Birdwatching in Bhutan, 14 days

photo by Ujjal Ghosh, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tour highlights

  • Various habitats from alpine above 3500 meters, medium hill to lowest subtropical around 200 meters.
  • Possible to see Ibisbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, Black Necked Crane, White Bellied Heron, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Rufous Necked Hornbill and others.
  • Expert birdwatching guide with detailed knowledge
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Arrival to Paro and accommodation in hotel. Program depending on the time of arrival. If time permits, afternoon birdwatching on the banks of Pachu rive. You might spot following bird species: Ibisbill, Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, River Lapwing, Plumbeous Water Redstart, etc.
2 Paro – Punakha    Early morning start drive from Paro to Punakha over Dochu-la pass (3115 m). The elevation difference allow some good birding opportunities on the way. You will be traveling through mixed forest of hemlock, fir, oaks, and rhododendron, which are habitat of many birds including, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, Eurasian Jay, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhina, Spotted Nutcracker, Long-tailed Minivet, Rufous-vented and Coal Tit.  
When we reach the pass, we might spot wide panorama of Himalayan peaks. Then we will descend to Lamperli Botanical garden which offers lot some nice walking trails where we will be looking for Brown Parrotbill, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Plain-backed Thrush White-collared Blackbird and Green-backed Tit.
Then continue drive to Punakha, watching for Chestnut-tailed Starling, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Long-tailed Shrike, Spotted Dove, Red-vented and Black Bulbul, Common Kestrel.  
Later in the evening we will do birding at the Pho Chu valley trying to spot White-bellied Heron. This is one of the most endangered bird species in the world, with only 60 birds remaining. We can also spot Pallas Fish Eagle, White-throated and Crested Kingfisher, Ibisbill, River Lapwing, and few species of Ducks.   
3 Punaha, full day birding along Punakha to Gasa stretch This day we will spend fully by birding inside the one of the most important protected areas of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji National Park along Mo Chhu river between Punakha and Gasa towns. We might spot Red–headed Trogon, Wallcreeper, Small, and Large Niltava, Black-chinned and Whiskered Yuhinas, a trio of fork tails, Pygmy and Spotted Wren-babblers. There are also chances to spot Oriental Turtle Dove, Great Cormorant, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Rufous Sibia, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Green-backed and Black-throated Tit, Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, White-throated, Rufous-chinned, Striated and Bhutan Laughingthrush, Golden-throated and Barbet, Crested Kingfisher, Grey Treepie, Ashy Drongo, Verditer Flycatcher, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Black Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, River Lapwing, Crested Bunting, Grey Wagtail, Gadwall, and Large-billed Crow and with luck Pallas’s Fish Eagle.
In the afternoon we will visit Punakha dzong, one of the most intricately decorated castles in Bhutan, which served as the king winter seat till the 70s of the last century. We will also walk to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, crossing the Pho Chu river.
4 Punakha – Phobjikha        In the morning start ascending to higher elevations with many stops for birding. On the way we can spot Yellow-rumped Honeyguide and Grey wagtail. Sometimes Orange Bellied Leafbird, Longtailed Grey–backed Shrike, Thrushes(Zoolhera Thrushes) and Forktails, Redstart, Rufous Capped Babbler Streak-Breasted Scimitar Babbler, Red-hilled Leiolthrix, Stripe Throated Yuhina, Rufous-wing, White broned Nepal Fuluetta, Bar throated minla, Black Eared Shrike Babbler, Cuita, Grey –Hooded Whistlers Warbler, Lemon-rumped and Ashey-thraoted Warbler, White-tailed Nuthatch, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Green-tailed Sunbird, Rufous-breasted Accentor.
Finally reach to highland Phobjikha valley, the roosting place of Black Neck Cranes. By February the cranes should still be residing in the valley. Main vegetation in the valley is dwarf bamboos that are good for Laughing Thrushes and Bush Warblers. Make a visit to Gangtey Gompa, a monastery dating back to 1613. Visit the Crane information center to get more information on Black Neck Cranes. In winter months, we can expect up to 60 cranes to be residing in the valley, making it quite easy to spot even from the close.
5 Phobjikha – Trongsa    Drive to Trongsa over Pele-la pass (3540 m). We can seek for high altitude species such as Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Himalayan Griffon, Brown and Great Parrotbill, Blue-fronted and White-throated Redstart, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, White-winged and Collared Grosbeak, White-browed and Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Plain Mountain Finch etc.
Continue drive to Trongsa with stop at Chendebji stupa, which was modeled after famous Bouddhanath stupa Nepal. After reaching Trongsa, you can visit beautiful museum in watchtower with great exposition on Bhutanese monarchy or go to forest to seek for some local species like Spotted and Slaty-backed Forktail, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Plain and Long-billed Thrush.
6 Trongsa – Tingtibi Today we will turn southward to Zhemgang district and it’s famous birding hotspots of Tingtibi. On the way we will be passing around Zhemgang dzong, the castle which serves as the district headquarters. The birds which might be spotted includes Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers, Crested Buntings, Long-tailed Shrikes, Rufescent and Striated Prinias, Rufous and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel, Rufous-necked and Bhutan Laughingthrush. Silver-eared Mesia, Black-throated and Green-tailed Sunbird, Oriental Turtle and Spotted Dove, Grey Treepie and many more. We’ll also look for rare and little known Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, one of the two species of Honeyguide occurs in Asia. Reach to Tingtibi.    
7 Tangtibi – Manas    Start drive to Manas and bird along the Dakphel road looking for the species like Cutia, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Coral-billed and Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-chinned and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Black-chinned, Whiskered and Striated Yuhina, Blue-winged Minla. We will also make a special effort to find Beautiful Nuthatch, is one of the rarest species of Nuthatch in the world. While descending further to Manas, the climate will get more temperate. We will see beautiful twin water fall and finally reach Pangbang town nearby to which we will stay in naturally located Pangbang Jungle Camp.    
8 Manas  Today we will be birding in one of the most prominent wildlife reserve of Bhutan, the Manas, which is connected to Indian Manas Tiger Reserve, the World Heritage site and also borders Jigme Singye Wangchuck national park in Bhutan, marking the one of the greatest protected area in Asia. More than 365 species of birds have been officially recorded in Royal Manas National Park with an additional 200 believed to be in residence. Species found here include the four species of Hornbills, Pallas fishing Eagle, Red-headed Trogon, Crested, White-throated Kingfisher, rare and little known Blyth’s Kingfisher. Collared and Asian-barred Owlet, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Wedge-tailed and Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Collared Falconet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Orange-bellied and Golden-fronted Leafbird, Common Green Magpie, Black-naped Monarch, Hair-crested, Lesser and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large and Small Niltava, Verdieter and Pale Blue Flycatcher, Spot-winged Starling Ashy, White-throated and Red-whiskered Bulbul and many more.
We will have whole day to explore and will enjoy another night in Pangbang Jungle Camp.
9 Manas – Tingtibi – Gelephu    Leave fabulous Manas, driving back to Tingtibi. We will once again get chance to spot Beautiful Nuthatch as we will be crossing through its habitat. From Tingtibi we will turn south-west and will start descending from 2500 to 150 meters. Such difference in elevation and different habitats will give us opportunity to peek for Barred Cuckoo Dove, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Black and Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Pond Heron, Long-tailed Broadbill, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Maroon Oriole, White-throated and Yellow-bellied Fantail, Ashy, Black and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Yellow-cheeked and Sultan Tit, Blyth’s, Grey-hooded and Black-faced Warbler, Striated and Rufous-necked and Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Streak-breasted and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Chestnut-tailed and Blue-winged Minla, White-breasted Parrotbill and Maroon-backed Accentor and perhaps many others.
Reach to Gelephu town in the late afternoon/evening.   
10 Gelephu – Tsirang    Start in the lowlands of Gelephu and drive towards Tsirang, crossing on the way Sarbhang with opportunities to spot many interesting birds including Great and Rufous-necked Hornbill, Collared Falconet, Orange-bellied and Golden-fronted Leafbird, Common Green Magpie, Grey Treepie, Oriental Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, Asian-pied and Chestnut-tailed Starling, Chestnut-bellied and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sultan Tit, Ashy and White-throated Bulbul, lesser and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Jungle Babbler, Golden and Rufous-capped Babbler, Indian Roller, Rufous and Long-tailed Sibia and Streaked Spiderhunter. After Sarbhang town, the road will start ascending until we reach Darechu, one of the major birding hotspots of Bhutan. We will watch here for Beautiful Nuthatch, Cutia, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted and Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Spotted Elachura, Slaty-backed, Spotted and Little Forktails, Rufous-winged and Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous Sibia, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Grey-chinned and Long-tailed Minivet, Winter Wren, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Grey-throated and Rufous-capped Babbler and many more. Reaching to Damphu town in the evening.   
11 Tsirang – Thimphu    In the morning we will slowly start drive to Thimphu, stopping many times for birding around in Tsirang area, which is extremely rich in biodiversity. Southern Bhutan was long not open for tourism, so it’s bird species richness is not fully established, anyway we will look for Wallcreeper, Striated Prinia, Great, Golden-throated and Blue-throated Barbets, Black, Ashy and Black-crested Bulbul, Blue and Chestnut-bellied Rock thrushes, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Crested Serpent Eagle, Common Kestrel, Striated and White-throated Laughingthrush and perhaps many more to surprise us. After reaching to Wangude, we will start retracing our previous travel over Dochu-la pass, reaching to Thimphu in the evening.    
12 Thimphu – Paro via Chele-la    Very early morning start drive to Paro’s Chele-la pass (3890m). This is highest motorable pass in Bhutan and offers spotting of many bird species, especially three different Pheasants: the colorful Himalayan Monal, flocks of Blood Pheasants and Kalij Pheasant. You can also spot White-browed, Dark-rumped and Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Plain Mountain Finch, White winged and Collared Grosbeaks and Black-faced and Spotted laughingthrushes, Alpine and Rufous-breasted Accentor, Snow Pigeon, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Spotted Nutcracker, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Grey-crested, Coal, Rufous-vented and Rufous-fronted Tits. Descend from Chele-la by walk through ancient forest, reaching to Kila gompa, the oldest nunnery in Bhutan and see ho humble nuns are living. The great views of Paro valley. Then descend back to Paro with stop at Bondey to see another beautiful and scenic temple, the Dzongdrakha, the place rarely visited by tourists.  In evening, we will once again try luck along the Paro River searching for one of the target birds, Ibisbill. We may also see River Lapwing, Black- tailed Crake, Brown Dipper, Solitary and Pin-tailed Snipe, Russet and Eurasian Tree sparrow and few species of Ducks.   
13 Paro, cultural sightseeing    Visit of the National Museum and Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. The pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. Climb to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), is the highlight of the tour. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can climb just halfway to cafeteria with nice view of the place. You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness, and preferences. Evening in Paro in leisure, enjoying the last evening in Bhutan.   
14 Drop to Paro and departure Morning drop to Paro airport and departure from Bhutan.   
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