2000 WEST BURMA/(MYANMAR) TOUR
A pair of small birds flew into a nearby tree. White-bellied Minivet! Before the participants could get a good look at them, they flew to another tree. They again flew off before all could get a view. We tried to find them, but they seemed to have vanished, so we continued looking for other birds. An hour later, we returned to the place we'd seen the minivets and they appeared again to everyone's satisfaction. Three days later, we had excellent views of this little known species at another site. The sightings were in central Burma, enroute to western Burma. While present in India, it appears to be much rarer and nomadic there, making it nearly impossible to find on a tour. Central Burma seems to be a much easier place to find it. Complicating matters is that the Indian and Burmese races may be split into two species.
Our reconnaissance trip to West Burma in 1995 was the first ornithological visit to the area since before World War II. This tour resulted from what we learned on that trip. It was quite an enjoyable trip with a superb Burmese operator. Now that Burma is opening more of its area to tourists, trips into its hinterlands are feasible. Because there has been little development, many species, currently scarce in surrounding countries, are still common. And because there has been virtually no ornithological activity in Burma for over 60 years, the possibility for discovery exists.
Our tour centered on Mt. Victoria, at 10,200 ft (3,000+ m.), it is the highest mountain in the southern Chin State. We spent a full week exploring its slopes. Ranging from dry deciduous forest in the lowlands to tall broadleaf evergreen forest on its upper slopes, it offers an excellent cross-section of the birds of western Burma. We saw all four of Burma's endemic bird species: (1) the White- browed Nuthatch, a quite attractive bird, is fairly common at high elevations; (2) the Hooded Treepie is uncommon in lower dry deciduous forest; (3) the Burmese Bushlark, a newly split species, is common on the plains of central Burma, as is (4) the White-throated Babbler. We had repeated views of all four.
In addition, there are a number of species more easily seen in western Burma than elsewhere: Mountain Bamboo-Partridge, White-rumped Falcon, Brown-capped and Striped Laughingthrushes, Grey Sibia, Streak-throated Barwing, Long-tailed Wren-Babbler, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Yellow-streaked Warbler, and Black-bibbed Tit. We saw all of these species, most more than once and several often.
Beyond these local specialties, we saw some that are good to see anywhere; Red-faced Liocichla, Green Shrike-Babbler, Black-headed Shrike-Babbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Black-browed Tit, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Chinese Babax, Red-tailed Minla, Long-tailed and Plain-backed Thrushes, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Brown and Russet Bush-Warblers, Slaty-blue and Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Rain Quail, Hill Partridge, Kalij Pheasant, Blue-winged Laughingthrush and Spot-winged Grosbeak.
In addition we saw many more widespread species: Bar-headed Goose, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Oriental Honey-Kite, Pied Harrier, White-eyed Buzzard, Changeable and Mountain Hawk-Eagles, Black Eagle, Barred Buttonquail, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Oriental and Small Pratincoles, 5 parakeets, (Alexandrine, Rose-ringed, Blossom-headed, Grey-headed and Red-breasted-these are still common, whereas in nearby Thailand they have been nearly extirpated), Fulvous-breasted, Rufous-bellied, White-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpeckers, Sand Lark, Blue-fronted Redstart, Grey-winged Blackbird, Red-throated Thrush, Spotted and Scaly-breasted Wren-Babblers, Buff-chested Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, Cutia, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, White-browed Fulvetta, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Stripe-throated and Whiskered Yuhinas, Black-throated Parrotbill, Aberrant Bush-Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Hill Prinia, Grey-hooded Warbler, 2 species of the Golden-spectacled Warbler complex (now split into at least 7 species), Rufous-bellied Niltava, Gould's Sunbird, Brown Bullfinch, Slender-billed Oriole, and Racket-tailed Treepie. A total of 329 species were seen.