The plan today was starting at dawn and bird our way up the Mandala Rd to 10 000 feet and then to look for black-necked cranes and black-tailed crakes in the Sangti valley in the afternoon.

Gradually gaining height, we were soon ticking off birds including Himalayan bluetail, Bhutan laughuingthrush and streak-breasted scimitar babbler.

Central heating Indian style!
Later in the morning, the mist came in and gaining height, we started to encounter the first patches of snow and frost on the ground. Abid said he knew somewhere we could get hot tea so we pulled up outside one of the dwellings right at the top of the track we were birding. Three sisters lived here and we were invited in to their humble home and made to feel most welcome.

As we huddled around the glowing woodburner we marvelled at their resilience to live so high in a wooden hut. The house was built on stilts and the gaps in the floorboards were large enough to see right through to the ground beneath! We were soon supplied with tea and they made us chilli-laden omelettes on the top of the woodburner. We had a very jolly time trying to make ourselves understood and though they did not ask, I gladly gave them some rupees for their hospitality.

Amongst many others, spotted laughingthrush, Blandford's rosefinch and nutcracker were added to the list as we made our way down to the Sangti valley.

Searching for the cranes and crakes
Despite searching the valley flood plain, the hoped for cranes and crakes were not to be seen but we added long-billed plover to the list. Abid said we would come back for another look for them on our final morning at Dirang. 

We arrived back at the hotel as dusk fell and enjoyed an Italian meal (Indian style!) for dinner. A group of French birders were staying at the hotel now and we swapped a few stories with them in pigeon French.

 After the check list, we joked with Abid about having a lie in.''No’s off up the Sela Pass tomorrow and we need a very early start!"

Little did we know that one of the best and most memorable days of our lives was just a few hours away! See you for pre-breakfast brew at 3.30am!!!

Here are the images from the rest of today.

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