Trip report: Bhutan and Kaziranga (Mar-Apr 2018) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Jose Illanes.

Our trip began in the lowlands of Assam in Northeast India, at World famous Kaziranga National Park. A bounty of species came our way, including some scarce species like Pallas’s Fish-Eagle, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Swamp Francolin, Pied Harrier, Greater Adjutant (near Guwahati), Ferruginous Duck, Spot-billed Pelican, Northern Lapwing and a day-roosting Brown Fish-Owl. Besides the birds this park was excellent for large animals, and we also observed many Indian Rhinoceros during our jeep drives in the park.

Our next stop was Manas National Park another beautiful reserve, which held some rare grassland specialties, which have all suffered significant declines in recent years, like Black-breasted Parrotbill, Indian Grassbird, Slender-billed and Jerdon´s Babblers, and Bengal Florican. Blue-bearded Bee-eater and Silver-breasted Broadbills were further highlights in the wooded areas of Manas, while large fauna also featured there too, with conspicuous Asian Elephants.

Our birding in Bhutan started just across the border from India, at Samdrup Jongkhar, where we got Black-backed Forktail. On the way to Narphung La we were able to add some real crackers like Beautiful Nuthatch and Silver-eared Mesia. On the longest drive from Narphung La to Lingmethang we found Himalayan Cutia, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and Ward´s Trogon. Our four day stay in this Lingmethang Valley based at Yongkha La we birded in the surroundings areas including Phrumsengla National Park, where the road cuts through the forest and gave us the chance to pick up Rufous-necked Hornbill, Black-tailed Crake and a suite of laughingthrushes, including White-crested, Rufous-chinned and Rufous-necked Laughingthrushes (below); we also saw Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler in this area too.

Higher up, in Sengor one of the birds of the tour was found in Satyr Tragopan, and Blood Pheasant was found on the way to Jakar too. Heading to Trongsa from there, we found Ibisbill along the way, and Himalayan Monals also featured at Trongsa too, as did Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird.

Our stay in the Tingtibi Valley produced Red-headed Trogon, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, White-browed Piculet, Slaty-backed Forktail, and the rare vulnerable species White-bellied Heron along the River.

On our next journey, to Probjikha, we added yet more interesting birds like Black-browed Tit, and Spotted Laughingthrush. After a last night camping in the mountains, we birded the Probjikha Valley, and saw Brown Parrotbill, and Dark-rumped Rosefinch. On the way down from there to Punakha we managed to find the scarce Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker too. Next up, we visited the subtropical forests in Jigme Dorji National Park giving us Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, and Slender-billed Oriole. After our stay in a lovely hotel at Punakha we headed towards Thimphu with some quick birding at the Botanical Garden along the main highway, where we found Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Brown Bullfinch, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, and Darjeeling Woodpecker. On the same day we also visited Dochu La Pass, where we noticed not only an abundance of Rhododendron flowers, but also the outstanding Fire-tailed Myzornis feeding among them.

Once in Thimphu we visited another entrance to Jigme Dorji National Park, which brought us Fire-capped Tit, Green Shrike Babbler, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker and Spotted Forktail. The following day we drove to Chele La Pass, where we saw both Collared and White-winged Grosbeaks and another beautiful view of Himalayan Monal. Based in Paro on our final day, this was a more relaxing, “cultural day”, as we visited the world-famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, however we did find a Solitary Snipe (below) on the trail beside the monastery for a memorable finish to an exciting tour in a country like absolutely no other.

Full Bhutan and Kaziranga 2018 trip report (custom tour) in PDF format (8.7 MB).