Bhutan Apr 13—May 08, 2007
Posted by David Bishop
This was a very special tour, one of the very best I have ever had the pleasure of leading to Bhutan. In large part this success was due to a wonderful group of participants, my co-leader Dion Hobcroft, and our wonderful—no, change that, fantastic ground crew. I would like to thank you all for making the entire tour such a great experience.
I consider myself very privileged to have traveled so often and so extensively throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan (1994 to the present). To have the opportunity to regularly explore such an incredible and special destination, and in company with my wonderful Bhutanese friends, is something I treasure and look forward to every year. VENT's Bhutan tour is memorable indeed. The vastness and beauty of Bhutan's forests present a window onto what Asia and the Himalayas once were like, which, combined with the opportunity to make very real discoveries, never fails to rejuvenate my soul and make me want to return there time after time.
"The Paro Dzong (monastery), guarded by icy crags, sits warming under the late afternoon sun. It seems to welcome our approach to our beautifully located hotel. An Ibisbill, so subtle as to be taken for a glacial stone, dips quietly in the snowmelt. This is indeed the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Land of the Peaceful Dragon." As Steve Hilty remarked on first setting foot in the kingdom, "This is fairytale land."
—K. David Bishop
Our birdlist provides a summary of our daily activities, including some of the trip's highlights, together with a list of what we heard and saw. Nevertheless, it only conveys part of the story and can never really express the wonderful sights and sounds of Bhutan, its land, its forests, its wildlife, and its people. I doubt any of us will ever forget the quite extraordinary event that we witnessed when a pack of dhole (Asian wild dogs) hunted down a huge adult female Sambar deer in the midst of a raging Himalayan River. Indeed, I am still disturbed by the images that continue to flash into my mind, but it was so compelling—perhaps because it was so graphic!
Of course, the birding is always great in Bhutan, and any time you find a Ward's Trogon—as we did on two days—has to be great, but to find a pair at their nest was very special. However, as seems to be the theme this year on VENT's Asia tours, it was an exceptionally good trip for mammals with a total of 23 species seen including many golden langurs, some at very close range; Himalayan black bear; both goral and serow; and some amazing nighttime views of both the giant Hodgson's flying squirrel and the diminutive particolored flying squirrel.
All in all, this tour proved a wonderful exposition of the rich biodiversity, landscapes, and culture of this fascinating kingdom. I cannot wait to return!