Bhutan 20-day Birding Program!


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Pre tour - Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga contains significant breeding populations of 35 important mammalian species, of which 15 are threatened as per the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers (118) among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 as well as having the distinction of being home to the world's largest population of the Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros (1,855),Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo (1,666) and Eastern Swamp Deer (468). Significant populations of large herbivores include elephants (1,940), gaur (30) and sambar (58). Small herbivores include the Indian Muntjac, wild boar, and hog deer.


This park is also a birder's paradise. Some of unique birds which are found here are Greater Adjutant Stork, Bar Headed Goose, Whistling Teal, and Pelican are the unique.


Day 1:  Flight to Jorhat, drive to Kaziranga

Take a morning flight from Kolkata or Delhi to Jorhat with a stop in Guwahati, known as a tea hub in Assam on the north-eastern side of Brahmaputra River. On arrival in Jorhat, drive to Kaziranga over the course of 4 hours, visiting a tea garden enroute.


Overnight in Kaziranga

Day 2:  A day in Kaziranga

After breakfast, embark on a jeep safari to the eastern range of the national park- the best area for birding. The crested Serpent Eagle is common while Palla's Eagle and Grey Headed Fishing Eagle are also frequently seen. Others include Greater Adjutant Stork, Bar Headed Goose, Whistling Teal, Pelicans etc. With great luck you might see the endangered Bengal Floricans. After having lunch back at the lodge, head out in the afternoon to embark on an Elephant back safari from the Western range. This range is known as the home of many mammals species and also has the highest density of rhino population in the park.


Overnight in Kaziranga


Day 3:  Drive to Guwahati

This morning experience another jeep safari, this time going into the central range, also known as Kohora. This region has excellent visibility, so it is a great opportunity for spotting a lot of wildlife. Return to resort for lunch and then in the afternoon, drive to Guwahati (4 hrs) & walk along the banks of the Brahmaputra river.


Overnight in Guwahati

Main Tour

Day 4:  Drive to Samdrup Jongkhar (Or arrive in Guwahati in the morning & drive to Samdrup Jongkhar)

After breakfast, leave Guwahati, crossing the Brahmaputra River, and continue across the plains of Assam. On the way look for the Little Cormorant, egret, Indian Pond Heron, Ashy Drongo and Red-wattled Lapwing in roadside wetlands. Other possible sightings includ the Small Pratincole, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Citrine Wagtail, Rusty-rumped Warbler and Striated Grassbird. Special efforts will be made  to locate Lesser and Greater Adjutants, both highly endangered species. Enter Bhutan, complete the immigration process at the border, and enter the town of Samdrup Jongkhar.


Overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar


Day 5:  Samdrup Jongkhar to Morong

Spend the morning exploring the lowland forest between Samdrup Jongkhar and Deothang. This forest is remarkably rich and diverse; target species here include the rare Dark-rumped Swift, Pied Falconet, Jungle Babbler, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Wreathed and Great Hornbill and Puff-throated Babbler.


In the afternoon, begin the climb from the foothills to perhaps encounter Long-tailed Sibia, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Common Green Magpie, Silver-eared Mesia, and several species of cuckoos. In the evening look for one of the main target birds in Bhutan, the Beautiful Nuthatch.


Overnight at the Morong Campsite (1710m)


Day 6:  Morong to Trashigang

Take a dawn excursion before-breakfast back to the location of the Beautiful Nuthatch. After breakfast at the campsite, drive to Trashigang stopping along the way for more birding. Today’s target species will include Rufous-necked Hornbill, Grey-sided Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Broadbill and other possibilities such as Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle and species of yuhinas.


Overnight in Trashigang


Day 7:  Trashigang to Kori La to Mongar to Yongkala

En route to Yongkala, stop at Kori La. The forest here is rich in mosses and lichens, and you will search these mountain forests for Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Grey-winged Blackbird, Hoary-throated Barwing, Long-tailed and Short-billed Minivets, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler and Spotted Wren-Babbler.


In the afternoon you will reach Bhutan’s wet subtropical forest and one of the finest birding areas in the Himalayas, Campsite Yongkala, for a three-night stay. You will scour these lush forested valleys searching for shortwings, Black-headed Shrike-Babbler, Ward’s Trogon, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, barbets, Golden Bush Robin, Chestnut-breasted Partridge and many other rare species alongside Little Forktail, Large Niltava, Russet Bush-Warbler, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Violet Cuckoo and Rufous-faced Warbler.


Overnight at the Campsite Yongkala (1875m)


Days 8 & 9:  Yongkala; the Limithang Road

Spend two full days birding along this incredible 80 km long road, ranked amongst the ten top birding sites in the world, with waterfalls and ravines appearing around every bend. Search for the area’s specialties such as Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Spotted Wren-Babbler, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, flocks of parrotbills, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Scarlet Finch, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Lesser and White-browed Shortwings and many more.


Overnight at the Campsite Yongkala


Day 10:  Yongkala to Sengor

Start early, moving uphill in search of high altitude species that include Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan, the iconic bird that draws many birders to Bhutan. The dense conifer forests hold many good species such as Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Bar-winged Wren-Babbler, Red-headed Bullfinch, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Gold-naped Finch and Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler. The campsite near the pastureland is excellent habitat for thrushes.


Overnight at the Campsite Sengor (3000m)


Day 11:  Sengor to Jakar to Trongsa

Cross the high pass of Thrumshingla, at 3800m. This region is the prime habitat for Blood Pheasant and also holds other high altitude species such as Snow Pigeon, Orange-flanked Bush-Robin, Spotted Nutcracker, Red-billed Chough, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Great Parrotbill, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Grey-crested and Coal Tits and White-browed Fulvetta.


With luck, you may encounter with one of the most colorful pheasants of all, the magical Himalayan Monal.  You will continue through the valley of Bumthang, one of the most beautiful in all of Bhutan. Crossing another high pass at Yotongla (3500m), you will look out for Hill Partridge, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Brown Parrotbill, Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Laughing Thrushes, Darjeeling Woodpecker and Gold-naped Finch before driving to Trongsa.


Overnight in Trongsa


Day 12:  Trongsa to Zhemgang

On the drive to Zhemgang, you will have many stops in the forested valleys, with good opportunites to encounter the Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Crested Bunting, Long-tailed Shrike, prinias, Rufous Woodpecker, Blue–bearded Bee-eater, Spot-winged Starling, Common Green Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel and various minivets. This is also a good chance to see the Golden Langur, a rare monkey endemic to Bhutan and only discovered in the 1950s.


Overnight at the Campsite Zhemgang (1680m)


Day 13:  Zhemgang to Tingtibi Road

Today you will explore a wide variety of habitats along the Zhemgang to Tingtibi road, varying from mossy forests to streamside lowland forest. This is another chance to see the Golden Langur, which is common here. You will also search for Rufous-necked and Great Hornbills, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Cutia, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, various laughing-thrushes, woodpeckers, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Spotted Wren-Babbler, and the Beautiful Nuthatch again.


Overnight at the Campsite Zhemgang


Day 14:  Zhemgang to Phobjikha

You will head back to Trongsa today, scouring many sites along the way, looking for species not seen yet. Once in Trongsa, you will make a cultural visit to the impressive Trongsa Dzong. This dzong is the ancestral home for the Royal family of Bhutan. The first king of Bhutan was the governor of this dzong, and even now there is the tradition that any future king of Bhutan must receive the title of governor of Trongsa. After a fairly long drive you will reach the Phobjikha valley, sacred wintering ground for the Black-necked Crane.


Overnight at the Campsite Phobjikha or hotel


Day 15:  Phobjikha to Punakha

After an early breakfast, you will drive to the Pele la pass (4000 m) and spend the morning hours along the old road at Pele la looking for high altitude species such as the Himalayan Monal, Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan Griffon, Brown Parrotbill, and various finches and bush-warblers.


You will then drive to Punakha, traveling through the valley of Wangdue Phodrang; along the way looking for Ward’s Trogon, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide and other mixed species flocks. In the evening you will take a walk along the Pho Chu valley looking for one of our main target birds, the White-bellied Heron, one of the rarest birds in the world with a population of fewer than 200 worldwide. Other birds you may see include include the Common and Crested Kingfisher and the enigmatic Ibisbill.


Overnight at Punakha


Day 16:  Punakha to Thimphu

You will spend the morning birding inside the Jigme Dorji National Park and along the Pho Chu River. Species to see include the Red-headed Trogon, Slaty-bellied and Chestnut-headed Tesias, Small and Rufous-bellied Niltava, Black-chinned Yuhina, a trio of forktails, several wren-babblers, woodpeckers, laughing thrushes, and with a little luck, maybe even the Pallas’s Fish Eagle.


In the afternoon, you will visit the impressive Punakha dzong or Punthang Dechen Phodrang (the name means Palace of Great Bliss) standing where two rivers, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu, meet. Punakha Dzong has special significance in Bhutan history as it was was the place where Bhutan’s first king, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned in 1907. It is also the winter residence for Je Khenpo (spiritual leader) and the entire central monk body. There is often a Tawny Fishing-Owl roosting in the big trees along the riverside. You will then drive to Thimphu over the Dochula pass (3150m), where on a clear day the whole eastern Himalayan range is visible.


Overnight in Thimphu


Day 17:  Thimphu to Paro

In the early morning you will visit the local sewage pond for Ibisbill and Black-tailed and Ruddy-breasted Crakes. After breakfast, you will drive north of Thimphu and then hike to the Cheri monastery, perhaps encountering the Spotted, Chestnut–crowned and White-throated Laughing thrushes, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Wallcreeper, Brown Dipper and White-collared Blackbird along the way. Goral (Mountain goat) also occupy the area around the monastery. You will return to Thimphu for lunch, and then continue on to Paro.


Overnight in Paro


Day 18:  Paro & Cheli La

Early in the morning, you will drive to the cool and stunning alpine meadow of Cheli La pass (3890m). This is the highest pass accessible by car in Bhutan, and three different species of pheasants are found here including the Himalayan Monal, flocks of Blood Pheasants, and the Kalij Pheasant. Also present here are several rosefinches, grosbeaks and laughing thrushes.


You will drive back to Paro for lunch, and in the afternoon, visit Kichu Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries dating back to the 7th century. It is believed then that  a Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, built 108 monasteries representing different parts of the demon body to pin her to earth forever. Kichu monastery is believed to have been built on the left leg of the demon.


Overnight in Paro


Day 19:  Cheli La or optional Tiger’s Nest Excursion

You will spend a full day in the Paro Valley today and you have several options to choose from, including a strenuous hike up to the Tiger’s Nest (the iconic monastery perched on sheer rock cliffs above the Paro Valley), a birding drive through the old-growth evergreens on the way to the high pass at Chele La, or a leisurely birding excursion along the Paro River.


Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is located 2950 meters above sea level. Sanctified by Guru Rimpoche, this is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world and over time many great Buddhist masters have visited and meditated here. In 1692 the 4th temporal ruler of Bhutan built a monastery over the cave where Guru Rimpoche and his consort Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal meditated. The monastic complex clings to rock towering 800 m above the valley.


Overnight in Paro


Day 20:  Departure

You will get on a departing flight from Paro to Kolkata, Delhi or Bangkok via Druk Air, which offers direct services to catch your onward connection back home.

End of Trip

Bhutan 20-day Birding Program

Naturalist Ventures

Austin, Texas, USA


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