15 Day Bhutan Birding Tour
Join our Bhutan Birding Tour for incredible birding opportunities. The country’s varied habitat includes endless forests, marshy wetlands, scrublands, alpine habitats and agricultural land, boasting a bird list of almost 700 species.
Private and small group, birding tours can be booked on request for your preferred travel dates
Next Group Departure date: To be confirmed
Full Itinerary – Bhutan Birding Tour
Arrival in Paro, transfer to Thimphu
Welcome to Bhutan! Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most dramatically beautiful countries in the world will start as soon as you touch down at the Paro International Airport in western Bhutan.
During your flight in you would undoubtedly have seen the world’s most majestic and famous mountain range; the Himalayas. What a sight!
Paro is a historic town with many religious monuments, sacred sites and beautiful old buildings. It is located in the picturesque Paro valley at an altitude of about 2,200 m (7,200 ft) above sea level. The famous Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Buddhist monastery, built in 1692 and precariously balanced on an impossibly steep cliff, is a short distance outside town. The town is also home to Bhutan’s tallest building, the Ta-Dzhong, a mere 22 metres (72 ft) high! The airport you just landed at is considered “the most difficult commercial airport in the world”, partly due to the high altitude but also the difficult approach route with mountain peaks as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft) above sea level surrounding it.
You will be met a company representative who will help load the luggage into the vehicle and we will drive to Thimphu, the country’s capital city, about 2 hours away to the northeast. Even during our drive we will start to tick some species, of which some might be new to you if you haven’t birded in this part of the world before. We could start with House Crow, Black Bulbul, Himalayan Swiftlet, White-throated Kingfisher, Russet Sparrow, Oriental Turtle Dove and Common Myna.
On the way to the hotel in Thimphu, it might be a good idea to learn a little more about where we are. Bhutan is all about mountains, monasteries, mystery and magical experiences. It is the last great Himalayan kingdom, and has a long and colourful history that has endured for centuries. It is a landlocked country with about 750,000 inhabitants situated on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, and on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet, the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. The country is headed up by spiritual leader, the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, and the entire country has a distinct national identity based on Buddhism. The government, however, is a parliamentary democracy and the head of state is the King of Bhutan, known as the “Dragon King.” The government is guided by the unique concept of Gross National Happiness, an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population of the country.
The country’s rugged landscape consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers that form deep valleys before draining into the lush tropical lowlands of the Indian plains. Elevation rises from 98 m (322 ft) in the valley of Drangme Chhu in the southern foothills to 7,570 metres (24,840 ft) at the peak of Gangkhar Puensum, which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems, in turn leading to incredibly varied and numerous fauna and flora species. Bhutan is viewed as a model for proactive conservation initiatives, with the Kingdom having received international acclaim for its commitment to the maintenance of its biodiversity. The country boasts iconic mammals like Tiger, Clouded and Snow Leopard, Wolf, Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Asiatic Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Red Panda, and many others like endangered langurs, marmots, deer, antelopes and Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The country also has over 5,400 species of plants and, importantly for us, more than 750 avian species.
Our destination of Thimphu is Bhutan’s capital and largest city, with a population of about 120,000. At an average of 2,320 m (7,656 ft) above sea level it is the fifth highest capital city in the world. Thimphu contains most of the important political buildings in Bhutan, including the National Assembly of the parliament and Dechencholing Palace, the official residence of the King, located to the north of the city. In and around the city are also several impressive monasteries and fortress-like structures called dzongs (which we will see a lot of on the tour), as well as other attractions. These include the National Post Office, fresh produce markets, the Bhutan textile museum, many clubs and bars, the National Library, the Clock Tower square and the Motithang Takin preserve. The city’s Changlimithang Stadium, a multi-purpose stadium, hosts outrageous archery competitions (the national sport), colourful parades and competitive soccer matches.
We will arrive at our comfortable city hotel, check in and unpack. Then we are off to our first official birding excursion! Look around you during our drive – there are prayer flags billowing in the wind, ornate architecture, gold Buddha statues, modern hotels and no traffic lights! We will visit the city’s water treatment works searching for one of the region’s biggest target birds, Ibisbill. Other species we’ll be looking for include Black-tailed Crake, Brown Dipper, Solitary Snipe, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Ruddy Shelduck, River Lapwing, White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart, Rosy Pipit, Pale Martin, White Wagtail, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Olive-backed and Rosy Pipit, White-throated Kingfisher, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and Common and Green Sandpiper just to name few. We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time.
We will get our first taste of the delicious food of Bhutan. Traditional Bhutanese food has been influenced by its neighbours, especially China, Tibet, and India. However, it’s less oily than Chinese or Indian food and spicier than most Tibetan dishes. Try some ema datshi (chillies and cheese stew), jasha maroo (spicy chicken), phaksha paa (pork with red chillies) or momos (dumplings), which will all be served with Bhutan’s famous red rice. Taste very carefully though… The chillies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and are meant to make you warm enough to sweat. Enjoy! After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Thimphu to Punakha via Dochu La
We will be up very early this morning with a quick cup of coffee to get us going.
Then we check out of the hotel and set off in a northeasterly direction, ascending the famous Dochula Pass (strictly speaking it is called Dochu La, as “La” actually means pass in the local Dzongkha language). This high altitude pass (3,100 metres/10,171 ft above sea level) connects Thimphu to Punakha, tonight’s destination. It is on this pass where Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, had 108 memorial chortens or stupas built in 2004.
Our day basically starts from this pass, where we will have some breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayan ranges (if the day is clear) while we enjoy our packed breakfast. The mixed forests of hemlock, fir, oaks and rhododendron here are good habitat for many good species including the stunning Fire-tailed Myzornis, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Ashy Drongo, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Green-tailed and Fire-tailed Sunbird, White-browed Fulvetta, Red-billed Leiothrix, Bar-throated Minla, Stripe-throated, Whiskered and Rufous-vented Yuhina, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Black and Red-vented Bulbul, Collared Grosbeak and many more. Also remember to look against any steep cliffs and roadside walls for the enigmatic Wallcreeper, that we could see several times during the tour.
After breakfast at the pass, we descend down to the 47 km2 (18 sq mi) Lamperi Royal Botanical Park and take a nature walk for a few hours. The park is planted with 46 species of rhododendron of which 18 species are native to the park. These bloom during mid-March to early August. The park also boasts 115 species of ferns, Musk Deer, Red Panda and almost 50 avian species. Birds we’ll be looking here include Brown and Black-throated Parrotbill, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Eurasian Jay, Black-throated Thrush, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Grey-chinned Minivet, Rufous Sibia, Silver-eared Mesia, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-fronted Redstart, Verditer Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird, Scarlet Finch, Maroon Oriole, Striated, Grey-sided, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and White-throated Laughingthrush, and with some luck even Black-tailed Crake, Hill Partridge or Fire-capped Tit.
Later we’ll drive down through mixed evergreen and broadleaved forests to the almost tropical Punakha valley at about 1,250 metres/4,100 ft above sea level. Along the drive we will look for the species like Himalayan Buzzard, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Long-tailed Shrike, Spotted Dove, Red-vented Bulbul, Long-tailed Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle and the impossibly blue Ultramarine Flycatcher.
We will reach the city of Punakha (1,242 metres/4,075 ft above sea level) over lunch time. When we enjoy lunch we might be offered the traditional Himalayan drink of suja, a buttered tea made with salt rather than sugar. Try it!
In the early afternoon we will visit Punakha’s impressive Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss) standing on the confluence of two major rivers, the Phochu and Mochu. This dzong, built in 1637, has special significance in Bhutanese history as it was the place where the first King of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuk, was crowned in 1907. Apart from the beautiful dzong, the Punakha valley is also famous for its rice farms, both of the white and red variety, and is rightly known as the “rice bowl of Bhutan”.
The remainder of the afternoon we will be birding along the Phochu valley looking for species like Common and Crested Kingfisher, Little Egret, Pied Avocet, Great Cormorant, Ibisbill, Common Greenshank, River and Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, White-browed Wagtail and with the bit of luck we might see two endangered raptors, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Steppe Eagle. We could also see Eurasian Otter in the water, so keep an eye out!
Our modern hotel here is brilliantly located on a hillside above the Punakha valley with fantastic views of the valley and the dzong. We will get together for dinner and to tick our first full day’s species on our trip lists.
Punakha to Phobjikha
This morning we will be up early for coffee and breakfast, after which we check out and jump into the vehicle. We will make our way southeast to the Phobjikha Valley, stopping along the way looking for Himalayan Cutia, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Grey-hooded, Blyth’s and Black-faced Warbler, Green-tailed and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, Striated Prinia, Chestnut-bellied and Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Verditer and Ultramarine Flycatcher, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, White-capped Redstart, White-tailed Nuthatch, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Yellow-browed and Fire-capped Tit, Bhutan Laughingthrush and few different species of cuckoo. We will also search for local scarce species like Ward’s Trogon and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, one of only two species of honeyguide occurring in all of Asia.
Before reaching the 3,420 metre high Pele La (Pele pass) with its large white chorten and colourful prayer flags, we’ll take the road to Phobjikha valley, crossing Lawala pass (less dramatic but with equally great views). Here the vegetation changes and we will look for species like Spotted, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Spotted Nutcracker, Great and Brown Parrotbill, White-browed Shortwing, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Red-billed Chough, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Large-billed and Whistler’s Warbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, White-rumped Munia, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Olive-backed Pipit and Oriental Skylark.
The picturesque Phobjikha Valley is a vast bowl-shaped valley (average elevation of 3,000 m/9,800 ft above sea level), set against the backdrop of the Black Mountains, that houses one of the most impressive ancient Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan, the Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect, that was built in the 16th century. The valley is known for its marshland (a Ramsar wetland of international importance) and rich biodiversity, with 13 threatened avian species calling the valley home, including overwintering Black-necked Cranes that feed on a special kind of dwarf bamboo in the valley. There are also mammals present in the valley, including Northern Red Muntjac, Wild Boar, Himalayan Serow, Sambar and Spotted Deer, foxes and even Asiatic Black Bear. Relatively untouched by outsiders, the use of electricity in the valley began only a few years ago!
We will arrive at our hotel and have some time to freshen up. This lovely hotel is surrounded by three acres of land and provides fantastic views across the valley. Each of the rooms has a wood-burning stove (bukhari) for heating. We will get together for dinner and to update our trip lists. Afterwards we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Phobjikha to Trongsa
After an early breakfast this morning, we will check out of our hotel and drive to the Pelela pass again. We will spend the morning hours birding along the old road at Pelela for high altitude species. Some of the key birds we’ll be looking here include Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, Dark-rumped and White-browed Rosefinch, Crimson-browed Finch and Spotted Laughingthrush. Other species we will search for include Black-faced Laughingthrush, Himalayan Vulture, Great and Brown Parrotbill, Red-headed and Brown Bullfinch, Plain Mountain Finch, White-winged and Collared Grosbeak, Spotted Nutcracker, Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Grey-sided Bush Warbler and many varieties of tits.
Along the drive to our next destination, Trongsa, we’ll also be looking for the species like Speckled Wood Pigeon, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Golden-breasted, White-browed and Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Streak-breasted and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler. Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Nepal House Martin, Blyth’s Swift, White-throated Needletail, Black Eagle and many more.
We will arrive in the hilltop town of Trongsa in the late afternoon. It is the capital of the Trongsa district right in the middle of the country. Although the town’s name literally translates as “new village”, the first structures here were built as far back as 1543! Trongsa is also where the rule of the Wangchuck dynasty (the current rulers of the country) originated. The town is especially famous for its beautiful dzong and watchtower, both adorned with glimmering golden roofs. Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Trongsa river, the dzong controlled east-west trade for centuries and therefore held much strategic importance. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan (the precursor to the modern Lateral Road), passed right through the courtyard of the dzong.
If there is time in the late afternoon we could visit a nearby broadleaved evergreen forest where we could find Spotted Forktail, Grey-bellied Tesia or even Spotted Elachura. Our hotel for tonight is located on a steep hillside next to a rice field, and offers stunning views of the river and the dzong.
We will have some time to freshen up and relax. We will update our growing trip lists and then have dinner together, followed by a good night’s rest after another productive day.
Trongsa to Tingtibi
We will have breakfast and then check out of our hotel after which we pack the vehicle and head off.
Today on our drive south to the lowlands we will have lots of stops at several forested valleys and farmland areas. The species we’ll for looking for along the drive are Rusty-cheeked, White-browed and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Crested Bunting, Spot-winged Starling, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-throated and Rufescent Prinia, Rufous and Bay Woodpecker, Sultan and Yellow-cheeked Tit, Little Forktail, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Common Kestrel, Blue-capped Rock Thrush and various minivets.
This area is also our best chance on the entire tour for Gee’s Golden Langur, a rare Old World monkey endemic to Bhutan and only discovered in the 1950s and now listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Tiger and Sloth Bear also occur in the area, but we would need a lot of luck to see either of these special mammals.
Later in the afternoon we’ll be birding the Zhemgang-Dakphel road searching for species like Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-chinned and Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler and many more. With a lot of luck we might also find one of the 50 or so critically endangered White-bellied Herons that are thought to be present in Bhutan, but seeing them is a highly unpredictable exercise!
After another successful day of birding we will check into our basic but comfortable hotel in the small settlement of Tingtibi in the late afternoon. This is an area of Bhutan not often visited by foreigners, but just like the rest of the country is a captivatingly beautiful area known for some fantastic birdwatching localities and opportunities.
We will get together to update our lists around the dinner table and then get a good night’s rest after a good meal.
*Please note: due to very limited accommodation options in this remote area, we might swop the hotel for an exciting two nights of camping in comfortable tents.
Birding around Tingtibi, including the Gomphu Road
We will start our day with a quick breakfast and coffee at the hotel or in the campsite, and then we go birding! Today we will explore wide varieties of habitats on the Zhemgang-Tingtibi roads. Habitats vary from mossy forests to streamside lowland forest and even bamboo patches.
Here we have another chance to see Gee’s Golden Langur, which is fairly common in the area. We’ll also be searching for Rufous-necked and Great Hornbill, Pin-tailed and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Himalayan Cutia, Scarlet Minivet, many species of laughingthrushes, Spotted Elachura and the very rare and sought after Beautiful Nuthatch.
In the afternoon we’ll be exploring the Gomphu Road, the road that goes to Manas National Park, where we’ll be searching for the species like Rufous-headed Parrotbill, White-hooded, Grey-throated and Rufous-capped Babbler, Lesser Yellownape, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Striated and Black-chinned Yuhina, Chestnut-winged, Indian and Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Common Green Magpie, Common Emerald Dove and with the little bit of luck even Pale-headed Woodpecker.
We will return to the hotel or campsite in Tingtibi to freshen up, have dinner and socialise into the evening.
Tingtibi to Bumthang
Today we start with breakfast again and then check out and pack the vehicle.
We will work our way back north to Trongsa, looking along the way for the species we might have missed before.
After Trongsa it is another 3 hour drive to the northeast as we go over the Yotongla pass, at 3,436m (11,272ft) above sea level one of the highest mountain roads in the country. It is a dramatic pass, pretty steep and with hundreds of turns. On the western side we will pass through a hardwood forest while on the east side it is a pine tree forest with little villages and beautiful houses. The top of the pass is almost always covered in mist.
Here we will search for Hill Partridge, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Brown and Great Parrotbill, Chestnut-crown, Black-faced and Spotted Laughingthrush, Red-headed Bullfinch, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Grey-crested, Coal, Rufous-vented and Rufous-fronted Tit, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Plain Mountain Finch, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Rufous-gorgeted and Slaty Blue Flycatcher, and many more.
After crossing Yotong La we will enter the scenic Chumey valley in the Bumthang district, the first of four valleys in the area. En route to the town on Bumthang (also called Jakar) we will drive to a temple on the mountainside to search for the stunning Himalayan Monal. The birds come very close to the monk quarter for feeding, and allow for some spectacular photographs. Other birds we’ll looking for include Snow Pigeon, Black-billed Magpie, Oriental Skylark, Russet and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and many others.
After this exciting stop we continue over the Kikila pass (2,860 metres above sea level) to enter the next valley, and the town of Bumthang. This area is often called the “Switzerland of Bhutan” and you will soon see why! Considered to be the spiritual centre of the Himalayan Kingdom, Bumthang is a beautiful place to visit if one has a keen interest in religion, spirituality and history. The district boasts several old monasteries, many sacred sites and beautiful Buddhist temples, including the stunning Jakar dzong, constructed in 1667. The town itself is famous throughout Bhutan for its distinctive and brightly coloured woven wool items called yethra.
Our hotel for tonight is located right next to the historic Ugyen Ling palace. It has great views of the mountains, surrounding valleys and the Jakar dzong.
We will get together for dinner and to update our trip lists, boasting about lifers among the group! Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest, because tomorrow we head to another top spot on our tour.
Bumthang to Sengor
We will have breakfast at the hotel, followed by packing and checking out.
Today we will drive from Bumthang to Sengor, travelling in a southeasterly direction and going over Thrumshing La (3,780m/12,402ft above sea level), officially the second highest pass in the country.
Thrumshing pass is prime habitat for Blood Pheasant and also hold other high altitude species like Snow Pigeon, Orange-flanked, Golden and White-browed Bush Robin, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Spotted Nutcracker, Red-billed Chough, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Great Parrotbill, Stripe-throated and Rufous-vented Yuhina, Grey-crested, Coal and Rufous-vented Tit, White-browed Fulvetta, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Plain-backed Thrush, White-collared Blackbird, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Buff-barred, Ashy-throated, Blyth’s and Large-billed Leaf Warbler and many others.
Later on we will descend towards the town of Sengor where we will do some birding. Here we are looking for the near-threatened Satyr Tragopan; Sengor is known as the hotspot for this stunning pheasant-like, colourful bird. Other birds we’ll be looking out here include Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Golden-naped Finch, Hoary-throated Barwing, Bar-throated and Red-tailed Minla, Whistler’s and Grey-hooded Warbler, and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler. In the early evening we will also try for the Himalayan Owl.
After another exciting day in the mountain kingdom we will either have another camp set up for us, or overnight with a local family in a guesthouse setting, also called a “homestay”. We will update our lists and have dinner, afterwards chatting the evening away. We could start making plans for future birding trips we would like to undertake in another exotic location on the planet.
Sengor to Yongkola
The morning will start very early with a quick search for Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan on the pass if we have missed them before.
We then head back to the camp or our friendly Bhutanese family for a hearty breakfast.
After breakfast, we will hit Bhutan’s wet subtropical forest and one of the finest birding areas in all of the Himalayas, the Limithang valley. The next three days promises to be the highlight of the entire tour.
We will first bird the lushly forested valley searching for Ward’s Trogon, Bay, Crimson-breasted and Grey-headed Woodpecker, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Rufous-bellied and Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Rufous and Long-tailed Sibia, Maroon Oriole, Scarlet and Grey-chinned Minivet, White-gorgeted, Little Pied, Ultramarine and Verditer Flycatcher, Little Forktail, Black-throated Prinia, Grey-hooded, Grey-cheeked and Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Scaly, Bhutan and Blue-winged Laughingthrush and many others.
We will reach our tented camp in the late afternoon, our home for the next three nights. We will create some memories over the next few days that will last forever!
*Please note: a comfortable birder-friendly hotel has been built in this area recently, and although we will try our best, accommodation in the hotel cannot be guaranteed. We will join up for dinner and to update our lists and socialise. Afterwards we are off to bed following another exciting day.
Day 10 and 11:
We will rise early and have breakfast and coffee on each of the two following days.
We spend our full days birding the upper and lower Limithang road. The famous, 80 km (50 mi) long Yongkola-Limithang road has been touted as one of the best birding sites in Asia and regularly makes lists such as “Top 100 birding sites in the world”. The road allows us the opportunity to access the wide varieties of habitats, from the high Alpine zone to pristine broad-leaved forest to the coniferous forest, all spanning across a vast altitudinal range. The riparian ecosystem vertically links all ecological zones from alpine snow to swollen subtropical rivers down in the valley.
The road descends with loops and switchbacks, surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful forested slopes that are unrivalled when it comes to density of tree species. Driving here is not for the faint-hearted and the Namling ‘Death Drop’ has to be witnessed to be believed! Also, almost 350 different species of birds have been recorded along the road, and it is likely that more will be added in the future.
This entire wonderful birding road and surrounding habitat is protected within the 905 km2 (350 sq mi) Phrumsengla National Park, formerly known as the Thrumsingla National Park. The park was established in 1998 and is bisected by the Lateral road, Bhutan’s primary east-west corridor. The park’s altitude varies dramatically, from 700 metres (2,300 ft) to 4,400 metres (14,400 ft) above sea level. This incredible variation allows for vastly different habitats and flora species, in turn leading to totally different bird species at the different altitudes. Interestingly, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also maintains operations in the park.
Our top targets here will be the beautiful Ward’s Trogon, vulnerable Chestnut-breasted Partridge, vulnerable Rufous-necked Hornbill, Tawny Fish Owl, Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler, Scaly Laughingthrush, Long-billed and Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, and aptly-named Beautiful Nuthatch.
Some of the other wonderful species we’ll be searching for here include flocks of White-breasted and Black-throated Parrotbill, Golden-breasted, Yellow-throated, Rufous-winged and Nepal Fulvetta, very shy Rufous-throated and Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Cupwing, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Red-headed Trogon, Alpine Thrush, Rusty-throated Barwing, Great, Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Collared Scops-Owl, Collared Owlet, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Wallcreeper, Large Niltava, Mountain Tailorbird, Red Crossbill, Spotted Nutcracker, Blue-winged, Grey-sided, Rufous-necked, Spotted, Black-faced, Blue-winged and Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Rusty-flanked and Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Grey-hooded, Ashy-throated, Yellow-vented and Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Blyth’s and Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Slender-billed, Streak-breasted and Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Striated, Black-crested, White-cheeked, Red-vented, Ashy, Black and Mountain Bulbul, Himalayan Swiftlet and many more.
Mammals that have been spotted along the road and in the park include Tiger, Leopard, Asiatic Black Bear, Red Panda, Barking Deer, Capped Langur, Assam Macaque, Himalayan Striped Squirrel, Particolored Flying Squirrel and many others. In fact, 71 different mammal species have been recorded in the park. The park is also home to 620 plant species and many smaller species of fauna.
We will get together for a fantastic dinner (cooked by our own local chef) in camp and update our growing trip lists each night before settling into our comfortable beds.
Yongkola to Trongsa
We will start with breakfast in camp, enjoying the food but also the fresh mountain air.
After a final morning of birding in this wonderful and unforgettable habitat, we will retrace our way back to Trongsa passing though the Sengor valley after crossing one of the high passes, the Thrumshing La (3,800m above sea level).
Thrumshing La is prime habitat for many high altitude species, and we will spend some time here looking for the missing species.
Then we continue our drive through the valley of Bumthang, one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. After crossing the Bumthang valley it is another 3 hours’ drive to Trongsa, crossing the Yotongla pass (3,400m above sea level).
We will reach our hotel for the night in the early evening and freshen up. This is the same hotel where we stayed on day 4 of the tour. We will update our lists, have dinner and socialise before settling in for the night after a long travel day.
Trongsa to Paro
After breakfast we pack the vehicle and check out.
We start our return back home to Paro, a 7 hour drive. But not to worry… As we have seen so far, there are fewer better countries on the planet for a road trip! We will bird along the way for any missed species as we retrace our footsteps by following the same road as we came with.
In the early evening we will arrive in Paro, staying at a beautiful hotel set on a lush, 28 acre wooded property that overlooks the scenic Paro valley. This is our home for the final two nights of the tour. Even around the hotel buildings and grounds we could pick up species like Grey Nightjar, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Hoopoe, Indian White-eye, Grey Bush Chat and White-collared Blackbird. We will freshen up and have dinner while chatting about our amazing tour! Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
Paro birding OR Tiger’s Nest cultural excursion
We will enjoy a very early breakfast at the hotel and then set off.
We will drive to the cool alpine meadows of Chelela pass (3,988m/13,083 ft above sea level), one of the highest motorable passes in the country, about 35 kilometres from Paro.
Here we should be rewarded with three different species of pheasants: colourful Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant and Kalij Pheasant. Besides these wonderful birds we will also look for other species like Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpecker, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Black Eagle, Eurasian Jay, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Spotted Nutcracker, Long-tailed Minivet, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted and Ultramarine Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, White-browed and Orange-flanked Bush Robin, Rosy Pipit, Collared and White-winged Grosbeak, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Blue-fronted Redstart, Goldcrest, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Rufous-vented, Coal, Green-backed and Grey-crested Tit, Buff-barred Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf, Blyth’s Leaf and Large-billed Leaf Warbler, White-throated, Black-faced, Chestnut-crowned and Spotted Laughingthrush, and Dark-rumped and White-browed Rosefinch.
Option: We can also hike to Tiger’s Nest temple, one of the most beautiful and holiest temples in Bhutan. As Bhutan’s most scenic icon and a most important destination for pilgrimages and reflection for over 1,200 years, Paro Taktsang (or the “Tiger’s Nest”) clings to the side of a steep cliff some 200 meters above the Paro valley. Visiting the Paro Taktsang monastery is an unforgettable experience thanks to its unique location and the views of surrounding majestic mountains and emerald green valleys. Apart from the wonderful views and amazing architecture, we will also see loads of birds on the hike. Species we are very likely to see include Red-billed Chough, Large-billed and House Crow, Blue Whistling Thrush, White-throated and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Plain Mountain Finch, Long-tailed Minivet, Black-browed and Green-backed Tit, Russet Sparrow and Altai Accentor, to name just a few.
Whichever option you choose for today, in the early evening we will all get together in our hotel restaurant and have our Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner tonight, socialising into the evening, having made friends for life.
Departure from Paro
After a final breakfast we will pack our bags, check out and say our farewells to the friendly staff at the stunning hotel. We then head back to the nearby airport for our onward or homeward flights.
At the airport we will say our goodbyes after our fantastic time together in historic and dramatic Bhutan. Hope to see you again very soon!
*Please note: We can easily arrange a pre-tour extension to this main Bhutan tour that covers the far northeast of India, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Kaziranga National Park, Nameri National Park and the famous Eagles Nest Sanctuary. This exciting extension should ideally be about 6 or 7 days long to make the most of these fantastic birding and wildlife locations. Please enquire directly with us at Nature Travel Birding if you are interested in this option.
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