Springtime Birding in Bhutan

Springtime Birding in Bhutan

Tour Pace & Walking: Moderate pace, undemanding walks & some long drives.

Average temperature: Temperate & cold to warm tropical with some rain expected.

Number of species expected: 320 – 370

Photographic Opportunities: Excellent

Duration : 13 nights
Local Leader :  Sonam Tshering
Group Size : Max.12 guests and guaranteed to run for a minimum of 2 clients.
Accommodation : 7 nights in hotels and 6 nights in camp.
Altitudes : 150m/492ft – 3,822m/12,539ft
US$3,400/person

Day 1: Flight from Delhi/Calcutta to Guwahati and drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, 110kms.

Day 2: Samdrup Jongkhar to Morong, 40kms. Camp

Day 3: Morong to Narphung, 20kms good birding. Camp

Day 4: Narphung to Trashigang, 120kms.

Day 5: Trashigang to Lingmethang, 110kms over Kore La, 2,298m. Camp

Day 6 & 7: Yongkola region, exploring the birding hotspots. Camp x 2

Day 8: Yongkola to Sengor, 40kms of excellent birding. Camp

Day 9: Sengor to Bumthang, 104kms over Thrumshing La, 3,780m.

Day 10: Bumthang to Trongsa, 70kms over Yotong La, 3,425m.

Day 11: Trongsa to Punakha, 140kms over Pele La, 3,390m.

Day 12: Punakha to Paro, 120kms over Dochu La, 3,116m.

Day 13: Paro to Chele La, 3,822ms and back to Paro.

Day 14: Depart Paro for your onward connection to Delhi/Calcutta/Kathmandu/Bangkok

Day 1: Flight from Delhi/Calcutta to Guwahati and then drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, (110kms, approx 3.5 hrs).
At the airport you will be met by Langur Eco Travels, Indian representatives who will drive you to Samdrup Jongkhar. Along this drive please keep an eye out in the fields for the rare Lesser and Greater adjutants; Little cormorant; White-throated Kingfisher.

The Bhutanese hosts will greet you at the Bhutan gate in Samdrup Jongkhar and take you to our hotel for your first night in Bhutan. After checking into the hotel, as time allows we will bird in the surrounding area; Indian and Chinese pond herons; Little Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron; Little and Cattle egrets; Asian Pied Starling; Common Myna; Rose-ringed and Alexandrine parakeets; Common Tailorbird; Oriental Magpie Robin; Yellow-footed Green Pigeon; Common Iora; Green Bee-eater and with a bit of luck the very rarely seen Blyth’s Kingfisher; Black-backed and White-crowned forktails; and Dark-rumped Swift.

NIGHT: Tashi Gasel Lodge, Samdrup Jongkhar, (400m).

Day 2: Samdrup Jongkhar to Morong (40kms). Birding en-route.
An early start, so that we can spend the morning exploring the sub-tropical forest above Samdrup Jongkhar looking for species such as: Chestnut-breasted Partridge (rare); Silver-breasted Broadbill (rare); Beautiful Nuthatch (rare) and Hooded Pitta any of which represent a very special experience; Long-tailed Sibia; Red-faced Liocichla; Blue-winged, Bhutan and Rufous-necked laughingthrushes; Greater Coucal; Rufous-necked Hornbill (good population in Bhutan but rare elsewhere); the spectacular Greater Flameback (woodpecker); Crimson Sunbird; Silver-eared Mesia; Long-tailed and Silver-breasted broadbills (the later is very rare and elusive); Chestnut-winged, Hodgson’s Hawk, Grey-bellied and Drongo cuckoos; White-throated Needletail; Grey Nightjar; Brown Shrike; Slender-billed Oriole; White-throated Fantail; Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike; Hair-crested Drongo; Ferruginous, Blue-throated and Grey-headed Canary flycatchers; Small Niltava; Green Cochoa (rare); Brown-throated Treecreeper; Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch; Yellow-cheeked and Sultan tits; Himalayan and Black bulbuls; Striated and Hill prinias; Hume’s, and Greenish warblers; Grey-cheeked, Grey-hooded and Broad-billed warblers; Chestnut-crowned and White-crested laughingthrushes; Rufous-throated Wren Babbler; Rufous-capped, Grey-throated and Golden babblers; Striated, White-naped and White-bellied yuhinas; Greater Rufous-headed and Lesser Rufous-headed parrotbills; Streaked Spiderhunter; Grey and White wagtails; Grey-headed Bullfinch; Spot-winged Grosbeak and Gold-naped Finch.

NIGHT: Camp at Morong, (1,400m).

Day 3: Morong to Narphung (20kms). Birding en-route.
We will begin the day with birding around our lovely campsite returning to have breakfast in these beautiful surroundings before we continue our drive to Narphung. The rest of the day is spent birding along the Morong – Narphung road. These superb forests in this area, will provide us with opportunities to study the birds such as: White-browed Shrike Babbler; Cutia; Rusty-fronted Barwing; Red-tailed and Blue-winged minlas; Hill Partridge; Kalij Pheasant; Bay and Crimson-breasted woodpeckers; Greater and Lesser yellownapes; Golden-throated and Great barbets; Plaintive, Lesser and Asian Emerald cuckoos; Himalayan Swiftlet; Fork-tailed and House swifts; Collard and Asian Barred owlets; Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (rare); Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon; Eurasian Sparrowhawk; Besra; Northern Goshawk; Steppe and Bonelli’s eagles; Orange-bellied Leafbird; Long-tailed and Grey-backed shrikes.

NIGHT: Camp at Narphung, (2,000m).

Day 4: Narphung to Trashigang (120kms). Birding en-route.
We will rise early to begin birding cool broad-leaf forests of Narphung, before continuing our scenic drive with spectacular views of the hills, isolated farms and tiny hamlets to Trashigang. Species we may encounter today includes: Yellow-billed Blue Magpie; Grey Treepie; Eurasian Jay; Large-billed Crow; Maroon Oriole; Long-tailed Minivet; Yellow-bellied and White-throated fantails; Ashy and Black drongos; Blue Whistling Thrush; Long-billed Thrush (rare); Ultramarine, Slaty-Blue, Little Pied and White-gorgeted flycatchers (the later is rare); Large and Rufous-bellied niltavas; Spotted Forktail; Common Stonechat; White-tailed Nuthatch; Fire-capped, Green-backed, Black-throated and Rufous-fronted tits; Striated, Mountain, Black and Red-vented bulbuls; Aberrant Bush Warbler; Mountain Tailorbird; Ashy-throated, Chestnut-crowned and Lemon-rumped warblers; Blyth’s Leaf Warbler; Striated, White-throated and Chestnut-crowned laughingthrushes; Rusty-cheeked and Streak-breasted scimitar babblers; Rufous-throated and Spotted wren babblers; Red-billed Leiothrix; Green-tailed and Mrs Gould’s sunbirds; Russet and Eurasian Tree sparrows; White Wagtail; Olive-backed Pipit; Maroon Accentor (rare); Yellow-breasted Greenfinch and Tibetan Siskin.

NIGHT: Druk Deojung Resort, Trashigang (1,100m).

Day 5: Trashigang to Lingmethang (110kms). Birding at Kore La, 2,298m.
We will leave Trashigang after and early breakfast as there are no productive birding areas in the immediate vicinity and driving down to Chazam. The journey continues through Sherichu from where the road climbs by means of 10 hairpin bends, known as the Yadi Loops, in just 10kms! From here we continue to the little village of Yadi. The road passes fields of corn and broad-leaf forests where we will stop and bird before our final ascent to Kori La 2,298m. Here amongst other species we may find: Brown Bullfinch; Scarlet Finch; Grey-winged Blackbird; Brown-throated Treecreeper; and Grey-sided Laughingthrush.

Crossing the pass we descend through cool broadleaved trees, dripping with exotic orchids, fern-lined forests of rhododendrons, where again we will stop to bird hoping to see in these pristine environs: Maroon Oriole; Common Rosefinch; Hill Prinia; Fire-capped Tit; Bhutan Laughingthrush; Rufous-bellied Woodpecker; Asian Barred Owlet; Ward’s Trogon (rare); Gold-naped Finch; Kalij Pheasant and Barn Swallow.

Climbing back into our vehicles, we continue our descent to the town of Mongar and on to the sub-tropical forests around Lingmithang at 750m.

NIGHT: Camp at Lingmethang, (750m).

Day 6 & 7: Yongkola region.
Explore the top ten birding hotspots in all of Asia. The warm broadleaf forests provide the perfect environment for many avian species including many of Bhutan’s sought-after birds. And so, today is spent birding in the upper Yongkola region. In this breathtaking landscape we will bird in a protected area of pristine forests using a paved yet rarely used road, providing the ultimate beneficiary birding opportunities. It is here in this birding hotspot that we can look for some of Bhutan’s most prized bird species: Ward’s Trogon; Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler and Rufous-throated Wren Babbler (a little known and endangered species).

After birding the upper elevations above Yongkola, acknowledged being one of the great birding roads of the world, we will slowly descend to our Yongkola camp at approximately 1800m. We have time to explore the wonderfully rich, subtropical, warm and cool, broad- leaved forests along the lower section of this road where ancient trees are festooned with orchids adding a riot of colour to this verdant land.
Trails criss-cross the forests, but few birders venture far into their depth consequently, exactly what avian delights may be around the corner may be a complete surprise. Here we should encounter: Hill, Rufous-throated and Chestnut-breasted partridges; Rufous-bellied and Crested Serpent eagles; The rare Rufous-necked Hornbill (the forests of Bhutan are the stronghold for this impressive species); Speckled Wood-Pigeon (another rare bird); Blue-bearded Bee-eater and two of the Himalayas’ rarest birds, the cobalt Blue-fronted Robin and the elusive and strange Wedge-billed Wren Babbler; Bay and Lesser Yellownape; Golden-throated and Blue-throated barbets; Large and Oriental hawk-cuckoos; Collared Owlet; Himalayan Treepie; Gray-chinned, Short-billed and Long-tailed Minivets; Yellow-bellied Fantail; Blue-headed Rock Thrush; White-browed Shortwing; Verditer Flycatcher; Large Niltava; Hodgson’s Redstart (in farmland at the edge of the forest); Plumbeous Redstart (males can be seen vigorously defending streamside territories); White-capped Redstart; Slaty-backed Forktail; Rusty-flanked Treecreeper; Sultan, Black-throated, Rufous-fronted, Yellow-browed and Yellow-cheeked tits; Mountain and Ashy bulbuls; Hill and Striated prinias; and Chestnut-headed, Slaty-bellied and Gray-bellied tesias; Gray-sided Bush Warbler; Gray-hooded, White-spectacled, Chestnut-crowned, Broad-billed and Black-faced warblers; White-crested, Striated, Rufous- necked, Gray-sided, and Blue-winged laughingthrushes; Streak-breasted, Coral-billed and Slender-billed scimitar-babblers; Rufous-capped and Golden babblers; Red-billed Leiothrix; Cutia; Rufous-bellied, Black-headed (rare), White-browed and Black-eared shrike babblers; Rufous-fronted Barwing; Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed minlas; White-naped, Whiskered, and Black-chinned yuhinas; and the exquisite Golden-breasted and Yellow-throated fulvettas (virtually unknown elsewhere); Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill (rarely seen); Fire-breasted Flowerpecker; Crimson-browed Finch; Spot-winged Grosbeak; Scarlet Finch (again, incredibly beautiful males).

NIGHTS: Camp at Yongkola, (1,800m).

Day 8: Yongkola to Sengor (40kms). Birding en-route.
This morning we will bird in the cool and warm broadleaf forests along the upper Namling Road, giving priority to looking for birds we have previously missed, returning to our campsite for lunch. This afternoon we will drive towards Sengor and bird along the Namling Road. This is another stunning journey, the road is lined with philodendrons, sheer cliff-faces and more thundering waterfalls with views cross ridge after ridge of forest covered mountain slopes. In this prime birding location we will look for: Satyr Tragopan (rare); Broad-billed Warbler; Black-throated Parrotbill; Crimson-breasted Woodpecker; Bar-winged Wren Babbler; Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler; and perhaps Gould’s Shortwing!

NIGHT: Camp at Sengor, (3,000m).

Day 9: Sengor to Bumthang (104kms) over Thrumshing La, 3,780m.
Dawn is one of the best times of day to spot the Satyr Tragopan and, as we are camping in their habitat we will rise early in order to have the best opportunity to sight this species. During our 2015 trip we encountered a super male feeding by the roadside where we had 45 minutes of good views. Hopefully during these early hours we will also spot the rare Bar-winged Wren Babbler before we return to our vehicles and drive up through pristine forests with Spanish Moss hanging in long trails from the branches, to the high pass at Thrumshing La 3,780m, where we have breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayas. As we descend through forests of towering hemlocks, spruce, Silver fir and larch we will stop to bird and look for flocks of Gray-crested, Coal, Green-backed, Yellow-browed, Black-throated and Black-browed tits; Mrs Gould’s and Green-tailed sunbirds; Rufous-gorgeted and Ultramarine flycatchers; Ashy-throated, Lemon-rumped, Large-billed and Blyth’s Leaf-warblers; White-browed and Rufous-winged fulvettas; Stripe-throated Yuhina; and Green Shrike Babbler. Other species we may encounter include: Eurasian Sparrowhawk; Upland Buzzard; Mountain Hawk-Eagle; Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush; Plain-backed Thrush; White-collard Blackbird; Orange-flanked and White-browed bush-robins; Blue-fronted Redstart; Rufous-bellied Niltava; Eurasian, Rusty-flanked and Brown-throated Treecreepers; Gray-sided Bush Warbler; Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and Spotted laughingthrushes; Red Crossbill; Red-headed Bullfinch; White-winged and Collared grosbeaks; Gold-naped Finch; Eye-browed, Dusky and Dark-throated thrushes.

Continuing our journey we descend to the valleys of Bumthang, passing through the picturesque village of Ura to Jakar and our hotel for the night, stopping occasionally to bird along the route: Himalayan Monal; Blood Pheasant; Great Parrotbill; White-browed Shortwing; Fire-tailed Sunbird; White-throated Redstart and Indian Blue Robin.

NIGHT: Kailas Guesthouse, Bumthang, (2,700m).

Day 10: Bumthang to Trongsa (70kms). Birding at Yotong La, 3,425m.
After a hot drink we will leave early in order to drive through the pine forests, cross the Chumme Valley and reach Yotong La at 3,425m for optimum birding. No doubt as we drive through this area regarded as the religious heartland, we will see the Black-billed Magpie, the only place it is found in Bhutan and Red-billed Chough feeding in the fields of buckwheat. Reaching the pass we will begin birding, have breakfast and lunch in this amazing environment. Some of species that are regularly seen here are: Chestnut-headed Tesia; Rufous-vented Yuhina; Black-faced Laughingthrush; Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker; Rufous-bellied Woodpecker and White-winged Grosbeak; Great and brown Parrotbill, Fulvous Parrotbill, Red-headed Bullfinch; Stripe-throated and Whiskered yuhinas.

This afternoon we will drive towards Shemgang Road for more birding before checking into our hotel in Trongsa for the night. Along this stretch we should encounter: Cutia; Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler; Barred Cuckoo Dove; Greater Yellownape; Steppe Eagle; Tibetan Siskin; Large Niltava and Black-eared Shrike Babbler.

NIGHT: Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa, (2,200m).

Day 11: Trongsa to Punakha (140kms). Birding at Pele La, 3,390m.
Another early start as we drive to Bje Zam and bird along the Trongsa – Punakha road. Hoping to spot: Grey-sided Bush Warbler; White-capped Water Redstart; Streaked Laughingthrush and Gold-billed Magpie. After a hot picnic breakfast we will continue our drive to Punakha. The road takes us through the village of Chendibji where we will stop near the Nepalese styled Chorten, picturesquely situated alongside the river where we may encounter: Brown Dipper; Crested Kingfisher; Fire-tailed Myzornis and Yellow-browed Tit. Continuing our journey the road begins to climb through more pristine, mixed broad-leafed and evergreen forests with dense bamboo undergrowth, where we will stop for birding hoping to see: Spotted Laughingthrush; Rufous-vented, Whiskered and Stripe-throated yuhinas; Himalayan Griffon; Black-tailed Crake and Lammergeier.
As we reach Pele La at 3,390m with prayer flags fluttering in the breeze and views across to snow topped Jhomolhari (7,314m), marking the border between central and western Bhutan. A short break whilst we soak up the view, then back into our vehicles and begin our descent through forests ablaze with numerous species of flowering rhododendrons and magnolias, to the forested valley below where we should find the Spotted Forktail; Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush; Black-eared Shrike Babbler; Grey-headed Woodpecker; Greater Yellownape and the Speckled Piculet. The final part of this journey takes us to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan.

NIGHT: Meri Puensum, Punakha, (1,300m).

Day 12: Punakha to Paro (120kms). Birding at Dochu La, 3,116m and Lampelri Botanical Park.
This morning we leave the terraced fields and sub-tropical forests around Punakha and travel to Dochu La 3116m, stopping at Lumetshawa before light in order to get to the site where we hope to spot our target bird for the day: Ward’s Trogon, amongst other avian species such as Mountain Hawk and Black eagles; Eurasian Treecreeper; Spotted Forktail and Slaty Blue Flycatcher.

After a hot picnic breakfast we will continue to the Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri, which forms one of the critical biological corridors connecting the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park. It has cool broad leaf forests, mixed conifer forests, fir and sub-alpine forests and a temperate rain forest with hundred of species of flora and fauna. Here we will look for: Chestnut crowned Warbler; Dark-rumped and Dark-breasted rosefinches. With a bit of luck, we may also encounter rare species of mammals that the park supports; Musk Deer, Tiger, Leopard, Red Panda and the Leopard Cat.

Returning to our vehicles we will continue to Dochu La, an awe-inspiring sight with the road festooned with prayer flags taking their blessings to all sentient beings and 108 chortens, celebrating the safe return of the fourth king from a threatened invasion. From here on a clear day, there are magnificent panoramic views of the high Himalayas, including Masagang 7,158m, Tsendagang 6,960m, Terigang 7,060m, Jejegangphug 7,158m, Kangphugang 7,170m, Zongphugang 7,060m and Gangkar Puensum – the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m. We hope a rewarding day’s birding, as we descend from the high pass to Paro and our hotel for your last two
nights in Bhutan.

NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro, (2,300m).

Day 13: Paro to Chele La, 3,822m and back to Paro (70kms).
An early morning departure, up through ancient forests of pine, spruce and fir before we get to Chele La, 3822m, the highest motor able pass in Bhutan. Here, apart from the fantastic views of the high Himalayan peaks of Jhomolhari (7,219m), Jichu Drake (6,989m) and down into the Paro and Ha valleys, Chele La gives us the opportunity to ascend above the tree line into alpine meadows and dwarf rhododendron scrub, where we have the possibility of finding the beautiful Himalayan Monal; Blood Pheasant; Himalayan Griffon; Kalij Pheasant; Spotted, Black-faced and Chestnut-crowned laughingthrushes; Brown Parrotbill; Common Kestrel; White-collared Blackbird; Grey-backed Shrike; Blue-fronted Redstart, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Rufous-breasted and Alpine accentors and the beautifully coloured White-browed Rosefinch. After a hot breakfast cooked by our chefs we will continue birding in this beautiful area before gradually making our way back to Paro.

Paro valley lies beneath Jhomolhari one of the highest of Bhutan’s Himalayan peaks and has many impressive cultural sites. In the afternoon we return to Paro where we will stop by the Pa Chhu, where camouflaged amongst the glacial stones, Himalayan riverine species such as the Ibisbill can be seen as it dips in the snowmelt, searching for food. In this area we should also find: Pied Wagtail; Rosy Pipit; White-capped and Plumbeous water redstarts; Blue Whistling Thrush; Oriental Turtle Dove; Common Hoopoe; Black-tailed Crake; Crested Goshawk and Brown Dipper.

NIGHT: Hotel Olathang, Paro, (2,300m).

Day 14: Depart Paro for your onward connection to Delhi/Calcutta/Kathmandu or Bangkok.

Included in Bhutan Land Cost:

  • Visa and Tax
  • Tour Guide who is expert in the field
  • All activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All accommodation based on sharing twin room
  • All meals
  • Tea/coffee and snacks
  • Bottled water throughout the trip
  • Ground transportation
  • All necessary camping equipment
  • All entrance fees for museums

Not Included in Bhutan Land Cost:

  • Travel insurance (essential)
  • Laundry, phone calls and alcoholic drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Charges incurred as a result of circumstances beyond the control of Langur Eco Travels
  • International flights

Note Regarding Single Supplements:
Single occupancy US $25 per night.


Trip Grade: Gentle to Moderate Hikes:
You should prepare for certain factors of travel in Bhutan. A few of the most important are: elevation, windy mountain roads. Average elevation on this trip is 2,400m. Pass crossings may be up to 4,000m (by vehicle).

Insurance:
We strongly advise that your travel insurance policies include medical assistance and (helicopter) evacuation – we believe that it is ‘better to be safe than sorry!’ Should you decline to do so, we must state that we will in no way, accept responsibility for expenses incurred, should you require medical attention/evacuation whilst on holiday with us.

Accommodation:
It is our policy to use the best available accommodation in each location. All hotels and lodges we use are government approved and registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan. We have our own camping crew who will set up camps, prepare hot meals and provide hot showers.

Clothing:
It is advised that you have layers of light clothing, perhaps some thermal underwear, a warm jumper, fleece or jacket for the evenings when the temperature can suddenly drop. Generally speaking, casual clothing is suitable throughout your stay and that the main requirement is that you are comfortable.

Laundry facilities are available at all hotels. Waterproofs and/or umbrellas – just in case! Sunglasses and sun-cream or blocks are essential. Hand wipes (wet wipes/ anti-bacterial) and tissues are useful.

Habitats Covered: High altitude up to 3,822m to low at 150m (India). Coniferous, mix broad-leafed and sub-tropical forests including bamboo and banana undergrowth, pastures, wetlands, rocky slopes and rivers beds.


Top Birds: Satyr Tragopan; Himalayan Monal; Blood Pheasant; Collard Grosbeak; White-browed Rosefinch; Ibisbill; White-bellied Heron; Yellow-rumped Honeyguide; Lesser Rufous-headed, Great and Fulvous parrotbills; Golden-breasted and Yellow-throated fulvettas; Spotted, Blue-winged, Grey-sided, Rufous-chinned, Scaly and Lesser Necklaced laughingthrushes; Beautiful Nuthatch; Rufous-necked Hornbill; Red-headed and Wards Trogon; Cutia; Red faced Liocichla; Dark-rumped Swift; Long-tailed Broadbill; Crimson and Fire-tailed sunbirds; Rufous-throated and Wedge-billed wren babblers, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Long-billed Thrush, Gold-naped Finch and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler.


Top Mammals: Common Goral, Malayan Giant Squirrel, Hodgson’s Giant Flying Squirrel, Capped and Common Grey langurs, Five-striped palm Squirrel, Wild Boar, Muntjac (Barking Deer), and Assamese Macaque.


Other attractions: Amazing butterflies; strong Buddhist culture, temples and fortresses, spectacular mountain scenery and magnificent pristine forests.

Number of Pax Price Per Pax
1 US $
2 US $
3-12 US $