This tour mainly targeted major bird species to be covered from middle and higher altitude of Sikkim. Though all birds were not covered, however, 155 species were seen in 6 days.
Route Taken: Siliguri, Jaldapara, Jaigaon, Phuntsholing, Paro, Thimphu, Wangdue, Phobjikha, Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Guwahati
P.S. All stay arrangements were in 3* resorts/hotels.
Driving: 1650 km
Hiking: 133 km approx
Top Ten birds from this tour, based on their beauty:
Daily Travel Log:
16th November 2018:
We started at 5 AM from New Jalpaiguri for first pick up for Mr Sen, later picked up Mr Muthuswamy. Left Siliguri town and drove via Birpara, Jaldapara to Jaigaon. Roughly around 9:30 AM in the morning we had our breakfast and we crossed the border. The first bird that we saw was an Alexandrain Parakeet against a huge tree hole next to Hotel Druk. Peeping out sometimes and going in. It took around 1 hr 30 minutes to make the entry Permit. Mostly because it was tourist season and online permit procurement collapsed, thus everyone was in queue. Moreover, from the immigration permit office we collected Bhutan Mobile SIM card against, permit number. Rs 110/- for talk (talk balance Rs 100/-) and data balance of 2 GB at Rs 199/-. Now coming to birding part again, just in the parking area of Hotel Druk, we saw a Great Myna as well (it is also known as White-vented Myna). At 12 sharp we left Phuntsholling and headed uphill; it was till 1:30 PM when we first saw a pair of Orange-bellied Leafbird perched at the top of a tree; 10-15 minutes later caught the flock of birds – It consisted of Black-throated Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Streaked Spiderhunter – All nectar feeding birds. Around 15:25 (BST –shifted our clock by 30 minutes advance) we had our lunch at Doejung Paksang Hotel in Gedu. It was regular non-vegetarian Indian cuisine we had. Nearby two bridges we stopped and clicked Striated Laughingthrush, Little Forktail, White-capped Redstart and Plumbeous Water Redstart. Through the nearby bush thickets Rufous Sibia was calling as well. At Chukha-Paro border check post we stopped for a while and found huge flock of Asian House Martin and Himalayan Swiftlet. Light was low throughout after 4 PM and never improved, thus we stopped for the day. In the evening around 6:15 PM we check in at Paro Hotel (Tashi Namgay Resort). Around 9 PM, we had dinner and we rested early to get up at 4 AM for the next day.
17th November 2018
Today we woke up very early in the morning around 3:30 AM and as planned has to depart for Chele La at 4 AM. But due to some unforeseen circumstances, we were delayed by 2 hrs and 15 minutes and had started at 6:15 AM in the morning. Just few kilometers above Paro, we met more than 15 Spotted Nutcrackers and multiple Blue Whistling Thrushes. Little later a flock of Rufous-breasted Accentor and Hodgson’s Redstart kept up busy for more than 10 minutes. Just one or two bends up, we caught a pair of Yellow-billed Blue Magpie on Cheer Pine tree. In some abundant rest house, a flock of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler was seen, the jackpot was sighting of a flock of Brown Parrotbill. We spent around 15-20 minutes with the flock. Just at the same location, a flock of Rufous-fronted Tit was sighted too. All three good species in same location and we got it within 15-20 minutes. With funfilling mind, we drove little up and caught the another flock of Brown Parrotbills (I have never experienced such huge flocks of Brown Parrotbill). Little later, one Spotted Laughingthrush called from a distance but never showed up, though we tried for it for more than 30 minutes. A flock of three Tit species was met at an altitude of roughly 9,000 ft in Silver Fir, Juniper Forest around 9:30 AM; the flock consisted of Rufous-vented Tit, Coal Tit and Grey-crested Tit. Though the sighting went on for more than 10 minutes, but photographing them was real challenge due to harsh light. Around 10:15 AM we were at the top of Chele La. The magnificent Chomo Lahri range was sighted. Little later a flock of Snow Pigeons was sighted as well. We started driving downhill at around 11 AM and resumed birding again till we met a flock of White-throated Laughingthrush and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (3). A flock of Rufous- fronted Tit along with White-browed Fulvetta was seen little down at 8,200 ft. At Paro in day time, bird activity was nil. We drove to north of the valley and sighted Brown Dipper twice. Though photographing it was tough since it flew very fast upstream. We had wonderful local cuisine beside the bridge area at Eco Farm House at Kichu valley with Red Rice, Jha Shamaru (Chicken Maru), Dal, Ema Datshi etc. All the preparation was mouth watering. Though we sighted Russet Sparrow, Hodgeson’s Redstart, Ruddy Shelduck and Great Cormorant at multiple location; it is Ibisbill which was jackpot sighting for the afternoon session. Around 5:10 we reached at Thimphu and checked in at Hotel Gyakil. Please note that, the stay in Thimphu was very comfortable at Gyakhil, but not as good as it was in Paro. However, it was a decent enough stay for our purpose.
18th November 2018
Last night stay at Thimphu was nice and comfortable. Today onward we have a new car for the rest of the tour – a brand new Toyota Hiace 10 seater with more legroom, space and comfort than the before one. It was a highly appreciated arrangement by us for our clients. We started at 5 AM sharp in the morning. In the barren landscape between Thimphu and Dochula (crossed at 5:50 AM) we didn’t had any birding and we resumed birding from Royal Botanical Garden Area from 6:15 AM onward after having little ambient light. The first bird for the day was Eurasian Jay, a commoner throughout the sanctuary; followed by a flock of White-throated Laughingthrush and Yellowbilled Blue Magpie. We tried for a flock of White-browed Fulvetta just beside the road and the flock showed up well. It was too early to check in for us since entry gate ticket counters were closed. However, meeting a flock of Brown Parrot bills and White-browed Fulvetta with Red-billed Leiothrix, made everybody happy. On two repeated days we had Brown Parrotbill which is a great. Multiple sightings of Blue-fronted Redstart, kept us busy for the entire morning session. Some of the major sightings we had from the sanctuary are – Barred Cuckoo Dove, Hoary-throated Barwing, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and last and most important – Grey-sided Laughingthrush. Mr P. Sen got some wonderful snaps of the beauty. Lunch we had near Wangdue in Hotel Lobesa and just after lunch on Puna Tsang Chu river just opposite to Bazo, we saw Common Merganser, River Lapwing, Gadwall (male and female pair swimming on river). Little ahead, after crossing Lobeasa, we sighted Wallcreeper against a open rock cliff. Previously, I had thought in mind that Wallcreepers collect minerals from the open rock faces and through it is seen beside those places only where road works are going on. Actually this part of the country is barren and hardly anything grows on this soil. We saw Cheer pines and Cactus at some pockets. Though road works happened before one year, but this type of arid and deserted landscape and vegetation, supports Wallcreeper sighting. For the first time noticed it to catch an insect. We had more than 20 minutes sighting for the Wallcreeper. The last major bird sighting was with Brown Dipper just adjacent to Kichu Resort in Wangdue Phordong district. After checking in at hotel, White-capped Redstart, Little Forktail and Plumbeous Water Redstart was seen, just next to our stay. Tonight dinner – we had Cabbage Cheese and continental dishes on vegetables. Please note that, this hotel serves vegetarian foods only. Our next morning plan is to start by 5:30 and cover riverine ecosystem.
19th November 2018
Majorly, today our target was to get water birds. Thus, we started little late from Kichu Resort at 5:30 AM, so as to have early morning shots. Just beside Punatsang Chu, both Ibisbill and Brown Dipper were sighted. We were excited to see, three Kingfishers – Common, White-throated and Crested in the same location. Little later a flock of Scaly-breasted Munia and Hodgson’s Redstart were seen near the Nepali Busty adjacent to road. At patches, Ruddy Shelducks were perched beside rocky-boulder river banks. Common Merganser and Brown-headed Gulls were seen in the flock of Shelducks. Three Mallards (1 male and two female) flew above. Around the White-bellied Heron sighting area, we searched for it for 2 hours or more. But no luck! After having breakfast at around 8:30 AM at Sungalakha, we headed for Kuenchen forest. A pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, Long-tailed Minivet and juvenile of Grey-backed Shrike gave us company for some time. Little inside a shadowy patch we found Collard Owlet (one of the best sighting, for more than 30 minutes) and mixed hunting flock of White-bellied Erpornis, Speckled Piculet, Red-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Siva, Yellow-browed Tit, Yellow-bellied Fantail etc. A flock of Kalij Pheasant was there too in nearby bush thicket. At the end of the trail a Spotted Elachura showed up but again vanished in the bush, before being photographed. After 12:15 we left the mixed montane forest (community reserve) and headed for lunch at Nobding valley. We had lunch at Kuenphen Restaurant at Nobding. An Osprey and Crested Serpent Eagle was seen on the right side of the road, towards the Cheer Pine forest area beside the river bank. It was 3 PM, when we resumed again for afternoon birding session, and we drove from Bajo to Mo Chu and found almost nothing but a Wallcreeper in flight (At Druk Rafting Point). Again we drove back to Po Chu and at the junction; finally we sighted White-bellied Heron. Ultimately, our tireless search paid off.
Finally, we wrapped up our birding at 5:15 and drove back to Kichu Resort via Bajo town (I stopped for a while to buy Bhutanese chilly spices and phone top ups). It took half an hour to get back to our resort. Finally at 8 PM, after having dinner, we rested for the day.
20th November 2018
Today my entire concentration was on White-bellied Heron. All the participants were very much eager to experience White-bellied Heron in the first light. Around 5:10 we started from Kichu Resort and drove directly to the spot Semathang around 6:05 AM in the morning. Light was yet to come, thus we waited for another 15 minutes and started driving up stream parallel to the river flow. We searched for 30 minutes but no signature of Heron. Lastly, Tashi saw it flying towards the jungle from the river bank, inner water ways. With the help of a local witness, we confirmed final landing location of the bird and headed one kilometer further north. Finally we spotted it in the middle of the river. We saw the Heron with fish, in flight etc. Ultimately my persistence paid off. Little later a flock of Ruddy Shelduck was photographed from the river side and we took u-turn to be back at Wangdue. We had our breakfast down south of the valley at Mendogang area. Post breakfast (10:30 AM) we drove towards Nobding, on the way we stopped at 4 locations and found – Rufous-winged Fulvetta, White-browed Shrike-babbler, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike and most importantly Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. We missed to photograph it but Nawang Yargey Community Reserve area was best. We had lunch in Khuruthang at Punakha at Puenzhi Resturant, we drove towards Pele La. Due to extreme fog we dropped the plan to visit at Pela La; instead a visit to Phobjika was proposed for the last two hours of birding session. At the entrance of the valley, we spotted a Red-billed Chough and a Large-billed Crow. The closest of sighting we had for Black-necked crane was from more than 100 feet apart. That afternoon we saw them in huge numbers. We counted 78 birds foraging on valley. After having tea/coffe at at teahouse, we checked in at Yo-Lo-Ke Hotel at Phobjikha.
21st November 2018
Overnight stay at Yo Lo Ke hotel was beautiful and I woke up early in the morning at 5 AM and made myself ready by 6:00 for Black-necked Crane’s scheduled sightings. On our way, Oriental Skylarks were sighted on the swamps twice. These larks were foraging on ground and chatting sometimes. We left the place by 8 AM and started driving towards Pele La. It was mostly arid this time of the year – just one Winter Wren appeared beside the road and a White-browed Rosefinch was seen just before the sighting of Wren. After crossing Pele La, we stopped at a road side place and had our breakfast (at 9:30 AM). Later by 10 AM we started driving towards Trongsa. On our way, due to heavy road works and back cutting at multiple locations, we could not do birding. After reaching at Trongsa we had lunch at Yangkhil Resort at 2 PM. At around 2:45 PM we finished our lunch and headed further east towards Bumthang. Before reaching Bumthang we sighted Bhutan Laughingthrush, Winter Wren, Black-faced Laughingthrush and Collared Grosbeak. Later, via Chumey Valley-Rabten Zum we checked in at our hotel at around 7:30 AM and stayed overnight at River Lodge at Jamkhar Valley.
22nd November 2018
At 5:30 AM we started from River Lodge towards Jampaylagang monestery area for Black-rumped Magpie. There were more than 100 magpie in the monastery area. Other birds seen were Black-throated Thrush along with lots of Large-billed Crow. Later we crossed Ura Valley and had breakfast in a nearby teahouse. There were hardly any birding scope on the way till we reached Thrumsingla and spotted a Himalayan Monal on our left, foraging in nearby bush thicket. We tried our best to spot the bird but it moved deeper inside. In a nearby hamlet, a Hume's Treecreeper was seen followed by mixed flock of Beautiful Rosefinch, Tibetan Serin, Grey-crested Tit, Rufous-breasted Accentor etc. We had a very productive time before breakfast. We took breakfast at same place beside the road. Later Red Crossbill – male, female and juvenile gave fantastic photo opportunities. Just after crossing few bends Blood Pheasant was seen as well. It was a flock of 15-20 of them. Six of them were on our right and rest of the flock, crossed the road. However, we managed to photograph some of them through bush thicket. One hour later at Sengor at Kuenzang Hotel and Bar around 3 PM in the afternoon. It was a long drive for us, thus we hardly stopped on our way, until we met an Upland Buzzard. Around 6 PM we checked in at Yongkola at Trogon Villa.
23rd November 2018
Since we would be staying overnight for two days in Yongkola at Trogon Villa, thus we started 6 AM in the morning today. Morning sighting began with a Golden Bush Robin chipping just adjacent to our stay; The species we came across one by one are as – Grey Bushchat, Golden Bush Robin, Rusty-cheeked Scimiter Babbler (a pair) and a Capped Langur. Mixed flock of Tit and Warblers were seen multiple times. Couple of Grey Bushchat was also flying around. A pair of Rusty Cheeked Scimitar Babbler was shot from close distance but through bush thicket, not in open. Later as the day progressed, mixed hunting flocks of warblers and yuhina was seen. Around 6:48 AM a pair of Rufous-necked Hornbill was seen flying above. Chestnut-crowned Warbler, followed by Black-throated Tit, White-bellied Erpornis etc was seen in mixed flocks. Blue-winged Siva and Red-tailed Minla also has noteworthy sighting. Later around 7:15 AM Nepal Fulvetta obliged us before the sighting of Langur. Orange-bellied Minivet both male and female was seen and participants managed to get nice photos. After breakfast we tried for Red-faced Liocichla, but it showed up just for a second before vanishing inside the bush. Later from multiple locations on the way to Namling - Yuhinas, Sunbirds and Flowerpecker were seen. We came back for lunch at 2 PM and resumed afternoon birding from 2:30 PM onwards. We saw 22 Rufous-necked Hornbills in a single flock. I have never ever seen such huge flock in my life. I doubt how many birders have seen such huge congregation. Target to see honeyguide was missed, as reported last sighting was 3 days back from today. We are expecting a sighting for tomorrow. In the late afternoon, Ward’s Trogon responded but didn’t show up. However, today we have seen Grey Nightjar twice on the way. Afternoon the 2nd birding session we returned back at 7 PM in Trogon Villa resort. Tomorrow we would start at 5:30 AM in the morning.
24th November 2018
Morning we started at 5 AM to be at Namling at 6 am and resumed our search for Trogon and Honeyguide. After a couple of minutes, Ward's Trogon responded against playback, but again refused to appear. However, a flock of Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Rusty-fronted and Hoary-throated Barwing with Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush was seen just adjacent to road on nearby bamboo thicket. A huge flock of White-throated Laughingthrush was seen as well. Later we came back on our way towards Trogon Villa and saw a party of Pig-tailed Macaque. We had breakfast at previous day place where we saw mixed hunting flock. Again we found the flock. We stopped for a while at Trogon Villa for a while and later started driving downhill. Little down on our way, Striated Prinia, Ashy-throated Warbler with mixed flock of birds on both side of the road kept us busy. Speckled Piculet, Black-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Ashy Bulbul are to name the few. Since today's drive is going to be the longest drive for us, thus we hardly stopped on our way. A Slaty-backed Forktail in a nullah, beside a busy road was seen. Later we did birding for a while at Lingmethang. After 1 PM, we had lunch at Mongar Town at Birds Eye View Hotel. Since road works were going on, thus we hardly found any birds on the way. However, after Kori La we saw Black Bulbul, Striated Bulbul, Yellownape etc. At Yadi we stopped for evening tea (6PM) and checked in at hotel at Deojung Hotel at Trashigang at 7:30 PM.
25th November 2018
We started at 6 AM today from Deojung Hotel at Trashigang. Morning birding started with sighting of Aisian Barred Owlet. Few minutes later, a flock of Kalij Pheasant crossed road infront of us and just after that, nearby a hamlet – cultivation area a flock of Crested Bunting was seen. At Rongthong we saw Black-crested Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Nepal Fulvetta, Sunbird-flowerpecker allies etc. Later we stopped for breakfast, just after crossing two more bends above. Afterbreakfast, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Babbler etc was seen . We came via Kangro – Yongphula, where we took pictures of Black Mountain and boundary hills with arunachal Pradesh. We had lunch at Wamrong. After lunch, Bhutan Laughingthrush sighted at Moshi Valley in Samdrup Jongkhar district. Magnificent view point at Narphung (near district diversion for Pemagasel new district) we spent nearly half an hour for some spectacular landscape photos. A forest fire was set nearby and we started driving down thereafter. Around 7:30 PM we reached at Samdrup Jongkhar and stayed at Hotel Tashi Getshel.
26th November 2018
Ambient light came little late, since these are winter mornings. We started to drive back nearby checkpost area and nothing special was seen during that time. We came back again to our hotel at Tashi Getshel and had breakfast. Just after driving for 5 minutes, we reached to Indo-Bhutan checkpost and got exit permit. At this place we exchanged to India vehicle again. Two Bolero was arranged for Guwahati. Around 8 AM in the morning, we started from Samdrup Jonglkhar and headed Guwahati. One vehicle directly moved to airport. While the other vehicle, with three participants, we moved to Guwahati garbage dump and got Greater Adjutant. Some other common birds were there too. Around 2PM, we were also dropped to the airport, while Mr Pradeep S was dropped at Hotel Pemaling (just 100 mtrs from Guwahati airport). The tour ended on good notes from all.
Since, itinerary and time schedule alongside the bird activity changes seasonally; thus this itinerary can’t be followed in the other months. Kindly go through other blogs of GoingWild's bird photography tours in Bhutan. To do a customized birding trip like this one; write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or keep watching our Upcoming Tour.
A loveless life is futile and what could be more satisfying than loving and being loved by nature? Well, this is for you to decide but he always knew that he belonged with nature. At a very tender age he clearly realised that he is increasingly attracted to nature. The constant longing to get away from the city humdrum guided managing partner, Dibyendu to take up birding and wildlife photography as his profession, working in an IT company could never satisfy the hunger of his soul and mind. A very young Dibyendu took interest in animal skull craft for it used to be his favourite pastime, he read his mother’s zoology books which made his interest in animals grow stronger . His love for wildlife groomed him to grow up into a wildlife enthusiast, he is now an avid traveler and has been to many important birding areas in the Himalayas, honing his skills as a naturalist, birder and a wildlife photographer.
With a huge bird list (which is ever increasing) till date he is currently one of the eminent bird watchers in India. Many of his works have been published in domestic and international publishings, books and newspapers.
Breathing life into the frozen moments of nature is what Soumyajit has been doing through his lenses for the last two decades. Trained as an architect, framing comes to him automatically and composition is his high plus point. Given his early schooling in art & painting, the basic concepts of composition and light always titillated his young brain. Being a self taught he strongly believes in the inherent sense of beauty which at all times, is the best guide than the bookish rules of photography. And he got ample opportunities to cross check his concepts with visiting stalwarts of this field. He valued the criticism of professionals as well as laymen and shaped his creativity accordingly. His photographs strike the very chord in the hearts of his audience urging them to react to the strong messages of nature conservation.
Soumyajit had been long drawn by the mystic world of animals and their natural habitat, the jungle. Coupled with this love for nature and unending patience he makes the right individual to practice wildlife photography. The photographs clicked by him play an integral part in altering the monstrosity of the creatures and highlighting their vulnerability.
Soumyajit is currently whetting his tiger tracking skills especially in the Indian Sunderban, exploring the enigmatic mangroves in a whole new light and bringing the wildlife lovers one step closer to the exotic species of Indian Sunderban not only this but also he shares his knowledge with the clients to ensure that they understand better and the awareness is propagated properly. Having said this, it is needless to mention that not only the tigers of Sunderban, Soumyajit’s erudition about other species of the land of Sundari trees is no doubt remarkable for he has acquired such extensive understanding by spending substantial amount of time in the mysterious mangroves, thus playing a key role in rebuilding the forests and providing protection to its inhabitants.
“Love looks not with the eyes, But with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
His love for tigers is unfathomable. The books of Sir Jim Corbett and of course the wanderlust always made him yearn to be at one with nature, the very thought of observing and photographing the majestic Bengal tigers “filled up his senses like a storm in the desert”, the burning eyes of the majestic beast have lured him to leave his job as an IT professional and made him delve deep into the tangled heart of the forests and breath in the redolence of the jungles. Managing partner, Tamanud Mitra developed a strong understanding of nature and its components, first from the books of Sir Jim Corbett and then by absorbing the jungle lore in the Indian jungles over a considerable period of time, his perseverance and strong determination to walk on the path of his long cherished dream have led him into being an excellent, self-taught tiger tracker and a good enough photographer.