Trip Report – March 2011
Comments: You cannot go to Bhutan unless you book your whole trip through an agent ( see below). This costs around $200 per day per person but it includes everything – guide, driver, hotels, meals etc. so we felt it was quite reasonable at the end of the day. You can arrange for more expensive hotels (in addition to that price) but we felt the accommodation we had was more than adequate – and we are quite fussy!
We were only there for 4 days and had 132 species, stayed in good accommodation and limited the amount of driving require. Your guide will create your itinerary but you may want to make sure it includes these stops.
Day 1: We had stayed the previous night at the Olathang Hotel that is a little passed its prime but has great grounds – allowing a little birding the evening before. I would recommend a really early morning start to this day as it would allow you to fit in the Tiger’s Nest after breakfast- because my husband was sick, we had a slower start going out after breakfast and had to miss the Tiger’s Nest. Whether before or after breakfast you should head up to the Chalal Pass for your birding. It is at 4100 meters – very cold and beautiful. White-winged Grosbeak, Snow Pigeon, Spotted Nutcracker & Griffon Vulture were some of the highlights – we had been hoping for Blood Pheasant but had no luck.
We then enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the Traveler’s Restaurant in Paro before birding our way to Thimphu We started by driving along beside the river just outside Paro – Common Merganser, Grey-backed Shrike and Wallcreeper were here.
Then on the main route to Thimphu we stopped at a temple which was across the river and gave us White-capped Water Redstart, Dark-throated and Red-throated Thrush ( recently split) & Brown Dipper.
The architecture in Thimphu is stunning – we stayed at the Jumobhuri Hotel which was fine.
Day 2: A hike up to Cheri Temple is really worth while – it is a fantastic temple with great views and good birding en route. Black-faced Laughing Thrush, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Rufous-breasted Accentor were just a few of the birds on the way up. It is a little strenuous but worth it. On the way back into Thimphu we hunted down a Yellow-rumped Honeyguide which was fantastic!
Try to be in Thimphu at the weekend because after lunch there is a good market to visit and also you can watch archery competitions – sounds dull but it is great with competitors in traditional costumes!
Then later in the day go to the sewage works which is the usual birder’s heaven. River Lapwing, Spot-billed duck, Solitary Snipe, Ibisbill & Black-tailed Crake. It was a wonderful end to a great day. Stayed in Thimphu again.
Day 3: Another drive up to a high mountain pass – the Dochula Pass at 3,150 meters. If you get out at the top and walk down the other side you can bird your way to the Dochula Hotel for a great breakfast. We had Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Dark-breasted Rosefinch and Green-tailed Sunbird.
Next make a stop at the Botanical Gardens – Barred Cuckoo Dove, Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler, White-throated Laughingthrush, Hoary Throated Barwing and Rufous-vented Yuhina were our new birds.
Then we continued birding from the road all the way to Punakha for lunch. Rusty-Cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Tibetan Siskin, Whiskered Yuhina and a fantastic view of Ward’s Trogon were added. What a bird!
After lunch we went hunting for the White-bellied Heron down the ‘male’ river ( as they call it) in Puakha and we were successful – this globally threatened species was an absolute treat!! We also saw Siberian Stonechat and Brown-headed Gull.
Stayed at the MeriPuensum Hotel In Punakha which was good and we had Crested Bunting nearby.
Day 4: An amazing day at the Jigme Dorji Forest. Great and Golden-throated Barbet on the way and then when we got to the entrance of the park we came across the first of several mixed flocks. We walked up this road for some distance and enjoyed many, many species including: Crested Kingfisher, Bay Woodpecker Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Yellow-vented warbler. Wow.
Then a long drive back to Paro and another night at the Olathong Hotel before an early flight the next day. We loved this country – friendly people, clean countryside and good infrastructure – definitely worth visiting!
To bird the whole of Bhutan would require at least 3 weeks and the eastern and southern regions take a long to time to get to as the only way in is by road – there is only one airport in Bhutan. The accommodation in the more remote regions is very limited and often requires you to camp. Over that 3 weeks you are likely to get 300 species.
The roads in Bhutan are VERY windy – I would recommend some sort of travel sickness medication – we were both quite nauseous most of the time!
Guides & Resources
Field Guide: Birds of Bhutan – Richard Grimmett, Carol & Tim Inskipp, (although I understand there is a more uptodate field guide by someone Ribley(?) but I have been unable to locate it – Bhutan heritage maybe able to give you more..
Bird Song: We used Birdsongs of the Himalayas by Scott Connop PLUS Indian Bird Sounds C.Chappuis F. Deroussen and D Warakagoda but our bird guide had better local recordings which are not available commercially..
Guides: We had Sonam Dorjee – who was excellent – from Bhutan Birding & Heritage Tours.
Lonely Planet guide for points of interest.