Bhutan: April 2022

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is home to the ‘Dragon People’ and their enlightened and deeply religious beliefs have ensured the country remains largely unspoilt by the pressures of modern life. Known for having one of the best-preserved environments in an increasingly developed East Asia, Bhutan’s landscape is characterised by snow-capped peaks to the North and large swathes of rich forests to the South, both deeply incised by rivers that ultimately drain South into the Brahmaputra in India.

The main valleys are adorned with traditional villages and the hilltops with dzongs, a traditional style of Buddhist monastery or fortress. Within this beautifully preserved landscape, the birdlife and wildlife are simply wonderful, and our exciting new tour goes in search not just of many of the specialities, such as Himalayan Monal, Ward’s Trogon, White-bellied Heron, Fire-tailed Myzornis and Ibisbill but will also be a never-to-be-forgotten personal journey through this magical land.


Spring brings almost perfect weather to Bhutan and this is undoubtedly the best time to visit. Whilst clouds can sometimes hang low in the valleys, this will be more than compensated for by the superb array birds and wildflowers with the pinks of the rhododendrons and wild azaleas forming wonderful flowering carpets.


We start in Paro, our gateway to Bhutan, and after a couple of days birding, will fly East to Bumthang and then slowly travel back Westwards to Paro, exploring the valleys, mountain passes and mix of habitats and altitudes. We have a chance of up to 300 bird species including pheasants, laughingthrushes, warblers, fulvettas, yuhinas and sibias, set amongst the fascinating backdrop of the landscape, people and culture of Bhutan.


Our first afternoon will give us our first chance to find the sought-after and unique Ibisbill along the boulder-strewn Pa Chhu river, as well as both Plumbeous Water and White-capped Redstarts. We will then explore the high pass at Chele La, where amongst a host of species, we will search for high-altitude birds such as Himalayan Monal and Blood Pheasants, as well as Black-throated and Dusky Thrushes, Blandford’s Rosefinch, Plain Mountain Finch, Collared Grosbeak and White-browed Bush Robin.


After a short flight to Bumthang, we then spend the next eleven days slowly returning to Paro enjoying the birdlife in the sparsely populated valleys and mountains. Along the way, we visit Yongkola, where our guesthouse is located in the midst of one of the best birding locations not only in Bhutan but also the Asia-Pacific region, the Thrumshing La National Park.


This is a veritable birdwatcher’s paradise, and we will look for an excellent range of species from Chestnut-breasted Partridge and Rufous-necked Hornbill to Himalayan Cutia and Bhutan Laughingthrush. Other species could include Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and Rufous-throated Wren Babbler.


After exploring the upper region of Yongkola, we plan to plan to descend to the wonderfully rich forests of Lingmethang road where we hope to find the secretive but stunning Red-faced Liocichla, as well as Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Grey-bellied Tesia, Black-chinned Yuhina and Blue-capped Rock Thrush. On one evening, we will take a short night drive hoping to find Bhutan Giant Flying Squirrel, as well as Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Brown Wood Owl and Mountain Scops Owl.


Continuing onwards, we plan to visit the Tharpaling Monastery and hope to witness the monks feeding wild Himalayan Monals, before moving on to Tingtibi and the Royal Manas National Park where amongst our targets is the critically-endangered White-bellied Heron. The world population of this species is thought to number no more than 250 mature individuals but there is a small population along the Mangde Chhu river. Other possibilities include Tawny Fish Owl, White-browed Piculet, White-hooded Babbler, Pin- tailed Green Pigeon, Great Hornbill, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Blue-throated Flycatcher.


At Pele La, we spend time looking for the ‘near-threatened’, scarlet-bellied and maroon-backed Ward’s Trogon, as well as the strange and elusive Long-billed Thrush, the beautifully coloured Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and a whole array of other species before reluctantly return to Paro where this very special tour concludes.


Our 2022 holiday has been designed especially for us by highly regarded Bhutan guide Chubzang Tangbi and will also be accompanied by Limosa’s East Asia specialist Colin Bushell.

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