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BHUTAN

WINTER

7–27 February 2022

This winter Bhutan tour to areas not on the usual birding routes will target more difficult and rarer birds such as Himalayan Monal, White-bellied Heron, Ward’s Trogon and Fire-tailed Myzornis. Whilst not a dedicated photographic tour, there are excellent opportunities to see and photograph many species all in stunning scenery and fascinating culture.

Day 1 Overnight flight from the UK to Calcutta.

Day 2 This morning we will take an internal flight from Calcutta to Guwahati where we will be met by our Indian bird guide to visit the Garchawk garbage dump and Deepor Bil. These are rather insalubrious but nevertheless safe areas where our main target species will be the endangered Greater Adjutant as well as Lesser Adjutant, Purple Heron, Asian Openbill, Paddyfield Pipit, Little Cormorant, Black (Black-eared) Kite, Pied Kingfisher, Spotted Dove, Grey-headed Swamphen and Bronzed-winged Jacana. From there we will make the three-hour drive on to the Bhutan Gate where our Bhutanese leader and driver will meet us and process our visas before continuing on the short distance to Samdrup Jongkhar (altitude 400m) where we will spend the night.

Day 3 There are no bird hides on this tour but wildlife is generally unwary given the countries policy of protecting all species. Indeed, even fishing is prohibited in the country. We will spend the day exploring the bird-rich tropical forests of Samdrup Jongkhar and Deothang Valley. We will be hoping to see and photograph the likes of Red Junglefowl, Black-backed Forktail, Indian Pond-heron, Cattle Egret, Little Ringed Plover, Thick-billed, Ashy-headed and Orange-breasted Green-pigeons, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Banded Bay and Grey-bellied Cuckoos, Asian Koel, Himalayan Swiftlet, Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Bronzed Drongo, White-throated Kingfisher, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Puff-throated and Jungle Babblers, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Common Iora, White-rumped Shama, Jungle and Bank Mynas, Asian Pied and Rosy (recently recorded in Bhutan) Starlings, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Rufous Woodpecker, House Crow, Great Tit, Barn Swallow, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Thick-billed Warbler, Oriental Magpie-robin, House Sparrow, Oriental Pied-hornbill, Great Hornbill and possibly the more difficult Blyth’s Kingfisher. Of the mammals, the near-threatened Assemese Macaque is regular here. Overnight in Deothang (altitude 800m).

Day 4 Today we will make the 105-mile journey to Trashigang, stopping along the way at Morong and Kharung La pass. We begin our adventure as we travel through eastern Bhutan, an area little visited by tourists. The drive is quite spectacular as the vegetation changes and we approach temperate forests around Morong (1300m). Here we will look for some of Bhutan’s highly prized birds such as the rare Beautiful Nuthatch before continuing through a dramatic section where the road, known as Melong Brak, is hewn out of a solid cliff face, to the market village of Narphung, set on one side of a mountain ridge. We cross mountain passes where there are panoramic views of mountain ranges, rolling into the distant misty haze and descend into deeply wooded river valleys before reaching the high pass at Khaling (2,350m) and drop down to the tiny hamlet of Khaling. From here our journey continues through more river valleys and over mountain passes to Yongphu La (2,190m) and our final descent to Kanglung (1,870m) and the campus of Sherubtse College before winding its way through terraced fields to Trashigang. Targets for today will include Changeable Hawk-eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Pied Falconet, Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Sibia, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-throated Fantail, White-breasted Parrotbill, Dark-rumped Swift (rare), White-throated Needletail, Red-rumped Swallow, Eurasian Crag-martin, Mountain Tailorbird, Russet Bush Warbler, Blue-winged Minla, Alpine Thrush, White-tailed Robin, Little Pied Flycatcher, Black-throated Sunbird, Scaly-breasted Munia, Gold-naped Finch, Striated Yuhina and, if we are extremely lucky, the much rarer Beautiful Nuthatch and Green Cochoa. We should also keep our eyes open for Common Goral. Overnight in Trashigang (altitude 1100m).

Day 5 This morning we will make an early start to reach Kori La pass before breakfast. Here, at an altitude of 2450 metres, we should encounter species such as Steppe Eagle, Asian Palm-swift, Fork-tailed Swift, Ashy Drongo, Scarlet Finch, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Brown Bullfinch, Large Niltava, Hodgson’s Treecreeper and Yellow-browed and Fire-capped Tits. After breakfast we will continue to Yongkola, stopping en route along the Lingmithang Valley. Other species we hope to connect with today include Orange-headed Thrush, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Hill Partridge, White-crested and Striated Laughingthrushes, Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-collared Blackbird, Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, Blue Rock-thrush, Himalayan Bulbul and Asian Barred Owlet whilst Capped Langurs can also be found in the area. Three nights in a villa in Yongkola (altitude 1800m).

Days 6 –7 These two days will be spent exploring the bird-rich Thrumshing La National Park. Our sites will include the areas of Namling, Sengor, Lingmithang, Tshamang and the upper and lower regions of Yongkola. The warm, broad-leaved forests in this area provide the perfect environment for many avian species, including many of Bhutan’s most sought-after birds, and among other species we hope to encounter during these two days will be Shikra, Besra, Gould’s Shortwing, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Whiskered Yuhina, Little Forktail, Tawny Fish-owl, Yellow-throated and Golden-breasted Fulvettas, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Brown Wood-owl, Mountain Scops-owl, Ashy Wood-pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon, Barred Cuckoo-dove, Large and Hodgson’s Hawk-cuckoos, Lesser Cuckoo, Lesser Yellownape, Grey-chinned Minivet, Hair-crested Drongo, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Nepal House-martin, Grey-bellied Tesia, Striated Bulbul, Broad-billed, Blyth’s Leaf and Black-faced Warblers, Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler, Red-faced Liocichla, Scaly and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrushes, Long-billed Thrush, Himalayan Cutia, Rufous Sibia, White-naped Yuhina, White-bellied Erpornis, Black-throated Parrotbill, Grey Bushchat, Ferruginous and Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Orange-bellied Leafbird and maybe one or two rarer species such as Long-billed and Rufous-throated Wren-babblers, Blackish-breasted Babbler, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Black-headed Shrike-babbler and Ward’s Trogon. Mammals to keep our eyes open for today include Bhutan Giant Flying Squirrel and Hoary-bellied Squirrel.

Day 8 We will spend the day birding around Sengor, Thrumshing La pass and the Ura Valley, ultimately heading to our overnight destination of Bumthang. Species we will target to see and photograph today include Crested Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Long-legged Buzzard, Coal, Grey-crested and Rufous-vented Tits, Himalayan Bluetail, Rufous-breasted Bush-robin, Black-throated Thrush, Red-headed Bullfinch, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Tickell’s Thrush, Mrs Gould’s and Green-tailed Sunbirds, Plain Mountain-finch, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, Crimson-browed Finch, Hoary-throated Barwing, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Great and Fulvous Parrotbills, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Green Shrike-babbler, Bar-throated Siva, Goldcrest, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Snow Pigeon and maybe the more difficult Satyr Tragopan. There is even the possibility of the rare Red Panda here. Overnight in Bumthang (altitude 2800m).

Day 9 We will leave early this morning in order to cross the Chumey Valley and make our way to Tharpaling monastery, where we will have our first chance to look for Himalayan Monal and Blood Pheasant together with another chance for Satyr Tragopan. After breakfast we will set off to our next overnight destination of Trongsa, making several stops en route. Just before arriving Trongsa we will stop at a vantage point to look at the Historic Trongsa Dzong (fortress), which dominates the valley. Species we hope to find today include Upland Buzzard, Himalayan Owl, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, Alpine Accentor, White-throated Redstart, Brown Parrotbill, Himalayan Thrush, Rufous-vented Yuhina, White-winged Grosbeak, Hume’s Bush Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Buff-barred and Large-billed Leaf Warblers, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Eurasian Wren, Red-throated Thrush, Golden Bush-robin, Verditer Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, Little Bunting, Eurasian Nutcracker, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Blue-magpie and Black-rumped Magpie. Overnight in Trongsa (altitude 2200m).

Day 10 We will leave Trongsa this morning and head towards Tingtibi, our base for the next two nights. Sites today will include Chunjepang, Koshala and Wangduegang forests, where we hope to find Bonelli’s and Booted Eagles, Himalayan Cuckoo, Small Minivet, Eurasian Woodcock, Spotted Forktail, Crested Bunting, Golden-throated Barbet, Large Woodshrike, Common Green-magpie, Asian Emerald Dove, White-throated and Mountain Bulbuls, Long-tailed Shrike, Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, White-browed Shrike-babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Grey-headed Parrotbill, White-tailed Nuthatch, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, Sapphire and Pale-blue Flycatchers, Eurasian Trees Sparrow, Olive-backed Pipit, Tibetan Serin, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch and maybe the rarer Spot-winged Starling and Rufous-necked Hornbill. The endangered Golden Langur is fairly common here. Two nights in Tingtibi (altitude 700m).

Day 11 Today will be spent exploring the rich bamboo forests of the Royal Manas National Park in search of such species as Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo, Pin-tailed Green-pigeon, Pale-billed Parrotbill, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Rufous-faced and Yellow-bellied Warblers, White-browed and Speckled Piculets, Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, Blyth’s Paradise-flycatcher, Eurasian Cuckoo, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Collared Scops-owl, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Streaked Spiderhunter, Common Hill Myna, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Spotted Elachura, Forest Wagtail and Pygmy Cupwing. With luck, we could also find one or more of the tougher species such as White-bellied Heron, Blue-naped Pitta and Pale-headed Woodpecker.

Day 12 TOur destinations for today include Gomphu, Pantang, Selingtoe and Panbang Valley. In these tropical broadleaved forest we look for key target species include (Key targets here will include) the rare Wreathed Hornbill, Crested Serpent-eagle, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Yellow-vented Warbler, White-rumped Munia, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Siberian Rubythroat, Greater Flameback, Collared Falconet, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, White-gorgeted and Slaty-backed Flycatchers, Collared Owlet and Great Myna. Although mainly nocturnal, Asian Palm and Large Indian Civet occur here together with Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten and Wild Boar. Three nights in Panbang (altitude 400m).

Days 13–14 The tropical forest between Panbang and Ngalam is excellent for both some rare birds and many varieties of butterflies. We will therefore spend these two days covering sites on the south side of Royal Manas National Park. Targets for us here include Grey Peacock-pheasant, Eye-browed Wren-babbler, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Collared Treepie, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Lineated Barbet, Eurasian Wryneck, Black Drongo, Common Tailorbird, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, Red-breasted Parakeet, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Black-naped Monarch, Black-chinned Yuhina, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Small Niltava, Rufous-throated Partridge, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Little Spiderhunter, Hooded Pitta and a species only recently recorded in Bhutan; Buff-breasted Babbler.

Day 15 Today’s itinerary will take us some 110 miles to Gelephu, with photographic stops along Tama La and Surey valley. Once again there are amazing views of the landscape throughout our todays journey. Birds we hope to see and photograph in this area include Crimson Sunbird, Grey Wagtail, Rufous-backed Sibia, Rufescent Prinia, Brown Shrike, Rufous Treepie, Red-vented Bulbul, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Lesser Shortwing, Black Redstart, Siberian Stonechat, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Bay Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Babbler, Nepal Fulvetta, Striated Heron, Green-billed Malkoha, Blue-bearded and Green Bee-eaters, Mountain Imperial-pigeon and the trickier Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. Overnight in Gelephu (altitude 200m).

Day 16 This morning we will explore the tropical forest of Gelephu, continuing some 50 miles to Tshirang after lunch. Target birds include Indian Peafowl, Cinnamon Bittern, Black-crowned Night-heron, White-breasted Waterhen, Black Baza, Alexandrine Parakeet, Jacobin and Indian Cuckoos, Indian Roller, Dollarbird, Grey-capped and Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers, Red-naped Ibis, Great Thick-knee, Black Stork, Pin-tailed Snipe, Lesser Whistling-duck, Spotted Owlet, Brown Boobook, Green Imperial-pigeon, Sultan Tit, Red-wattled and Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Red Collared-dove, Lesser Coucal, Sand Lark, Coppersmith Barbet, Taiga Flycatcher and Black-hooded and Maroon Orioles. Overnight in Tshirang (altitude 1800m).

Day 17 We will break today’s journey to Punakha with stops at Sunkosh and Kame Chhu Valley, where we will look for such species as, Bar-headed Goose, Common and Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Garganey, Northern Pintail, Goosander, Grey Heron, Little and Intermediate Egrets, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Pallas’s Fish-eagle, Slaty-backed Forktail, River Lapwing, Long-billed Plover, Common Greenshank, Pallas’s Gull, Crested Kingfisher, Brown Dipper, Chestnut-winged and Asian Emerald Cuckoos, Scarlet Minivet, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, White-browed Wagtail, Eurasian Kestrel, Black-crested and Ashy Bulbuls, Blue-throated Barbet, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Greater Yellownape, Striated Prinia, Grey-hooded Warbler and Indian White-eye. Mammals which can be found here include Smooth Coated Otter and Muntjac. Overnight in Punakha (altitude 1400m).

Day 18 Today we will travel some 78 miles from Punakha to Paro, stopping en route along Menchuna Farm Road and at Lampelri Botanical Park. Target species for us include Kalij Pheasant, Long-tailed Thrush, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Black Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Grey Treepie, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Golden Babbler, Maroon-backed Accentor, Dark-breasted and Dark-rumped Rosefinches, Eurasian Jay, Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpeckers, the rare Solitary Snipe, Common and Green Sandpipers, Black Bulbul, Whistler’s and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Red-billed Leiothrix, Streak-breasted and Rusty-cheeked scimitar-babblers, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Scaly Thrush, White-throated Laughingthrush and Black-tailed Crake. Two nights in Paro (altitude 2300m).

Day 19 We will spend some time early this morning at Chele La pass, at 4000m, the highest point we will reach on this tour, for high-altitude species. After a late breakfast, we will return to Paro and bird along the Pa Chhu River. This gives us some further opportunities to see and maybe photograph such sought-after species as Himalayan Monal and Blood Pheasant together with other gems such as White-browed Bush-robin, Black-browed (Rufous-fronted) and Green-backed Tits, the rare Wood Snipe, Bearded Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan Buzzard, Grey Nightjar, Common Hoopoe, Long-tailed Minivet, Grey-backed Shrike, Large-billed Crow, Blue Whistling-thrush, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Himalayan Accentor, Collared Grosbeak, Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Blue-fronted, Hodgson’s, Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts, Rosy Pipit, White Wagtail, Oriental Turtle-dove, Lemon-rumped and Greenish Warblers and Russet Sparrow. Both Large-eared Pika and Rufous-bellied Squirrel are easy to see at high altitude.

Day 20 We will take a morning flight from Paro to Calcutta, where we will catch a connecting return flight to London, arriving on Day 21.

General Information There will be some long drives and short walks at altitudes of up to nearly 4000 metres. The climate will vary from cold in the mornings at altitude to quite warm during the day. Some rain is possible, although it is the dry season. There are special health requirements, which should be referred to your GP. Bhutan and Indian visas are required, the Bhutan visa will be arranged for you at cost price of $40 but you will need to apply online for an Indian multi-entry visa. No camping is involved with this tour.

Group Size Minimum group size: 3; maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader.

Rufous-necked Hornbill

Rufous-necked Hornbill

Recommended books available from NHBS