A birding trip to the south of Assam among the Borail ranges of the Dima Hasao district led to a moment of delight for five birders of the state.
The birders, Namketeung Jeme and Ramen Das, both retired DFOs of Assam forest department; Dhurbajyoti Borgohain, retired chief engineer of Brahmaputra Board, wildlife lovers Sapon Baruah and Bijoyananda Chowdhury along with their driver Biren Kalita, started the trip on March 4, 2021.
With the winds of ‘Phagun’ calling out the wild towards the wilderness, the team headed towards the Cachar Hills with cameras, tripods and all resources required for the trip to the forest in anticipation and hope to capture new species of birds.
After spending the night at Haflong, early next morning, they headed towards Mahur and then a diversion from there, the team moved towards the forests of the Borail ranges, uphill through undulating territory to reach an altitude of 1000 metres.
Huge patches of secondary forests with an abundance of bamboo grooves thriving with fauna and flora especially a variety of birds, this region is definitely a birder’s paradise.
As the evening set in throwing elongated shadows of the bamboo trees, a sense of disillusionment lingered upon the team as nothing new had been seen or heard, no new species of bird sighted so far and the days almost done.
As the silence of the forest bore upon the moment, a distinct call from amongst the grooves, a sound so pure and nascent that renewed energy reverberated the evening sky and the team jumped to action.
It was the Hodgson’s frogmouth (Batrachostomus hodgsoni), a species belonging to the family of Frogmouths Podargidae. These frogmouth species are distributed in Northeast India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, South China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
And this was the first sighting in the state of Assam. The earlier sightings had been in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Mishmi Hills (https://www.northeastbirdingtours.com/hodgsons-frogmouth) and in Sikkim as reported by the Bombay Natural History Society (https://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=3024)
The Hodgson’s frogmouth is a highly elusive, nocturnal bird. It is a small bird, measuring 20 to 25 cm in length and weighing 50 grams. The plumage varies between male and female frogmouths. The male Hodgson’s frogmouth is rufous-brown on the upper side and pale brown on the underside.
The female is much paler. There is a necklace like pale spotting on the chest. The eyes are small, though it is a nocturnal bird. The bill is wide giving huge frog-like gape, which is useful in capturing insects. The frogmouth has bristles around the base of the bill.
The eyebrows are paler and have long bristles. The Hodgson’s frogmouth call is a long whistling sound.
These Hodgson’s frogmouth species are distributed in the evergreen, temperate forests in Northeast India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The frogmouth subspecies B. h. hodgsoni is distributed in Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura states in India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Hodgson’s frogmouth subspecies B.h. indochinae is distributed in Myanmar, South China, North Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
This trip was historic as this elusive bird let the team capture photographs and videos for the first time in the state of Assam. Photographic evidence of the presence of Hodgson’s Frogmouth in the state of Assam could be recorded for future references.