Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Otter spotters

17th February

And still they come. In fact some of the ones which came today were decidedly exciting. First, as we drove to the central range of Kaziranga, we came across a party of macaques in roadside trees. On stopping for a look we found that they were not bog-standard rhesus but much scarcer Assamese macaques, told by their heavy-jowled greyish faces, the lack of orange hue in their rumps and trousers, and their horizontally-held tails. Their high vocalisations were also quite distinct, as indeed was their wariness of humans; rhesus by contrast are brazen, too much so in my frequent experience. They have in the past pinched my toothpaste, pooed on my pillow and given me a wholly unprovoked slap on the calf at the Taj Mahal. Assamese macaques, by contrast, are a pleasure to know.

Once inside the park things carried on getting better. A jeep ahead of us was watching otters but, when a mother and three well-grown cubs scampered across the road before us, it was clear, from their small size, their snub snouts, their rough coats and their dull grey-brown throats, that these were not the commonly-seen smooth-coated otters (we saw them yesterday and the day before). No, these were the largely nocturnal and entirely adorable oriental small-clawed otter: a first for the Brahmaputra Cruise and quite possibly a first for Naturetrek.

A little further on hog deer grazed the edges of wetlands and rhinos lay in the mud looking dejectedly primaeval. Great cormorants crowded round a shoal of fish and spot-billed pelicans flew in to join them. In the forest we bumped into (not literally, thank goodness) three female elephants with small youngsters and elsewhere a muscular young tusker strode along the edge of a lake sprinkled with woolly-necked storks, black-necked storks and lesser adjutants. All the while red-breasted parakeets zipped by giving their loud bleating calls, grey-headed fish-eagles vanished into the lofty blue sky, red-vented bulbuls burbled contentedly from tall stems of grass and Indian rollers (black-billed subspecies, for the bird geeks) flashed their impossibly blue wings.

Back at the riverside sand larks and five subspecies of white wagtail hopped and scurried over the sand and river lapwings trotted through the shallows while ruddy shelducks moaned in the vastness of the Assamese landscape.

What’s not to love about Assam?

New today


Assamese macaque
Macaca assamensis
oriental small-clawed otter
Amblonyx cinereus


blue whistling thrush
Myophonus cinereus
Asian barred owlet
Glaucidium cuculoides

white wagtail
Motacilla alba ocularis and leucopsis
river lapwing
Vanellus duvaucelii


Assam roofed turtle
Pangshura sylhetensis
tokay gecko
Gekko gecko

2012 Totals
Mammals: 29
Birds: 297
Reptiles: 2
Amphibians: 0
Fish: 0

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