LAVA, WEST BENBAL, TRIP REPORT, 1-6 SEPTEMBER 2006

While preparing for this trip, I search many web-sites for information and did not find anything regarding lava in monsoon. This trip report aim to add information for this period which is not the best time of year to visit lava, but is better then not visit at all. The only advantage is being off season which can make the trip very cheap after hard negotiation over room prices and although it is cloudy, it never gets cold even at night.

Getting there
Travel by air in India improved dramatically in the last few years with low cost airlines mushrooming. They operate like in Europe by internet. Air deccan (airdeccan.net) flies from Delhi to badgodra for around 3500rp. If you are flexible with time, you can get cheaper flights. I paid 2000rp. From bagdogra a direct privet taxi will take you to Lava for 1200rp.

Leeches
Leeches are blood sucking worms that infest all Indian forests during monsoon and in Lava also in other seasons. Actually they are harmless. To avoid them, stay on tarmac roads or on paths without vegetation and wear short pens and sandals or sleepers so you can get them off easy.

Weather
Early September is still monsoon. I arrived in Lava on 31 august evening and out of the full six days I was there, two had rain all day. The others started nice with clouds start forming in the middle of the day. In Lava at this time of year you can bird from 4.45A.M, and you have plenty of time. On two days it was possible to bird also in the afternoon. Lava seats on a ridge of over 2000m. When the clouds come they usually cover the mountain and visibility is very limited.

Birding
Vegetation is very thick and seeing any birds for more then a brief second is difficult. It is more difficult if you are not familiar with bird sound. The way to success is to study the checklist and to know what to look for. Most of the birds I saw belong to the babbler family and were moving fast and loud in the trees and undergrowth. I did not see any robins as they only come down from higher altitude in winter. Many of the birds I could not identify as they moved to fast or the light condition in the clouds was very poor.

Checklist
Grey peacock pheasant, Great barbet, Blue throated barbet, Cuckoo sp. (h), Himalayan swiftlet, Brown wood owl (h), Ashy wood pigeon, Oriental turtle dove, Barred cuckoo dove, Wedge-tailed green pigeon, Black eagle, Eurasian sparrow hawk, Rufous-bellied eagle, Mountain hawk eagle, Jungle crow, Yellow-bellied fantail, white-throated fantail, Ashy drongo, Blue whistling thrush, Long billed thrush, Grey winged blackbird, Gould’s shortwing(m), Dark-sided flycatcher, White-gorgeted flycatcher, Little-pied flycatcher, Snowy-browed flycatcher, Verditer flycatcher, Large niltava, Rufous bellied niltava, Grey-headed canary flycatcher, Slaty-backed forktail, Grey bushchat, White tailed nuthatch, Rufous vented tit, Green backed tit, Great tit, Black throated tit, Barn swallow, Striated bulbul, Mountain bulbul, Black bulbul, Bush warbler sp., Ashy throated warbler, Blyth’s leaf warbler, Golden spectacled warbler, Grey hooded warbler, Grey cheeked warbler, Chestnut crowned warbler, Black faced warbler, Striated laughingthrush, Rufous necked laughingthrush, Chestnut crowned laughingthrush, Streaked breasted scimitar babbler, Spotted wren babbler, Rufous capped babbler, Golden babbler, Red billed leiothrix, Cutia, Black-headed shrike babbler, White-browed shrike babbler, Black eared shrike babbler, Rusty fronted barwing, Blue-winged minla, chestnut-tailed minla, Red-tailed minla, Yellow-throated fulvetta, Rufous-winged fulvetta, White browed fulvetta, Whiskered yuhina, Stripe throated yuhina, Rufous sibia, Green tailed sunbird, Black throated sunbird, Fire tailed sunbird, Streaked spiderhunter, Tree sparrow, White wagtail, Grey wagtail, Yellow breasted greenfinch, Brown bullfinch, Red headed bullfinch.

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