Zuluk – Nature’s Paradise
Text : Soma Jha……….zuluk
Text and Photographs : Soma Jha
The five day trip to Zuluk was organized by Wandervogel Adventures, Kolkata with Siddharta Goswami executing all arrangements most satisfactorily. It was a six member team with various levels of interest in birding and photography. Zuluk formally spelt Dzuluk, is a place of great scenic beauty in eastern Sikkim and it used to be connected to the silk route from China.
An overnight train from Calcutta took us to New Jalpaiguri in the morning and we set off in a Tata Sumo from the station for Zuluk via Teesta Bazar-Kalingpong-Algarah-Pedong ( NJP station-Kalingpong is around 70 kms ). At the Reshi check post you enter east Sikkim (Innerline permits are needed for this part of the country and can be got at Rongli) and then go on to Rongli-Lingtam-Padamchen and finally Zuluk – this last phase of the journey is about 30 kms and the altitude gained is 4000 ft to 9000 ft. The total distance clocked from NJP – Zuluk was151 kms and an almost non-stop journey would take 6 hours.
A bit of birding in the late afternoon around Pedong gave us Grey Bushchat, Grey-hooded Warbler, Rusty-tailed Treecreeper, White-crested Laughingthrush and as darkness descended, close to Lingtam, the headlights of the car fell on a small feline figure on the side of the road. Siddhartha, who had seen and photographed one in the Sunderbans, confirmed it to be a young Leopard Cat. Alas it escaped being photographed but what a moment !
During the next four days when the weather permitted ( almost two days were lost to rains ), we made various trips up beyond Dzuluk to Longthu ( 18 km/ 11,000 ft – Himalayan Monal zone ) and then to Nathang Valley up to Kupup which is another 15 km from Longthu at an altitude of 14,300 ft. The other birding route was going down from Zuluk to Padamchen for a distance of about 10 km. These were the two areas where we scoured for birds.
The birds seen between Dzuluk to Longthu were Fire-tailed Sunbirds (very many), Chestnut-tailed Minla, White-browed Fulvetta, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and Scaly Laughingthrushes, Olive-backed Pipit, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-capped Water Redstart, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Greenish and Whistler’s Warblers and Aberrant Bush Warbler, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Grey-backed Shrike, Little Forktail, Dark-sided Flycatcher and White-collared Blackbird. A female Himalayan Monal scurried across the road on the second day but we caught no sight of the male. It seems the best time to see monals is from Nov-May.
Strangely, though the morning was sunny and clear, there were hardly any birds at Nathang valley and Kupup ( very close to the Indo-China border ). All we saw were Blue Whistling Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit, Blue-fronted Redstart, Black Redstart, White-capped Water Redstart and White-collared Blackbird.No finches or choughs or any other high altitude birds that I thought we may see there.
The sector between Zuluk and Padamchen gave us Barred Cuckoo Dove, Common Stonechat, Striated and Whiskered Yuhina, Oriental Turtle Dove, Common Hoopoe and Satyr Tragopan.
Great views of the Kanchanjangha can be had at Tambi viewpoint on your way to Longthu. The sighting of the Brown Goral ( N.g. hodgsoni ), a stocky goat-antelope was a high point of the trip. Pale Weasel and Himalayan Tahr were also seen though not by all members of the team. There were plenty of pikas/ Himalayan Mouse-hares around.
Also some good butterflies like the Himalayan Barred Woodbrown, Himalayan Large Silverstripe and Yellow Owl.
On our way down to NJP on the last day, we saw Verditer Flycatchers, Ashy and Spangled Drongos, Shikra and White-rumped Needletails. Despite the rains and the number of bird species being not too high, it was a good trip and personally for me most memorable for the momentous sighting of the tragopan.
A word about a sighting at Rambhi, 10 kms ahead Sevoke on the day that we were returning to New Jalpaiguri station. An accident had created a huge traffic jam and as I waited in the car, a little bird on a small tree on the left by the Teesta bank, caught my attention. It had a loud and distinct call and was rather restless. By the time I got down to taking a shot, our car started to move and I managed a few bad shots. On my return, after consulting with a few experts and listening to the call, I am certain that it was a Rufescent Prinia.[accordions id=”5732″]
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