Bhutan Apr 08—30, 2017
Posted by Machiel Valkenburg
Before starting our thrilling exploration of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, we all arrived early into the lavish comforts of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Delhi, India. From Delhi Airport we flew with Druk Air, the national airline company of Bhutan, to Paro. We were lucky with clear weather, and all had good looks at Mount Everest. After clearing customs and changing some money, we were on our way. Not long after, we discovered our first classy bird, an Ibisbill that was foraging along the nearby river at a distance of no more than 15 yards. In the gorgeous green countryside, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Gray-backed Shrike, Green-backed Tit, Black Bulbul, and Blyth’s Leaf Warbler proved common throughout the tour. In a marshy patch we did our best for the challenging Black-tailed Crake; we were lucky, and all of us got more than acceptable views!
An early rise saw us driving up the Cheli La (La meaning pass in Bhutanese) and reaching its top at 12,000 feet. During the drive up, many goodies were seen; Blood Pheasant and Rufous-chinned, Spotted, and Black-faced laughingthrushes were most stunning. A Mountain Scops-Owl and a Gray Nightjar were heard. At the top, we quickly found a Himalayan Monal, which gave distant but stunning scope views. In the scrub on top, the amazing Blue-fronted Redstart proved common, as were Alpine Accentor and White-winged Grosbeak. A female Dark-rumped Rosefinch was very skulky and seen by only a few lucky ones. While descending, we walked leisurely down and noted many good birds: Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Gray-crested Tit, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, White-browed Fulvetta, and the exquisite Himalayan Bluetail! In the evening we arrived in the tiny capitol of Bhutan, the town of Thimphu. Near Thimphu is a lush valley with wooded slopes and stands of Blue Pine; here we birded a full day, finding some gorgeous birds along the main road. We started with a distant Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, which was the main catch of the day. Near the bus, a couple of lovely Kalij Pheasants showed themselves, a Darjeeling Woodpecker was foraging in a tree, a small party of Yellow-browed Tits with a Black-browed Tit, Ashy-throated Warbler, and our first of many Chestnut-crowned Warblers gave wonderful views. While searching and finding a Gray-sided Bush-Warbler, a Brown Parrotbill proved very obliging, and we made excellent photographs of this intriguing bird.
We continued our journey through this remarkable country to the Tashithang Valley, where a comfortable fieldcamp was erected especially for us; this included a wonderful cook who made the most delicious meals for us. We birded the surroundings and had a great time finding many colorful species. During the drive to the valley we passed along the Dochu La, where we quickly found, during breakfast, the beautiful Fire-tailed Myzornis! We encountered a large group of no less than 50 individuals. Some of the most notable other species were Black Eagle, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, and Gray-bellied Cuckoo. In the valley itself we spent most of our time walking along the road, which proved the best method to find many desirable species. We came across Great Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, White-bellied Erpornis, Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Mountain Bulbul, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Whiskered Yuhina, Nepal Fulvetta, Small Niltava, Little Forktail, and Orange-bellied Leafbird. At the camp we were surprised to find a juvenile Crimson-browed Finch! In the impressive woods, a wide selection of warblers were constantly present; we found Greenish, Blyth’s Leaf, Yellow-vented, Gray-hooded, Golden-spectacled, Whistler’s, White-spectacled, and more Chestnut-crowned foraging in the many layers of greenery.