B H U T A N
April 8 - 28, 2007
David M. Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman
April 7, 2007
We met for dinner with our fellow Kingbird Tour participants (Harvey, Marion, Eric and Evelyn) at the Novatel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel in Bangok, where we were all staying prior to our flight to Paro early the next morning.
We had enjoyed a day’s birding near Bangkok, but that event is covered in a separate report.
Following an enjoyable introductory get together and a lovely dinner, everyone went to bed early to prepare to be awakened around 03.00h since our flight departed at 05:50h.
April 8, 2007
Paro - Thimphu
Overnight at Jumolhari Hotel
Our flight from Bangkok to Paro via Calcutta was uneventful and we arrived in Paro to glorious sunshine. After Ben had shepherded us through immigration proceedings we were met by Sangay our driver and Tshewang our tour guide, both of whom would be with us for the entire trip.
They are in the service of Etho Metho Treks and Tours (etho metho means rhododendron in the Bhutanese language) and they were delightful and efficient - in all respects a pleasure to be with. We were lucky to have them.
Before we boarded the bus they draped a traditional white welcome scarf around our necks, a greeting which we thought to be quite lovely.
Sangay and Tshewang personified all the Bhutanese people we met throughout our stay. They surely must be the most polite people on earth and it was our privilege to be in their country.
We were also joined at Paro by the remaining member of our group; Carmelita had arrived from Delhi where she had been on a previous birding trip.
We boarded the bus and set off in the direction of Thimphu, with a scheduled stop to search for Ibisbill and other “thrills” as Ben liked to say.
Upon disembarking from the bus at a spot in the river where Ibisbill is traditionally found we found ourselves dismayed by the amount of garbage that was scattered throughout. The detritus of humanity was everywhere to be seen. It certainly somewhat shattered the image we had of Bhutan as pristine and unspoiled. The country is beautiful, the scenery spectacular, the architecture magnificent; alas, it is tarnished by the staggering volume of trash that is discarded at will. Later we would discover that even in the highest peaks and valleys, in areas quite remote from habitation, the problem would persist.
Harvey had principally chosen this trip in order to add Ibisbill to his life list, and I think it is safe to say, that this species was high on the wish list of every participant. We were not disappointed. Within minutes we had one in the telescope and everyone was able to view the bird for as long as he/she wished. It is truly an enigmatic, enchanting species, quite unlike any other bird we had ever seen. It was a rare thrill and one of those moments that reinforces everything about the attraction of birding. The simple beauty of this wonderful bird feeding in a rock-strewn Himalayan mountain stream, created a level of contentment that seems only to come from this avocation we all share.
We also had incredible scope views of a River Lapwing which obligingly lingered at the river’s edge. White Wagtails were abundant and we saw our first Plumbeous, Hodgson’s and White-capped Redstarts. Red-billed Chough was the common corvid and any time one glanced skyward it was almost certain that a chough would be “sailing” in the wind.
Ben played a tape of the vocalization of the Black-tailed Crake in a swampy area where this species had ben located on previous trips, but even though it returned the call we could not lure it into view. We left for lunch at a restaurant in Paro, determined to return later to try for the crake again. Lunch was delicious and plentiful.
After lunch we were successful in luring the crake out into the open; in fact there were three of them, and everyone was able to get a good look at this beautiful bird.
We left for Thimphu shortly thereafter, driving over deplorable roads that we would become used to throughout our trip. Sangay was a masterful driver and negotiated every obstacle with skill and aplomb.
Our hotel in Thimphu was quite modern but in a traditional architectural style and we were very happy to be there. A fine dinner was served followed by a good night’s sleep.
All species seen on April 8 - Ibisbill, Plumbeous Redstart, White Wagtail, Red-billed Chough, Common Kestrel, Hodgson’s Redstart, River Lapwing, Rock Dove, Grey-backed Shrike, White-capped Redstart, Rosy Pipit, Russet Sparrow, Oriental Turtle Dove, Himalayan Crow, Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Crake, Eurasian Hoopoe, Himalayan Buzzard, Common Snipe, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Green-backed Tit, Eurasian Hobby (Miriam only).
April 9, 2007
Thimphu - Dochu La - Punakha
Overnight at Zangto Pelri Hotel
We left our hotel at around 05:00h heading for Dochu La, with scheduled birding stops along the road. The hotel had refused to prepare breakfast at such an early hour, so Sangay and Tshewang had secured food from another establishment in town, which we took with us on the bus, ultimately to eat at a restaurant later.
As we drove along a much better road than that which we had experienced yesterday, Ben scanned the darkness with his high intensity flashlight. We heard Grey Nightjar calling and were soon rewarded with two on the road. They did not linger, but long enough, nevertheless, for everyone to get a good look at them.
As daylight arrived we began to see ubiquitous Blue Whistling Thrushes and Oriental Turtle Doves, two species that we would see on virtually every day of the trip.
Our arrival at Dochu La filled us with awe. At this high mountain pass there is a shrine with 108 stupas and prayer flags in every direction. It was a memorable sight, etched in our memories forever.
The birding there was quite wonderful. We added Fire-tailed Myzornis (thanks to Eric’s keen spotting) and Green-tailed Sunbird. These two species had been high on our wish list. Other avian delights at Dochu La were Gold-billed Magpie, White-collared Blackbird, Long-tailed Minivet, Yellow-bellied Fantail, several flocks of delightful, raucous White-throated Laughingthrushes, Black Bulbul, a total of seventeen Red Crossbills (a candidate for future split), some of which were feeding on clay presumably for the mineral content, and our first White-tailed Nuthatches.
We continued to bird along the road and added Ashy Drongo, Coal Tit, Yellow-browed Tit, White-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, three Spot-winged Grosbeaks and many other species.
After lunch a light rain started to fall, but we continued to bird at various stops along the road to Punakha, adding Spotted Nutcracker, Rufous Sibia, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Hoary-throated Barwing, a flock of about one hundred fifty Himalayan Swiftlets, a wonderful Bay Woodpecker and a Brown-throated Treecreeper (our only creeper of the trip).
The Zangto Pelri Hotel was rustic and delightful and dinner was a good, hot buffet. We ordered a bottle of wine for $29.00!! It was a delicious, French wine, however, and we were quite pleased to have it.
All species seen on April 9 -Grey Nightjar, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental Turtle Dove, Hill Partridge (heard), Yellow-bellied Fantail, Gold-billed Magpie, White-collared Blackbird, Long-tailed Minivet, White-throated Laughingthrush, Black Bulbul, Russet Sparrow, Ashy Drongo, Red Crossbill, Olive Tree Pipit, Grey Bushchat, Blue-fronted Redstart, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, White-tailed Nuthatch, Himalayan Crow, Coal Tit, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-browed Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird, White-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Rufous-fronted Tit, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Red-tailed Minla, Buff-barred Warbler, Spotted Nutcracker, Rufous Sibia, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Hoary-throated Barwing, Himalayan Swiftlet, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, White-browed Fulvetta, Bay Woodpecker, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Grey Treepie, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Common Kestrel.
April 10, 2007
Overnight at Zangto Pelri Hotel
This was a day with mixed emotions. The birds we observed were superlative, but the birding experience was less than satisfactory. Most of the birding in Bhutan is done from the road and we knew this beforehand. However, we had the distinct impression that the road was lightly travelled and traffic was no great issue. How wrong we were. The narrow winding road was very busy indeed, with many large trucks as well as numerous passenger cars and buses. The noise and the fumes were extremely unpleasant, and at times there was a definite air of danger as trucks bearing heavy loads came precariously close to us. We routinely held our hands over our ears to block out the noise and tried to hold our breath so as not to breath in the fumes as vehicles careened by.
With just a couple of exceptions heavy traffic would be a source of concern throughout the trip and it certainly made the activity of birding less agreeable than it otherwise might have been.
But the birds were spectacular! In the crepuscular gloom we had a quick glimpse of a Grey Nightjar. Shortly after first light we spotted two Kalij Pheasants and in short order had seen six of them. Himalayan pheasants are a large part of the attraction of this area and this was our first encounter with them. Several Grey-winged Blackbirds were present and two Spotted Forktails in a gully were eagerly viewed by all.
The birds kept coming. We saw both Himalayan and Eurasian Cuckoo and several Verditer Flycatchers. Although the latter species would be common throughout our journey it was nonetheless pure delight to observe. We saw our first Cutia and had stunning looks at a Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.
Ben’s target bird for this area was the rare and beautiful Ward’s Trogon. He played the tape repeatedly (incessantly some might claim) but was unable to lure the bird into view. I am not even sure at this point whether the bird even responded to the tape, but finally at mid afternoon, Ben advised that we had one last chance for the bird by going down into a deep ravine and playing the tape from there. Harvey, Marion, Eric, David and Miriam took the plunge and headed down a steep and heavily vegetated slope, which was slippery and quite treacherous in places. On the way Ben played the tape of the Slaty-bellied Tesia and we got a quick look at this species.
Deep down into the ravine we suddenly spotted a male Ward’s Trogon perched on a branch where we could easily scope it. Everyone was able to join the line at the telescope to look at the bird repeatedly and it was indeed a sighting to remember. We were all well satisfied, but it got even better when a female flew in to join the male. Most of us got good looks at both sexes.
We certainly have to admire Ben’s persistence in locating this bird for us. It was without doubt one of the highlights of the trip.
Following our success at locating the Ward’s Trogon we headed out to a site known to harbour White-bellied Heron at times. Ben indicated some doubt that we might see it, but we owed it to ourselves to try nevertheless. Upon arrival at the site Sangay asked a local citizen about the bird and he indicated that it had been sighted farther upstream. We journeyed along the river and lo and behold there was a magnificent White -bellied Heron. In fact before long we had located a second one. Wow! Two individuals to scope at will.
Eric, who throughout the trip found so many good birds for us, spotted a Pallas’s Sea Eagle on the opposite bank of the river. Again we were able to get it in the scope and it obligingly stayed perched for a considerable time, and then flew, enabling us to note all the details of its plumage. David was ecstatic. Three of his most desired birds in one day and all seriously endangered. In all of his days of birding this was a day never to be forgotten.
As a final bonus, we saw Brown Dipper. Since Miriam and David both have a special fondness for dippers, this was truly the icing on the cake.
All species seen on April 10 - Grey Nightjar, Blue Whistling Thrush, Kalij Pheasant, Large Niltava, White-throated Laughingthrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Ashy Drongo, Spotted Forktail, Oriental Turtle Dove, Himalayan Crow, Black-throated Tit, Verditer Flycatcher, Eurasian Cuckoo,
Grey-backed Shrike, Green-backed Tit, Himalayan Cuckoo, Gold-billed Magpie, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Cutia, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Black-faced Warbler, Green-tailed Sunbird, Chestnut -bellied Rock Thrush, Rufous Sibia, Buff-barred Warbler, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Fire-capped Tit, Black Bulbul, Blue-fronted Redstart, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Gould’s Sunbird, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava, White-throated Fantail, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Short-billed Minivet, Blue-winged Minla, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Grey-hooded Warbler, Grey-chinned Minivet, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Ward’s Trogon, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Cormorant, Crested Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Brown Dipper, Common Sandpiper, River Lapwing, White Wagtail, White-bellied Heron, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Common Kestrel.
April 11, 2007
Punakha - Gangtey
Overnight at Phuntsocholing Lodge
Another day of incredible birding!
Upon leaving our accommodations we located Ashy Drongo at every turn, three Magpie Robins, two Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Red-vented Bulbul was common, as were Common Mynas, the river held three Gadwall, a Eurasian Wigeon and an Osprey patrolled up and down.
We saw an enigmatic and ever-delightful Eurasian Hoopoe, but all paled in comparison with our next sighting. We were searching for Tawny Fish Owl, which Ben knew to be in the vicinity, but we searched initially to no avail. Miriam and David had given a Canada flag lapel pin to a couple of youngsters and their father came to tell us that the “big bird” we were looking for was farther down the river. He showed us where to look and we quickly located two adult and two juvenile Tawny Fish Owls. All were easily seen and we were able to move the scopes from one to the other at will. What a wonderful, exciting way to kick off a day’s birding.
Following yesterday’s triple play we now had yet another species that was on the world list of threatened birds. It certainly is a testament to the attitude of the Bhutanese people towards wildlife that we were able to observe the birds so easily. These owls had been undisturbed and were there for all the world to see. We felt a very special sense of appreciation to be able to view them so well and for so long. There are moments in one’s birding career that remain undiminished by the passage of time and this will surely be one of them.
We viewed both Crested and White-breasted Kingfishers again, and a Common Stonechat of the Siberian race was at the water’s edge.
We travelled on to the Phobjikha Valley (winter home of the Black-necked Crane), where we saw Spot-billed Duck and a Yellow-rumped Honeyguide.
When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted with hot towels and were served tea and cookies in the lounge while our bags were delivered to our room. The room was sheer luxury by comparison with other accommodations on this trip and we even had a king size bed.
After we were ensconced in our room there was a knock on the door. Eric came to advise us that he had seen an Himalayan Wood Owl high above the lodge and asked if we would like to see it. We made the steep climb at over 3,000 metres, but, much to Eric’s chagrin and our muted disappointment, the owl was gone when we arrived at the place where he had seen it. We made a thorough search of the surrounding forest but were unable to locate the bird.
We returned to our room undaunted and appreciated the fact that Eric had taken the trouble to make the difficult climb twice in an attempt to have others view the bird.
After a fine dinner, we retired to our room where we were delighted to find that the staff had lit a fire and there were hot water bottles in our bed. We slept peacefully until the alarm woke us at 03.45h!
All species seen on April 11 - Grey Treepie, Ashy Drongo, Magpie Robin, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Great Cormorant, Osprey, Eurasian Hoopoe, Tawny Fish Owl, Rock Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Oriental White-eye, Crested Kingfisher, White-breasted Kingfisher, Common Stonechat, Long-tailed Shrike, Crested Bunting, Spotted Dove, Grey-backed Shrike, Striated Prinia, Rust-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Himalayan Crow, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Little Bunting, Hodgson’s Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, Black Bulbul, Nepal House Martin, White-capped Redstart, Bhutan Laughinghrush, Russet Bush Warbler, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Himalayan Griffon, Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Spot-billed Duck, Eurasian Teal.
April 12, 2007
Gangtey - Trongsa
Overnight at Yangkill Resort
Another early start! The alarm went off at 03:45h and we went down for breakfast at 04:30h.
It was a sunny but cold day as we set off again and there was snow on the side of the road.
After extensive searching from the bus we sighted a male Himalayan Monal on the slope of a hill. What a truly spectacular bird! The colours are simply hard to describe, but their brilliance left us all awash in appreciative words and gestures. It is safe to say that no one among us will soon forget this bird.
The next significant species was a Great Parrotbill. Everyone was able to see the bird well. A couple of Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers were a delight and about a dozen Plain Mountain Finches in a flock represented another lifer for most of the tour participants. We also had very nice scope looks at an Alpine Accentor and were able to appreciate the delicate subtleties of its plumage.
Everyone was delighted with White-browed Bush Robin and White-browed Rosefinch. We also added Brown Parrotbill for our second parrotbill of the day.
It was glorious to see first one and then a second Himalayan Griffon soaring overhead and a short time later while walking down a (thankfully) lightly travelled road a kettle of ten individuals. These birds display a complete mastery of the air, soaring effortlessly on their huge wings. They moved quickly as they took advantage of the thermals.
We were all a little disappointed at the quick flyby of a Large Hawk Cuckoo, only to be rewarded a short time later by a perched bird that everyone saw well.
All species seen on April 12 - Himalayan Crow, Hill Partridge (H), Grey Bushchat, Himalayan Monal, Olive Tree Pipit, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Spotted Nutcracker, Green-tailed Sunbird, Great Parrotbill, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Gold-billed Magpie, Plain Mountain Finch, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, White-collared Blackbird, Rufous-vented Tit, Red Crossbill, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, White-browed Bush Robin, White-winged Grosbeak, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-browed Rosefinch, Himalayan Griffon, Yellow-browed Tit, Grey-crested Tit, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Hume’s Bush Warbler, Brown Parrotbill, Red-billed Chough, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Blue Whistling Thrush, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Spotted Forktail, Ashy Drongo.
April 13, 2007
Trongsa - Shemgang
It was cool when we set out at around 06:00h but it warmed up quickly and the day got hotter as we descended in altitude the whole day. It was bright and sunny and there were many interesting sights along the way, other than the birding.
We saw our first Maroon Orioles of the trip and before the day was out we had seen six of them. We also encountered two flocks of Fork-tailed Swifts many of which swooped low enough to enable us to pick out the field marks.
It seemed that a Little Forktail we spotted by a Himalayan mountain stream was a favorite with everyone. Significant sightings were a Fire-tailed Myzornis, a truly dazzling bird, and a Spotted Wren Babbler. We also saw two Yellow-rumped Honeyguides.
Every day we saw many different species of babblers and laughingthrushes and one of the highlights of this day was a Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler. For the first time in a number of Kingbird tours we spotted a Red Junglefowl which was well seen by everyone before it flew off into the forest. Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers are reliably found in this area and today was no exception - we saw two individuals of this handsome little bird.
Miriam saw a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and it looked as though David would miss out on this species right up until the final days of the trip. An aptly named Little Pied Flycatcher was visible to everyone.
We arrived at our campground some time after lunch and David located a Grey-headed Woodpecker in the trees just off to the side.
We rested until around 15:00h and by mid afternoon when we resumed our birding activities, it was sweltering. Without a doubt the highlight of the afternoon’s activity was four splendid sightings of Rufous-necked Hornbill. Two were of single birds and one of a pair. On each occasion we were able to get the birds in the telescope and have really prolonged views of this magnificent species. For both Miriam and David this was the first hornbill ever, and it was a memorable introduction to an enigmatic family. The fact that the bird is seriously endangered enhanced our good fortune in having this as our first encounter. It was certainly a bird that had been high on our “wish list” and we were elated.
I should say a little about the camping arrangements. There is no doubt that David had not researched this aspect of the trip as well as he might have, but we were a little shocked when we saw the tents. They were just big enough to hold our two cots with about 60 - 70 cm between them. There was basically no room for luggage and it was a tight squeeze indeed. We had heard reports of tented birding trips in East Africa where walk-in tents were the norm, spacious and well-appointed with a shower inside and even a desk and chair, with beds on thick layers of comfortable foam. Our expectations were somewhat along those lines, although I must repeat that no one had told us that.
A shower meant ordering a bucket of hot water and a dipper. One then stood on a rock floor inside a tent and poured hot water over one’s body.
It was primitive, yet refreshing nevertheless.
In contrast the meals in the dining room tent were very good indeed and we had a variety of well-cooked dishes. It never ceased to amaze us how well Peldon the cook and his crew managed to prepare such fine meals with very basic facilities. This would be true of every meal we had during our eleven nights of camping.
All species seen on April 13 - Himalayan Crow, Rock Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Ashy Drongo, White-throated Laughingthrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Spotted Forktail, Plain-backed Thrush, Striated Laughingthrush, Rufous Sibia, Maroon Oriole, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Fork-tailed Swift, Green-backed Tit, Whiskered Yuhina, Plumbeous Redstart, Great Barbet, Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous Sibia, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Little Forktail, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Spotted Wren Babbler, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Long-tailed Shrike, Red-vented Bulbul, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Crested Bunting, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Chesnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Red Junglefowl, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Black Bulbul, Firebreasted Flowerpecker, Little Pied Flycatcher, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Miriam only), Orange-bellied Leafbird, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Blue-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Plumbeous Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Scarlet Minivet, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-naped Yuhina, Ashy Bulbul, Whiskered Yuhina, Small Niltava, Grey-chinned Minivet, Golden-throated Barbet, Striated Spiderhunter, White-crested Laughingthrush, Scarlet Finch, Mountain Scops Owl (H).
April 14, 2007
We did not have a particularly good night’s sleep. The tent was hot and we had only a sleeping bag and nothing lighter. It was far too warm to be in a sleeping bag, but there was little choice.
All night long cows wandered at will around our campsite, sometimes brushing right up against the wall of the tent. Between the cows mooing and tinkling their cow bells, and a Mountain Scops Owl calling all night, it was not particularly restful. Eric’s tent was partly collapsed by a cow which collided with the guy rope and Evelyn woke up to find a cow sleeping right in front of her door. Even when she prodded it with her cane, it was reluctant to move.
We had breakfast in the dining tent at 05:00h and went to the bus to set off for the morning. David was in the bus not realizing that others were doing a little birding along the road, and Miriam and everyone else saw a Drongo Cuckoo - the only one of the trip!
We drove for some distance up to a higher elevation whence we had arrived yesterday and disembarked to begin birding downhill. Once again we found the road very busy with noisy trucks and fumes and several road construction crews.
We had a great look at a Grey Treepie and a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo perched obligingly for all to see. We saw three Rusty-fronted Barwings and a single Grey Wagtail. There were mixed flocks of Phylloscopus warblers everywhere and it was a dizzying exercise to separate these rapidly flitting tiny birds, with which we were quite unfamiliar, one from the other. However, with help from Ben and Eric we did a passable job of identification at times!
One definite highlight was a Crested Goshawk spotted overhead - a raptor we had very much wanted to see. Wonderful scope views of a Mountain Hawk Eagle will furnish precious memories also. Miriam was lucky in seeing a Black-eared Shrike Babbler but this bird eluded David.
We returned to the camp for a fine lunch and rested until 15:00h to avoid birding in the oppressive heat of the day.
Significant afternoon sightings were Golden Babbler, Bhutan Laughingthrush, both Lesser and Great Yellownapes, a Sultan Tit, Ashy Wood Pigeon, a female White-browed Shrike Babbler and a very cooperative Collared Owlet calling the whole time it was in the scope.
The most exciting observation of all, however, was of two Beautiful Nuthatches drawn in by Ben’s tape. What a rare, unique privilege to see this least known of all the world’s nuthatches. We did not see them for long, but were able to view them definitively and to appreciate that they are indeed suitably named.
All species seen on April 14 - Himalayan Cuckoo (H), Mountain Scops Owl (H), Grey Treepie, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental Turtle Dove, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Drongo Cuckoo, Scarlet Minivet, Scarlet Finch, Red-vented Bulbul, White-crested Laughingthrush, Ashy Drongo, White-capped Redstart, Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Fork-tailed Swift, Ashy Drongo, Grey Wagtail, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Black-throated Tit, White-throated Needletail, White-throated Fantail, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue-winged Minla, Crested Goshawk, Little Pied Flycatcher, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Golden-spectacled Warbler, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Whiskered Yuhina, Maroon Oriole, Striated Bulbul, Racket-tailed Drongo, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Large Niltava, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Himalayan Crow, White-browed Shrike Babbler, White-tailed Nuthatch, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Small Niltava, Whiskered Yuhina, Golden-throated Barbet, Lesser Yellownape, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Plumbeous Redstart, Striated Laughingthrush, White-naped Yuhina, Golden Babbler, Rufous Sibia, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Sultan Tit, Beautiful Nuthatch, Greater Yellownape, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Collared Owlet, Collared Scops Owl (H), Pale Blue Flycatcher, Blue Rock Thrush, Striated Yuhina, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Black-faced Warbler.
April 15, 2007
Before boarding the bus we checked out the roadside close to the camp and were rewarded with two Himalayan Cuckoos and a Grey-headed Woodpecker - a fortunate sighting since many had not seen the first one viewed on arrival at the camp. Two Scarlet Finches were also present.
We then left to commence birding basically at the point we had ended yesterday.
We heard a Grey Peacock Pheasant calling vociferously but we did not see the bird and Ben told us that this species is heard every trip, but so far has not been seen.
Thanks once again to the laser eyes of Eric we got a glimpse of a Mountain Imperial Pigeon. It would have been nice to get a better look, but we had to be content with a fleeting glimpse. The way that this bird shook the vegetation we were convinced it was a Yeti! We also saw Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and notched a total of four before day’s end. This completed the three nuthatch sweep that we expected in the part of Bhutan in which we would be travelling.
An unexpected treat was a Speckled Piculet right out in the open where everyone could see it well.
In the afternoon, after having returned to camp for lunch and a siesta, we located Common Tailorbird, Black-faced Warbler, Oriental White-eye, Barred Cuckoo Dove and were treated to a stunning look at a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo.
All species seen on April 15 - Scarlet Finch, Ashy Drongo, Red-vented Bulbul, Himalayan Cuckoo, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, White-crested Laughingthrush, Nepal Fulvetta, Whiskered Yuhina, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-vented Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Grey Treepie, Verditer Flycatcher, Blue-winged Minla, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Black-chinned Yuhina, Green-backed Tit, Grey-throated Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Scarlet Minivet, Grey Peacock Pheasant (H), Mountain Bulbul, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Rufous Sibia, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Blue-throated Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Striated Yuhina, White-crested Laughingthrush, Ashy Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black-chinned Yuhina, Bronzed Drongo, Black-faced Warbler, Oriental White-eye, White-throated Bulbul, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Black Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Blue-fronted Redstart, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Great Barbet, Oriental Turtle Dove, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Rock Pigeon, Mountain Scops Owl (H), Hill Partridge (H), Blue Whistling Thrush.
April 16, 2007
Shemgang - Bumthang
Overnight at Mountain Lodge
It was a clear Himalayan sky with a panoply of stars glistening and twinkling as we ventured onto the road at 04:45h to see if we could call in Collared Scops Owl. As soon as Ben started playing his tape two individuals were calling back; at least one bird was getting closer. Suddenly we saw it fly through the beam of Ben’s flashlight. It was a quick look but a good one. The bird landed in a tree quite close to us and before we gave up in order to board the bus we had another look at it as it flew farther away. Not a bad way to start the day!
Later in the day we had good looks at a Black-throated Prinia, three Silver-eared Mesias, a Pale Blue Flycatcher, and an added bonus was another Rufous Hornbill. As we neared Bumthang we saw our first Eurasian Magpie of the trip. Ben mentioned that in view of recent taxonomic studies this species may be a candidate for a split to Tibetan Magpie.
Other than that, the birds seen on the journey from Shemgang to Bumthang were species that had already been seen - not that it made them any less pleasing, however, and it was good to be able to familiarize ourselves with some of the more common species.
The bed at the Mountain Lodge was a welcome change from the tent. But we had eight nights of camping straight ahead of us. We doubted that our flashlight would hold out for the whole trip so we went into town with Sangay, Tshewang and Kinley, along with Eric to buy another. We also picked one up for Harvey and Marion and we bought twenty four Tiger beers which we split with Harvey and Marion. It was quite fascinating in town and we were given to wondering what Bhutanese people would think of a modern, North American supermarket.
I had forgotten to mention earlier that Kinley had joined us in Thimpu on our first night. He had been assigned to us by Etho Metho Treks and Tours - and a very pleasant young man he was too.
All species seen on April 16 - Collared Scops Owl, Hill Partridge (H), Spotted Dove, Silver-eared Mesia, Plumbeous Redstart, Blue Whistling Thrush, Ashy Drongo, Black-throated Prinia, Striated Laughingthrush, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Olive Tree Pipit, Grey Treepie, Maroon Oriole, Scarlet Minivet, Grey-hooded Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Little Pied Flycatcher, Green-backed Tit, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Striated Yuhina, Striated Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Rufous Hornbill, Fork-tailed Swift, Verditer Flycatcher, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Red-vented Bulbul, Grey Bushchat, Grey-backed Shrike, Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Buzzard, Crested Bunting, Common Myna, Spotted Nutcracker, White-throated Laughingthrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, Coal Tit, Rufous-vented Yuhina, White-naped Yuhina, Oriental Turtle Dove, Himalayan Crow, Eurasian Crow.
April 17, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping at around 3,500 metres.
Our wake-up call was at the ungodly hour of 02:00h. Ben insisted that we need to be on the road early to make the fairly long drive to where we need to be for Satyr Tragopan sightings.
Evelyn decided to skip breakfast in favour of a little extra sleep and Harvey and Marion slept right through their alarm.
While waiting for everyone to get organized to board the bus Ben, Miriam and David listened as Ben played the tape of Himalayan Wood Owl. We had a distinct albeit distant response.
As we left Bumthang Himalayan Crow and Eurasian Magpie were common, but little else was seen. Shortly after entering the National Park Sangay spotted a female Satyr Tragopan. Everyone had a good look and it whetted our appetite for the male.
Before long we had a beautiful male Blood Pheasant posing on a rock. He stayed there for several minutes as though to bask in our admiration. There was a female close by and although in muted colours, she was in her own way beautiful also! Before the day was out we would have seen twenty-four of these gorgeous birds.
By 09:30h we had reached the summit of the pass and in clear, cool Himalayan air, with snow on the ground, we saw five Fire-tailed Myzornis and five incredible Fire-tailed Sunbirds, the males flying with their bright red tails streaming in the sunlight, with snow as a backdrop. It was quite breathtaking. We also had a very fast glimpse at a Golden Bush Robin.
We headed downslope a little to our campground where we would spend the night. We ate a hearty lunch in the dining room tent and went back to our own tent to relax a little. David slept through a thunderstorm with rain and pea-sized hail! Water was getting into the tents a little so our camp crew was busy digging trenches to channel the water away. We headed back out in the bus at 15:30h but it started to rain again and we stopped at the side of the road. At 17:00h we decided to continue and were successful in locating three male Satyr Tragopans. Everyone had a good look, although there was considerable jockeying for position to see the first one.
It was past 18:30h by the time we got back to the camp and already dark. We found our way to the dining room tent by flashlight and went to bed shortly after dinner, hunkered down in our sleeping bags with blankets on top. We didn’t have a thermometer but the temperature dropped to several degrees below freezing at that elevation.
All species seen on April 17 - Himalayan Crow, Eurasian Magpie, Blue Whistling Thrush, Himalayan Wood Owl (H), Satyr Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Blue Rock Thrush, Common Kestrel, White-winged Grosbeak, Coal Tit, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Buff-barred Warbler, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Golden Bush Robin, Black-faced Laughingthrush (H), Slaty Blue Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-capped Redstart, Oriental Turtle Dove.
April 18, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping approximately 9 km southeast of Sengor; elevation around 2,900 metres.
Our day started at 04:15h in a cold tent. We dressed as quickly as possible and scurried over to the breakfast tent. Hot porridge never tasted so good!
By 05:40h we were on our way again back over the high mountain pass, where snow had fallen. How lovely everywhere looked with fresh, white snow, green conifers and babbling streams cascading down the mountain slopes.
Before long we spotted a male Blood Pheasant and not long afterwards a male Satyr Tragopan. These birds are spectacular and we felt blessed to be in Bhutan where they are relatively approachable. We had to remind ourselves just how rare these species are.
We also saw a female Himalayan Monal, which meant that we had seen both sexes of each species of pheasant that we had observed.
It was known that we would be camping in the National Park somewhere but a precise location was unknown. The camp crew had been despatched to find a suitable place and we basically drove along the road until we saw the encampment, stopping to do a little birding along the way. It was in a different location from previous years, but quite suitable for our purposes
We arrived at what would be our home for three days at around 11:00h and were impressed that everything was in order and waiting for us to move in. A fine lunch was served to us even though the cooking staff did not know for sure that we would return to eat our midday meal at the camp.
We rested in our tent and then set out again at 15:00h.
By playing a tape Ben was able to lure a Chestnut-headed Tesia into full view for all to see - I believe it was a lifer for everyone except Eric.
We were not so lucky with Bar-winged Wren Babbler. It did respond to the tape but was never in view. A couple of wonderfully coloured Gould’s Sunbirds were more than adequate compensation.
Glancing up into the sky we observed our first Black Eagle of the trip and were impressed by the ease with which this bird soared.
We birded until almost 18:00h and then left for the camp. When we arrived dinner was ready so we ate almost right away and then retired for the night. There is little option to do otherwise in the confined quarters of the tent in total darkness. As was the case at our first campground we were joined by free-roaming cattle, but we slept well and they didn’t bother us too much.
All species seen April 18 - Himalayan Crow, Blood Pheasant, Spotted Nutcracker, Blue-fronted Redstart, Satyr Tragopan, Oriental Turtle Dove, Spotted Laughingthrush, Oriental White-eye, White-browed Fulvetta, Himalayan Monal, Olive Tree Pipit, White-collared Blackbird, Coal Tit, Alpine Accentor, Rufous-vented Tit, White-capped Redstart, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous Sibia, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Russet Sparrow, Fork-tailed Swift, Green-tailed Sunbird, Eurasian Hoopoe, Striated Laughingthrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Grey-crested Tit, Gould’s Sunbird, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Black Eagle, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Bar-winged Wren Babbler (H), Hill Partridge (H), Whiskered Yuhina, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Buff--barred Warbler, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Gold-billed Magpie.
April 19, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping approximately 9 km southeast of Sengor; elevation around 2,900 metres.
The now familiar sound of cows grazing near our tents awakened us during the night and we slept fitfully after that. In addition to any other obstacles that we might have to watch for as we shone our flashlight to guide us through the darkness, we now had to be vigilant not to step into cow patties!
Under clear, sunny skies we set off at around 05:45h and within about fifteen minutes had a male Satyr Tragopan feeding at the side of the road. We all watched it from the bus for a while and then quietly disembarked and got the bird in the telescope. We were able to watch it for about ten minutes - truly a significant length of time to watch this stunning bird.
Later we saw two Brown Bullfinches, a male and a female. Talk about a contrast in plumage between the bullfinches and the tragopan. The finches were no less delightful, however.
We returned to the campsite at approximately 11:30h and sat along the edge of the site and did a little quiet birding on our own.
After another great lunch prepared by Peldon and his crew we relaxed for a while in our tent, and had a “shower” and got into some clean clothes.
At 15:00h we set out again, driving uphill to where we had left off this morning, and walking down from that point. By now it was overcast with a few spots of rain here and there.
We had great scope looks at a Rufous-bellied Niltava and also saw a Pale Blue Flycatcher.In amongst the dizzying array of Phylloscopus warblers were a couple of Golden-spectacled Warblers. A Chestnut-tailed Minla was appreciated by everyone and a Dark-sided Flycatcher was our first of the trip.
All species seen April 19 - Hill Partridge (H), Yellow-bellied Fantail, Oriental Turtle Dove, Olive Tree Pipit, Scarley Minivet, Spotted Nutcracker, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous Sibia, Satyr Tragopan, White-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-fronted Tit, Gould’s Sunbird, Green-backed Tit, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-browed Rosefinch, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Brown Bullinch, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, Fork-tailed Swift, Whistler’s Warbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Green-tailed Sunbird, Himalayan Crow, Gold-billed Magpie, White-capped Redstart, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Pale Blue Flyactcher, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Red-tailed Minla, Whiskered Yuhina, White-tailed Nuthatch, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Yellow-browed Tit, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Himalayan Wood Owl (H), Golden Spectacled Warbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla.
April 20, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping near Mongar
We left our campground and headed out over the mountains. On a high mountain pass we discovered a Darjeeling Woodpecker, which obligingly perched on the trunk of a tree for a while and then moved to another. Everyone was able to get an excellent look at this bird as low cloud moved in and out, sometimes obscuring the view, at other times lifting to afford us clear vision.
We finally located the Bar-winged Wren Babbler that Ben had been attempting to call in for a couple of days and we were all very happy to see this attractive little bird. Miriam was just happy not to have to hear the repeated playing of the tape any longer!
On this day we saw three Little Forktails and I think we all developed a kind of special affection for forktails in general.
We stopped to examine a colony of Nepal House Martins nesting on the face of a cliff, with a persistent Himalayan Crow trying to break into the nests to predate eggs or nestlings. It was not successful, at least during the time we watched it.
A magnificent Mountain Hawk Eagle was initially seen flying, but it perched high atop a snag enabling us to get it in the scope so that everyone was able to really examine this incredible raptor.
We had low cloud most of the day and visibility was quite poor. At about 16:15h it started to rain and we all got onto the bus.
Our camp crew had moved as soon as we had vacated the tents and Ben hoped that they would be successful in reaching a campground he favoured before one of the other bird tour groups got there. Alas it was not to be. BirdQuest had already laid claim to that location and our crew had to move on about a half hour farther along the road.
The weather was dreary when we arrived at 17:00h but there was little to do other than sit on our cots in the tent and wait until dinner time at 18:00h. After dinner we made our way back to our tent with the aid of our flashlight and went to sleep.
All species seen April 20 - Hill Partridge (H), Himalayan Crow, Gold-billed Magpie, Green-tailed Sunbird, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Olive Tree Pipit, Himalayan Swiftlet, Red-vented Bulbul, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Rufous Sibia, Broad-billed Warbler, Scaly Laughingthrush, Little Forktail, Hoary-throated Barwing, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-capped Redstart, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Himalayan Cuckoo (H), White-throated Laughingthrush, Whiskered Yuhina, Scarlet Finch, Striated Laughingthrush, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Gould’s Sunbird, Nepal House Martin, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Golden-spectaled Warbler, Black Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin.
April 21, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping near Mongar
The day started with heavy rain and low cloud in the mountains. We had great faith in Sangay’s ability as a driver, but the early morning drive from the campground in the dark was very hazardous. It must be remembered that there is no such thing as a straight road and the entire journey is spent on twisting, winding, narrow roads, with cattle wandering at will, the constant danger of landslides, especially under conditions of intense rainfall, and sheer drops to oblivion if one should miscalculate. At one point Sangay had to stop to remove boulders which had slid down the slope overnight and there were times when from my vantage point in the seat immediately behind the driver I simply could not see the road. I vowed to myself that if conditions were similar the next day I would not make the trip
Upon arrival at the point where we intended to start our walk it was raining cats and dogs, so we had to sit in the bus and wait it out. Harvey ventured forth with an umbrella, but returned to the bus a short time later. He was rewarded for his foray with several leeches.
At 07:30h we went outside during a respite from the rain, but at 08:15h it resumed and we had to get back in the bus.
We birded on and off during the morning. Visibility improved somewhat but it was never really clear the whole day.
We did, however, manage to get some good birds. A Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker was unexpected and we were all elated to see a species that is seldom seen on these trips. We also got a great look at a Pygmy Wren Babbler and satisfactory glimpses at a Grey-bellied Tesia.
Several Cutias were present and we were able to see them very well. Although we had seen Yellow-rumped Honeyguide we were very happy to have another chance to observe this species, especially since on this occasion we had it in the scope for an extended period on 60 power magnification. We had similar prolonged scope view of Speckled Wood Pigeon. Persistence provided us with a great sighting of Rufous-throated Wren Babbler.
One of the highlights of the day was our lunch. Unknown to us the camp crew had prepared a complete feast and drove up to where we were birding and set up a table so that we could sit and enjoy a fine meal. The Dragon God smiled on us that day and commanded that the rain should hold off while we ate.
Right after lunch the fog rolled back in and visibility was very poor. Most of us stayed on the bus for the balance of the afternoon, with a few brief forays to do a little birding.
We sighted a Rusty–fronted Barwing at around 17:00h and then headed back to the camp
All species see April 21 - Himalayan Crow, Green-tailed Sunbird, White-bellied Nuthatch, Blue-winged Minla, Short-billed Minivet, Grey-bellied Tesia, White-spectacled Warbler, Grey-chinned Minivet, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Cutia, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Rufous Sibia, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, Ashy-throated Warbler, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Golden-spectacled Warbler, Whiskered Yuhina, White-throated Laughingthrush, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Bay Woodpecker, Golden Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Ashy Drongo, Oriental Magpie Robin, Mountain Scops Owl (H), Large Hawk Cuckoo (H), Himalayan Cuckoo (H), Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Broad-billed Warbler, Grey-headed Flycatcher.
April 22, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping near Mongar
This day was characterized by heavy rain most of the day and thick, dense fog.
It was not a good day for Miriam. She had a headache and decided to stay on the bus for most of the day to try to get rid of it. She was also depressed because of the continuing awful weather and was getting cabin fever from the confined quarters of the tent. It was the one day when she wished that she could go home!
As was the case yesterday, the camp crew set up a table for us for lunch and served a delicious hot meal. Once again the rain miraculously held off while we ate.
The birds of the day, on a day when we did little birding, were a Lesser Cuckoo, Large Hawk Cuckoo and a Pygmy Blue Flycatcher.
All species seen April 22 - Blue Whistling Thrush, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Lesser Cuckoo, Green-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Rufous-capped Babbler, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Scaly Laughingthrush, Himalayan Cuckoo (H), Blue-capped Rock Thrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Striated Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rufous Sibia, Whiskered Yuhina, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Golden-spectacled Warbler, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher.
April 23, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping near Mongar
We breakfasted at 04:30h and, thankfully, there was no rain and the fog was nowhere near as dense as it had been the previous day. We were on our way by 05:15h and it turned out to be a fine morning.
One of our early sightings was a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. David was very happy since he had missed the earlier one seen at our first camp site.
David then got a bird in his binoculars and began to describe it to Ben and Eric who were close by. It was identified as a Sapphire Flycatcher, our one and only for the trip. This was followed in short order by a Black-throated Sunbird, one of only two sightings we would have.
A splendid delight for everyone was a flock of a dozen or so Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills moving through, affording everyone the opportunity to really see them well. Another exciting find, seen well by all, was an Asian Emerald Cuckoo, truly a beautiful bird. Another sighting of a Rufous-necked Hornbill was appreciated by everyone. We heard an Asian Barred Owlet calling but it was fairly distant from where we stood.
At 11:45h we headed back to camp for lunch. We had planned to leave again at 14:45h but a heavy rain delayed our departure.
Once back at a higher elevation we tried playing the tape for Chestnut-breasted Partridge, as we had been all morning but were unable to draw them out. Their calls were frustratingly close, but seeing the bird was a different matter altogether.
While searching for the partridge Miriam located a quite different bird and described it to Ben. It was a Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, meriting a handshake and congratulations from Ben. I think we all got to see the bird although none of us quite as well as Miriam.
All birds seen on April 23 - Himalayan Crow, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous Sibia, Short-billed Minivet, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Whiskered Yuhina, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Verditer Flycatcher, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Sapphire Flycatcher, Black-throated Sunbird, Grey-chinned Minivet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-browed Tit, Black-faced Warbler, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Himalayan Swiftlet, Asian Barred Owlet (H), Golden Babbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Little Pied Flycatcher, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Long-billed Wren Babbler (H), Striated Laughingthrush, Black-throated Tit, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Partridge (H), Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Great Barbet, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler.
April 24, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park
Overnight camping near Mongar
This was another day of mixed weather. The morning was predominantly fine but we experienced heavy rain for most of the afternoon thereby spending more time on the bus than off.
Nevertheless there were several significant highlights, one of which was a Large Niltava in the telescope for an extended period allowing everyone to really examine this stunning bird.
We again heard Chestnut-breasted Partridge frequently but we were unable to see this elusive species in the dense undergrowth it inhabits.
We saw an Ashy Drongo fly into a tree and then realized it had a nest there. There were nice looks at a couple of Grey-sided Laughingthrushes; two Streaked Spiderhunters were seen on branches allowing a clear view.
We were able to get a pretty decent look at a Large Hawk Cuckoo and we had an Indian Cuckoo in view briefly but quickly lost it in the fog. We heard two or three others calling.
Our only sighting of Blue-bearded Bee- Eater would occur today, but we had a nice male perched without obstruction so everyone could see it well.
It was exciting to see two Crested Serpent Eagles high overhead and we also saw our only Red-faced Liocichla of the trip, as well as the lone Red-billed Leiothrix we would see.
All species seen April 24 - Grey Treepie, Oriental Turtle Dove, Blue Whistling Thrush, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Golden Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Striated Laughingthrush, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Whiskered Yuhina, Grey-chinned Minivet, Red-tailed Minla, Rufous Sibia, Chestnut-breasted Partridge (H), Verditer Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Black-throated Tit, Scarlet Minivet, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Ashy Drongo, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Grey-headed Warbler, Streaked Spiderhunter, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, White-bellied Fantail, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Golden-throated Barbet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Striated Bulbu, Short-billed Minivet, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Sultan Tit, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Blue-winged Minla, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Himalayan Swiftlet, Oriental Magpie Robin, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Great Barbet, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Red-faced Liocichla, White-tailed Robin, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Red-billed Leiothrix, Blue-throated Barbet, Little Pied Flycatcher, Nepal Fulvetta, White-crested Laughingthrush, Black-throated Sunbird.
April 25, 2007
Thrumsing-La National Park - Bumthang
Overnight at Mountain Lodge
We left at 05:00h and said goodbye to our camp crew and thanked them for all they had done for us. It was raining lightly when we departed and it rained on and off for most of the day.
We travelled through rich agricultural areas and over high mountain passes on our way to Bumthang.
We had not been on the road too long when Sangay spotted a pair of Kalij Pheasants, which we were all able to see well. Marion called attention to some “large shapes” she had seen in a tree as the bus passed by, and we went back to check it out. Even though the fog was quite dense we were still able to identify nine Speckled Wood Pigeons perched together.
Another tree farther along held six Cutias which permitted intense study and appreciation.
Just outside the village of Ura, in a grassy field, we found three Oriental Skylarks and even though they were fairly distant we succeeded in getting a fine view in the telescope. We had seen this species in Thailand but only in flight so we very much appreciated seeing the bird on the ground where we good pick out the field marks more precisely.
In the higher elevations Red-billed Chough was common, especially around human settlements and we started to see numerous Eurasian Magpies. Himalayan Crow was ubiquitous.
In fact when we stopped to have our packed lunch at the road side numerous Himalayan Crows, three magpies and a chough approached fearlessly and fed on scraps that we tossed to them. In fact, one of the crows swooped down onto Harvey’s plate and knocked his utensils down the hillside.
Before reaching the lodge at Bumthang we had the distinct pleasure of seeing a female Himalayan Monal at the side of the road. We had seen just one male of this species, so it seemed fitting that our second individual should be a female. As subdued as he was gaudy, the female was nevertheless distinctly beautiful with a bold white crescent on the uppertail coverts.
We almost jumped for joy when we arrived at the Mountain Lodge where a hot shower awaited us. Miriam was thrilled to be able to really get into her suitcase and find clean clothes to wear. She showered eagerly and put on makeup before going down for dinner.
There was a fire in the dining room, but it threw out too much heat, so Harvey and Marion moved to another table with us in order to be farther away from the stove. We had a nice dinner and sat talking after the others had left. It was around 20:30 when we left to go back to the room. We reminded each other that in the gloom of the tent we would have been in bed for an hour already at this time!
All species seen April 25 - Oriental Turtle Dove, Grey Bushchat, Blue Whistling Thrush, Kalij Pheasant, White-capped redstart, Green-tailed Sunbird, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Whiskered Yuhina, Rufous Sibia, Cutia, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Yellow-browed Tit, Himalayan Cuckoo (H), Nepal House Martin, Red-billed Chough, Oriental Skylark, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan Crow, Alpine Accentor, Eurasian Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Eurasian Cuckoo, Grey-backed Shrike, Coal Tit, Himalayan Monal, Olive Tree Pipit, Himalayan Buzzard, White Wagtail, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
April 26, 2007
Bumthang - Punakha
Overnight at Hotel Y.T.
It was overcast when we left but shortly
before 07:00h the sky started to clear and the sun came out.
Birds were fairly sparse but we did get a good look at a Great Parrotbill and little more than a fleeting glimpse at a White-browed Shortwing.
The area that we were travelling through was more populated than we had seen for a while, and seemed to be more prosperous also. We saw an old yak herder with his herd of yaks. This scene certainly reminded us that we were in the Himalayas. We never saw a wild yak but they are commonly domesticated and obviously are important to local farmers.
We came upon a festival to celebrate the unification of Bhutan and we prevailed upon Ben to stay for a while and let us watch and take some pictures. There were dancers in their fearsome masks, and groups of women singing in a seductive chant, almost acting as sirens in the ritual that was being played out before us. We also were able to watch a group of men erect a new pole complete with its prayer flags. It was quite an effort and they had to try several times and use different strategies, but they finally had it erect with the prayer flags snapping in the wind.
Tshewang had to leave us today, having been assigned to join another Etho Metho tour. We were sorry to see him go and as we bid him farewell we wished him luck and great success in all his future endeavours, with the sincere wish that he might visit us in Canada one day. He is a fine young man and it was our great pleasure to have gotten to know him.
He was replaced by Sonam, an equally fine young fellow, whom we liked very much.
In mid afternoon Ben saw an Asian Barred Owlet fly across the road in front of the bus. We stopped and everyone was able to see the bird where it had perched in a tree.
We also saw a magnificent Black Eagle, weaving in and out of the trees despite its huge wingspan. It was a magnificent sight. Due to the contours of the terrain it was at one point almost at eye level with us from the bus.
Shortly after arriving at our lodging for the night Ben advised us that we were losing Sangay and Kinley as they had both been reassigned and had to head back to Bumthang. We would have a new bus and driver which would arrive during the night while we were asleep.
We said goodbye to the two fellows and expressed our heartfelt thanks to them. They had been great companions throughout our journey, and I would be hard-pressed to think of a more competent driver than Sangay.
All species seen April 26 - Himalayan Crow, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Magpie, Oriental Turtle Dove, Red-billed Chough, Grey-backed Shrike, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Russet Sparrow, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Red Crossbill, Green-tailed Sunbird, Blue-fronted Redstart, Blue Whistling Thrush, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Great Parrotbill, White-browed Shortwing, White-capped Redstart, Spotted Nutcracker, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Ashy Drongo, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Asian Barred Owlet, Plumbeous Redstart, Great Barbet (H), Verditer Flycatcher, Red-vented Bulbul, Nepal House Martin, Black Eagle, White-throated Laughingthrush, Olive Tree Pipit, Black Bulbul.
April 27, 2007
Punakha - Paro
Overnight at Hotel Gangtey Palace
The first highlight of this day’s birding was a Red-headed Bullfinch that David spotted. It was perched in the open allowing everyone to have a really good look at it. Even when it flew it obligingly moved to another location where it was still in full view.
The second highlight was a male Rufous-bellied Woodpecker working on a tree, enabling us to get it in the scope so that everyone could study it to their heart’s content. This was a very co-operative bird!
We skirted around Thimpu where a great deal of road construction is taking place. We were informed that there is a certain urgency to have everything completed in time for the coronation of the new king next year. But this construction was to cost us three hours of lost time! The road is closed for three hours each morning in order to permit the free movement of heavy equipment and heavily laden trucks. The stoppage begins at 09:30h. We arrived at the barricade at 09:37h! Despite spirited pleadings from Sonam and the driver, the guard at the gate was resolute - we were not going to be allowed through.
Ben never got off the bus, and I believe Carmelita stayed there also, but the rest of us disembarked and patronized a local market area where various merchants had items for sale, and we birded a little up and down the river until it was time to leave.
Since we had lost three hours, Ben gave everyone the choice of shopping and sightseeing in Paro for the afternoon, or going up to a high elevation to do some birding. Since there was little prospect of adding any new species, we decided, along with Evelyn and Marion, to visit Paro for a little local culture and shopping. Ben let us have Sonam to act as our guide and companion while in town. He was a great help and we were pleased to have him along.
We enjoyed ourselves very much in Paro and patronized some of the stores. When we arrived back at our hotel, Sonam arranged for us to have tea and cookies served to our room, where Marion joined us.
The hotel was spectacular, high on a hill overlooking rice paddies and terraced plots of grain, with the town of Paro spread before us. It really had been a palace in its day and our room high up on the third floor, accessible only by climbing very steep stairs, reflected that fact. It was huge and totally in Bhutanese style with elaborate decor and windows that opened to clear, fresh air. We slept in the largest bed we have ever seen!
We had a very nice dinner that night in the dining room too. Everything about our stay at this location was wonderful, including a personalized tour (for David, Miriam and Marion) of two altars, by the son of the custodian of them. His father had been a monk, who had relinquished his status in the monastery by marrying, but was still considered a holy man, with special responsibility for these important places of worship. The young man who accompanied us was a delightful, knowledgeable guide, who explained all of the iconography to us, the reasons for the offerings, the relationship between Buddha and other deities, and took great pains to express every concept in ways that we would understand.
At the end of it all we felt that a rare honour had been bestowed upon us.
All species seen on April 27 - Rock Pigeon, Ashy Drongo, Himalayan Crow, Red-billed Chough,
Oriental Turtle Dove, Common Myna, Kalij Pheasant, Blue Whistling Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, White-throated Laughingthrush, Gold-billed magpie, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Red-headed Bullfinch, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Long-tailed Minivet, Grey-backed Shrike, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Plumbeous Redstart, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, White-capped Redstart, Russet Sparrow.
April 28, 2007
Paro - Bangkok
We got to sleep in until 05:15h! We had a good breakfast at 06:15 and left for the airport about an hour later.
All went well and we had an uneventful transit through the immigration proceedings and an equally smooth flight to Bangkok via Calcutta.
By the time we arrived at the Novatel Hotel it was about 17:00h. We went up to our room to relax for a while and to get showered and changed for our farewell dinner.
Marion and Harvey had to catch a flight shortly after midnight, so Harvey elected to stay in the room and sleep, but Marion joined us for dinner.
Miriam had a birthday on April 15, while in Bhutan and Harvey was to celebrate his birthday on April 29, so Ben had ordered a cake in honour of these events. Marion took a piece up to the room with her so that Harvey would not miss out.
We bade farewell to everyone with the firm resolve that some of us at least would see each other again.
April 29, 2007
We left Bangkok at 07:30h on Thai Airways bound for Narita. After a one hour stopover in Narita we boarded an Air Canada flight to Toronto, arriving at 16:10h local time on the same day, having crossed the International Date Line.
We cleared Canada Customs and Immigration, retrieved our car and drove home.
The trip was a wonderful experience and was very worthwhile both from a birding perspective and also from the standpoint that it enabled us to immerse ourselves however slightly in another culture. We feel enriched by the entire experience.
It was a great pleasure for us to get to know Tshewang, Kinley, Sangay and Sonam. They were all decent, fine people who contributed a great deal to the enjoyment of our trip. All were keenly interested in the birds we saw and wanted to know more about them. Tshewang, especially, studied our field guides at every opportunity, and I promised to send both him and Kinley a copy of this report.
They both said that they would like to specialize in being a guide for birding tours as opposed to treks.
We experienced the beauty of the high Himalayas, the politeness and genuine pleasure of the people we met in seeing us visit their country. We saw endless tracts of forest, rocky mountain streams, waterfalls, ancient settlements and Dzongs.
We encountered smiling schoolchildren, pleasant, helpful store owners, Buddhist monks, farmers, labourers, mothers with their children, yak herders, soldiers and policemen. Everywhere it was a delight.
If you would like further information regarding this trip please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 519 725-0866. Fax 519 725-1176.
ALL BIRD SPECIES SEEN IN BHUTAN
Pallas’s Fish Eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle
Mountain Hawk Eagle
Common Hill Partridge
Grey Peacock Pheasant
Speckled Wood Pigeon
Ashy Wood Pigeon
Oriental Turtle Dove
Barred Cuckoo Dove
Mountain Imperial Pigeon
Large Hawk Cuckoo
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo
Asian Emerald Cuckoo
Mountain Scops Owl
Collared Scops Owl
Tawny Fish Owl
Himalayan Wood Owl
Asian Barred Owlet
Nepal House Martin
Olive Tree Pipit
Blue-capped Rock Thrush
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Whistling Thrush
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
Hume’s Bush Warbler
Grey-sided Bush Warbler
Russet Bush Warbler
Tickell’s Leaf Warbler
Large-billed Leaf Warbler
Blyth’s leaf Warbler
Little Pied Flycatcher
Pale Blue Flycatcher
Pygmy Blue Flycatcher
Golden Bush Robin
White-browed Bush Robin
Oriental Magpie Robin
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
White-browed Scimitar Babbler
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler
Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler
Pygmy Wren Babbler
Rufous-breasted Wren Babbler
Bar-winged Wren Babbler
Spotted Wren Babbler
Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Plain Mountain Finch