Quack! The gander gives away the nest’s position behind an arbour of foliage. Mrs White-Winged Duck responds with a quick quack-quack. Rofikul Islam raises an arm, winks at his team. And they, finger on trigger, behold Assam’s state bird—so elusive and endangered that perhaps only 200 pairs remain in the wild on this planet—with unabashed sideways glances of looky-loos. They go click, click, click. But the light is low; the sun has just yawned out on this island in the Jia Bhoroli, the livewire of Nameri national park straddling Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Will he stop prying into Mr and Mrs DUck’s private moments? He won’t.
Rofikul, a professional wildlife guide with AllIndiaBirdingTours, has prepared well for the sortie. This morning is a long trek—boating, fording, and pushing their trusty legs to their limits. Waking up to a burst of tweets, retweets, pa-chip-chip-pa-tip (sounds like potato chip and dip?), breakfast is hearty in the camp. “By noon, the team logs nearly 80 species of birds,” says Rofikul, a Kaziranga native who turned 30 this November. Growing up near the famous park helped him hone a guide’s primary asset: like telling a Crested Kingfisher from a finch by their calls. Booked through the year, his adventures are on unplumbed land—jungles on the Assam plains, in the Northeast’s hills and snowcapped Sikkimese mountains. His guest list? Long and impressive; includes Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia.
Back to camp, lunch, another expedition (short; sundown gathers pace), tea/cookies/Maggi, and it’s almost time for dinner around a bonfire. The thatch-and-bamboo cottages, the snug beds wait invitingly. But the guardian owl is on his nightly run. Hoot hoot! Everything screeeeeee-s to a halt.
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