Sikkim Part 4: Yuksom and back

Continued from part 3….

Day 7 3rd Dec: Yuksom

Yuksom was located in a valley, the base for treks to Kanchendzonga National Park, and one of the tubes had been there before on a Singalila trek, of which he had rather painful memories. The high point of Yuksom cuisine was Gupta restaurant, which stocked canned food, and served comfort food for homesick trekkers. Having been utterly spoilt by the luxuries at Mount Pandim hotel in Pemayangste (which included 6-course lunches, heaters in the rooms and hot water bottles in the bed), Hotel Tashigang in Yuksom seemed woefully inadequate, and we quickly zeroed in on Mr. Gupta as the answer to our culinary needs.

On this last leg of the trip the battle lines had become clearly drawn, with the Tubes who had briefly defected to the birders side now firmly back in their own team. This morning the Tubes made plans for an ambitious full-day trek to a monastery, stocked up on munchies and snacks, and threatened to disappear for good and take up the Buddhist way of life. The Bulbs, knowing them all too well, chuckled inwardly and laid bets on whether they would be back for lunch.

At the hotel we parted ways, with the intrepid explorers setting off maps in hand, while the birders jumped into the car for a short ride to Norbugang Coronation throne, which was supposed to have some good birding. At the hotel itself I had seen a large niltava and rufous bellied niltava while waiting for the others, and as soon as we entered Norbugang we got excellent views of a rufous-gorgeted flycatcher, its prominent white supercilium and orange throat patch clearly visible. This was soon followed by a good spotting of jungle owlet, which appeared to be a resident.

The compound was full of very tall trees and soon a brown-throated treecreeper appeared, which we followed from tree trunk to tree trunk. The Norbugang campus housed a school for monks-in-training, and as we birded there a few kids started trickling in, teasing and playing. A flock of red-tailed minlas were found feeding at eye-level around the back of the campus, and along with them a blue-winged minla gave a brief sighting. A large niltava was seen around the entrance to the compound, and then a double bonanza of a greater yellownape followed by a lesser.

It was a satisfied lot that left Norbugang, and from there we headed to the Yuksom helipad area. Apart from common stonechats in the scrub leading to the helipad, and a grey bushchat perched on every other available stick, we were pleased to discover a pair of Hodgson’s redstarts, which provided a welcome change after the ubiquitous blue-fronted. Not much else was seen, as it was now late morning, and so we headed down towards the main road to look for forktails and dippers near the streams.

We soon came to a fairly big stream gushing over a rocky stretch, with an overlooking bridge, and knew this would be a good spot. True to form, a pair of plumbeous water-redstarts showed up and kept us entertained. A tattered raptor flew overhead, later IDed as black eagle. A little further on, a smaller stream where a little forktail pranced about, and just as we had decided to leave, a brown dipper appeared far off and charmed its way into our hearts with its cute routine of sticking up its neck and cocking its tail every few seconds like a cuckoo clock. 

Heading back, we thought of checking on the Tubes, and were amused to find that they had cut short their arduous trekking plans and had already settled into Gupta restaurant! Post lunch we continued our birding at Norbugang, where J got excellent shots of the jungle owlet.

Day 8 4th Dec: Back

Our train from New Jalpaiguri was in the evening, and so we decided to avail of the morning birding session, once again at Norbugang. Just outside the campus, two little boys prowled with catapults, and on being questioned, replied that they eat the birds. Inside the compound, it was a different story, with the red-tailed minlas feeding in one corner, and the large niltava hopping in and out of a patch of sunlight as it hunted for insects, its contrasting blue shoulder patch glinting brilliantly. Norbugang added only one more species to our list – an orange-bellied leafbird perched along with rufous sibia, but it was a lovely serene place, and we spent another enjoyable morning there, reluctant to leave.

After Norbugang we turned our vehicle towards the Pelling road, but the birding was unproductive, with only a common kestrel added to our list (surprisingly the first of the trip), and we soon headed back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the return journey.  When we left the Tubes had been toying with the idea of going for a trek/walk, but we got back to find them sprawled in front of the TV watching the India-Sri Lanka cricket match!

All this while our driver had been fidgety and desperate to start the return journey, a drive of 6+ hours, teling us that there was a “light problem”. We ignored him and proceeded with brunch plans at Gupta restaurant. When finally we got going, the Tubes promptly banned all birding stops, suggesting that the Bulbs were responsible for the delay. We complied largely, except when a resplendent red-billed blue magpie flew across the road, and later when I demanded a stop complaining about being cooped up in the back seat (but in reality wanted to click some spangled drongos in the valley below, and increase our “score”, just as the Tubes checked on the cricket score on their mobiles).

The road condition was poor and as darkness fell around us we realized the reason for our driver’s discomfort – it appeared the “light problem” was nothing to do with the vehicle, as we had assumed, but more to do with the fact that he couldn’t see very well at night. His speed dropped drastically as he struggled to follow the vehicle in front, and we kept our sanity by coming up with whacky cryptic bird clues. Thankfully, we managed to reach NJP in one piece, just in time for our train, and thus ended our fantastic and memorable trip to the eastern Himalayas, certainly a region deserving several repeat visits in the future.

Extra: Here’s Madhavi’s cartoon on birding in Sikkim!

Complete bird list:

1    Mallard
2    Common Merganser
3    Lesser Yellownape
4    Greater Yellownape
5    Grey-headed Woodpecker
6    Great Barbet
7    Golden-throated Barbet
8    Blue-throated Barbet
9    Green bee-eater
10  Green-billed Malkoha
11   Asian Koel
12   House Swift
13   Asian Barred Owlet
14   Jungle Owlet
15   Rock Pigeon
16   Oriental Turtle Dove
17   Black Kite
18   Black Eagle
19   Greater Spotted Eagle
20   Steppe Eagle
21   Rufous-bellied Eagle
22   Mountain Hawk Eagle
23   Common Kestrel
24   Common Buzzard
25   Indian Cormorant
26   Intermediate Egret
27   Cattle Egret
28   Indian Pond Heron
29   Orange-bellied Leafbird
30   Brown Shrike
31   Long-tailed Shrike (tricolor)
32   Grey-backed Shrike
33   Eurasian Jay
34   Red-billed Blue Magpie
35   Common Green Magpie
36   Grey Treepie
37   Red-billed Chough
38   House Crow
39   Large-billed Crow
40   Black Drongo
41   Ashy Drongo
42   Spangled Drongo
43   Brown Dipper
44   Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush (female)
45   Blue Rock Thrush
46   Blue Whistling Thursh
47   Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
48   Verditer Flycatcher
49   Large Niltava
50   Rufous-bellied Niltava (male)
51   Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
52   Orange-flanked Bush Robin
53   Golden Bush Robin
54   Hodgson’s Redstart (male, female)
55   Blue-fronted Redstart (male, female)
56   White-capped Water Redstart
57   Plumbeous Water Redstart
58   Little Forktail
59   Slaty-backed Forktail
60   Grey Bushchat (male, female)
61   Common Stonechat
62   Asian Pied Starling
63   Common Myna
64   White-vented Myna
65   Northern Hill Myna
66   Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
67   White-tailed Nuthatch
68   Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
69   Rusty-flanked Treecreeper
70   Brown-throated Treecreeper
71   Green-backed Tit
72   Yellow-cheeked Tit
73   Grey-crested tit
74   Sultan Tit
75   Black-throated Tit
76   Striated Bulbul
77   Himalayan Bulbul
78   Red-vented Bulbul
79   Mountain Bulbul
80   Oriental White-eye
81   Common Tailorbird
82   Hume’s Warbler
83   Blyth’s Leaf Warbler
84   Golden-spectacled Warbler
85   Grey-hooded Warbler
86   Grey-cheeked Warbler
87   White-throated Laughingthrush
88   Striated Laughingthrush
89   Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush
90   Red-faced Liocichla
91   Jungle Babbler
92   Red-billed Leiothrix
93   Green Shrike Babbler
94   Black-eared Shrike Babbler
95   Hoary-throated Barwing
96   Blue-winged Minla
97   Chestnut-tailed Minla
98   Red-tailed Minla
99   Rufous-winged Fulvetta
100  Nepal Fulvetta
101  Whiskered Yuhina
102  Stripe-throated Yuhina
103  Rufous Sibia
104  Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
105  Green-tailed Sunbird
106  House Sparrow
107  Eurasian Tree Sparrow
108  Grey Wagtail
109  Olive-backed Pipit
110  Rufous-breasted Accentor
111  Yellow-breasted Greenfinch
112  Dark-breasted Rosefinch (male)
113  Little Bunting

Where we stayed: 
Kalimpong – Orchid Retreat
Ravangla – Mt. Narsing Resort
Pemayangste – Elgin Mount Pandim
Yuksom – Hotel Tashigang
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3 Responses to Sikkim Part 4: Yuksom and back

  1. birdsonthebrainetc says:

    SUPERB concluding instalment!! And of course, fabulous pics! Esp the red-billed leiothrix! What a bird! I hope we see some of these in Assam!

  2. deponti says:

    Yabbah….113 species….wow. Now I’m waiting for the next trip report 🙂

  3. bonerpakhi says:

    Deponti – don’t remind me of the backlog please!

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