Bhutan Apr 08—27, 2018
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
It is fair to say that if they ironed out all the hills in Bhutan, it would be bigger than Texas. It is precisely this mountainous terrain that draws the birder to Bhutan—a remote Buddhist kingdom only comparatively recently opened up to Westerners. The highly diverse bird fauna of the Eastern Himalayas, with a Tibetan influence and a good sprinkling of Palaearctic migrants, ensures any visit will be a lot of fun, exciting, and quite an adventure. This is an account of this year’s adventure.
Superb views of the Himalayan peaks started our tour auspiciously—Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, and Jomolhari all on view out of the plane window at 30,000 feet. We arrived into Paro Airport, perhaps the world’s most beautiful airport, and after a lost binoculars “kafuffle” managed to enter Bhutan and start birding. Happily, the binoculars were located. Literally the first bird focused on was an Ibisbill, followed by Brown Dipper, White Wagtail, and Oriental Turtle-Dove until the group reached our new hotel, and, a bit weary from our early start, had a break. The afternoon was spent exploring along the Paro Valley where we had great views of Black-tailed Crake, Eurasian Hobby, and Speckled Wood-Pigeon amongst more typical species such as Russet Sparrow, Green-backed Tit, and White-collared Blackbird, as we explored the ancient fortification of Drukgyel Dzong.
Barreling up a mountain pass in the pre-dawn towards Cheli La, as the light improved, Jomolhari was there puncturing the sky, lit by the early rays of the sun. A wonderful way to wake up and, if you were indeed drowsy, nothing like stunning Blood Pheasants perched on a stump displaying their finery to wake you up. We quickly scoped up the first of three male Himalayan Monals (another of the world’s great birds), and the day rarely lost tempo as we clocked up quite a roll call of Himalayan birds. A singing Long-tailed Thrush, a small flock of Snow Pigeons, great views of White-winged and Collared grosbeaks, Plain Mountain Finch and a male Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, both Alpine and Altai accentors, beautiful Blue-fronted Redstarts, Rosy Pipits and Himalayan Bluetails, Hodgson’s Treecreepers, and several species of tits. Superb Spotted Laughingthrush and the more common Black-faced Laughingthrush—always welcome! Notable was a juvenile Northern Goshawk perched and a silvery male Hen Harrier that spooked up the Snow Pigeons.
Read Dion’s full report in his Field Report.