December 28, 2015: Mishmi Hills, Assam, India — When I planned my original itinerary for this adventure, I left several free days at the very end of the year. It might be nice to revisit someplace, I thought, or have the flexibility to go somewhere new. Over the past few months various ideas have been suggested for the grand finale: Fiji? Hawaii? New Caledonia? Northern Australia? Ethiopia? Guyana?
All of those places would surely add a few new birds, but as the end of this year approached, I found myself wishing to return to one particular country. When I visited India in September, I spent a week in the south and another week in the north, which covered two of this country’s three major regions. The third, in India’s northeast corner, turned out to be a big miss—and Ramit Singal, the enthusiastic birder I met earlier in Delhi, was keen to spend a few days there with me at the end of the year.
It took some fancy footwork with visas (unaccountably denied on my first application) and flights (right after Christmas) but I landed in Dibrugargh, in India’s far northeast corner, early this afternoon. The flight from Delhi passed by a line of high Himalayan peaks and I later found out that Mount Everest was among them—so I probably looked down on the world’s tallest mountain today without even realizing it. As I walked off the plane in Dibrugargh, I suddenly realized I’d just completed my last flight of 2015. The next time I take off, this big year will be history.
Ramit was ready to roll, and we were joined by two local birders, Binanda Hatibaruah and Bidyut Gogoi. Because India is so wide and all on one time zone, and because it’s winter, the sun sets here at 4 p.m. That didn’t give us much daylight today, and we were lucky to spot a group of Slender-billed Vultures before darkness fell. The four of us drove hours into the night, high into the Mishmi Hills, to begin the final sprint tomorrow morning.
Three days to go!
New birds today: 1
Year list: 5990