Birding Ecotours – 3 Weeks in Bhutan
Birding Ecotours prides itself on two things above all; tour quality and conservation and offer many trips world wide. They have teamed up with Fatbirder to offer exclusive ‘anytime’ tours to couples and small groups.
Phunakha Dzong © Duan Biggs
Birding the pristine forests of the Eastern Himalayas
Bhutan is a quaint, quiet and scenically spectacular country with a fantastic conservation ethic that means that vast areas of unspoiled forest still cover the Himalayan foothills covering much of the country. On clear autumn days we hope to see snowcapped peaks as well as fabulous architecture, while we search for a suite of sought-after birds. November is particularly good for birds often missed on spring birding tours to this country – notably Black-necked Crane and the critically endangered and enigmatic White-bellied Heron. Birding Bhutan in November also means being treated to abundant, fabulously exciting mixed flocks that contain the likes of laughingthrushes, yuhinas, fulvettas and other incredible Oriental bird groups. We also expect to find some fabled Eastern Himalayan birds that can be encountered year-round, such as Beautiful Nuthatch (and other nuthatches), Ward’s Trogon, the unbelievable Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ibisbill and of course Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal and other vivid pheasants. Other highlights are Wallcreeper, spectacular sunbirds, parrotbills, striking and gorgeous forktails along the fast-flowing rivers – plus a plethora of other tantalizing jewels.
In addition to the host of fabulous birds, we expect to find some interesting mammals such as Golden Langur, Black Giant Squirrel, Yellow-throated Martin, Yak and many others. We’ll also look at Tiger’s Nest Monastery (precariously-positioned on a ledge high up on a cliff), dzongs and spectacular scenery throughout.
We begin our tour with a flight arriving in Paro in the west, and we gradually make our way eastwards through a range of habitats such as pine and spruce forests, subtropical broadleaved forests, bamboo, alpine scrub, rivers and many others. We eventually exit the country in north-east India where you have the option of an extension for lowland Indian plains birds and some awesome mammals such as one-horned rhinoceros.
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Our flight arrives at the spectacular Paro airport which is walled in by mountains. Here we will not only be introduced to the fantastic and unusual architecture of Bhutan, but we will also immediately start incredibly exciting birding. Ibisbill lurks around here, as does Wallcreeper, Black-tailed Crake and a host of other highly sought-after birds. We’ll also look for species such as three different treecreepers, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Kalij Pheasant, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and so many others.
We head up a spectacular mountain pass, the famous Chelela, which reaches 4000 meters (about 13000 feet), looking for different specials as we ascend. The biggest prize for many people is Himalayan Monal – with its vivid rainbow hues – which lurks around right near the top and comes onto the road at dawn (imagine that!). But, we can find up to four pheasant species today, not only the Monal. We might also find Snow Pigeon, five or even more tit species including the fabulous Yellow-cheeked, four or even more redstart species, various finches, White-collared Blackbird and a plethora of others. Spotted Nutcracker is common, as it is over much of Bhutan. We descend after a busy day of birding, for a second night in Paro.
We head for the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, with absolutely spectacular birding en routewhich we expect should include many mixed flocks containing a host of warblers (some of them brightly-colored, and some of them more subtly beautifulPhylloscopus warblers), laughingthrushes, barwings, fulvettas and all the others.
We start birding the fantastic Wangdi Valley where we could find birds such as Crested Serpent-eagle, Slaty-backed Forktail, Little Forktail, various flycatchers, Wallcreeper and a host of others. With luck we might encounter Tawny Fish-owl, and we will start looking for White-bellied Heron – a bird that was historically widespread through the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, but which has declined dramatically and now has a world population of perhaps only 250. Today, Bhutan must be the best country for this species, but it often dipped, especially on spring tours.
A whole day in the area, birding two separate river valleys.
Typical scenery in the area © Duan Biggs
Today we drive to Phobjikha which is absolutely picturesque and is a famous spot for Black-necked Crane which migrates to Bhutan in winter (from Tibet). This species is difficult to miss in November, plus we should also find a ton of other birds (as always).
We head to Trongsa which is the gateway to the fabled lowland forests accessed along the Zhemgang Road. On our last November trip en route we located Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Emerald Dove, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Lesser Racket-tailed Roller, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Short-billed Minivet, Great Parrotbill and many others. We will also look for Common and Nepal House Martins and a large suite of other fine birds.
We bird in paradise for a rich array of exciting and spectacular birds including the extravagant Beautiful Nuthatch (together with other nuthatches), Rufous-necked Hornbill, Great Hornbill which really is massive, Long-tailed Broadbill, woodpeckers, bee-eaters, Orange-bellied Leafbird, piculets and woodpeckers, spectacular Green Magpie, niltavas, minevets and as always just so many others to keep us busy – not to mention fantastic mammals such as Black Giant Squirrel and Golden Langur.
Golden Langur (Golden Leaf Monkey), endemic to Bhutan, is common in this area © Duan Biggs
We head back to Trongsa, looking for birds we missed previously – with forest birding there always are some skulkers one will have missed, of course!
We continue eastwards to fabled birding sites including the likes of Jakar, Sengor and many other places, searching for Eastern Himalayan Foothills specials more easily found in Bhutan than anywhere else. There are also so many spectacular birds we have not yet mentioned but which we encounter through much of the country, such as Gold-billed Magpie and so many others. Virtually every day we savor some of the most spectacularly exotic species in this mountain paradise.
We encounter a host of high-altitude mountain passes as we bird Bhutan from West to East © Duan Biggs
We bird the famous Lingmethang Road, which believe it or not can be the highlight of a birding trip to Bhutan, despite the fact we will have already seen some of the top birds of the Himalayas.
We continue birding even further eastwards, eventually reaching the Indian border town of Samdrup Jonkhar.
Yak is common in Bhutan © Duan Biggs
Into India which is an absolute world apart from Bhutan – with an amazing chaotic hustle and bustle of absolutely masses of people (in stark contrast to the sparsely-populated, peaceful Bhutan). From here you can either fly home from India’s Guwahati airport or you can join us on our North-east Indian extension. This would add masses of new birds to our list because the lowland Indian plains are very diverse, and very different (seemingly a whole world apart) from the higher-altitude Bhutanese birding habitats. Mammals are also very diverse and we should see many Indian One-horned Rhinoceros along with a lot of other animals.
Tour starts in Paro, Bhutan and ends in Guwahati, India. We can help with connecting flights from Delhi, Kolkata, Bangkok or other cities in the region.
On this trip there will be 3 nights of fully-equipped camping. Twin-sharing sleeping tents and sleeping mattresses will be provided. A camping crew consisting of cook and camp assistants will be deployed. Along with the sleeping tents, the group will also be provided with a dining tent, kitchen tent, toilet tent and shower tent. Sleeping bags will also be provided unless you prefer to bring your own. It is considered a lovely experience by most people. Meals served while camping will be continental, Bhutanese, Chinese and Indian dishes.
All accommodation in en suite rooms, all meals, ground transport and guiding
Price does NOT Include:
International flights, gratuities, laundry, alcohol and expenditure of a personal nature