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Bhutan Bird Watching (10 Nights/11 Days)

Day 01 : Arrive Paro – Transfer to Thimphu 58kms about 2 hours.
In Paro you can visit National Museum which contains Bhutanese art, textiles, religion, crafts, etc. Paro rinpung dzong – the center of district administration & the monks body. Drive towards north of paro valley about 4 km to visit 7th century Kyichu lhakhang. This area, the riverbank of paro Chu is best known for Ibis bill. This bird is half the size of a hen and is in the endangered list. They are found in this area throughout the year. Drive to Thimphu through the farm houses and fields. On the drive you pass by Tamchog temple built by the saint Thangthong gyalpo. This saint introduced the building of iron chain bridges in Bhutan. The last such bridge is still in use in eastern Bhutan dating back 800 years. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.

Day 02 : Thimphu/Punakha 73 kms about 3 hours.
Before breakfast take a drive to Dodena, here you can see the black faced laughingthrust, brown dipper and spotted laughing thrust, fire capped tit, etc. After breakfast sightseeing of Thimphu, the textile museum, painting school, handicrafts emporium, handmade paper factory etc. later drive to Dochula area and birding in mixed coniferous forests and cold broad forest, descending towards Punakha. In this area you may see satyr Tragopan, spotted nutcracker, large hawk cuckoo, Darjeeling woodpecker, yellow billed magpie, chest tailed minla, collard blackbird, Ultramarine flycatcher, brown bullfinch, scarlet finch, black drongo, chestnut bellied nuthatch, slaty backed forktail, gorgeted flycatcher, white throated laughingthrust, Eurasian jay, wedge tailed green pigeon, mountain imperial pigeon, verditer flycatcher, etc. Overnight hotel at Punakha. The satyr tragopan is one of the rare Himalayan pheasant with great plumage. Its rare because they were hunted down for medicinal purposes. Bhutan has saved this beautiful bird with the law that forbids hunting in the kingdom. This bird feeds mostly on roots of a poisonous herb in the mountains. Bhutanese believe that some learned recluse meditating in the mountains turn themselves in pheasants to feed. Todays drive goes through warm temperate to almost sub tropical. We pass through an altitude of 3050meters to 1000 meters. Apart from birds we see lots of Himalayan plants some with high indigenous medicinal values. We will find many plants whose bark, roots, fruits and leaves we use in our textile.

Day 03 : Punakha
Drive to Tashithang and birding in warm broad-leaved forest. You may see great barbet, barred cuckoo drove, magpie robin, green magpie, palla’s fish eagle, osprey, river lapwing, ruddy shelduck, Eurasian wigeon, common merganser, pied kingfisher, red-vented bulbul, golden throated barbet, kalij pheasant, orange bellied leafbird, common buzzard, great cormorant, crested bunting, etc. The barbet is the size of a pigeon and is considered a friend of farmers in Punakha. Spring is marked with call of the barbet and farmers prepare their land for cultivation. When the barbet calls in the morning the farmers have to get the cattle out of the sheds for foraging in the forests. In the evenings these birds call together which signals cowherds to take the cattle back to the shed. So the farmers listen to the call of this bird for timing. Late afternoon visit Ninzergang chorten and Punakha Dzong. Overnight at hotel in Punakha. In the months of April to early May we could use Tashithang to see some orchids in bloom. There are some areas in Tashithang where orchids are left in their wild habitat.

Day 04 : Punakha/Trongsa 150 km about 5/6 hours.
Today you will be passing through warm/cold broad leaved and coniferous forests. You may see mountain bulbul, striated bulbul, common kestrel, spotwinged grosbeak, mountain hawk eagle, satyr tragopan, whiskered yuhina, wall creeper, Himalayan swiftlet, etc. Overnight lodge at Trongsa. We begin the trip following the drive by the Sunkosh river where in spring we spot the white bellied heron which is one of the high listed endangered birds. As we climb the Pelela pass 3300 meters, we see yaks grazing in the months of early spring and late autumn. At Pelela pass it is another angle to see the northern high peaks of Bhutan. As we descend the pass we pass through Sephu village who rear lots of sheep. They weave a special fabric called “Chana” which is woven from wool and is used by elderly women as “kira” for winter months. This fabric is believed to have some remedy against rheumatism and other intestinal diseases. The fabric is heavy and not common among the younger generation. Sephu eople are experts in making bamboo tea strainers and bamboo mats where grains are dried. They also weave huge bamboo grain containers. Soon we pass by Rukubji and Chendeji villages which are just a few kms apart but with different dialects. These areas fall under the black mountain ranges and if we penetrate deep there are great chances of seeing other big wildlife. Finally we reach the viewpoint of Trongsa. The road is cut on the massive cliffs. During the medieval civil wars most defeated warlords end their lives over these cliffs. The description of such incidents is depicted in the oral story – “The Ballad of Pemi Tshewan Tashi” now available in English.

Day 05 : Trongsa/Bumthang 64 km about 2/3 hours.
Trongsa Dzong is an important monument in Bhutanese history. During the medieval days Trongsa controlled the whole eastern and southeast part of Bhutan. In the late 19th century the governor of trongsa played an important role in the final unification of Bhutan. Trongsa Penlop (governor) Jigme Namgyal of the late 19th century gave the theory of hereditary monarchy in Bhutan. He saw the problems with the elected head of the government called the “Debs” and his son Ugen Wangchuck became the first ing of Bhutan in 1907. Henceforth the crown prince should hold the post of Trongsa Penlop before ascending the throne. Morning birding to Yeshi Zam, best place for spotting yellow rumped honey guide. This rare bird feeds on the deserted honey-bee combs. Visit Ta-dzong (watchtower) and drive to Bumthang and birding along in bamboo and coniferous forests. You may see Great parrotbill, Fulvous parrotbill, black billed magpie, red billed chough, Eurasian hobby, white winged grosbeak, etc. In Bumthang your sightseeing includes the Chume weaving center, Tamshing monastery, kurjey lhakhang, Jambay lhakhang, etc. Overnight lodge in Bumthang.

Day 06 : Bumthang/Sengore 87 km about ¾ hours.
Birding along the road in coniferous forests. Along the road you may see Himalayan monal pheasant, blood pheasant, snow pigeon, cross bills, fire tailed sunbird, plain mountain finch, etc. Enroute stop at Ura village for picnic lunch. We drive via Thrumshingla pass 3800 meters one of the highest motorable high passes. Thrumshingla national park begins here and extends till Manas in the south. The Bengal tigers could use their habitat from sea level till 4500 meters. From this pass we can see the high peaks of south-east Tibet. The dense forests of Khempajong – hidden valley could be seen from here. The hidden valleys are what we call paradise where beings live in eternal peace. They live with the power of sight and smell and do not have to work. The stories of paradise(bae-yul) in Bhutan are similar to Rip Van Winkle stories. In the months of mid April to mid May we can see varieties of rhododendrons in bloom in the natural set garden. Overnight camp.

Day 07 : Sengore/Yongkola 45 km about 2/3 hours.
Birding along the road in bamboo forests. You may see beautiful rosefinch, gold-naped finch, little forktail, white capped redstart, chestnut bellied rock thrust, coal tit, green tailed sunbird, long tailed minivet, etc. Good chances to come across red panda in dense bamboo forests. We drive through some meadows and then coniferous belt. Then moving into mixed forests. This drive is the longest stretch with good forests and makes roadside bird watching easy. We might also encounter wild boars, Bengal tigers, Himalayan wild dogs and deer species. We should be on the look out for what people think extinct deer species called the “Shaou”. This animal is believed to be the size of a bison with gigantic antlers. The antlers can be seen at the museum in Paro. Bhutanese believe that if we see it, it marks an omen that death is near for the person who sees it first. This is a similar belief to Yeti. We believe that these animals are in some deep recess of the jungle and anyone who sees it will not live to tell his/her story. That is why Bhutanese do not explore the wild so much.The story of the “Shaou” is still depicted during the festivals. Once a hunter chased a family of “Shaou”. He killed the male and the female committed suicide by jumping over the cliff. When the hunter went to fetch the carcass he found a fawn sucking milk from the dead mother with tears rolling from its eyes. The hunter was disturbed by the sight and thus burnt all his hunting gear. He then went in search of the Dharma to cleanse his sins. It is believed that this very fawn is alive as a mature stag and is waiting for his revenge on mankind, whose ambitions turned us into carnivores though born as herbivores. Overnight camp.

Day 08 : Yongkola/Yongkola.
Birding in cold broad-leaved forests and descending to warm broad-leaved forests. Namling, these areas possess best explored forests in Bhutan. You may see ward’s trogon, satyr tragopan, grey chinned minivet, chestnut breasted partridge. Striated laughing thrust, rufous-necked hornbill, blue throated bee-eater, maroon oriole, racket tailed drongo, red-headed trogon, grey treepie, grey Nightjar, hill prinia, asian emerald cuckoo, etc. We spend the day bird watching and enjoying the plant life. Overnight camp.

Day 09 : Yongkola/Bumthang 132 km about 5/6 hours.
Birding along the road. Overnight lodge in Bumthang.

Day 10 : Bumthang/Thimphu 280 km about 9/10 hours.
Birding along the road. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 11 : Thimphu/Paro 58 km about 2 hours.
This program is based on easy bird watchers. The extreme bird watchers never stop for cultural or any other sights other than bird watching. We can arrange dinner with some officers from nature Departments in the first few nights.