New Trip Report – Eagles Nest Wildlife Sanctuary, India
I recently discovered Marc & Peggy Faucher’s website documenting their extensive travel around the world which have featured many nice mammals. I will explore this in more detail over the coming weeks but here is a really interesting report from northern India.
Eagles Nest Wildlife Sanctuary, 2016: Marc and Peggy Faucher, 4 nights with species including Arunachal Macaques, Himalayan Serow, Bhutan and Grey-headed Flying Squirrels, Marbled and Golden Cats. Wow!
I’ve been to Eaglenest, and I saw three cats in about ten days: one Asian Golden Cat and two Leopard Cats. I probably would have seen more if I hadn’t been concentrating almost exclusively on Blyth’s Tragopan (which I saw after a ridiculous amount of effort: http://www.tremarctos.com/2015/12/blyths-tragopan/?cat=23). Having an incompetent driver didn’t help either. Even so, I am also skeptical.
Two Golden Cats is believable – they are very common on camera traps. Marbled Cat, however, is very difficult at Eaglenest. I know a few researchers who have done fieldwork at Eaglenest, and who have spent a ton of time on night drives looking for cats, and IIRC there was only one sighting of Marbled Cat between all of them (for comparison, there were 2-3 sightings of Spotted Linsang). I also ran into a team of cat researchers doing a camera trap study there, and while they had images of Marbled Cat, they had never seen one. In any case, I am always skeptical when a guide identifies a rare animal. Even if they know better, their incentive is to make the client as excited/happy as possible, and for the client to then tell the world about the Marbled Cat they just missed or saw too briefly to identify. In Manas, the required local guide screamed “Royal Bengal Tiger” repeatedly when we saw the silhouettes of two Leopards…
My (bird heavy) trip report is here: http://www.cloudbirders.com/tripreport/repository/BUNDGAARD_India_0405_2015.pdf
I’m inclined to believe this report for a couple of reasons.
1. The guide who led this trip has experience with both species. If you have experience with a species, I find that it is generally much easier to ID it with even a brief look, knowing behavior, habitat, etc. as well as appearance.
2. It seems from the blog that they had 2 sightings of an unknown cat (Golden or Jungle Cat?), 2 sightings of Golden Cat, 1 sighting of Leopard Cat, and 1 sighting for Marbled Cat (seen only by the local guide) in a decent bit of night driving over 5 days. Discounting the unknown cat, 2 sightings of Golden Cat is somewhat believable to me (albeit amazing!) as it is known that there is a Golden Cat living in an area along the Eaglenest Road near Bompu. It is sometimes seen by birders. They were probably pretty lucky with the Marbled Cat, but it seems like only the local guide saw it.
It is true that species like small cats can be tough to ID; other stuff, like Kangaroo Rats can be 10x harder as the looks you get are even briefer and diagnostic characters much more subtle. But, I don’t think we should doubt them–we have to visit those places ourselves!
I need to visit Eaglenest and Arunachal Pradesh for the cats, skittish or not!! I know of two sightings of Clouded Leopard on the Eaglenest Road by birders too…
Yes – OK maybe I’m always a little skeptical when I see 3-4 cat species seen in a place like that over such a short time period, but maybe I’m too quick to judge 🙂 but in my defense I said I still think they may have seen at least 1 just not 4. Or maybe they DID see 4.. unknown cats could have both been golden cats especially if there is one living there.
Anyway, definitely sounds like an interesting place! I’m hoping to see more reports from there.
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Definitely interesting! The number of individuals from the cat family that they saw is impressive! The fact that 4 of them were golden cats (in 5 days) is a bit suspicious.. Since they don’t have pictures.
We all know how a 100% flat-headed Cat confirmed by 3 participants + a guide can turn into a Leopard cat based on a picture that you zoom into, on your computer at home, weeks later.
I’m not saying they didn’t see any golden cats – maybe only 3 sightings were really golden cats and 1 jungle cat or Leopard cat.. Maybe only 2 were golden cats, maybe only one…
Same for the marbled cat.. Of course marbled cats look different from Leopard cats upon close examination.. But a fleeting glimpse during early morning light can really morph animals into other animals