Hours after sunset, just as the clock struck nine at the only lodge in Mayodia, loud mechanical groans confirmed the shutting down of the diesel-powered generators, cutting electricity supply to all light bulbs and, more importantly, the water heaters. Off the power grid entirely, the hill town of Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh sits 8,710 feet above the sea level, overlooking ice-capped Chinese peaks and hosting (beyond the hundreds of exotic bird species) just a handful of intrepid tourists in sub-zero temperatures.
“Keep the camera batteries under your pillow at night to preserve charge in the cold,” I was told, after a mere 20-minute expedition to find the Himalayan Wool Owl in the dark. But as drained as my camera batteries were after my brief meeting with the clearly-irked owl, my tour of the almost-mythical land of Lower Dibang Valley — the tenth least populous district in the country — had just begun.
Above photo: The Himalayan Wood Owl (Strix nivicolum)
Consisting of the Mishmi Hills — a southward extension of the Great Himalayan Mountain Ranges beside the Chinese border — and the town of Roing in the lower plains, the district boasts of hosting over 680 species of birds, including the elusive Sclater's monal, the Ward's trogon and the Fire-tailed myzornis. Although my maiden birding experience did not lead me to spot any of them, I still managed to catch sight of scores of bird species that I had previously only heard stories of.
Here are a few of them (captions follow images) —