigeon - one at Neora Valley
Black Stork - one flying over Neora Valley (passage migrant)
Barred Cuckoo-dove - at Pelling
Eurasian Woodcock - one on the road at dawn near Lava
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - a few in Pelling
Common Buzzard - one en route to Pelling
Steppe Eagle - several on migration
Mountain Hawk-eagle - two at Pelling
Common Kestrel - one at Pelling
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie - common
Common Green Magpie - a few
Grey Treepie - common at Pelling
House Crow - common
Large-billed Crow - common
Yellow-bellied Fantail - a few at Pelling
White-throated Fantail - common
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush - a few at Pelling
Blue Whistling Thrush - common, calling at dawn
Dark-throated Thrush - one on a treetop at dusk at Rishop
Dark-sided Flycatcher - several near Rishop
Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher - one along Lava-Algarah Road
Verditer Flycatcher - common
Large Niltava - one at Pemeyanste
Blue-fronted Redstart - common at Pelling
White-capped Water Redstart - one en route to Pelling
Common Myna - common / urban
White-tailed Nuthatch - common
Green-backed Tit - common
Yellow-cheeked Tit - a few at Pelling
Black-throated Tit - common
Striated Bulbul - at Neora Valley
Black Bulbul - the most common bulbul
Chestnut-headed Tesia - one glimpsed at Pemeyanste
Ashy-throated Warbler - common
Hume's Warbler - common
Grey-hooded Warbler, common at Lava
Whistler's Warbler - at Neora Valley
Broad-billed Warbler - one seen well at Neora Valley; Sujan saw a second bird.
Black-faced Warbler - common
Slaty-backed Forktail - two along Lava-Algarah road
White-throated Laughingthrush - common at Lava
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush - one at Pemeyanste Monastery
Striated Laughingthrush - common
Grey-sided Laughingthrush - a flock along the Lava-Algarah Road, seen well.
Blue-winged Laughinghthrush - one along the road at Neora Valley
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush - the most common laughingthrush
Red-faced Liocichla - a few
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler - one at Neora Valley
Streak-breasted Laughingthrush - common
Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler - one at Sangakcholing Monastery
Rufous-capped Babbler - common
Grey-throated Babbler - common
Red-billed Leiothrix - the most common babbler
Black-headed Shrike-babbler - a few at Neora Valley
Green Shrike-babbler - a few at Neora Valley (lifer for Sujan)
Black-eared Shrike-babbler - common
Rusty-fronted Barwing - common at Neora Valley
Hoary-throated Barwing - common at Neora Valley
Blue-winged Minla - common
Red-tailed Minla - common
Golden-breasted Fulvetta - flocks seen in bamboo at Neora Valley
Rufous-winged Fulvetta - common
White-browed Fulvetta - seen daily at Neora Valley
Nepal Fulvetta - common in mixed flocks
Rufous Sibia - common and noisy
Whiskered Yuhina - common
Stripe-throated Yuhina - seen daily at Neora Valley
Rufous-vented Yuhina - common
Fire-tailed Myzornis - excellent close views of a pair at Sangakcholing
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - common
Green-tailed Sunbird - common
Fire-tailed Sunbird - females and eclipse males at Sangakcholing and Neora Valley
House Sparrow - common
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - common in Lava and Pelling
Grey Wagtail - common
Olive-backed Pipit - common
Rufous-breasted Accentor - one at Pemeyanste
Maroon-backed Accentor - a few along the road at Neora Valley
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch - common
Dark-rumped Rosefinch - one female on the road at Neora Valley; a few other rosefinches unidentified


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