DAY 1: ARRIVAL GUWAHATI - SANDRUP JONGKHAR
Welcome to the Kingdom of Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragon! Our Bhutan birding tour begins in Guwahati (India). We will meet there and drive (~3 hours) together to Samdrup Jongkhar, our first destination in Bhutan. Upon arrival at our hotel, we will do some light birding nearby. We hope to see Indian Pond Heron, Asian Pied Starling, Alexandrine Parakeet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon and Black-backed Forktail.
DAY 2: SANDRUP JONGKHAR & DEOTHANG
On the first full day of our Bhutan birding tour we will explore the tropical forests surrounding Samdrup Jongkhar and Deothang. Some of the species we hope to pick up in the Bhutanese lowlands include Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Hooded Pitta, Blue-eared Barbet, Wreathed and Great hornbills, Dollarbird, Collared Scops-Owl, Red-throated Flycatcher and Long-tailed Broadbill.
DAY 3: DEOTHANG - TRASHIGANG
An early start today will bring us to the Morong Valley. The beautiful forests here are home to White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Long-tailed Sibia, Kalij Pheasant, Red-headed Trogon, Asian Barred Owlet, Orange-bellied Leafbird, the rare Beautiful Nuthatch, and Steppe and Bonelli’s eagles. After breakfast, we will start our drive to Trashigang, birding along the way. The picturesque hillsides and tiny hamlets provide the backdrop of the day; we will keep our eyes open for Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Maroon Oriole, White-throated Fantail, Ashy Drongo, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Mrs. Gould’s and Green-tailed sunbirds and Tibetan Siskin.
DAY 4: TRASHIGANG - YONGKOLA
Today, our Bhutan birding tour continues with a journey through the winding roads and Yadi Loops to the village of Yadi. We will stop at a good site to look for Scarlet Finch, Brown-throated Treecreeper and Brown Bullfinch. From here, we will make our ascent into the Himalayan foothills to Kore La Pass at 2,450 m elevation – just beyond, we will find an area of beautiful cloud forest draped in orchids and ferns. Fire-capped Tit, Hill Prinia, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Maroon Oriole, Gold-naped Finch and Kalij Pheasant can be found here. We continue to Yongkola where we will stay for the next 3 nights.
DAYS 5 & 6: THRUMSHING LA NATIONAL PARK
We will spend the next two days birding the upper and lower Yongkola region. Home to many rare and endangered species, we will explore the beautiful landscapes of the area and be on the lookout for Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, White-breasted Parrotbill, Ward’s Trogon and the intriguing Satyr Tragopan.
Varied forests at different elevations provide us good chances to see Rufous-necked Hornbills (Bhutan is a stronghold for this remarkable bird), Speckled Wood-Pigeon, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, and the rare Blue-fronted Robin and odd Wedge-billed Wren Babbler. Possibilities for us to pick up new birds will seem endless here – Plumbeous Redstart, Long-tailed Minivet, Gray Treepie, Large Niltava, White-spectacled Warbler, Mountain Bulbul, Golden Babbler, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Spot-winged Grosbeak and many more species are all found in this bird-rich region.
DAY 7: YONGKOLA - CHUMEY
Today we will ascend to nearly 3,800 m at the Thrumshing La Pass, with magnificent views of the eastern Himalayas! Himalayan Buzzard, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, White-browed Bush Robin, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, Great Parrotbill, Hume’s Bush Warbler, and the colorful Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan are at home in these high elevations. Throughout the day we will travel and bird as we make our way to the village of Chumey at 2,600m, where we will spend the night.
DAY 8: CHUMEY - TRONGSA
A short detour on our way this morning will take us to the Tharpaling Monastery, where we will focus our efforts on seeing Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant and Satyr Tragopan. Crossing through the Yotong La Pass at 3,353m and down into Rhododendron forest, we will search for Rufous-vented Yuhina, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker and White-winged Grosbeak. As we make our way to Trongsa along the Shemgang Road we hope to encounter Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Steppe Eagle, Himalayan Cutia and the nearendemic Bhutan Laughingthrush, among others.
DAY 9: TRONGSA - TINGTIBI & SHEMGANG ROAD
Today we will spend our day exploring the Shemgang Road from Trongsa to Tingtibi, making our way through terraced fields and lovely landscapes with flowering trees and descending into the warm broadleaf forests surrounding Tingtibi. Along the way we will hope to see Greater Yellownape, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Crested Bunting, Crimson Sunbird, Blue-throated Barbet, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Large Hawk Cuckoo and search for the spectacular and rare Rufous-necked Hornbill. Other avian possibilities in the lower elevation forests include Streaked Spiderhunter, Pin-tailed Pigeon, Common Green Magpie, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and Emerald Dove.
DAY 10: TINGTIBI AREA
The birding in the sub-tropical forests of Royal Manas National Park in Tingtibi is quite outstanding and a true highlight of our Bhutan birding tour. Today we spend a full day exploring the area via the Shemgang Road. We will seek out many target birds including Gray Peacock-Pheasant, Rufous-necked and Great hornbills, White-browed Piculet, Long-tailed Broadbill, the stunning Cutia, Sultan Tit, the elusive Blue-winged Laughingthrush, White-bellied Yuhina, Green Cochoa, and the rare White-hooded Babbler and Beautiful Nuthatch. Here we can find up to 9 species of cuckoos! We will also be in the prime habitat to see the spectacular Golden Leaf Monkey (Langur), which makes its home in these pristine forests.
DAY 11: SHEMGANG ROAD
This morning’s target is the rare Beautiful Nuthatch, as we will visit its prime habitat. After breakfast, we will continue birding along the Shemgang Road as we make our way back toward Trongsa, stopping along the way at key birding areas. The waterfalls and mountain slopes along the road provide a beautiful backdrop for even more great birding in this region. Here we will continue searching for Nepal Fulvetta, White-throated and Black-crested bulbuls, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler and Rufous and Fulvous-breasted woodpeckers. As we approach Trongsa, we will make a stop to scan the high cliff faces for Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and Little Forktail at a nearby waterfall.
DAY 12: TRONGSA - PUNAKHA
We venture further into western Bhutan today, stopping early in search of Brown Dipper, Crested Kingfisher, Fire-tailed Myzornis and Yellow-browed Tit. The drive is beautiful, and will give us stunning views of the valleys, hills and mountains along the way. We will make a worthwhile stop at a Chorten (Stupa), a Buddhist monument to stretch our legs and look around. Heading into forests of Rhododendrons and firs, we will make our way into the Nobding Valley. Along the way, we will keep watch for Himalayan Griffon, Gray-headed Woodpecker, Speckled Piculet and Black-eared Shrike Babbler.
Later in the day, upon arrival in Punakha, we will do some light birding around the resort grounds for Slender-billed Oriole, Gray Nightjar and Collared Scops-Owl, and rest up for the next days to come.
DAY 13: PUNAKHA DZONG - DOCHU LA
This morning we will visit the majestic Punakha dzong for a true taste of Bhutanese culture and religion. The second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan, it houses sacred Buddhist relics, intricate carvings and features a ceiling with hundreds of elaborately painted dragons. In English, its name is translated to “A Palace of Great Bliss.” Next, we head to the Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri; its variety of forests, from sub-alpine forest to temperate rainforest host a great diversity of wildlife. Here we hope to see Dark-rumped and Dark-breasted rosefinches, Eurasian Jay, Chestnut-crowned Warbler and Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler. It is also home to several rare mammal species including Red Panda, Musk Deer, Tiger, Leopard and Leopard Cat.
From here, we head up in elevation to Dochu La, where we can take in awe-inspiring views of the high Himalayas including Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan, at 7,497 meters! Continuing on to Paro later in the day, we will be sure to stop at a well-known marshy site and try for Black-tailed Crake.
DAY 14: CHELE LA
Today we head to the Chele La Pass - another highlight of our Bhutan birding tour. At 3,780 m, we can appreciate more incredible views of the mighty Himalayas. Here we ascend above the treeline, accessing alpine meadows and Rhododendron scrub in search of some of Bhutan’s high elevation birds. Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Spotted Laughingthrush, Common Kestrel, Blue-fronted Redstart, Alpine Accentor, Orange-flanked Bush Robin and the lovely Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch can be found here. As we continue birding today, we will reach some riverine areas in the Himalayas, where we will look for Ibisbill as they forage among glacial stones, along with Rosy Pipit, Common Hoopoe, Crested Goshawk, White-capped Water Redstart, Blue Whistling Thrush and Oriental Turtle Dove. We will gradually make our way back to Paro to enjoy the evening at our resort.
DAY 15: TIGER'S NEST MONASTERY
Today we explore the best of Bhutan’s birding and culture in an exciting walk (approximately 5 hours) to the famous Tiger’s Nest, Paro Taktsang Monastery, perched on the vertical rock cliffs just outside of Paro. We will take our time, stopping at a tea house and viewpoints along the way. Of course, we will be birding as well – White-tailed Nuthatch, Green-backed Tit, Spotted Nutcracker, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Yellow-billed Blue Magpie can be found along the trail, and we will scan for flocks of Snow Pigeons once at the monastery. A waterfall next to the monastery is a great place to check for Plumbeous Water Redstart and Little Forktail. It will no doubt be an exciting day! After our full day hike, we will return back to the resort for a final dinner together and share our most favorite moments from the tour.
DAY 16: DEPARTURE
After breakfast at the resort, we will transfer to the airport in Paro for our departure flights.
Our Bhutan birding tour concludes in Paro.
Tiger's Nest Monastery