Birds Of Bhutan – Land Of The Thunder Dragon
Friday 26 April – Sunday 19 May 2024
Small Group Tour Led by Richard Baines
Day 1 : To Kathamdu
Friday 26 April
Departure London to Kathmandu (flights to be advised).
Day 2 : Kathmandu
Saturday 27 April
Your Yorkshire Coast Nature representative Richard Baines will meet you on arrival.
Overnight in Kathmandu prior to our flight to Bhutan the following day. D
Day 3 : To Thimphu via Paro
Sunday 28 April
The flight into the Himalayas is one of the most scenic and breathtaking ones with views of some of the tallest mountains in the world. Arrival at the Paro international airport and drive to Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan.
Evening birding around the river and ponds in Thimphu searching for one of the biggest target birds, Ibisbill, other species we’ll be looking for include Black-tailed Crake, Brown Dipper, River Lapwing, White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart. Overnight: Ibisbill near Thimpu. B, L, D
Day 4 : To Punakha
Monday 29 April
Early morning drive to Punakha over the Dochula Pass (3150).
Our day starts from this pass with the breathtaking views of eastern Himalayas ranges. The mixed forests of hemlock, fir, oaks, and rhododendron here are good habitat for many good species including, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Spotted and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-browed Fullvetta, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhinas, Rufous-breasted Accentor.
After breakfast at the pass, we descend down to the Lamperi Botanical Garden and take a nature walk for about hours, birds we’ll be looking here for Brown Parrotbill, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-fronted Redstart, Striated and White-throated Laughingthrush.
Later we’ll drive to Punakha valley, along the drive you’ll look for the species like Chestnut-tailed Starling, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Long-tailed Shrike, Spotted Dove, Red-vented Bulbul Long-tailed Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle and Ultramarine Flycatcher. Whilst driving upstream along the Pho Chu river (male river), we might be lucky to see a White-bellied Heron, one of the rarest birds in the world with a population of fewer than 100 worldwide.
Afternoon: Visit the impressive Punakha’s Punthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss) standing on the confluence of the two rivers, the Phochu and Mochu, this Dzong has special significance in Bhutanese history. It was the place where the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuk, was crowned in 1907. At present, it is also used as the winter residence for Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the entire central monk body. Overnight: Punakha Approx 3 hour drive. B, L, D
Day 5 : Full day birding inside Jigme Dorji National Park
Tuesday 30 April
We will spend the whole day birding inside the Jigme Dorji National Park and along Mo Chu River. We have the possibilities of seeing Red-headed Trogon, Slaty-headed Tesia Small and Large Niltava, Black-chinned and Whiskered Yuhinas, a trio of forktails, Spotted Wren Babblers, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Rufous Sibia, Himalayan Swiftlet, River Lapwing, Grey Treepie, Grey-headed Canary and Verditer Flycatcher, Green-backed Tit, Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, White-throated, Striated, Bhutan and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Golden-throated, and Great Barbet, Crested Kingfisher, Grey Treepie, Ashy Drongo, Rusty-flnaked Treecreeper, Black-throated Tit, Black and Red-vented Bulbul, Ashy-throated, Blyth’s and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, and with luck Pallas’s Fish Eagle. We also have a good chance of finding the species like Oriental Turtle Dove.
In the evening, we’ll drive upstream along with the Pho Chu River (male river) one more time to search for White-bellied Heron, in case if we have missed the previous day.
Overnight: Punakha. B, L, D
Day 6 : To Phobjekha
Wednesday 1 May
Early morning we’ll wind up your way to the Phobjekha Valley stopping along the way looking for Cutia, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Grey-hooded, Blyth’s and Black-faced Warblers, Green-tailed and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, Striated Prinia, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Verdieter, and Ultramarine Flycatcher, Mountain Hawk Eagle, White-capped River Chat, White-tailed Nuthatch, Yellow-browed, and Fire-capped Tits and a few different species of Cuckoos, we’ll also make all our effort to search for the local scarce species like Ward’s Trogon and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, one of the two species of Honeyguide occur in Asia.
Before reaching Pelela pass we’ll take the road to Phobjekha valley, crossing Lawala pass the vegetation changes into dwarf bamboo, here we’ll search for the species like Spotted, Chestnut-crowned, and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Spotted Nutcracker, Great and Brown Parrotbills, Oriental Skylark, White-browed Shortwing, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Large-billed and Whistler’s Warbler, Hen Harrier, and many more.
Overnight: Phobjekha Approx drive time 3.5 hrs B, L, D
Day 7 : To Bumthang via Pelela & Trongsa
Thursday 2 May
We will have another early start to the Pelela pass, and spend our morning hours birding along the old abandon road. The open meadow and Rhododendron Forest here are good for high altitude species such Himalayan Monal, White-winged Grosbeak, White-throated Redstart, White-browed and Dark-rumped Rosefinches, Plain Mountain Finch. We also make a special effort to try for Satyr Tragopan, which occurs along this road occasionally, Satyr Tragopan is one of the special birds of the Himalayas that bring many birders to the Himalayas. Bhutan is probably one of the best places to find them.
Continue our drive to Bumthang, crossing the Yotongla pass (3400m). Some of the birds we’ll be searching around here include Red-headed Bullfinch, Grey-crested, Coal, Rufous-vented and Yellow-browed Tits, Bar-throated Minla. If time allows enjoy some birding watching along the Chamkhar river, here we will get another chance to see Ibisbill, which is fairly common here.
Overnight: Bumthang Approx drive time 5.5 hrs B, L, D
Day 8 : To Sengor
Friday 3 May
We drive from Bumthang to Sengor going over Phrumshingla (3800m).
Phrumshingla is the prime habitat for Blood Pheasants and also hold other high-altitude species like, Snow Pigeons, Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Golden, and White-browed Bush Robin, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Greats Parrotbills, Plain-backed Thrush, White-collared and Grey-winged Blackbird, Buff-barred, Ashy-throated, Blyth’s and Large-billed Leaf Warbler.
Later in the evening, we will be birding around Sengor looking for Satyr Tragopan. Sengor is known as the hotspot for Satyr Tragopan. Here, it is also possible to do some night birding searching around our campsite to try for Himalayan Wood Owl.
Overnight: Sengor Approx driving time 5 hours. B, L, D
Day 9 : Full Day Birding Around Sengor and Phrumshingla
Saturday 4 May
We will have a pre-breakfast outing driving the stretch of 10km road toward Namling, this stretch of road is one of the best sites for Satyr Tragopan, other birds of interest here include the super skulker and shy species like Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, and Chestnut-headed Tesia. Green-tailed and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbirds, Red-headed Bullfinch, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Green Shrike Babbler and varieties of Tits.
Depending on the activities, we will either return to the campsite for breakfast or picnic breakfast can be arranged along the way. Remainder of the day will be spent around the Phrumshingla pass, birding in big open meadow, spruce, hemlock, fir and Rhododendron bushes, looking for any high-altitude species that we have missed from the previous day, The main target includes Blood Pheasant, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Fire-tailed Sunbird in their breeding plumage.
Overnight: Sengor B, L, D
Day 10 : To Yongkala
Sunday 5 May
Today we’ll start moving downhill into the sub-tropical forest birding. The drive takes us through the narrow winding road which usually remains foggy. Halfway through our journey, we will pass through a famous cliff known as Namling Dra (Cliff) which has a reputation for being the most hair-raising section of the road in Bhutan and also have the biggest waterfall which may be more than 300 ft. high that fades before hitting the ground.
The species we are likely to come across include Gold-naped Finch, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Scaly and Black-faced Laughingthrushes, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Grey-hooded, Black-faced and Whistler’s Warblers, Crimson-breasted and Darjeeling Woodpeckers just to name a few.
Overnight: Yongkala Approx driving time 2 hours.
B, L, D
Day 11 -13 : To Yongkala
Monday 6 - Wednesday 8 May
For next three days we will explore the entire stretch of Namling, Limithang road and all the way to Phrumshingla pass. This stretch of 77-kilometer road all inside Phrumshingla National Park is touted as one of the finest birding sites in Asia. This road gives access to the altitude ranging from 100m at the lowland to 3,750 to the highest point with a different variation of habitats. Al the lowland habitat consists of mostly scrub and subtropical forest and farmlands, cool broadleaved and warm broadleaved with thick undergrowth and bamboo forest dominating the mid-altitude and at the higher altitude are mostly made up of temperate conifer, rhododendron shrubs, and open meadows.
We explore Namling – Limithang Road basically walking along the narrow road with lots of twists and switch-backs. The pristine cool broadleaved and warm broadleaved with thick undergrowth and bamboo forest which is very rich in birdlife. Some of our main targets include Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward’s Trogon, Himalayan Cutia, Golden-breasted, Yellow-breasted, Rufous-winged, and Nepal Fulvetta, White-breasted and Black-throated Parrotbill, varieties of Laughingthrushes such as Rufous-chinned, Grey-sided, Blue-winged, and Striated Laughingthrushes, Red-faced Liocichla, and the endangered Rufous-necked Hornbill.
Apart from these exotic species, the forest here also hosts some of the shy and secretive species such as Rufous-throated and Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Cupwing, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, and Spotted Elachura recently split from the Wren-Babbler and form a family of its own.
We’ll also, explore lower Limithang Road. (600m), habitats consist of scrub and subtropical forest and farmland. Here we may encounter Black-tailed Crake, Rufous-necked and White-crested Laughingthrushes, White-browed Piculet, Cresting Bunting, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Greater, and Lesser Yellownape, Black-chinned and Striated Yuhinas, Asian-barred, and Collared Owlet, we might also be lucky to see Tawny Fish Owl.
During our 4 nights here, we will consider doing some night birding searching for the Hodgson’s Frogmouth and Brown Wood Owl, we also have a pretty good chance for sighting Bhutan Flying Squirrel, a very interesting mammal.
Overnight: Yongkala |1200m. B, L, D
Day 14 : To Bumthang via Phrumshingla
Thursday 9 May
After a final morning birding in this wonderful habitat, we’ll retrace our way back to Bumthang passing through the Sengor valley, after crossing one of the high passes, the Phrumshing La (3800m) 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.
In the evening we’ll drive to the monastery up in the mountain to have the very close view of the Himalayan Monal, the place here offers the best chance to photograph the Himalayan Monal as they come close to the monk quarter for feeding, other birds we’ll be looking for include Black-billed Magpie, Oriental Skylark, Beautiful Rosefinch, White-throated Redstart,
Overnight: Bumthang Approx driving time 6 hours. B, L, D
Day 15 : To Trongsa via Yotongla
Friday 10 May
Our journey this morning passes the Chume valley, one of the four main valleys of Bumthang region, this valley is famous for its distinctive woolen weaves, known as yathra. At the village of Zugney see the fine samples of yathra hanging by the roadside. The weavers all women can be seen at their looms beside the road. Continuing our journey the road climb up to Yotongla pass, (3500m) the birds we’ll search along the way include the Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Alpine Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Grey-sided Bush warbler.
We will arrive at our hotel in Trongsa by lunchtime, after lunch, we will have the opportunity to visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home for the Royal family of Bhutan. Before becoming the king of Bhutan, the first king was the governor of this Dzong. Even now, we have the tradition that before becoming king, the regent receives the title of governor of Trongsa Penlop.
The remainder of the afternoon will be spent exploring the nearby broad-leaved evergreen forest in search of specialties like Spotted Forktail, Grey-bellied Tesia and Spotted Wren-Babbler.
Overnight: Trongsa Approx driving time 2.5 hours. B, L, D
Day 16 : To Tingitbe (6hrs. drive)
Saturday 11 May
We will begin our journey by going south of Trongsa. For the most part of our journey, we go through the many different settlements, farmland, and scrubland. Some of the species we will be expecting in these kinds of habitat include Little and Spotted Forktail, Striated Prinia, Crested Bunting, Long-tailed Shrike, Black Eagle.
Later in the afternoon, we will enter the remote Zhemgang District, believed to have one of the highest forest coverages in Bhutan. Crossing the remote towns of Zhemgang, we enter into the cool and warm broadleaved forest. The remaining of our afternoon will be spent birding the entire stretch of Zhemgang and Dekphel Road. Some of the likely species we will spot here include Asian-barred and Collared Owlet, Common Green Magpie, Yellow-browed and Sultan Tits, Blue–bearded Bee-eater, Spot-winged Starling, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle and various minivets. This is also our best chance for the Golden Langur, a rare monkey near-endemic to Bhutan and only discovered in the 1950s.
Overnight: Tingitbe | 500m Approx driving time 6 hours. B, L, D
Day 17 -18 : Birding around The Royal Manas National Park
Sunday 12 - Monday 13 May
We will spend the entire two-days birding Gomphu, Dakphel, and Tamala road, the Gomphu road that leads to Royal Manas National Park, the oldest national park in the country. The forest here consists of sub-tropical forest and continuous bamboo the forest which is good for the species such as White-hooded Babbler, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Pale-headed, and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Grey-throated Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Yellow-bellied, and Rufous-faced Warbler. White-browed Piculet, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Emerald Dove, Pin-tailed Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Bay, Gray-capped and Fulvous-breasted woodpeckers, Lesser Yellownape, Long-tailed Broadbill, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, White-bellied Erpornis, Bronzed, and Lesser racket-tailed Drongos, we might be also lucky to see Rufous-necked and Great Hornbill and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl.
We will scan all the possible sites for White-bellied Heron that occur along the Mangde Chu river here.
We’ll also explore the Dakphel road and Tamala area, some of the key species we will be on the lookout include Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-necked Hornbill, and Ward’s Trogon in case if we miss earlier on our trip, other birds of interest include Common Green Magpie, Yellow-cheeked and Black-throated Tit, Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivets, and few species of flycatchers like Little Pied, Verditer, Pale Blue, Blue-throated and many more.
Overnight: Tingtibe | 500m
Day 19 : To Trongsa
Tuesday 14 May
Head to Trongsa on a leisurely slow drive stopping for any interesting or missing species we come across. Later in the evening, we’ll have free time to stroll around downtown Trongsa.
Overnight: Trongsa Approx driving time 6 hours. B, L, D
Day 20 : To Paro
Wednesday 15 May
We will have another transit day crossing two high passes, looking for any interesting and missing species that come along.
Later in the evening, we will bird along the Paro River another good spot to see Ibisbill special bird of the Himalayas. This elegant wader with the long decurved bill and enlisted in its own monotypic family. Other species of interest include River Lapwing, Brown Dipper, Rosy Pipit, Common and Green Sandpiper.
Overnight: Paro Approx driving time 7 hours. B, L, D
Day 21 : Paro
Thursday 16 May
Very early morning we take 1.5 drive to the cool alpine meadow of Chelela pass (3,890m). this is the highest pass on the car road and the highest point of our trip. Here we should be rewarded with the three different species of Pheasants, Colorful Himalayan Monals, flocks of Blood Pheasants, and Kalij Pheasants. Other birds we expect here include Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Collared and White-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan Bluetail, Rufous-breasted, and Himalayan Accentor. Snow Pigeon, Plain Mountain Finch, and Red-headed Bullfinch.
Picnic lunch will be served along the way and after lunch, we check-in the hotel for some rest and in the evening birding along the Paro River or free time to stroll around downtown Paro.
Overnight: Paro | 2400m Approx driving time 3 hours. B, L, D
Day 22 : Excursion to Tiger’s Nest
Friday 17 May
After breakfast we will take 20 minutes walk to the base of the Tiger’s Nest temple and then start the hike to Bhutan’s most scenic icon and a most important destination for pilgrimages for over 1200 years, Taktshang (or the “Tiger’s Nest”) clings to the side of a steep cliff some 200 meters above the Paro valley. Claimed to be first visited by Guru Rimpoche in the 8th Century, founder of the tantric form of Buddhism in Himalayan countries. It was said that he meditated there for about three months. After him, many high Buddhist priests came to meditate at this location and attained the highest level of spirituality. The original temple was built in the 17th century, but tragically, it was consumed by fire in 1998.
The total hike will take the average person about four hours. From the parking area, it will take about one hour to the tea house (rest and refreshment provided) then another one and a half hours to the temple.
In the evening, visit a typical Bhutanese farmhouse to experience the local hospitality and a traditional hot stone bath. We’ll arrange special archery lesson on the traditional bamboo bow and arrow with the lady, who used to be Bhutan Olympic archer and represent Bhutan at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008
Overnight: Paro |2400m
Day 23 : To Kathmandu
Saturday 18 May
After breakfast transfer to Paro airport for the flight to Kathmandu. Meeting, and assistance on arrival at Kathamndu and transfer to hotel for overnight stay. B
Day 24 : To London
Sunday 19 May
Departure transfer to Kathmandu airport to fly home. Flights to be advised.
Option to add on a night or two in Kathamndu, please contact us for details. B
Dates & Prices
|Dates||Price per person (Double/Twin share)||Single room supplement|
|26 Apr - 19 May 2024||£8,180.00||£655.00|
- International flights in economy class. Upgrades to higher clasess are available on request.
- Air-conditioned accommodation with private facilities in twin, double sharing room.
- Meal Plan: All Meals except Kathmandu where breakfast is included.
- All transport by a private vehicle
- All sightseeing arrangements including wildlife viewing tours and walks.
- Services of an experienced local English-speaking guide.
- Services of Mr Richard Baines as professional nature and photography expert.
- Camping equipment and haulage for camping and trekking.
- Complimentary mineral water while travelling and on sightseeing.
- All entry fees to monuments and National Parks mentioned in the itinerary.
- Bhutan Visa Fee including the Sustainable Tourism Fee.
- Full ATOL & ABTA Bonding.
- Airline failure Insurance.
- Nepal Tourist Visa.
- Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls and beverages.
- Tips and gratuities.
- Camera fees at monuments and other places of interest.
- Travel Insurance*
Numbers; strictly limited to 10 clients (first-come-first-serve) to ensure a high guide to guest ratio.
* Travel Insurance
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.
• Make sure it includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
• Make sure it provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
• Make sure 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 have any doubts about your cover, check with your insurer. Please note Covid-19 cover is now available.
For a competitive quotation please visit https://www.indusexperiences.co.uk/insurance/