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.

Pic 1 - Himalayan wood-owl 1024

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)

Pic 2 - spotted laughingthrush 1921

The spotted laughingthrush (Lanthocincla ocellata)

Pic 3 - Scaly laughingthrush

The scaly laughingthrush (Trochalopteron subunicolor)

Pic 4 - Manipur fulvetta (option 2) 1921

The Manipur fulvetta or streak-throated fulvetta (Fulvetta manipurensis)

Pic 5 - Winter wren 1921

The Winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)

Pic 6 - Darjeeling woodpecker 1921

Above: The Darjeeling woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis)

The Dibang Valley is named after one of the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra which flows through the region, the Dibang River. And the best part about arranging for a birding trip from Assam to this region in Arunachal’s heart is that the roads pass through several other tributaries of the Brahmaputra, which also house tens of migratory and endemic birds in lower climes.

One such area is the Maguri Bill, a wetland near the Assam-Arunachal border. Here, birds much bigger in size, like the very photogenic Ruddy shelduck, tease photographers as they fly all over the lakes, catching prey and some escaping harsher winters up north.

Pic 7 - Ruddy shelduck 1921

The Ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Pic 8 - Purple moorhen 1921

The Purple moorhen or Western swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)

Pic 9 - Citrine wagtail 1921

The Citrine wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

Pic 10 - Barn swallow 1921

The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Pic 11 - Brown hawk-owl 1921

The Brown hawk-owl (Ninox scutulata)

Pic 12 - White-throated kingfisher 1 1921

The White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

Pic 13 - Red-headed trogon 1921

The red-headed trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus)

Pic 14 - Little wagtail 1921

The white wagtail (Motacilla alba)

All photographs courtesy the author.

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