Photo: Sutirtha Lahiri
“So what do you want to see today?” asked Sugata da, as I boarded his car one winter morning last December. “A leopard, maybe?” I replied. I didn’t mean to sound tongue-in-cheek but was genuinely hopeful as the place we were headed to was known for its thriving population of the spotted cat.
“What about you?” I asked Sugata da, as we sped through the empty roads. “I go without any expectation. I am happy with whatever comes my way,” he replied, as the car slowly meandered through the last leg of the journey before coming to a halt at the gate of the cold and misty Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in Guwahati in Assam.
Picking up Boro, the forest guard, from the forest rest house, the four of us entered the forest trail. The first thing that enthralls a visitor here is the moist-laden green density before your eyes, an unbelievable sight for any city-dweller. The mist played between the sal trees, occasionally clearing off, as we made our way through the dense confines of the forest. Amchang, spread over 79 sq. km., was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 2004 to better manage the wilderness that was beset with problems including encroachments and fragmentation. A surprise shower the previous night had rendered the forest path slippery and full of waterlogged holes, making it difficult to keep a firm foothold. The first lifers of the day were the Grey-capped Woodpecker, and an absolutely stunning Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, named so for its long tail-like projections.Amchang is a dream birding destination for anyone interested in woodland birds. The proximity from the city means that it is also an easy escapade. Over the years, the forest has thrown wonderful records, notably the White-tailed Robin, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Hooded Pitta, and Silver-breasted Broadbill... thus boasting of over 250 species of birds. Owing to a lack of awareness, not much effort has gone into documenting the wilderness of Amchang, which, apart from its birdlife is also the place to try one’s luck at sighting common leopards,...