Bhutan Birdwatching Tour in Search of Heron
This short 7-days Bhutan Birding Tour moderately paced which is available on request is designed for our customers who are particularly interested to see the White-bellied Heron, the most endangered heron species in the world with a population of approximately 60 individuals worldwide.
Bhutan is believed to be home to around 50 percent of the total world population and the Magnificent Black-necked Cranes with a population of few thousand in the world. Bhutan is one of the popular winter destinations for the Black-necked Cranes which migrate from the Tibetan plateau. Bhutan is believed to have the highest population of White-bellied Heron, 22 individuals have been reported from Bhutan in the year 2021, although some recent study shows the numbers are declining further each year. Some expert believes that any species with a population of less than a hundred are bound to extinct at some point in time.
We run this Bhutan Birding Tour from the 2nd week of November to the 2nd week of March when the Black-necked Cranes are here in good numbers and the possible sighting of White-bellied Heron is very high. In terms of weather, generally, we have good weather with the clear blue sky which allows us to view the entire eastern Himalayas.
Apart from the White-bellied Heron and Black-necked Cranes, We will also likely some of the wintering migrants including Wallcreeper, Thrushes. Forktails, Ducks, Waders, Redstart, and residents species such as rare and most sought-after species like Ward’ Trogon, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Ibisbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and few species of Rosefinches. All in all, we will show you over 170 birds on this Bhutan birdwatching tour.
Other highlights include a visit to some of the ancient beautiful fortress and the temples including Bhutan’s most scenic icon and a most important destination for pilgrimages Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), the most beautiful and impressive Punakha Dzong.
If you have a little more time to spend on your holiday, maybe you’d consider a longer trip like this Birding in Bhutan Tour.
Alternative Tour Name: In Search of Heron and Cranes
The flight into the Himalayas is one of the most scenic and breathtaking ones with views of some of the tallest mountains of the world. On your arrival at the Paro international airport, our representative will receive you.
Drive to Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan (2hrs) drive.
Later in the evening, we will bird Babesa Sewage Pond, south of Thimphu town. searching for one of the biggest target birds, Ibisbill special bird of Himalayas. This elegant wader with the long decurved bill and enlisted in its own monotypic family. They are found on the stony riverbanks in the Himalayas. For many birders this species is consider among the most wanted species. This place is one of the easiest places to see Ibisbill. Other species we’ll be looking for include Solitary Snipe, Black-tailed Crake, Brown Dipper, River Lapwing, White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbous Water Redstart, White Wagtail, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Olive-backed Pipit, Russet and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Hodgson’s and Blue -fronted Redstart, Common Sandpiper just to name few.
Early morning drive to Punakha over the Dochula Pass (3150m). Dochula pass is the most beautiful pass in the entire country decorated with 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten. On a clear day, you get breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayan ranges. The mixed forests of hemlock, fir, oaks, and rhododendron here is good habitat for many good species including, Spotted, Striated and White-throated Laughingthrushes, Coal, Grey-crested and Rufous-vented Tit, Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpecker.
After breakfast at the pass, we descend down to the Lamperi Botanical Garden and take the beautiful nature walk, the hike takes us through a cool moist forest of oak, magnolia, and birch trees. Some of the likely species we’ll be looking here include Brown Parrotbill, Blue-fronted and Hodgson’s Redstart, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Streaked-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Eurasian Jay, Darjeeling, and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Striated, White-throated, and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, we might be also lucky to see some Thrushes that often winter here.
Later you’ll drive to Punakha valley, along the drive you’ll look for the species like Chestnut-tailed Starling, Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Long-tailed and Grey-back Shrike, Spotted Dove, Red-vented and Black Bulbul, and Common Kestrel.
Remaining of the afternoon we’ll bird along the Pho Chu valley looking for our main target birds, White-bellied Heron. One of the rarest birds in the world, with a population of fewer than 60 individuals worldwide. Other birds we might see are White-throated and Crested Kingfisher, Ibisbill, River and Red Wattled Lapwing, and etc
We will spend our morning hours birding inside the Jigme Dorji National Park and along Mo Chu River. We have the possibilities of seeing Red-headed Trogon, Wallcreeper, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Small and Large Niltava, Black-chinned and Whiskered Yuhinas, a trio of forktails, Spotted Wren Babblers, Blue Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Rufous Sibia, Himalayan Swiftlet, River Lapwing, Grey Treepie, Grey-headed Canary and Verditer Flycatcher, Green-backed Tit, Brown Dipper, White-capped Water Redstart, White-throated, Striated, Bhutan and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Golden-throated and Great Barbet, Crested Kingfisher, Grey Treepie, Ashy Drongo, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Black-throated Tit, Black and Red-vented Bulbul, Ashy-throated, Blyth’s and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, We also have a good chance of finding the rare and endangered such as Palla’s Fish Eagle.
Afternoon visits the impressive Punakha’s Punthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss) standing on the confluence of the two rivers, the Phochu and Mochu, this Dzong has special significance in Bhutanese history. It was the place where the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuk, was crowned in 1907. At present, it is also used as the winter residence for Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the entire central monk body.
In the evening, we will take another excursion along the Pho Chu River searching for White-bellied Heron in case if we have missed the other day.
we will depart the hotel early and stopping along the Punatshangchu river, which host a good number of wintering Water and shorebirds, the species we will be on the lookout include Ruddy Shelduck, Common Merganser, Great Cormorant, Common, and Green Sandpiper, and occasionally we might also encounter rare species like Long-billed Plover.
We will continue our journey birding along the roadside forest, some of the key species we will be looking for include rare Ward’s Trogon, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Fire-tailed Myzornis and we might also encounter mix flock consists of Red-tailed and Chestnut-tailed Minla, Hoary-throated Barwing, Black-faced Warbler just to name few. By late afternoon we will enter Phobjekha valley, the glacial valley of Phobjikha is located on the edge of the northwestern tip of the Black Mountain Range. It is most famous as the roosting grounds for the rare Black-Necked Cranes (Grus nigri collis) that migrate to this valley each winter from its northern habitats in Tibet. The locals refer to the Black-Necked Cranes as Lapja (“God’s birds”), and they are cherished as symbols of faithfulness and long life. remaining of the day we will take a walk around the valley enjoying the cranes flying to their main roosting site in the middle of the valley.
We will have another early start to the Pelela pass (3,450m), and spend our morning hours birding along the old abandon road. The open meadow and Rhododendron Forest here are good for the species like Himalayan Monal, Spotted Laughingthrush, Brown Parrotbill, White-winged Grosbeak, White-throated Redstart, White-browed and Dark-rumped Rosefinches, White-browed Fulvetta just to name a few.
Then we drive back to Paro basically backtracking our way. In the evening if time permits we might do some birding along the Paro river.
Very early morning takes 3hrs. drive to the cool alpine meadow of Chelela pass (3,890m). this is the highest pass on the car road and the highest point of our trip. Here we should be rewarded with the three different species of Pheasants, Colorful Himalayan Monals, flocks of Blood Pheasants, and Kalij Pheasants. Other birds we expect here include Darjeeling and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Collared and White-winged Grosbeak, Himalayan Bluetail, Rufous-breasted, and Himalayan Accentor. Snow Pigeon, Plain Mountain Finch, and Red-headed Bullfinch.
Picnic lunch will be served along the way and after lunch, we check in the hotel for some rest and in the evening birding along the Paro River or free time to stroll around the downtown Paro.
After¬ breakfast we will take 20 minutes to the base of the Tiger’s Nest temple and then start to Bhutan’s most scenic icon and a most important destination for pilgrimages and reflection for over 1200 years, Taktshang (or the “Tiger’s Nest”) clings to the side of a steep cliff some 200 meters above the Paro valley. The place was first visited by Guru Rimpoche, found¬er of tantric form of Buddhism in Himalayan countries, in the 8th century. It was said that he meditated there for about three months. After him, many high Buddhist priests came to meditate at this location and attained the high¬est level of spirituality. The original temple was built in the 17th century, but tragically, it was consumed by fire in 1998. Like a phoenix, the temple was rebuilt to its fullest glory in 2003. Taktshang is considered to be the 10th holiest site in the Buddhist world.
The total hike will take the average person about four hours. From the parking area, it will take about one hour to the tea house (rest and refreshment provided) then another one and a half hours to the tem¬ple.
In the evening, visit a typical Bhutanese farmhouse to experience the local hospitality and a traditional hot stone bath. We’ll arrange a special archery lesson on the traditional bamboo bow and arrow with the¬ lady, who used to be a Bhutan Olympic archer and represent Bhutan at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008
Overnight: Paro |2400m
After breakfast at the hotel our representative, your tour guide, and drive will drive you to the airport and bid you goodbye.
Wildlife species expected to see:
Birds: Ibisbill, White-bellied Heron, Black-necked Cranes, Wallcreeper, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ward’s Trogon, Long-billed, and Himalayan Thrush, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Brown Dipper, Little, Spotted and Slaty-backed Forktail, Pallas’s Fish Eagle. Great and Golden-throated Barbet, Rufous-bellied and Darjeeling Woodpecker, White-browed and Dark-breasted Rosefinches, Brown Parrotbill, and few species of Ducks.
Mammals: Grey Langur, Assamese Macaque, Barking Deer, Large-eared Pikka. Common Otter, Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten Orange-bellied, and Himalayan Striped Squirrel.
What is included?
- All internal taxes and charges (including royalties)
- Accommodation on twin sharing basis
- All meals, tea, snack, and bottled water
- All travel with a licensed local birding guide
- All surface transfers by a private vehicle
- All entry fees to monuments, Museum and National Parks
- Bhutan Visa Fee
What is not included?
- Optional tours/excursions, personal & incidental expenses.
- Tips, laundry, phone calls, and bars.
- International and domestic airfare, and insurance.
- Single Supplement
- Anything that is not mentioned in the itinerary and "what is include"
Off to Bhutan is a team of highly experienced and professional Bhutanese birding guides with a strong reputation for guiding international birding clients for many years. As birding enthusiasts ourselves, our guides have hands-on knowledge that has allowed them to identify some of the best locations in Bhutan. we cater to any type of birding tour from casual to hardcore birder and we guarantee to meet their expectation.
All visitors traveling to Bhutan are required to obtain a Visa prior to their arrival to Bhutan. after you agree and confirmed the tour with us. we will start processing your visa and send you a copy at least a month before your tour start. To process your tourist visa to Bhutan, you must submit the following documents: • A photocopy of your passport clearly showing your photograph, • Passport number, date of issue, date of expiry, and your date of birth. • Full tour payment deposit (You will need to ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you depart Bhutan at the end of your tour. It is your responsibility to ensure that we have your correct passport copy at the time of booking)
Accommodation choices will vary from low-budget hotels to high-end five-star hotels. We do ensure that most hotels where our guests stay are approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan for the tourist. High-end 5 star and 4-star hotels are available in some places but you need to pay extra supplement because of cost of the high-end hotel range from US$ 400 – 1500 per night. In some remote places where we don’t have any hotels that cater to international tourists, you can expect to stay in a tented camp.
Most of the restaurants and hotels will provide free Wi-Fi for guests, though the Internet speeds vary from place to place. Mobile phone reception is generally very good throughout the country, depending on your cell phone service provider. You may choose to explore the possibility of international roaming but you will be able to purchase a temporary tourist SIM card at the airport that supports incoming and outgoing calls along with Internet services.