Black-Necked Crane Festival

Duration : 16 nights / 17 days
Season : November
Group Size : 10 Pax + 1 Local birding guide
Numbers of species likely see on this tour : 200 – 250
Accommodation : Comfortable hotel and luxury camping.
Climate : Most of the time, sunny with blue skies, albeit a bit cold in the
morning and evening.
Birds: Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, White-bellied Heron, Black-necked Crane, Ward’s Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, and a few species of Wren Babblers.
Mammals: Golden Langur, Capped Langur, Common Langur, Goral, Golden-throated Martin, and Himalayan Giant Squirrel.
Other Attractions: Bhutanese culture; visits to ancient dzongs (fortresses) and monasteries; attending the Black-Necked Crane festival with the local people.

Day 1: Paro

Arrive at Paro International Airport, where you will be received and welcomed by  Your Bhutan Travels representative. Transfer to your hotel to relax and settle in after your journey. In the afternoon, visit the Paro Rimpong Dzong (fortress), and in theevening, partake in some birding along the Paro river, searching for one of the biggest target birds (Ibisbill). We may also see other birds, such as the River Lapwing, theBlack-tailed Crake, and the White-collared Blackbird.

Day 2: Paro – Thimphu 1hr

Very early in the morning, drive to the cool Alpine meadow at the Chelila pass (3890m). This is the highest pass on the motorable road. Here, we should be rewarded with sightings of three different species of Pheasants — colorful Himalayan Monals, flocks of Blood Pheasants, and Kalij Pheasants. Besides these, we will also see other birds, such as Rose Finches, Grosbeaks, and Laughing Thrushes. Drive back to Paro for lunch. After lunch, hike to the Tiger’s Nest (Takshang), probably the most famous 17th century monastery in Bhutan. In the evening, drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The
drive will take about an hour and a half.

Day 3: Thimphu Halt

In the morning, drive towards the north of Thimphu for about 45 minutes, and then hike to the Cheri monastery. During the hike, we may see the following birds: Spotted Laughing Thrushes, Chestnut–crowned Laughing Thrushes, White-throated Laughing  Thrushes, Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, Brown Dippers, and White-collared Blackbirds. We should also see the Goral (mountain goat) around the monastery. Drive back to
Thimphu for lunch. Afterwards, do some sightseeing in Thimphu, visiting the Textile Museum, post office, and Trashichho Dzong. In the evening, do some birding at the sewage pond, looking for ducks and shore birds.


Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha (3hrs)

In the early morning, drive to Punakha over the Dorchula pass (3150m). Our day starts from this pass with the breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayan range. The mixed forest of hemlock, fir, oak, and rhododendron here is good habitat for many bird species, including: Satyr Tragopans (the bird that draws many birders to the Himalayas), Firetailed Myzornis, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Rufous-breasted Bush Robins, Blackeared Shrike Babblers, and Yellow-billed Blue Magpies. Later, we descend to the Punakha valley, stopping at Lobesa for lunch. After lunch, enjoy birding along the Pho chu valley, looking for one of the main target birds — the White-bellied Heron. Other birds likely to be seen include Ibisbills, Kingfishers, ducks, and other shorebirds.


Day 5: Punakha Halt

Today, we spend the full day birding inside the Jigme Dorji National Park. Here, we have the potential to see: Red–headed Trogons, Cute Slaty-bellied Tesias, Small
Niltavas, Black-chinned Yuhinas, a trio of Forktails, several Wren Babblers, Woodpeckers, and with luck, Pallas’s Fish Eagles and White-bellied Herons. Later in
the evening, visit Punakha’s Punthang Dechen Phodrang (the name means “Palace of Great Bliss”), which stands on the strip of land where two rivers meet (Pho chu and Mo chu). The Punakha Dzong has special significance in Bhutan history as the place where Bhutan’s first king, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned in 1907. It is also the winter residence for the Je Khenpo (spiritual leader) and the entire Central Monk Body.


Day 6: Punakha – Phobjikha (3hrs)

Early in the morning, we will start driving to the Phobjikha valley (4 hours), and there will be many birding stop on the way. We will be looking for Ward’s Trogons, Yellow-rumped Honeyguides, and other flocks. Before reaching the Pelela pass, we’ll take the side road to the Phobjikha Valley to see the Black-necked Cranes. In the evening, visit the Crane Information Center to watch the cranes and to get more information on these beautiful and endangered creatures.


Day 7: Phobjikha (Crane Festival)

After breakfast, drive to the Gangtey Gompa (monastery) to attend the Black-necked Crane Festival. Return to the campsite for lunch. After lunch, hike along the nature trail, which runs through the blue pine forest and a small settlement. Some of the birds you may see on the hike are Spotted Nutcrackers, Grey-crested Tits, Hen Harriers, and Black-necked Cranes. Visit a traditional farmhouse to see the comings and goings of rural Bhutanese life.


Day 8: Phobjikha – Trongsa (5hrs)

After an early breakfast, we drive to the Pelela pass (4000m). Spend the morning hours birding along the old road at Pelela for the high-altitude species such as Spotted Laughing Thrushes, Himalayan Griffons, Brown Parrotbills, Finches, and Bush Warblers. Continue the drive towards Trongsa. In the afternoon, visit the impressive Trongsa dzong, which is the ancestral home of the Royal family of Bhutan. The first king, before becoming the King of Bhutan, was the Governor (Penelop) of this dzong. Even now, it is tradition that any future King of Bhutan must first serve as Governor of Trongsa before the coronation (a form of governance training).


Day 9: Trongsa – Shemgang (6hrs)

Today on our drive to Shemgang, we will make a number of stops at several forested valleys along the way, where we may see the following birds: Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers, White-browed Scimitar Babblers, Steak-breasted Scimitar Babblers, Greybellied Tesias, Crested Buntings, Long-tailed Shrikes, Prinias, Rufous Woodpeckers, Common Green Magpies, Rufous-bellied Eagles, Mountain Hawk Eagles, Common Kestrels, and Minivets. This is also our best chance for sighting Golden Langurs, leaf monkeys endemic to Bhutan.

Day 10: Shemgang Halt

Today, we’ll explore the entire stretch of the Shemgang–Tingtibe road. We drop in elevation as we head towards Tingtibe, so we will target the low-elevation birds,
including: Great and Rufous-necked Hornbills, Green Pigeons, Cutias, White-browed Shrike Babblers, Minlas, White-tailed Nuthatches, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches, and a whole host of Cool Laughing Thrushes, such as Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-chinned,Blue-winged, and Grey-sided Laughing Thrushes. Our main target bird for the day will be the Beautiful Nuthatch.


Day 11: Shemgang – Bumthang (7hrs)

Today, we have a long drive to Bumthang going over the Yongtola pass (3450m). The Yongtola pass is a good spot for seeing: Bush Warblers, Brown Parrotbills, Eurasian Treecreepers, Gold-naped Finches, and Red-headed Bullfinches.


Day 12: Bumthang – Sengor (5hrs)

In the morning, we drive from Bumthang to Sengor going over the Thrumshingla pass (3800m). Thrumshingla is the prime habitat for Blood Pheasants, and it also holds other high-altitude species, such as Snow Pigeons, Orange-flanked Bush Robins, Spotted Nutcrackers, Red-billed Choughs, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Greats Parrotbills, Stripethroated Yuhinas, Grey-crested and Coals Tits, and White-browed Fulvatas. Later in the evening, we will be birding around Sengor looking for Satyr Tragopans. Sengor is known as a hotspot for Satyr Tragopans.


Day 13: Sengor – Namling – Yongkala (3hrs)

Today, we will hit Bhutan’s wet subtropical forest, which is one of the finest birding areas in the Himalayas. For the next day, we will be birding in the lush forested valley, searching for Short Wings, Bar-winged Wren Babblers, Black-headed Shrike Babblers,  Ward’s Trogons, Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, Yellow-rumped Honeyguides, Barbets, Golden Bush Robins, Chestnut-breasted Partridges, and Hill Partridges.


Day 14: Yongkala – Limithangs Road

We spend the entire day birding near the upper and lower Limithang road. In this area, we may see the following birds: Wedge-billed Wren Babblers, Rufous-throated Wren Babblers, Spotted Wren Babblers, Rufous-necked Hornbills, Coral-billed Scimitar Babblers, Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, flocks of Parrotbills, Golden-breasted Fulvettas, Scarlet Finches, and many more.


Day 15: Yongkaa – Trongsa (7hrs)

Now, we will be re-tracing our way back, so basically, we will be once again looking and listening for the flocks. We will also be looking for any species that we missed.


Day 16: Trongsa – Paro (8hrs)

Today’s drive should take us about 8 hours, again retracing our journey. We will stop whenever we run into the flocks.


Day 17: Departure

After breakfast at your hotel, your tour guide and driver, will transfer you to the airport, bidding you farewell and safe journeys until we meet again.