Bird Watching Tours
Paro Valley: (2200 m) ( Bird Watching)
Paro valley is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan. The only airport of Bhutan is located here. In the north, Mount Jhomolhari (7329 m) reigns in sacred glory. The streams from its glaciers form the Paro river that nourishes the valley. There are good hotels and tourist facilities. The Rinpung Dzong (Fortress) built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan , today houses the monastic body as well as the offices of the Dzongdag (District Administrator) and the Drangpon(Judge). Behind Ringpung Dzong, on the hillside, is the castle-shaped Ta Dzong, a watch tower initially built to defend the Rinpung Dzong and since 1967 houses the National Museum. Paro also has a number of Buddhist temples, the most famous being the Taktsang ( the Tiger’s Nest). It is believed that Guru Rimpoche landed at the place, riding on the back of a tigress over one thousand years ago, and meditated there. Eighteen kilometers to the north, you can visit the ruins of Drugyel Dzong (victorious fortress) from where the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies in the 17th century.
Birding at Paro
The following birds can be seen: Kalij Pheasant, White-capped River Chat, , Pied Wagtail, Blue Whistling-thrush, Blue-fronted redstarts, Ibisbill, Brown Dipper, White-collared Blackbird, Plumbeous Redstarts, , Crested Goshawk, Eurasian Kestrel, Oriental Turtle-dove, Long-tailed and Grey-backed shrikes, Spotted Laughingthrush, Indian Blue Chats, and more.
The Chelila Pass (4200 meters) connects the Paro & Ha Valley’s. It offers a chance to ascend above tree line into alpine meadows and dwarf rhododendrons and enables the sighting of several birds such as Blood Pheasants, Himalayan Monal, Kalij Pheasant, Collared Grosbeaks, Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeier, , Spotted Laughingthrush, Rosy Pipit, Blue-fronted Redstart, Rofous-breasted Accentor, White-browed Rosefinches, and more.. On the lower slopes you may encounter mixed flocks of tits, Phylloscopous leaf warblers, Great Parrotbill, and more.
You need two full days for birding and a quick cultural tour of the Paro Valley
Thimphu Valley (2300 m )
The capital of Bhutan lies about two hours drive from Paro. The Wangchu (Thimphu river) flows right through the valley. The Tashichho Dzong (the fort of the auspicious religion) which houses the throne room of the king and the monastic body lies in the center of the valley. Five miles south of Tashichho Dzong lies Simtokha Dzong (built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel)), the oldest Dzong in Bhutan. Today it houses the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies. Thimphu town which runs north south along a main street has traditionally decorated shops. Thimphu also has a number of temples, galleries, museums and places of historic interests. Among the places of interest is the Memorial Chorten dedicated to the 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. A landmark in the landscape with its golden spires, its paintings and statues provide a rare insight into Buddhist Nyingpa philosophy. On the weekend, a market is held and it is an opportunity not to be missed. At the market you will find a motley crowd of rural people selling their vegetables, fruits, crops and rural crafts.
Birding in Thimphu
The Thimphu valley is surrounded by temperate evergreen forests with lots of blue pines. There is also an aviary for Pheasants and a small zoo where you find the Taikin (the national animal of Bhutan). The following birds can be spotted in the Thimphu valley (between Cheri in the north and Chunzom in the south): Hoopoe, Nepal House Martin, Long-tailed Minivet, Crested Pied Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied woodpeckers, Ibisbill, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Red-billed Chough, Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, White-tailed Nuthatch, Black-capped Sibia, Spotted Nutcracker, Black-browed and Grey-crested tits, Striated and Black-faced laughingthrushes, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Crested Serpent-eagle, Black eagle, Common Merganzer and more..
You need one day to explore Thimpu, and another day for birding. You could skip birding at Thimpu if you are visitinf
Punakha Valley and Central Bhutan.
Punakha Valley (1300m – 1700 m)
Reached by a 3-4 hrs drive over the Dochula Pass (3090 m), the lower Punakha Valley was was the ancient capital of Bhutan. From Dochula on a clear day, the northern part of the country can be seen against the imposing background of the Great Himalayan snow ranges. The valley drained by the Pho Chu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River) is the agricultural bowl of Bhutan. The Pho Chu and Mo Chu meets to form the Puna Tsang Chu and at the confluence, stands the majestic Punakha Dzong (built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel). To the north lies Gasa Dzong and to the south is Wangdue Dzong. Rafting can be done on the Mochu and the Puna Tsang Chu.
Birding in Punakha
Enroute to Punakha – The Dochula Pass (3090 m): The pristine forests of hemlock, fir, oak, magnolia, and rhododendrons offer a wealth of birds. Birding is along the highway and on a forest trails. A full day enroute to Punakha is required for birding this area. Highlights could include Hill Partridge, Satyr Tragopan, Rufous bellied Bush-Robin, Golden-Naped Finch, Hoary Barwing, Edwards Rosefinch. Golden Bush-Robin, Cutia, Fire-tail Myzornis, and Nutcrackers. Lemon-rumped Leaf-warblers, Blue-bellied Flowerpeckers, Green Shrike-babblers, Olive-backed Pipits, Gold-billed Magpies, Plain –backed Thrush, Red Crossbills, and more.
Mo Chu Valley ( 1400m- 1700m): Birding along the Mo Chu Valley, past Punakha to Tashithang in the subtropical forests of the Jigme Doirjje National Park, requires 02 days. There are chances of spotting Ibisbill, Bar-headed Geese, Great-headed Gulls, White-bellied Heron – one of Bhutan’s most elusive specialties (rare and difficult), Tawny Fish Owl, River Lapwing, Red-headed Trogon, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Striated Bulbul, Little Niltava, all three tesias, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Scarlet Finch, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Wedge-tailed Pigeon, Bay Woodpecker, Yellow-vented Warbler, Fire-capped Tit, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, and perhaps three species of forktails, Mrs Gould’s, Fire-tailed and Green-tailed sunbirds, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Northern Treecreeper, Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler, Golden Bush-robin, Fire-capped Tit, Little and Slatty-backed forktails, and Gold-napped Finch. You can also see a variety of skulkers including Lesser Shortwing, Spotted and Pygmy Wren-Babblers and all three species of tesias.
Probjikha Valley (3050m)
This is a glacial valley on the Western slopes og the Black Mountain Range. Driving along the Central Highway 47 Kms from Wangdue, a 13 kms dirt track links the Probjikha Valley over the Gangtey la, 3140 m. The village of Gangtey is a fabulous spot is situated at the head of the Phobjika Valley, It is the winter home of a sizable population of Black-necked Cranes. The magnificent Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. The drive to Gangtey is a very scenic section of the road as it leads through bamboo and rhododendron conifer forests, meadows and river valleys. On this stretch you are likely to spot the Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, White-winged Grosbeak, Spotted Laughingthrush, Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, Rusty -flanked Treecreeper, and the prized Ward’s Trogon. It is best to break journey at Gangtey, to get chance for early morning birding and a look at the Gompa.
Trongsa Valley (2200 m)
Trongsa is known for its spectacular Dzong, which is located on a precipice dominating the entrance to three valleys. The Dzong is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices holding court over local community. Above the Dzong, a watchtower, a Ta Dzong, used to administer its defence. The Royal Family’s ancestral home is at Trongsa. To get to Tsronga you can drive directly from Wangdue or from Gangtey, after driving back over the Gangtey La to the Central Highway. On the way to Trongsa valley, you travel through exquisite, mixed broad-leafed forests, evergreen forests of mixed conifers, rhododendrons and magnolias till you reach the Pelela Pass (3400m. Descending Pelela Pass, you enter the temeperate alpine forests and medows. The avifauna you encounter include the following: Kalij Pheasants, Blood Pheasants, Satyr Tragopan, Spotted Forktail, Black-throated and Brown Parrotbills, Gold-napped finch, Fire-tailed Myzornis, White-capped Water Redstarts, Yellow –billed Blue Magpie, Crested Kingfisher, Brown Dippers and more. You need a full days birding on the Pelela section of the highway. A visit to the Dzong is a must.
Zhemgang-Tingtibi (2200 m to 800 m)
From Tsonga it is fruitfull to take a side trip to Zhembang and the Tingtibi Valley if the area is open to tourists. A three hours drive from Trongsa to Zhemgang takes you along the valley of Mangdi Chu. En-route you can see the Kuenga Rabten Palace, which used to be the ancestral royal palace. Leaving the Mangdi Chu, you ascend to Zhemgang on a hillock. The quaint small town has a Dzong and spectacular views of mountains and valleys. The Tingtibi valley is reached by a descent to the Mangdi Chu. South of Zhembang. The avifauna in this region includes Barred Cuckoo-Dove, nine species of cuckoos, Chestnut-breasted Partridges, Pin-tailed Green Pigeons, , Red-headed Trogon, Rufous-neked Hornbill, White-browed Piculet, Bay Woodpeker, Lesser Shortwing, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, White-tailed Robin, fulvettas and yuhinas, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-faced Warbler, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Sultan Tit, several scimitar-babblers, Black-faced laughingthrush and other thrushes. You may be also lucky to spot the Beautiful Nuthatch, White-bellied Heron, Collared Treepie and Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill. You need two days to make this trip with overnight camping.
Mangdi Chu from Trongsa (1800 m)
If it is not permitted to go to the Tingtibi Valley, a morning drive Lower down the valley of the Mangdi Chu towards Zhemgang can be productive. Species you are likely to spot are:: Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Himalayan Swiftlet,Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Fork-tailed Swifts, Crimson-breasted and Darjeeling Woodpeckers, Red-billed Leiothrix, Long-tailed Minivets, Little Pied Flycatchers, Striated Bulbul, Spotted Bush-Warbler,, Scaly Thrushes, Little and Spotted Forktails, Pin-tailed Green Pigeons,Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Purple Cochoa, Spot-winged Starling, Great Hornbills, and more.
Bumthang (2700 m)
Bumthang consists of four valleys – Chume, Choekhor, Tang and Ura- separated from each other by mountains. It is a land graced by many temples and monasteries built along the centuries by famous religious saints such as Longchen Rabjampa, Dorji Lingpa, Pema Lingpa and Guru Rinpoche. It has fields and meadows surrounded by thick dark forests and mysterious streams. The Jakar Dzong (the white Bird fortress) looks over the Choekhor valley. The Kurje Lhakhang is an important religious temple in Choekhor. There are a number of temples in Chume and Choekhor valley. You can also buy Yatha (locally woven woolen clothes) here. The picture post card village of Ura is a must see.
The scenic drive crosses over the 3425 m high Yotung la, and is studded with Gompas and villages. The habitat at Yotungla Pass consists of Hemlock and Blue Pines with dense impenetrable dwarf bamboo thickets. Large flocks of Black-throated and Red-throated Thrushes, White-winged Grosbeaks are usually seen on the west side. On the east side Blood Pheasants, White-throated Redstarts have been recorded along with Chestnut-vented, Coral and Gray-bellied Tits and nut crackers. You can also see White-browed and Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, Beautiful Rosefinch and Fulvous Parrotbill. On the higher slopes descending from Yotula pass, you can see Khalij Pheasant, Wallcreeper, Great Parrotbill and Broad-billed Parrotbill, Fire-tailed sunbird, Mrs Gould’s sunbird and Green-tailed sunbirds, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Whited-throated Laughingthrush, and Black-faced Laughingthrush. In the Bumthang Valley you can also see the Ibisbill.
You will need 02 days for the Bumthang area.
Thrumsingla ( 3750m) and Sengor ( 3000m)
On the way from Bumthang to Thrumsingla Pass at 3750m, you pass the villages of Tangsbi and Ura. The drive is gradual ascent and takes you through spectacular scenes of rolling mountains and virgin forests and meadows. You can view the end of the treeline and the start of grasslands on the barren Wangkala. Moss draped trees stand still as you pass by. From Thrumsingla Pass you descend to Sengor and may camp there for a night halt. However it is feasible to bird at various altitudes and finish the day at Lemithang.
Some of the birds you may encounter are: Mrs. Gould’s and Green-tailed sunbirds, Blood Pheasant, White-browed and Rufous-winged Fulvettas, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Green Shrike-babbler, Orange-barred, Grey-throated, Lemon-rumped, Grey-hooded and Blyth’s leaf-warblers, Satyr Tragopan, Orange-flanked , White-browed Bush-Robins, Blue-fronted Redstart, Orange-gorgeted and Slaty-Blue Flycatchers, Eurasian, Rusty-flanked and Brown-throated treecreepers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Bar-winged Wren-babblers, Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Black-faced and chestnut-crowned laughingthrush, Red Crossbill, Red-headed Bullfinch, White-winged and Collared Grosbeaks, Gold-naped Finch, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Plain-backed and Long-billed (rare and elusive) thrushes and more.
Yongkola ( 1700m) and Limithang (650 m)
The spectacular drive continues to Limithang. Sheer drops of thousands of meters, huge cascading waterfalls, endless turns and frequent fog from a rise of temperature make for unnerving but exhilarating travel. The road drops 3200 m in a distance of 84 Kms. The habitat changes from conifers to subtropical forest. The broadleaf evergreen forest commences at 2600 meters, as you watch the change of flora and fauna. From dwarf rhododendrons and firs in the higher altitudes to citrus groves and warm broad leaved forests at Limithang – the change is indeed dramatic.
The Limethang forests are indeed nature gift to birders. Many of Bhutan’s most sought-after birds can be found here You are likely to see: Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Blue-naped Pitta, Ward’s Trogon, Red-headed Trogon Blue-fronted Robin and Rufous-throated, Wedge-billed, Long-billed and Bar-winged Wren-Babblers. Also recorded are Satyr Tragopan, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpeckers Long-billed Thrush, Blue-winged Laughing thush, Golden-breasted and Yellow throated Fulvetta, Red-headed Parrotbill and Crimson Fin Rufous-bellied and Chestnut Serpent-Eagles, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Speckled Wood-Pigeon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Golden-throated and Blue-throated barbets, Collared Owlet, Himalayan Treepie, Oriental hawk-cuckoos, Short-billed and Long-tailed minivets, Yellow and White-bellied fantails, Brown Dipper, White-browed Shortwing, Verditer Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Hodgson’s Redstart, Plumbeous Redstart, White-caped Redstart, Slaty-backed Forktail, Brown-flanked Treecreeper, Red-headed, Rufous-fronted, Yellow-browed and Yellow-cheeked tits, Mountain and Ashy Bulbuls, Chestnut-headed, Slaty-bellied and Grey-bellied tesias, Grey-sided and Brown Bush-warblers, a variety of leaf-warblers, Black-browed, Grey-headed, White-speckled, Chestnut-crowned, Broad-billed, Rufous-faced and Black-faced Flycatcher Warblers, Blue-winged laughingthrush, Slender-billed scimitar-babblers, Rufous-throated wren-babblers, Rufous-capped and Golden babblers, Red-billed Leiothrix, Cutia, Rufous-bellied, White-browed and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minlas, White-naped Whiskered, and Black-chinned Yuhinas, Golden-breasted and Yellow-throated fulvettas, Greater and Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-browed Finch, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Scarlet Finch, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and more.
You need 02 days for birdwatching here.
Narphang la(1698 m) and Deothang (850 m)
Driving from Limethang to the the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar , The first section is from Limethang to Trashigang ( 117 Kms in 04 hrs) is the road goes past Mongar ( 1500 m) and crosses over a ridge through the Kori La pass (2450 m). Astride the pass there are temperate broadleaf forests where birders may spend some time. Otherwise this region has is highly cultivated and densly populated with resultant deforestation. Trashigang is a pleasant place with cultural interest but there are no productive birding areas around. It is advisable to continue the journey and camp close to good habitat.
Thec 180 Kms drive from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar takes over 06 hours. It crosses several ridges ( 2002 m -2510 m) to get to the foothills. 101 Kms from Trashigang (03 hrs), the Narphung la ridge (1698m -1920m) followed by the 55 Kms stretch to Deothang (850 m) has warm broad leaved and tropical forests. Camping around the village of Narphung or at Deothang is advisable to enable birding next morning.
From Deothang (850m) to the border at Samdrup Jongkhar ( 250 m) is an interesting area with much remaining habitats. Semitropical forests full of Long-tailed Macaques are found not far from the road, and the rivers have otters. Flocks of Wreathed Hornbills are likely to be seen flying across the road in the mornings and late afternoon. At 300 meters elevation just 400 meters from the Samdrup Jhonkar bridge dirt road leads to a power house and continues east along the river for 2 km. After having crossed a small stream and a fruit plantation it is possible to penetrate into an old growth forest on a trail. Be carefull as herds of Elephants forage in this area. The species likely to be observed are the rare Pied Falconet , Red-faced Liocichla ,Gray-breasted Tesia, White-spectacled Warbler, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Scaly Thrush and Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Pale-chinned (Brooks) Flycatcher, Blue-eared Barbet, Wards Trogan, Violet Cuckoo, various species of forktail (in the river), Dark- rumped swift, Rufous –belied Eagle, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, and many others.