Pinus kesiya at Elephant Falls

Shillong, Upper Shillong and Khasi Hills

Shillong, capital of the State of Meghalaya, is a three hours drive, exactly 100 Km., from Guwahati. Major Indian cities connect well to Guwahati, the state capital of Assam. It begins from the plains and soon it is an uphill drive all the way to Shillong. Guwahati -(NH37, 20 km)- Jorabat-(NH40, 30 km)-Nongpoh-(30 km)-Barapani Lake-(20 km)-Shillong.

Thirty Km. after Nongpoh, en route Shillong, the next place is the very huge Barapani Lake also known Umiam Lake and its woody surroundings (the old Guwahati road) are worth exploring. Soon one sees many Pine trees mixed with the broadleaf forest and of course, there is an appreciable drop in the temperature. The Khasi Pine (Pinus kesiya) is indigenous to the Khasi hills from where it gets its name.

Shillong at an altitude of 1500 m (~4900 feet) is quite a delight when it comes to the weather and is appropriately known as the 'Scotland of the east'. It rains almost every day for a short duration and hence the city always wears a fresh look.

The State of Meghalaya has one of the wettest regions in the world, e.g. Cherrapunjee yearly receives 11.4 m of rainfall, and hence the region has the richest biodiversity. The hills steadily rise to 1800 m at Upper Shillong Plateau. Geologically the region is a part of the Gondwana formation. The soil mainly Acrisol type in this humid zone with excess rainfall is low in nutrients because of leaching forms a complex domain of biodiversity and creates a centre of endemism. Trees, bamboo, canes and climbers, orchids etc. form the mature forests of Meghalaya.

See the amazing variety of Meghalaya orchids here.

A typical forest mix would be:
Pinus kesiya
Quercus griffithii, Quercus glauca, Acer oblongum, Myrica esculenta, Rubus lasiocarpus, Viburnum nervosum, Ficus nemoralis.
Rhododendron arboreum, Lyonia ovalifolia

A few threatened plants of Meghalaya (Source: Red Data Book Plants of India (Nayar & Sastry 1987-88))
Endangered Endemics
Elaeagnus conferta, Khasia mountains
Trivalvaria kanjilali, Meghalaya
Dendroglossa minutula, Khasia hills. 600-1300 m.
Clematis apiculata, Khasi hills
Adinandra griffithii, Khasi hills

Possibly Extinct Endemics
Cyclea debiliflora, Meghalaya. 600-1200 m
Sterculia khasiana, Khasi hills. 1000-1500 m

Apart from the endemic and the general birds, this region links to the Malayan Fauna due its location hence offers a varied mix of birds.

Shillong city offers a few species, only the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree Sparrow and a profusion of House Swift (likely 'Apus affinis nipalensis').

Promising areas in the city: the region around the Golf course, Lady Hydari Park and the small jungle in the midst of the city at Bomsley.

Promising nearby places:
Shillong Peak at upper Shillong, coord. 25°31´60¨N, 91°49´60¨E

Photographic Bird record till date:
City birds:
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus
House Swift, Apus affinis nipalensis
Oriental Magpie Robin, Copsychus saularis erimelas
Spotted Dove, Streptopelia chinensis tigrina
Chestnut-tailed Starling, Sturnus malabaricus

Pine forest at NEHU:
Plaintive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus querulus
Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos levaillantii

Forest zone at NEIGRIHMS:
Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Garrulax ruficollis
Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach tricolor

An undisturbed slope behind Manmohini at Rilbong:
Yellow-cheeked Tit, Parus spilonotus
Large Cuckooshrike, Coracina macei
Plumbeous Water Redstart, Rhyacornis fuliginosa fuliginosa
Verditer Flycatcher, Eumyias thalassinus
Ashy Woodswallow, Artamus fuscus

Elephant Falls at upper Shillong:
Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Seicercus castaniceps castaneiceps
Grey Sibia, Heterophasia gracilis
Eurasian Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus bakeri
Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus

Shillong Peak:
Flavescent Bulbul, Pycnonotus flavescens

Partial Checklist extracted from:
(A HAND-LIST OF GENERA AND SPECIES OF BIRDS OF THE INDIAN EMPIRE BY E. C. STUART Baker, (1923): Reprinted from the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, Price: Six Rupees.)

Keyword: Khasi birds
Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Garrulax caerulatus subcaerulatus
Brown-capped Laughingthrush, Garrulax austeni austeni
Assam Laughingthrush, Garrulax chrysopterus chrysopterus
Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis mcclellandi
Streaked Wren Babbler, Napothera brevicaudata striata
Eyebrowed Wren Babbler, Napothera epilepidota roberti
Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Alcippe castaneceps castaneceps
Rusty-fronted Barwing, Actinodura egertoni khasiana
Crested Finchbill, Spizixos canifrons canifrons
Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler, Spelaeornis longicaudatus
Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Ficedula tricolor tricolor
Blyth's Pipit, Anthus godlewskii
Dark-rumped Swift, Apus acuticauda
Eurasian Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus bakeri

Yellow-cheeked Tit, Parus spilonotus spilonotus
Black-throated Parrotbill, Paradoxornis nipalensis poliotis
Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis atrosuperciliaris atrosuperciliaris
Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis ruficeps bakeri
White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus
Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus ferruginosus formosus
Large Scimitar Babbler, Pomatorhinus hypoleucos hypoleucos
Grey-throated Babbler, Stachyris nigriceps coltarti
Rufous-fronted Babbler, Stachyris rufifrons ambigua
Rufous-backed Sibia, Heterophasia annectans annectans
Whiskered Yuhina, Yuhina flavicollis rouxi
Black Bulbul, Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigrescens
Flavescent Bulbul, Pycnonotus flavescens flavescens
Beautiful Nuthatch, Sitta formosa
Brown-throated Treecreeper, Certhia discolor manipurensis ?
Whistler's Warbler, Seicercus whistleri (whistleri / nemoralis ?)
Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus flammeus (flammeus / fraterculus ?)
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula hodgsonii
Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Cyornis poliogenys (poliogenys / cachariensis ?)
Black-breasted Thrush, Turdus dissimilis ?
Grey-sided Thrush, Turdus feae
Fire-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga ignicauda ignicauda ?
Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dicaeum agile modestum
Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos macei macei
Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos atratus atratus
Rufous Woodpecker, Celeus brachyurus phaioceps
Common Flameback, Dinopium javanense intermedium
Blue-throated Barbet, Megalaima asiatica asiatica 'rubescens'
Blyth's Kingfisher, Alcedo hercules
Great Hornbill, Buceros bicornis
Oriental Pied Hornbill, Anthracoceros albirostris albirostris
Blossom-headed Parakeet, Psittacula roseata roseata
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis tigrina
Rufous-throated Partridge, Arborophila rufogularis intermedia
Red-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus (indicus / atronuchalis ?)

End checklist

Seven Sisters at Cherrapunjee
25 May 2009
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