"For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;..."
Such is the beauty of Bhutan , such is the power of nature which makes you long for it every time when you think of it.Our trip to this magnanimous land of Thunder Dragon was extremely filling which wadded our emotions, soul and hearts, how? well, the episodes will tell you how...
Day 1 started on a very disappointing note. The condition was such that I was forced to think that Bhutan was being very unkind to us. Firstly, the document verification process was time consuming. Secondly when we finally reached the resort at 12:00 A.M., the entire area was suffering a major load shedding since that morning. Thirdly, it was snowing and the biting cold was killing. So as you can understand, due to a train of adverse conditions our birding photography expedition suffered a minor set back, but it was just about one day, although our hearts were heavy , yet I was hopeful and encouraged everyone, we still had 9 more days in our hands and I was confident about the fact that, a little bit of hard work and perseverance will certainly pay off and yes as I knew already we had an awesome photography session in Bhutan which yielded a myriad of photographs of the exquisite bird species.
Day of the Solitary Snipe
A very rare bird indeed and we struck it lucky to have witnessed this beautiful bird and got amazing photographs of this beauty. On 11th march while we were travelling from Phuntseling to Paro it was snowing so heavily that we hardly hoped for any productive birding on the way. Paro looked like a damsel dressed in white, the roads hid under the thick blanket of snow. Around us, all we could see was snow, as though we were trapped in the middle of an Ice Ocean. if god decides to play the game, you just can't help it, all you can do is stand and gawk like a fool. Whatever, still we took a chance and tried driving to Chele la for Blood Pheasant, but alas! all went in vain, we couldn't even move up.. hardly 2 km maybe and the driver Damchi suggested that it would be wise not to take risk since the car tyres can skid, there can be mud slides etc., so in order to avoid any life threatening situation we had to drive back to the resort. Everyone, pretty crestfallen, had their breakfast, the entire morning session was ruined, the atmosphere became pretty sullen, I knew it was my call so I took the decision and being the tour mentor it was my responsibility to make the participants happy so without having second thoughts I asked everyone to resume birding, standing up against all odds. Everything was normal, we were engrossed in birding, birdwatching and bird photography, near Kyicha bridge we found some Brown Dippers, Forktails, etc. On the other side of the river, I along with a tour participant went to try our lucks. We found the Little Bunting,and Hodgson's Redstart. On returning, a lady participant asked me to check in the nearby frozen stream. She said she saw something that resembled a Snipe, with a lot of hope in my heart, I asked my tour participants to follow me, who were, by now, pretty intrigued. It took me less than a second to identify the bird, it was a Solitary Snipe. Very happy, all the participants got ample amount of time to get some mind blowing photographs of the bird. Of course, without disturbing the bird we left the place quietly.
Thanks to Kalpana, she spotted the bird.
|Solitary Snipe at Paro Chu, Paro|
The Blandford's Rosefinch came to visit us twice
Though widely distributed, the bird is rarely seen in Himalayas, we were very fortunate for we saw and got wonderful photographs of the bird twice in 11 days. On day 3 when we were exploring the birding trail of Lamperi botanical garden, we got a flock of Kalij Pheasant, Darjeeling Woodpecker and Alpine Thrush. Later on we saw a Rosefinch foraging on a snow covered bush thicket, which I identified as the Blandford's Rosefinch. Later, from the field guide we came to know that the bird was an awesome find and the star species of the Garden, after knowing this I immediately informed the other tour participants, only to behold their exultant faces, which inturn, satisfied me, because to me, the satisfaction of the participants matter the most.
|Blanford's Rosefinch from Jigme Dorji National Park|
The Black-necked crane
After a hell lot of snow, finally, we got to see the face of the sun at Nobding. The sunny afternoon at Nobding, the jolly people, lovely local delicacies, the peace and harmony prevailing all over, filled up my senses. After gorging on the local delicacies and enjoying every shred and bit of it, we started our afternoon birding session. Driving through dense pine forest, we entered Phobjica, the winter roosting ground of the Black-necked crane but as the winter was reaching its fag end, I was a bit skeptical regarding the chances of sighting of the bird. Anyway, we were all ready with our equipments, with the increasing pace of the car, our hearts started to race, thinking about what can we get? will we get what we want? suddenly the silence in the car was broken... Mr.Randhawa screamed in excitement "Dibyendu ... Cranes!" without a second's delay, I spotted the exotic couple, then as usual we went to the location and found a couple foraging on high altitude marshland in Phobjica valley. It is believed that these cranes are very holy, in Tibetan culture because they symbolise prosperity.
|Black-necked Crane from Phobjika Valley|
The One Where Blood Pheasant Stole The Show
On March 16th we started from Bumthang at around 6:00 A.M., as usual. On our way to Thrumsing La, we saw many mixed hunting flocks. Still with the hope to see and photograph something interesting we kept moving forward, I could feel the tension building up inside the car, since the first 5 days went dry as far as sighting of blood pheasant was concerned, moreover we couldn't visit Chele la on day 2 for it was snowing heavily. With each passing day the restlessness among the participants was increasing since we were running out of time and the chances of photographing blood pheasant was becoming slim. By god's grace, suddenly something phenomenal happened. Anupam Gupta, a tour partcipant, suddenly whispered in my ears "Diyendu, I think I saw some pheasants in the bush thicket but don't know what type of pheasants they are", on hearing this my eyes sparkled with joy, we got out of the car very slowly, lest to scare away the birds and after say.. 15mins, Bingo! there they were a flock consisting of 15 to 20 individuals (both male and female). I ensured that all the tour participants got good photographs of the magnificent bird and then we left the place quietly.
Now, questions may arise in your mind regarding, our increasing urge to see and photograph the bird.. Well the answer is very simple; Bhutan is the only place where once can spot Blood Pheasant very easily and is one of the main reasons why we visited Bhutan so, not being able to get even a single photograph of this highlight species of Bhutan, could have been a real shame for us.
|Blood Pheasant in March 2017 from Phrumsingla National Park|
In Bengali there is a popular proverb "jaar sesh bhalo taar shob bhalo" meaning "All's well that ends well" you know why... keep clicking!
For further queries about the birds of Bhutan kindly write us at [email protected] .