A n e x c l u s i v e B i r d w a t c h i n g &
P h o t o g r a p h y t o u r o f B h u t a n
Bhutan is home to many species of birds that are in high danger of extinction, including the Imperial Heron, which is one of the fifty rarest birds in the world and the rare Black-Necked Crane, which breeds in Tibet and then migrates over the Himalayas to Bhutan during the winter months. The Cranes can be spotted in Phobjikha Valley in Western Bhutan, Bumthang in Central Bhutan and in Bomdeling in Eastern Bhutan.
London – Delhi – Paro – Chelila Birding – Paro Tiger Nest Excursion – Thimphu – Thimphu – Dochula – Punakha – Punakha – Nobding – Phobjekha – Pelela – Trongsa – Zhemgang – Tingtibe – Gomphu Road – Zhemgang – Trongsa – Bumthang – Thrumshingla – Sengor – Namling – Yongkala – Namling – Limithang Road Yongkala – Thrumshingla – Trongsa – Paro – Delhi – London
Nature & Photography - Birding in Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon
Small Group tour Led by Richard Baines & Sharap Wangchuk
Thursday 12 - Saturday 28 April 2018
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Fly from London Heathrow on direct British Airways’ day flight to Delhi. Arrive Delhi late in the evening. In Transit for flight to Bhutan.
Early morning flight to Paro. The flight into the Himalayas is one of the most scenic and breath-taking, with the views of some of the tallest mountains of the world. On your arrival at the Paro international airport you will be received by our representative and transferred to hotel followed by a relaxing afternoon visit to the Paro Rimpung Dzong fortress. In the evening we will be birding by the Paro River searching for one of the biggest target birds, Ibisbill. Other birds on this beautiful river include Plumbeous Redstart, Oriental Turtle Dove, River Lapwing, Olive-backed Pipit, Black-tailed Crake, Grey-backed Shrike, Blue Whistling Thrush, White-collared Blackbird and Black Bulbul.
Two nights stay at the Tashi Namgay Resort or similar for 2 nights. B
Very early in the morning drive to the cool alpine meadow of Chelila pass (3,890 meters). This is the highest accesible pass in Bhutan. This is a world famous place for Pheasants, The colourful Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasants and Kalij Pheasants. Other species here can include; Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpecker, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Black Eagle, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Long-tailed Minivet, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Rufous-gorgetted and Ultramarine Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, White-browed Bush Robin, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Blue-fronted Redstart, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Rufous-vented, Coal, Green-backed and Grey-crested Tits, Buff-barred Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf, Blyth’s Leaf and Large-billed leaf Warblers, White-throated, Black- faced, Chestnut-crowned and Spotted Laughingthrushes, Dark-rumped and White-browed Rosefinches. B, L, D
After breakfast at the hotel, a short drive will take us to the base of the Tiger’s Nest monastery; from here we hike to one of the most beautiful and holiest temples in Bhutan. This has been Bhutan’s most scenic and important destination for pilgrimages and reflection for over 1200 years. Takshang (or “Tiger’s Nest”) clings to the side of a steep cliff some 200 meters above the Paro valley, with wonderful opportunities for photography. The original temple was built in the 17th century, but tragically, it was consumed by fire in 1998. Like a phoenix, the temple was rebuilt to its fullest glory in 2003. Takshang is considered to be the 10th-holiest site in the Buddhist world. The total hike will take about five hours with great birding on-route! Drive to Thimphu- the capital city of Bhutan. Overnight at The Hotel Kisa or similar. B, L, D
Early morning drive to Punakha over the Dochula Pass (3,150 meters). Our day starts from this pass with the breath-taking views of eastern Himalayas ranges. The mixed forests of hemlock, fir, oaks and rhododendron are good habitat for many species including White-throated, Spotted and Striated Laughing thrushes, Oriental, Indian, and Large Hawk Cuckoos and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher.
After breakfast at the pass, we descend down to the Lamperi Botanical Garden and take the nature walk. The birds we will be looking for here include Brown Parrotbil, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Maroon Oriole, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Scarlet Finch, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Eurasian Jay, Grey-winged Blackbird and Strong-footed Bush Warbler.
Afternoon visit to the impressive Punakha Dzong, one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan and a good birding area followed by a drive along the Po-chu River looking for White-bellied Heron, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and other shores birds. Overnight at Hotel Zangtho Pelri or similar. B, L, D
Early morning start driving to the Phobjekha valley stopping on-route for birding. We will be looking for Ward’s Trogon, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Black Bulbul, Plain-backed Thrush, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and Bhutan and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, White-collared Blackbird, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Grey-backed Shrike, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minla, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler and many more.
In the Phobjekha valley, the vegetation changes into dwarf bamboos, good for Laughingthrushes, Grey-sided Bush Warbler, Ruofus-breasted Accentor, Brown and Great Parrotbill, White-browed Rosefinch, Grey-crested, Rufous-fronted and Rufous-vented Tits. In the evening, we will spend time finding and watching the rare Black-necked Crane with good chances of seeing Hen Harrier and Oriental Skylark. Overnight at Dewachen Hotel or similar. B, L, D
After early breakfast a drive to the Pelela pass (4,000 meters) and spend the morning birding along the old road at Pelela for high altitude species like Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan Griffon, Great and Brown Parrotbill, Plain Mountain Finch, White- winged and collared Grosbeak, Spotted Nutcracker, Slaty-blue, Verdieter and Dark-sided Flycatcher, Grey-sided Bush Warbler. Key species include; Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, Dark-rumped and White-browed Rosefinch, Scarlet Finch and Gold-naped Finch.
On the drive to Trongsa, we will also be looking for Speckled Wood Pigeon, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Golden-breasted, White-browed and Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Streak-breasted and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Nepal House Martin, Blyth’s Swift and White-throated Needletail. Overnight at Yankhill Resort. B,L,D
Today on our drive to Zhemgang, we will have lots of stops at several-forested valleys, the species we will be looking for along the drive will be Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Crested Bunting, Spot-winged Starling, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-throated and Rufescent Prinia, Rufous and Bay Woodpecker, Sultan Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel, Blue-capped Rock Thrush and various minivets. This is also our best chance for the Golden Langur, a rare monkey endemic to Bhutan and only discovered in the 1950s.
Later in the evening we will be birding in Zhemgang - Dakphel road, searching for Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Cutia, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-chinned and Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Beautiful Nuthatch and many more. Two nights at Tingtibe Camp. B, L, D
Birding the diverse range of habitats on the Zhemgang - Tingtibe roads from mossy forests to streamside lowland forest. This is another chance to see Golden Langur, which is fairly common here. We’ll also be searching for amazing Hornbills such as Rufous-necked and Great hornbill, Pin-tailed and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Cutia, Scarlet Minivet, a range of beautiful Laughingthrushes, Spotted Wren Babblers and the rare Beautiful Nuthatch.
In the afternoon we will explore the Gomphu Road, on-routre to Manas National Park, here we’ll be searching for Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, White-hooded Babbler, Grey-throated and Rufous-capped Babbler, Lesser Yellownape, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Striated and Black-chinned Yuhinas, Chestnut-winged and Drongo Cuckoo, Common Green Magpie, Emerald Dove and with the little bit of luck Pale -headed Woodpecker. B,L,D
On the drive back to Trongsa, we will be looking any species we might have missed before. After Trongsa it is another 3 hrs drive take you through to the Yotongla pass. Here we will search for Hill Partridge, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Brown and Great Parrotbill, Chestnut-crown, Black-faced and Spotted Laughingthrush, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Red-headed Bullfinch, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Grey-crested, Coal, Rufous-vented and Rufous-fronted Tits, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Plain Mountain Finch, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Rufous-gorgeted and Slaty Blue Flycatchers.
After crossing Yotongla we arrive in the Chumey valley in Bumthang. Bumthang is famous for its distinctive woolen weaves, known as yathra. At the village of Zugney you will see the fine samples of yathra hanging by the roadside. The weavers all women, can be seen at their looms beside the road. The road continues over the Kikila pass to enter the next valley in Bumthang (Jakar) the district headquarters. Overnight at Wangdicholing Resort. B,L,D
The drive from Bumthang to Sengor over Thrumshingla. Thrumshingla is the prime habitat for Blood Pheasant and also holds other high altitude species such as Snow Pigeons, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Golden and White-browed Bush Robin, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Spotted Nutcracker, Red-billed Chough, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Greats Parrotbills, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Grey-crested, Rufous-vented Tits, White-browed Fulvata, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Plain-backed Thrush, White-collared and Grey-winged Blackbird, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Buff-barred, Ashy-throated, Blyth’s and Large-billed leaf Warbler.
Later in the afternoon we will be birding around Sengor looking for Satyr Tragopan. Sengor is known as the hotspot for this highly sought after species. Other birds we’ll be looking out for here include Bar-winged and Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Gold-naped Finch, Hoary-throated Barwing, Bar-throated and Red-tailed Minlas, Whistler’s and Grey-hooded Warbler and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler. In the evening we will also try to see Himalayan Owl. Overnight at Sengor Camp. B, L,D
Early in the morning we’ll drive back to the pass to search for Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan once again if we have missed them the other day, back to the camp for breakfast.
After breakfast we will hit Bhutan’s wet subtropical forest and one of the finest birding areas in the Himalayas. We will be birding in the lush forested valley searching for Bay Woodpecker, Great and Golden-throated Barbets, Rufuos-necked Hornbill, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Maroon Oriole, Scarlet and Grey-chinned Minivets, White-gorgeted, Little Pied, Ultramarine and Verdieter Flycatchers, Little Forktail, Black-throated Prinia, Grey-hooded, Grey-cheeked and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Ward’s Trogon, Scaly, Bhutan, and Blue-winged Laughingthrush. Two nights stay at The Yongkala Camp. B, L, D
We spend full day birding the upper and lower Limithang road. This Yongkala-Limithang road has been noted as one of the best birding sites in Asia road as it allows opportunities to access the wide variety of habitats from pristine broad-leaf forest to coniferous forest which spans across a vast altitudinal range. All of this is protected within the Thrumsing La National Park. Some of the species we’ll be searching for the here include flocks of White-breasted and Black-throated Parrotbills, Golden-breasted, Yellow-throated, Rufous-winged and Nepal Fulvettas; very shy Rufous-throated and Pygmy Wren Babbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Red-headed Trogon, Rusty-throated Barwing, Great, Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-winged, Grey-sided, Rufous-necked, Black-faced, Blue-winged and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Grey-hooded, Ashy-throated, Yellow-vented and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Blyth’s and Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Slender-billed, Streak-breasted and Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler and many more. B, L, D
After a final morning birding in this wonderful habitat, we’ll retracing our way back to Trongsa passing though the Sengor valley, after crossing one of the high passes, the Thrumshing La (3,800 meters). Thrumshing La is the prime habitat for many high altitude species. We’ll spend some time here looking for the missing species on our way in. Then continue our drive through the valley of Bumthang, one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. After crossing the Bumthang valley it is another 3hrs drive to Trongsa crossing the Yotongla pass (3400m). Overnight at Yangkhill Resort. B, L, D
Drive to Paro birding along the way for any missed species as we retrace our footsteps following the same road as we came by. In the evening we arrive in Paro. Overnight at Tashi Namgay Resort or similar. B, L, D
Morning flight to Delhi. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight at The Park Hotel. B, L, D
Morning flight to London Heathrow. B
- Tour Leaders
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
Richard Baines - Ornithologist/Ecologist
Richard is an experienced ornithologist/ecologist who has been studying and working as a Nature Guide and in Wildlife Conservation for 30 years. From recording UK migrant birds as a volunteer for Flamborough Bird Observatory to monitoring Siberian migrants in China; he has become highly experienced in bird identification and ecology. He was born in North Yorkshire and lived here for most of his life. He has worked extensively with the North York Moors National Park (NYMNP) including a project in 2014 surveying a large area of open moorland for breeding waders such as Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). He has travelled extensively especially in Asia, recently spending 3 months birding in Thailand. He returned from Gujarat in December 2015 with a great passion for Indian birds and of course the food! He is currently studying part time for his MSc in Environmental Conservation. Richard is very keen on always increasing his knowledge on the ecology of birds and other wildlife. His greatest asset is his knowledge and enthusiasm, he loves passing on his experience of wildlife to a wide range of ages and abilities.
Sharap Wangchuk - Sr. Forest Ranger - Bhutan
Sharap Wangchuk completed his High School education in Thimpu in 1994 and joined college of Nature Resource Bhutan to further his education in Forest conversation. Sharap became a Park Ranger in 2002 and he had been deeply involved in nature and Tiger Conservation in Bhutan. Nature Recreation, ecotourism are the subjects close to his heart and he is passionate to share his knowledge of Bhutan with discerning travellers.
- International flights in economy class on British Airways.
- Regional flights in economy class on Druk Air.
- Accommodation as specified on twin, double sharing and single room occupancy.
- Meal Plan- Bhutan on Full Board. Delhi on bed & breakfast basis.
- All sightseeing arrangements including birding & wildlife viewing tours and walks.
- Transfers in private vehicle as per itinerary
- Services of experienced local English speaking nature guides.
- Services of Mr Richard Baines & Mr Steve Race professional nature experts.
- Complimentary mineral water while travelling and on sightseeing.
- Bhutan Government Royalty/ Taxes.
- Bhutan Visa Fees.
- Full ATOL and ABTA Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa fee for India. (E-Tourist visa facility is now available for India, we will send relevant information how to apply to all participants.
Travel Insurance. You can obtain a comprehensive travel insurance from Travel & General click here
Any expenses of a personal nature.
Tips and Gratuities
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.