Birding in Laitkynsew – Cherrapunjee | Barapani lake | Travel Guide

Birding in Laitkynsew – Cherrapunjee | Barapani lake | Travel Guide

Cherrapunjee also known as SOHRA (in local language) is better known as the wettest place on earth for the extensively heavy rainfall that the place experiences throughout the year. It has an average rainfall of 11718.4 mm annually approximately. Located in the north-east state of Meghalaya in India, Cherrapunjee has a rich historical heritage and was the first British outpost in this part of the country. It is situated at an altitude of 1300 metres above sea level and is 56kms away from the state capital of Shillong to the south.

WHY BIRDING in Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee ??

Meghalaya as a state happens to be located ideally in a transit zone which experiences a varied flora & fauna. It has the perfect mix of Indian, Indo- Chinese, Indo – Malayan fauna. Geographically if one looks into Meghalaya, it will be found that the place has a mixture of hills, plain grasslands, cultivations, bamboo growths, secondary growths, deep valleys, boulder filled streams, waterfalls, barren plateau.

Laitkynsew is a village to the south – west of Cherrapunjee which has diverese landscape & in nutshell contains all the geographical attributes of Meghalaya. Thus, here the altitude varies from 200m above sea level in the valley to 1200m approximately on the plateau. This has led to far more homogeneous composition of fauna and thereby the birds one can find varies with altitude and habitat.

The place is more interesting since a varied local fauna is restricted to the hill tracts of the  khasi hills where Laitkynsew is located. Some of the birds are endemic to the region i.e. they are not found anywhere else in India while most of them move around in south-western China and North Myanmar. The birds mainly include a rich variety of high rainfall loving birds restricted to the southern slopes of Khasi hills. They have a montane distribution.

The most important and interesting component of birdlife here includes the migrating birds from nesting grounds further north from Himalayas, Tibet, China or even Siberia. many of the birds are wintering i.e. spending a considerable amount of time here while others are visiting this place on their way to further south in Thailand.

The coexistence of such varied geographical conditions makes Meghalaya & particularly the southern khasi hills a perfect place for bird watching. Laitkynsew happens to be located exactly on the southern flank of the Khasi hills.

One can spot more than 150 different species of birds in this area over a period of 7 days if the jungle paths are taken and passed through with patience.

Some noticeable bird species found are as follows:-

Olive backed pipit, sci name: Anthus hodgsoni. This species breeds in Himalayas & is a widespread winter visitor. Habitat includes open forests. approx 15cm in size. They usually fly in flocks of 10 - 12.
Olive backed pipit, sci name: Anthus hodgsoni. This species breeds in Himalayas & is a widespread winter visitor. Habitat includes open forests. approx 15cm in size. They usually fly in flocks of 10 – 12.
Grey Sibia, Sci name: Malacias gracilis. Endemic to the NE Indian hills. habitat is mainly pine forests of khasi hills. this species is hard to locate and i luckily found it in the evening on my way back to the hotel in laitkynsew.
Grey Sibia, Sci name: Malacias gracilis. Endemic to the NE Indian hills. habitat is mainly pine forests of khasi hills. this species is hard to locate and i luckily found it in the evening on my way back to the hotel in laitkynsew.
Chestnut headed Bea eater, sci name: Merops leschenaulti
Chestnut headed Bea eater, sci name: Merops leschenaulti

Common stonechat, sci name: Saxicola leucurus. breeds in N & W pakistan, winter visitor in India
Common stonechat, sci name: Saxicola leucurus. breeds in N & W pakistan, winter visitor in India
BLACK BULBUL, Sci name: Hypsipetes leucocephalus. Resides in Himalayas & NE India in board-leaved trees and plantations. one can spot them sitting on canopies.
BLACK BULBUL, Sci name: Hypsipetes leucocephalus. Resides in Himalayas & NE India in board-leaved trees and plantations. one can spot them sitting on canopies.
Red-vented Bulbul, Sci name: Pycnonotus cafer. found in plenty and in big groups. widespread resident.
Red-vented Bulbul, Sci name: Pycnonotus cafer. found in plenty and in big groups. widespread resident.
Golden-fronted Leafbird, Sci name: Chloropsis aurifrons
Golden-fronted Leafbird, Sci name: Chloropsis aurifrons
HOW TO REACH Barapani lake & Laitkynsew ??

Easily accessible from Guwahati. From airport & railway station one can hire taxis to Barapani lake & Cherrapunjee market.

It is a 2.5 hr drive to Barapani & 4 – 5 hour drive to Cherrapunjee from Guwahati. Barapani falls on route to Cherrapunjee.

From Cherrapunjee market one needs to hire a local taxi to go to Laitkynsew village which is approximately 10kms away from the market.

SPECIAL CATCH :
CRESTED FINCHBILL, sci name: Spizixos canifrons. Endemic to NE hills. It was a special moment since on my way back to Guwahati when I was approaching Mawkdok valley view I requested my driver to stop by and give me 5 mins. just then my eyes caught attention of a flock of birds on the far side of the hill slope. zoomed in | Tamron 150 - 600 | did the job | prized catch. It forages from high up in trees down to bushes and undergrowth
CRESTED FINCHBILL, sci name: Spizixos canifrons. Endemic to NE hills. It was a special moment since on my way back to Guwahati when I was approaching Mawkdok valley view I requested my driver to stop by and give me 5 mins. just then my eyes caught attention of a flock of birds on the far side of the hill slope. zoomed in | Tamron 150 – 600 | did the job | prized catch. It forages from high up in trees down to bushes and undergrowth
Where to stay in Laitkynsew ??

Cherrapunjee holiday resort which is a family run business is an optional stay which is located exactly in middle of Laitkynsew and is itself a very good destination for bird watching. One can find a minimum of 20 different species on the resort campus over a period of 3 days.

There are other home stays available on way to double decker root bridge which is an economical option.

There is also an option for guest houses near the homestays which are run by the village panchayat on way to double decker root bridge.

Where to stay in Barapani ??

Orchid lake resort is an optional stay whose compound is itself a good birding destination. few guest houses are also present along the lake. one can also stay in Shillong which is 15 kms away & where a lot of budget hotels are present.

SPECIAL CATCH :
Rosy Minivet, sci name: Pericrocotus roseus. I was relaxing on the double decker bridge surroundings after completing a stiff climb for 3 hrs at a stretch when suddenly a flock of birds came & sat on the tree above me. I could not make out instantly but did not hesitate to click the pictures after which I realised that I have captured this beauty. It has been rarely spotted in India while info says that it breeds in Himalayas & NE India.
Rosy Minivet, sci name: Pericrocotus roseus. I was relaxing on the double decker bridge surroundings after completing a stiff climb for 3 hrs at a stretch when suddenly a flock of birds came & sat on the tree above me. I could not make out instantly but did not hesitate to click the pictures after which I realised that I have captured this beauty. It has been rarely spotted in India while info says that it breeds in Himalayas & NE India.

In Barapani lake, the complete surroundings of the lake is good for birding while the more concentration of birds is around Orchid lake resort and water sports complex where one gets a good 400m walk along both sides of which there are good birding opportunities.

In Laitkynsew & Cherrapunjee the complete place is suitable for birding. However there are some noticeable treks which one can undertake to get a good look at the birdlife present here.

  • Trek to Double decker living root bridge – 7 hrs walking up & down hill. one an see commanding views of valleys on route.
  • Trek to Umkar living root bridge – up & down 3km walk from the Cherrapunjee holiday resort grounds.
  • Trek to Umunoi living root bridge – up & down 4 km walkfrom the Cherrapunjee holiday resort grounds.
  • Village walk to Laikynsew view point.
  • David Scot pony tail trek – named after David Scot, the political agent of the British empire who constructed this pony trail from the Sylhet plains in Bangladesh to  the Brahmaputra valley in Assam across the Khasi hills. The trail starts at the foothills of Laitkynsew proceeds to Sohra. the trail from the resort takes one upto Mawshamok village.
  • Mawkdok valley view point.

Birding trails in Barapani & Cherrapunjee :-

EATING OPTIONS:-

Hotels in Cherrapunjee have good range of cuisines but if one lives in a homestay noodles, maggi, biscuits are the options. The villagers have to climb up 3 hrs to the market which is operational 3 times in a week only. One can also eat rice in the homestays. Pork meat & chicken is available in plenty.

Some more bird species found in the region are as follows:-

Plumbeous water redstart, sci name: Rhyacornis fuliginosa. habitat in mountain streams and rivers.
Plumbeous water redstart, sci name: Rhyacornis fuliginosa. habitat in mountain streams and rivers.
Black crested bulbul
Black crested bulbul
Orange-bellied leafbird
Orange-bellied leafbird
SPECIAL CATCH :
FLAVESCENT BULBUL. sci name: Pycnonotus flavescens.
FLAVESCENT BULBUL. sci name: Pycnonotus flavescens.
FLAVESCENT BULBUL. sci name: Pycnonotus flavescens. Endemic to NE hills only. this species is hard to spot. located near Mawkdok valley view point. keeps in flocks of 6 - 20 birds. forages inside bushes and trees with plenty of undergrowth.
FLAVESCENT BULBUL. sci name: Pycnonotus flavescens. Endemic to NE hills only. this species is hard to spot. located near Mawkdok valley view point. keeps in flocks of 6 – 20 birds. forages inside bushes and trees with plenty of undergrowth.
QUICK REFERENCE MAP:-

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Language Spoken:-

Locals speak English majorly and the Local Khasi language. Hindi is also spoken by few. Christian population is dominant in this part.

Bird List:-
  1. Grey Sibia
  2. Rufous-necked laughingthrush
  3. Spotted dove
  4. Red-vented bulbul
  5. Chestnut-tailed starling
  6. Ashy drongo
  7. Common stonechat
  8. Oriental white eye
  9. Golen fronted leafbird
  10. Little-pied flycatcher
  11. Chestnut-headed bee eater
  12. Crested finchbill
  13. Rosy minivet
  14. Orange-bellied leafbird
  15. Maroon oriole
  16. Common myna
  17. Ashy bulbul
  18. Blu-winged siva
  19. Plumbous water redstart
  20. Asian brown flycatcher
  21. Golden oriole
  22. White-rumped shama.
  23. Blue-throated barbet
  24. Bar-winged flycatcher shrike
  25. Short-billed minivet
  26. Black crested bulbul
  27. Flavescent bulbul
  28. Black bulbul
  29. Mountain bulbul
  30. Green-backed tit
  31. Olive-backed pipit
  32. Russet Sparrow

Hope birders will find the information useful and explore this unexplored part of the country……


My next blog on Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary…click below for reading the same….

Birding in Latpanchar | Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary

 

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