Satyr Tragopan

Bhutan Bird Photography tour – April 2019


Bhutan resides in the laps of Eastern Himalayas blessed with the serenity of nature and peace-loving Buddhist culture. The land where happiness is a symbol of well-being and prosperity. A dream destination for the wanderer to soak in the tranquil surroundings and transcend into a blissful state of mind. The snow-capped mountain ranges, pristine lakes, and high altitude monasteries fill the eyes with inexplicable joy.

Along with picturesque landscapes, The Kingdom of Bhutan has abundant flora and fauna. The Eastern Himalayas identified as a global biodiversity hotspot is a home to plenty of deciduous and evergreen species of trees predominantly pine and oak trees.

A wide range of animals and birds are found in the dense forests. Ample species of birds reside and a handful of migrants visit Bhutan during winters and summers. There are altitudinal migrants who move between different altitudes within the country making birding a fulfilling adventure. An avid nature photographer gets a variety of colours, patterns and behaviors to encapsulate in their zooming lens of the cameras.

Our trip began with a high to capture the diversity of avifauna found in Bhutan. There is no other way to experience nature’s creativity better than watching the different species of birds closely. Every bird has distinctive features and expressions to offer us. We could not contain the excitement to explore the bird population in the jungles of Druk. We were indeed rewarded with beautiful sightings of a vast range of birds and mountains that stretch past our line of sight.

 Starting at Paro

We welcomed ourselves at Paro, the valley town in the West of capital city Thimphu. The famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery seeps the trekkers in boundless mountainous grandeur. National Museum of Bhutan and other sacred sites gives an insight into the history of Bhutan.

We had a good beginning to our bird photography expedition when we headed out in search of our bird of the day – Ibisbill. We were lucky to find a mother Ibisbill with her four chicks. We flashed our cameras in no time soon after we sighted the family spending precious time with each other. Along the riverside, we could spot many other birds like River Lapwing, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White Wagtail and Goosander.

 Cheerful Chela La Pass

Chela la pass is popular as the highest motorable road in Bhutan gives the finest drive with green forests around. A clear day provides soothing views of frozen lakes, waterfalls and yaks grazing on the grass.

We wanted to observe Blood Pheasant on the pass which came in large numbers as the mist was settling down to give our cameras different angles to capture them. Happily, we proceeded towards Nobding via Thimpu.

Lavish Nobding

The panoramic views of lush green forest ranges at Nobding is a sight that halts in our minds forever.   We could witness a plethora of colourful birds in the forests along the roadside. Some perched on the branches, chirping and flying from tree to tree. We spotted Barred Cuckoo Dove and Ward’s Trogon along with other amazing birds, as the shutter sound blended with the music of the forests.

Travelling is a way to get in touch with the local culture and cuisine. Nobding gave us access to its local food and a tinge of Bhutanese taste. It turned out to be a satisfying day with the birds and the native diet.

Other Birds Spotted: White-throated Laughingthrush, Eurasian cuckoo, White-colored blackbird, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Green-tailed Sunbird, Himalayan Cutia and Whistler’s Warbler.

The Valley Land Bumthang

The district of Bumthang has four mountain valleys Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor and several ancient temples making it the most historic place of Bhutan.

Our bird tour guide belonging to the region made this place special for us. It helped us in getting useful information on the variety of birds available and the exact time to spot them. This enabled us to give a memorable experience to our clients. We acquired several views of our targeted bird of the area – Satyr Tragopan.

Other Birds Spotted: Eurasian Magpie, Himalayan Monal, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Bar-throated Siva, Red Crossbill and White-winged Grosbeak.

Satyr Tragopan

The drive to Yongkala

The drive from Bumthang to Yongkala made us absorb in the splendour of nature at varying altitude. We settled ourselves at 1700mts. Bird sighting was moderate because of the change in the climate. We managed to click the exceptional moments of our sightings with Grey-cheeked Warbler, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Sultan Tit

Yongkala is home to, Grey-chinned Minivet, Oriental Magpie RobinRed-faced Liocichla, Rufous-fronted Tit, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Streaked Spiderhunter Striated Bulbul, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Golden Babbler, Golden-throated BarbetGreat Barbet, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, and Orange-bellied Leafbird.

On the way back to Bumthang from Yongtala, we utilized our time to catch hold of birds which we could not sight while coming here. This phase of the tour was perhaps a very relaxed birding session.

While heading towards Paro from Bhumthang, we captured multiple shots of yellow-rumped honeyguide with the help of our guide. This was the last day of our bird photography tour and we could not miss anything of our targeted bird.

End of the Tour…

By the end of the tour, we were mesmerized with the way Mother Earth had painted and sculpted these birds. The combination of colours was beyond our imagination. We were mind blown with the variety of birds to sight them in their natural habitat. Birding in the unexplored forests of Bhutan offers us a chance to watch rarest birds in their natural habitat.

This is where photography introduces us to the elements of nature, lets us be with it forever. A small group of photographic enthusiasts in the tour allowed us for a one on one interaction and learning the best practices gathering bird photographs of a lifetime.