I had been anticipating, and preparing for, this visit to Bhutan for a long time, as I know many of you had been. I was originally scheduled to go in 2020, but we all know how that turned out, and the situation didn't change in the next two years either, as Bhutan only officially opened its borders again in September 2022. So as this tour approached, I was eagerly awaiting confirmation that it was official and was thrilled to finally get word that it was a "GO"!
With all my anticipation and dreaming of this tour, Bhutan had some pretty lofty expectations to live up to, and I'm pleased to say that it met, and even exceeded, most of them. From the large swaths of forest still cloaking the mountainsides, to the distinctive, attractive architecture of the homes and temples (dzongs), to the gentle, friendly people, to the country policy of sterilizing every dog in the country, there is a lot to admire about this charming country. Heck, even those sterilized stray dogs were friendly and welcoming! It wasn't without its warts, though, and we saw a fair amount of habitat destruction due to ongoing road widening efforts, and we had the mountain vistas obscured by smoke from forest fires in the Yongkola region. The balance between progress and preservation is a delicate one, but overall it appears that Bhutan is succeeding at maintaining that balance far better than most countries.
Leaving behind the disorganized chaos that is Delhi, our arrival into Bhutan was like stepping back in time. It was, both literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air to touch down. But as peaceful and calming as our arrival felt, the birding started off hot! It didn't take long for us to track down one of the big targets, the incredible Ibisbill, along the Par Chhu (Chhu=river), along with a pair of curious Black-tailed Crakes, a septet of striking Yellow-billed Blue-Magpies, Brown Dipper, and four species of redstart (Blue-fronted, Plumbeous, White-capped, and Hodgson's)!
Day Two saw us getting our first taste of birding in the higher mountain passes, as well as our only precipitation (snow!) of the entire tour (other than overnight in Thimphu). Chele La was an exciting place, made more so when Megan spotted our first pheasant, a smashing male Himalayan Monal. Darjeeling Woodpecker, Snow Pigeons in the snow, delightful Rufous-vented Tits, a trio of huge Spotted Laughingthrushes, Himalayan Bluetails, all three species of accentors, and a pair of Himalayan White-browed Rosefinches gave us a taste of what the next couple of weeks had in store! The next day, another high pass, Dochula, offered up goodies like Chestnut-headed Tesia, our first of many Rufous Sibia and Mrs Gould's and Green-tailed Sunbirds, and Red-headed Bullfinch before we changed pace and visited the spectacular Punakha dzong with local guide Dorji giving us a fascinating glimpse into Bhutanese and Buddhist culture!
The next two weeks passed by in a flurry of feathers and fantastic birds. At our first of three wonderful camps, Darachu, we enjoyed a virtual frenzy of mixed flock activity, giving us our first shrike-babblers, yuhinas, barwings, fulvettas, and niltavas, and many more. In the lowlands and foothills along the Indian border we added standouts such as Red-headed Trogon, impressive Great and Rufous-necked hornbills, colorful, comical Long-tailed Broadbills, and the more subtle beauty of Silver-breasted Broadbill. stunning Sultan Tits, the rarely seen Collared Treepie, gorgeous Silver-eared Mesia and Red-faced Liocichla, the very local Rufous-vented Laughingthrush and Spotted and Slaty-backed forktails. Then on up to the Yongkola, where despite the mess from the roadworks, birds were still in abundance, and highlights included wonderful Himalayan Cutias, a much-wanted Beautiful Nuthatch (after an epic search!), beautiful male Gold-naped and Scarlet finches, and great looks at the skulking, monotypic Spotted Elachura, among so many more.
We finished off the trip birding over a series of high mountain passes, where spring had most definitely sprung, with many recent arrivals setting up territories, and birdsong filling the air. There were so many highlights here, from that first pair of brilliant Blood Pheasants spotted by our awesome driver Nado, and the equally stunning Satyr Tragopan scurrying off the roadside (plus lots of monals!) to much more subdued Gray-sided and Hume's bush-warblers belting out their incredible songs. And in between, such gems as Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, handsome Red-tailed and Chestnut-tailed minlas, the tiny Pygmy Cupwing, Fire-tailed Sunbird and plenty of tits, yuhinas, flycatchers and leaf-warblers (16 species!). There was rarely a dull moment, which is just how I like it!
As wonderful as the birding was, the people involved were pretty awesome too. Not only the aforementioned Dorji and Nado, who both excelled at their jobs, but also the rest of our indefatigable crew that cooked us meal after meal after meal, dug dozens of pits for our latrine tents, and ensured that our camping experience was as pleasant and comfortable as any hotel stay. That we had a fantastic group to share all these wonderful experiences made the trip all that much more enjoyable. It was pretty awesome getting the chance to work with Megan, again, too! Both of us want to say thank you for joining us this year in the true Magic Kingdom (sorry Disneyland). We hope it was well worth the wait! And we both hope to see you all on another tour soon!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
LESSER WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna javanica)
The Gelephu area, particularly the sewage ponds, seem to be the only regular site for this species in Bhutan, and we saw roughly 50 of them there.
RUDDY SHELDUCK (Tadorna ferruginea) [b]
A winter visitor and passage migrant, this handsome large duck was present in good numbers along the Puna Tsang Chhu at the beginning of the tour, when we counted roughly 170 of them resting on the gravel bars. By tour's end, most had moved on, and only a single bird remained.
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna) [b]
Not at all common here, but we had a lone bird amongst the large group of Ruddy Shelducks along the Puna Tsang Chhu.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata) [b]
Two females were in a mixed group of ducks floating on the Puna Tsang Chhu.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera) [b]
Half a dozen were in the same mixed flock as the above species.
EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope) [b]
The mixed group of ducks on the Puna Tsang Chhu was made up mainly of this species with about 30 of them. There were still about a dozen present at tour's end. We also had a couple of pairs along the Par Chhu as we worked our way towards Thimphu.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) [b]
Three female-plumaged birds were among the other ducks on the Puna Tsang Chhu.
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (Netta rufina) [b]
Two pairs among the other ducks on the Puna Tsang Chhu. The two males were in handsome breeding plumage
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula) [b]
Three birds, two males and a female, in the same mixed flock of ducks with the above 5 species.
HILL PARTRIDGE (Arborophila torqueola) [*]
Heard only several times at Darachu camp and in the Yongkola area.
CHESTNUT-BREASTED PARTRIDGE (Arborophila mandellii) [*]
Heard in the Nganglam area.
RUFOUS-THROATED PARTRIDGE (Arborophila rufogularis)
Heard fairly regularly; John and I also had a quick look at a pair of birds scuttling up a scrubby hillside in the Nganglam region.
BLOOD PHEASANT (Ithaginis cruentus)
Nado, our driver, had dropped us off to bird on Thrumsing La, then driven a short way ahead to park in a safe spot. Almost immediately, he called Dorji to tell him he'd spotted a pair of these pheasants in the gully he'd parked near. We hurried up the road and were thrilled to get fantastic looks as the birds fed warily in the open. Later the same day, Nado spotted another pair in another draw and we enjoyed more great views from the comfort of the bus. These gorgeous birds were voted bird of the trip, thanks in part to first place votes from both Claire and Terry.
SATYR TRAGOPAN (Tragopan satyra)
The road expansion work in the Sengor area seems to have forced these birds away from the roadsides, though we did hear several in the area. Since we'd missed them there, Nado took us on a long back road from Ura to Jakar. The detour got us into our hotel pretty late, but it paid off when we rounded a bend to see a smashing male tragopan on the verge of the road. It didn't stick around long, but it was enough for everyone to get a quick look, at least. It was an especially sweet sighting for Marshall, as it counted as the 5000th species on his life list!
HIMALAYAN MONAL (Lophophorus impejanus)
Megan got our pheasant sightings off to a strong start by spotting a shimmering male feeding in an open meadow on Chele La. Though it wasn't close, the scope views were incredible! It was nearly 2 weeks later before we saw another, but we then had 5 more, all males over the last 3 days, including 4 on our final morning of birding on Pele La! Diane chose this as her favorite bird of the trip.
KALIJ PHEASANT (Lophura leucomelanos)
Altogether we saw nearly a dozen of these pheasants, mainly in ones and twos on the roadsides. We kicked things off with a pair that Nado spotted as we drove up the pass at Dochu La, the male pausing in the open to perform a brief drumming display before scurrying up the gully after his mate.
GRAY PEACOCK-PHEASANT (Polyplectron bicalcaratum) [*]
Heard a few times in lower elevation forests near the Indian border, at Royal Manas NP and in the Nganglam region.
RED JUNGLEFOWL (Gallus gallus)
Our only sighting was of a handsome cock that scuttled up the embankment ahead of the bus in front of the botanical gardens near Tingtibi camp.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE (Podiceps cristatus) [b]
At least one bird on the Puna Tsang Chhu (what appeared to be a group of 3 more were seen from the bus but we didn't stop to verify). At the end of the tour, we saw another in the exact same spot as the first, perhaps the same bird?
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
Seen most days of the tour.
SNOW PIGEON (Columba leuconota)
What better way to see Snow Pigeons that feeding in the snow? And that's exactly how we saw our only ones-- a flock of 8 birds foraging in the snow below the road at the summit of Chele La.
ORIENTAL TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia orientalis)
The first species of bird we saw upon arriving in Bhutan, with one perched just outside the airport at Paro. We went on to see many more, only missing this species on a single day as we traveled from Tingtibi camp to Panbang.
SPOTTED DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis)
Small numbers scattered across a bunch of days, primarily in areas along the southern border with India.
ASIAN EMERALD DOVE (Chalcophaps indica) [*]
Heard on both days we birded along the road into Royal Manas NP.
PIN-TAILED GREEN-PIGEON (Treron apicauda)
A general lack of fruiting trees meant that frugivorus pigeons were scarce overall, but we did spot a single flock of 8 of these distinctively-shaped pigeons flying past along the road north from Nganglam.
GREEN IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula aenea)
Three or four of these large pigeons flew by as we birded the sewage ponds at Gelephu.
MOUNTAIN IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula badia)
Small numbers in the Darachu camp area and around Nganglam.
LESSER COUCAL (Centropus bengalensis)
We scoped a calling bird at the Gelephu sewage ponds, our only record for the tour.
GREEN-BILLED MALKOHA (Phaenicophaeus tristis)
Just three sightings of this skulking cuckoo, with two in the Gelephu area (at the sewage ponds and above the town en route to Tingtibi) and a single teed up along the road near the hydroelectric dam just outside of Gyelpozhing.
CHESTNUT-WINGED CUCKOO (Clamator coromandus)
I spotted this lovely cuckoo from the bus as we worked our way along the road above Tingtibi, and we quickly hopped out and tried to nail it down. It flew over our heads several times, but immediately buried itself in the dense canopy each time it lit. Eventually, though, it flew across a ravine and landed, only partially obscured, on the other side, and we were able to get some decent scope studies of it, as it sat there singing for a long time.
ASIAN KOEL (Eudynamys scolopaceus)
We had just two records of this large cuckoo, both of calling males. The first one was right in the courtyard of the magnificent Punakha dzong, the second at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
BANDED BAY CUCKOO (Cacomantis sonneratii) [*]
We heard just a single one as we birded our way north out of Nganglam. Coincidentally, it was at the very same place and time as we heard our only Indian Cuckoo. The calls of the two are very similar 4-note songs, but on very different pitches. This species' call is much higher and shriller.
PLAINTIVE CUCKOO (Cacomantis merulinus) [*]
A singing bird outside of our Panbang hotel stayed out of sight.
SQUARE-TAILED DRONGO-CUCKOO (Surniculus lugubris)
Our only record was of a singing bird that Marshall managed to pick out in a distant tree. Scopes were definitely helpful. Megan came up with a super mnemonic for the bird's song--"I'm a drongo-cuckoo"-- which fit's this bird's song perfectly.
LARGE HAWK-CUCKOO (Hierococcyx sparverioides)
We heard our first at Darachu camp, where the full moon kept one singing loudly above camp the entire night! From that day onward, we heard them daily, but for all we heard, the birds seemed virtually invisible. We ultimately did see a couple, and we managed to scope one singing bird at our picnic breakfast site near Yongkola.
INDIAN CUCKOO (Cuculus micropterus) [*]
Our only record was the one we heard calling at the same spot as our lone Banded Bay Cuckoo. We did have a silent cuckoo at Royal Manas NP that could well have been this species, though it could also have been any of the three other very similar-looking Cuculus cuckoos that occur here.
HIMALAYAN CUCKOO (Cuculus saturatus)
The common Cuculus cuckoo here. We spotted our first shortly after we arrived at Darachu camp, then went on to record them (mainly just by voice) almost daily through the rest of the tour.
COMMON CUCKOO (Cuculus canorus)
The cuckoo clock call of this species was heard a few times around the Yongkola area as well as at Pele La, but we never had one close enough to track down.
GRAY NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus jotaka)
Heard at all three of our campsites, as well as at several of our hotels. Our only sighting was early in the morning just outside of our hotel at Punakha, where one was singing from the top of a tree just above the courtyard.
HIMALAYAN SWIFTLET (Aerodramus brevirostris)
There were surprisingly few swifts seen this tour, and we only recorded this small species on a couple of days: en route from Thimphu to Punakha, and at Jainala.
BLYTH'S SWIFT (Apus leuconyx)
The majority of our sightings came in the from Yongkola to Sengor, including a handful of birds that were flying into a probably nest site in a crevasse in the rock face above the road near Sengor camp. This species, part of the 4 way split of the former Fork-tailed or Pacific Swift, breeds in the Himalayas and winters in southern India.
HOUSE SWIFT (Apus nipalensis)
We had a single bird that came in to skim the surface of one of the sewage ponds at Gelephu late in the afternoon.
ASIAN PALM-SWIFT (Cypsiurus balasiensis)
A summer breeding visitor to the lowlands in the south. We saw a handful in the Gelephu region.
WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
We spotted a bird slinking along the back edge of one of the sewage ponds at Gelephu almost as soon as we arrived, much to the chagrin of a photographer that was already there, as it seems he'd been hoping to see one for 45 minutes before we showed up! We had a second bird there a bit later, and these were the only ones for the trip.
BLACK-TAILED CRAKE (Zapornia bicolor)
Fantastic looks at our only ones, a pair in small wetland area near the river near Paro on our very first morning in Bhutan.
BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus) [b]
Our record of a single bird on the far side of the Puna Tsang Chhu seems to be the first of a spate of records of what seems likely to have been the same bird. Apart from these records, there are just a handful of other Ebird records in the country, the vast majority of which are from the same area near Punakha.
IBISBILL (Ibidorhyncha struthersii)
Being in a monotypic family, the Ibisbill is always among the most-wanted birds for this trip, and we took care of things early, getting our first one along the Par Chhu near Paro within hours of arriving in Bhutan! We had another pair further along the river the following day. Only John put this species at the top of his list. Recency bias probably kept this bird from placing higher in the voting.
RIVER LAPWING (Vanellus duvaucelii)
These attractive lapwings were quite numerous and conspicuous along the rivers from Paro to the Punakha region, much less so elsewhere, though we did have a lone bird at the Gelephu sewage ponds and another along the river at Royal Manas NP.
RED-WATTLED LAPWING (Vanellus indicus)
A single was seen along the Po Chhu, and a trio at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius dubius) [b]
A small number were on the gravel bar on the Puna Tsang Chhu on both of our visits.
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta) [b]
Nice spotting by David to pick out a pair of these on the gravel bar along the Puna Tsang Chhu. They were very cryptic and hard to see, and we very nearly overlooked them! A rare species in Bhutan, and there are very few Ebird records of them in the country, with most of those coming from this same site (though no accepted ones from this year). Megan's video will likely need to be uploaded to Ebird before our sighting is accepted.
PIN-TAILED SNIPE (Gallinago stenura) [b]
One, possibly two, were at the Gelephu sewage ponds, though we weren't able to determine if it was this species or the very similar Common Snipe (equally as likely here) until we flushed it as we were about to leave, and saw that it lacked the distinct white trailing edge to the wings that a Common Snipe would have shown.
COMMON SANDPIPER (Actitis hypoleucos) [b]
Small numbers along the Par Chhu and Puna Tsang Chhu, with a single at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
GREEN SANDPIPER (Tringa ochropus) [b]
A couple of birds were feeding among the Ruddy Shelducks on the Puna Tsang Chhu, and 8 were lounging around the sewage ponds at Gelephu.
COMMON GREENSHANK (Tringa nebularia) [b]
A single bird was with the Green Sandpipers at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
WOOD SANDPIPER (Tringa glareola) [b]
Seen by everyone except me, I think, along the Puna Tsang Chhu. This is a fairly rare migrant in the country, though it seems likely that it is regular in small numbers, but under-recorded as most areas in the country are pretty under-birded.
PALLAS'S GULL (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus) [b]
A gorgeous breeding-plumaged adult caused quite a stir as it flew past our picnic breakfast spot on the banks of the Po Chhu, particularly with a pair of River Lapwings that were extremely upset by its presence, chasing the gull upriver on the initial pass, then again downstream as it made its return.
ASIAN OPENBILL (Anastomus oscitans)
Megan spotted a quartet of these perched in a distant tree on the approach road to the Gelephu sewage ponds. Nearly all of the few Ebird records of openbills for Bhutan come from Gelephu, though they are probably more regular here than the paucity of records seems to suggest.
LITTLE CORMORANT (Microcarbo niger)
A couple of birds at the Gelephu sewage ponds and a single along a river near town were the only ones for the trip.
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Just a couple in the Punakha region, with the first seen flying towards us as we crossed the bridge to the Punakha dzong.
GRAY HERON (Ardea cinerea) [b]
When we spotted our first along the Puna Tsang Chhu, in the area where the most recent records of the rare White-bellied Heron had come from, we had brief hopes of that species. Those hopes were soon dashed when we looked through the scope and realized it was this passage migrant, and it was one of 6 that were hanging out together on the gravel bar. On our return visit at tour's end, there were still 2, though whether they were lingerers from the earlier group is anyone's guess.
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
Just a single bird at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
Several seen along the road as we approached Gelephu, and a single bird at the sewage ponds.
INDIAN POND-HERON (Ardeola grayii)
Only seen around Gelephu, including a trio at the sewage ponds. None of the birds appeared to be in full breeding plumage.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A lovely adult flew past late in the afternoon at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
ORIENTAL HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
Single birds were seen on 6 days, including 4 consecutive days in the lower elevations along the southern border. Both light and dark morph individuals were recorded.
HIMALAYAN GRIFFON (Gyps himalayensis)
These huge vultures were seen only in the Pele La region, including a high count of a dozen birds circling overhead on our final morning of birding along the old road.
CRESTED SERPENT-EAGLE (Spilornis cheela)
Not uncommon, and we saw about 8 of these distinctive raptors altogether. Perhaps the most memorable was one perched near the roadside as we headed north from Nganglam. Not so much for the view (which was good) as for the other birds we found during that stop, including Collared Treepie!
CHANGEABLE HAWK-EAGLE (Nisaetus cirrhatus)
A large eagle flying up the Puna Tsang Chhu valley next to the bus had us stumped at first, but we eventually landed on this species as the only thing that really fit. We had another bird near the end of the trip that also looked good for this species. There are just a handful of Ebird records for this species in the country, though I wonder if it may just be under-recorded.
MOUNTAIN HAWK-EAGLE (Nisaetus nipalensis)
About 5 in total, with especially good scope views of a perched bird above the Tsamang Road.
RUFOUS-BELLIED EAGLE (Lophotriorchis kienerii)
We had just a single sighting, but it was a good one, as a lovely adult came soaring in low overhead at Jainala.
BLACK EAGLE (Ictinaetus malaiensis)
Probably the most commonly seen raptor, mostly seen from the bus during the drives between birding stops. Dorji spotted our first, which was also arguably our best. That bird was hunting low over the valley floor along the Par Chhu, coming especially close as we we were enjoying looks at a Wallcreeper. It looked like it was about to land on the cliff just above our heads, but ultimately it continued on its way, but the looks we had were incredible!
BOOTED EAGLE (Hieraaetus pennatus) [b]
A fairly distant raptor circling above our breakfast spot at Yongkola might have remained unidentified, but both Megan and I were able to get our scopes on it, and noted the distinctive white "headlights" on the shoulder. Luckily we'd had better views of these in India on our pre-trip excursion.
HEN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus) [b]
Formerly considered conspecific with our Northern Harrier, but now treated as a full species. Our first was a female that I spotted from the bus in the Par Chhu valley, but it wasn't seen by all as Megan and several other folks were already behind the bus scoping something else, and weren't aware of the sighting. Fortunately for all, we had another bird on our final morning, a handsome male that glided by overhead on Pele La.
BESRA (Accipiter virgatus)
A pair of these circled over our camp at Darachu, beautifully illustrating the size differences between the sexes. We had a couple of other brief sightings towards the end of the trip, but none that were as good as that first one.
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus)
A single bird on each of our first two days in the Paro region were the only ones for most folks, though there was also one that flew over our picnic lunch spot at Nganglam that perhaps only I saw.
PALLAS'S FISH-EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucoryphus)
On our very last look over the Puna Tsang Chhu, in one last desperate attempt to find a White-bellied Heron, we came up empty on the heron, but Nado did spot one of these endangered eagles, and drew my attention to it. Folks had a hard time hearing what I was yelling over the strong winds that afternoon, but eventually everyone did manage to get on the correct bird before it flew off upriver. This was our final new species of the tour.
HIMALAYAN BUZZARD (Buteo refectus) [b]
Our only one was seen from the bus on our first day in the country, but only by folks on the right side of the bus, I believe.
MOUNTAIN SCOPS-OWL (Otus spilocephalus) [*]
One was calling behind our hotel in Nganglam, but we were unable to get close enough to call it in. Another was heard at Sengor camp.
ASIAN BARRED OWLET (Glaucidium cuculoides)
I spotted one perched next to the road as we drove from Darachu camp down to Gelephu, and we all quickly jumped off the bus for a look. The owl didn't really cooperate all that well however, and mostly flew back and forth between well-hidden perches, though we all at least got to see it fly by a couple of times. We also heard these at a number of other sites.
COLLARED OWLET (Taenioptynx brodiei)
Heard a number of times, which is pretty usual for this tour, but we also got some superb looks at a calling bird along the entrance road to Royal Manas NP on our first afternoon's visit.
BROWN WOOD-OWL (Strix leptogrammica) [*]
A pair began calling near our camp at Darachu at about 2:30 in the morning and continued for a good half hour or so.
HIMALAYAN OWL (Strix nivicolum) [*]
One was calling from the ridge above Sengor camp just before dawn, but wouldn't come down to see us. Another was heard from our hotel in the Phobjikha valley.
RED-HEADED TROGON (Harpactes erythrocephalus)
We saw about half a dozen of these lovely trogons, though most of our sightings were somewhat fleeting. I think our best views were of a pair above Nganglam.
EURASIAN HOOPOE (Upupa epops)
Several birds were seen at each end of the tour, beginning with some excellent looks as three birds in the Par Chhu valley as we were watching the Wallcreeper do its thing. We also had one right out in front of the Punakha dzong.
GREAT HORNBILL (Buceros bicornis)
This spectacular bird was the most numerous of the hornbills this trip, thanks mainly to a flock of 20 birds that flew across the river at Tingtibi one after the other, and a baker's dozen the following day at Royal Manas NP.
RUFOUS-NECKED HORNBILL (Aceros nipalensis)
Dorji spotted the first one for us, but it kept moving away and the looks left a lot to be desired. But once we got to the Yongkola region we started seeing more, and there were at least a couple of pairs that posed beautifully. Apparently those striking dark lines on their beaks increase in number as they get older, up to a maximum of about seven.
WREATHED HORNBILL (Rhyticeros undulatus)
Our only ones were a trio flying along at dawn as we stopped at the checkpoint on our way out of Gelephu.
COMMON KINGFISHER (Alcedo atthis)
Not a very fitting name here, as this was the least common of the kingfishers we saw, with just a single bird that we scoped as it perched on a large rock along the Puna Tsang Chhu.
WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER (Halcyon smyrnensis)
The most numerous of the three kingfishers, seen pretty regularly throughout the trip.
CRESTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle lugubris)
Just after we'd enjoyed the Common Kingfisher, Doreen made a comment about how we still needed a good look at a Crested. No sooner were the words out of her mouth when one flew right along the river in front of us! We saw a few more after that, but all of them seemed reluctant to sit out in the open once we'd spotted them.
BLUE-BEARDED BEE-EATER (Nyctyornis athertoni)
One at the start of the Tsamang Road was only seen by a couple of us, so we were pleased to find a much more cooperative pair further down the same road, viewed nicely from the bus.
CHESTNUT-HEADED BEE-EATER (Merops leschenaulti)
A handful of birds in the lowlands in the southern border region, with especially nice views of a couple along the river at Royal Manas NP.
INDOCHINESE ROLLER (Coracias affinis)
Quite a few of these were seen at Royal Manas, with a couple also along the road near Gelephu. This species was split from Indian Roller a few years back, and while it seems possible that Indian Roller also occurs in Bhutan, this seems to be the regularly occurring species.
BLUE-EARED BARBET (Psilopogon duvaucelii) [*]
One was heard on consecutive days along the entrance road to Royal Manas NP, but we were unable to track it down.
GREAT BARBET (Psilopogon virens)
It seemed like there weren't many places we stopped where we didn't hear the loud, distinctive calls of these barbets! Very common, and we had numerous great looks.
GOLDEN-THROATED BARBET (Psilopogon franklinii)
Apart from a few records en route between Darachu camp and Gelephu, all of our sightings of this montane species came from the Yongkola region, where they were fairly common, though not quite as numerous as the Great Barbets.
BLUE-THROATED BARBET (Psilopogon asiaticus)
For a one week period in the southern lowland region, this was a pretty numerous species that we recorded daily, with lots of great sightings. After that week, we had no further records.
YELLOW-RUMPED HONEYGUIDE (Indicator xanthonotus)
Though we saw quite a few of the Giant Rock Bee nests that these birds feed on regularly, our only sighting was of an uncooperative bird buried in some dense roadside vegetation near Darachu Camp, far from any rock bee nests.
SPECKLED PICULET (Picumnus innominatus)
Megan found one of these tiny woodpeckers working in a clump of bamboo by the roadside on our way up to Tingtibi at the same time as a pair of Sultan Tits appeared on the other side of the road. The correct behavior was to get on the piculet, as it turned out to be our only one of the tour, while the tits made several other appearances.
GRAY-CAPPED PYGMY WOODPECKER (Yungipicus canicapillus)
Not quite piculet-small, but still a pretty tiny woodpecker. We had a few sightings in the Gelephu to Nganglam stretch.
RUFOUS-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos hyperythrus)
Nice spotting by Ann to find us our first, a fairly distant female in a dead tree at Jainala. The scopes were put to good use here, giving us great views as the bird stayed in one place for a good period of time. We had two other nice looks at these beauties, first at Pele La, then later the same day in the Nubding area as we tried in vain to find a Ward's Trogon.
FULVOUS-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos macei)
A roadside stop to track down some White-rumped Munias we'd spotted from the bus en route to Panbang led us to finding our first of these birds. We had a few more sightings in the Nganglam region and one at Gyelpozhing, but were unable to turn any of them into the very similar, but much more local (in Bhutan) Stripe-breasted Woodpecker.
DARJEELING WOODPECKER (Dendrocopos darjellensis)
This handsome Himalayan species only showed up a few times, but even our first one would have sufficed! That bird, high up at Chele La, showed beautifully, perching in a close, leafless tree at eye level for several glorious minutes. That bird surely prompted Doreen to choose it as her favorite bird of the tour, though the three others at Dochu La and Pele La weren't bad, either!
CRIMSON-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Dryobates cathpharius)
Our only sighting was of a lone bird at Jainala, though despite the good looks, the crimson on the breast was not all that distinct.
BAY WOODPECKER (Blythipicus pyrrhotis)
As is typical with this elusive species, most of our records were audio rather visual. We did have a lone sighting of a bird that flew overhead from one hidden perch to another as we traveled north of Nganglam, which is also pretty typical for a Bay Woodpecker sighting.
RUFOUS WOODPECKER (Micropternus brachyurus)
Having missed this species on all of my trips to Thailand, I was pleased to finally see them. Our first turned up right at Tingtibi camp shortly after we'd emerged from our tents, with other sightings at Royal Manas NP and north of Nganglam.
LESSER YELLOWNAPE (Picus chlorolophus)
The only pointy-headed woodpecker we saw this trip (other than an unidentified flameback near Gelephu). Like the above species, this one also first turned up early in the morning at Tingtibi Camp. We saw another later the same day, and one more near Nganglam.
GRAY-HEADED WOODPECKER (Picus canus)
An incessantly calling bird at our breakfast spot above Gelephu finally revealed itself to be this species, though it wasn't seen well by everyone. Luckily we had a couple of other sightings (plus a few more vocal records) over the next few days, so that everyone saw it well in the end. This widespread woodpecker has multiple subspecies in three different groups; the one here is subspecies hessei, part of the Black-naped grouping.
COLLARED FALCONET (Microhierax caerulescens)
We had an amazing encounter with a pair of these tiny falcons at our picnic lunch spot on our way down to Panbang. David was the first to notice them when one of the pair swooped low in front of him and grabbed one of the many lovely butterflies fluttering around a wet area on the roadside before returning to its perch above the bathrooms to devour it. It then returned for another butterfly, and another, totally disregarding all of us standing a few feet away! Not a bird we expect every trip, so this sighting was exceptional.
EURASIAN KESTREL (Falco tinnunculus)
Single birds on four days included one at Chele La and another at the Punakha dzong. The subspecies here is the nominate, which is the very same subspecies as is found in Europe and the UK.
ORIENTAL HOBBY (Falco severus)
We spotted this one from the bus as we drove through the impressive narrow canyon en route from Nganglam to Yongkola, though we were initially unsure which species it was. Fortunately the bird landed atop a pine on the high cliff above the road. A second bird joined it there, and they copulated briefly before it flew off, but the first bird remained, and we were able to get decent scope views, which helped to eliminate the dark resident form of Peregrine Falcon from contention.
ALEXANDRINE PARAKEET (Psittacula eupatria)
At least three of these large-billed parakeets, separable from the similar (and more numerous) Rose-ringed Parakeet by the maroon shoulder patch (very noticeable in flight), flew over the Gelephu sewage ponds in the late afternoon.
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri)
A dozen or more flying over the Gelephu sewage ponds en route to their overnight roost.
RED-BREASTED PARAKEET (Psittacula alexandri)
Seen only at Royal Manas NP where 15-20 of them called noisily from the treetops around the park headquarters.
LONG-TAILED BROADBILL (Psarisomus dalhousiae) [N]
We saw our first not far above Gelephu, and a couple in the Yongkola area, but these colorful birds were especially common and easily seen near Nganglam, where several pairs were calling loudly from conspicuous perches, including power lines. Several nests were also seen hanging from some of these power lines, though at least some were possibly old, disused ones.
SILVER-BREASTED BROADBILL (Serilophus lunatus)
When we heard this species calling near our breakfast spot above Gelephu, it took me a moment to recognize it as it wasn't really on my radar for this tour. I believe this was a first record for our Bhutan tour, and a rare lifer for Megan! We wound up with excellent views of a couple of birds perched near the roadside, and counted 5 of them when they flew across the road and disappeared. The birds here are in the subspecies rubropygius, the lone subspecies in the Gray-browed group.
GRAY-CHINNED MINIVET (Pericrocotus solaris)
The easiest to identify of the 4 minivets on this tour. We saw about a dozen birds scattered over several sites, though they were most common around the Yongkola area.
SHORT-BILLED MINIVET (Pericrocotus brevirostris) [N]
We also recorded about a dozen of these, with half of them around Yongkola. Our first, however were near the Darachu Camp, where we found a pair in the midst of a large mixed feeding flock, though the minivets stuck around to do some work on a nest in a roadside tree.
LONG-TAILED MINIVET (Pericrocotus ethologus)
A summer breeding visitor to Bhutan, and our relatively early tour dates may be why we encountered so few of these. We saw a pair below our vantage point along the Puna Tsang Chhu as we scanned the river for herons, and then a single bird near Sengor Camp. The pattern of red in the wings is key for separating these, with this species showing a "finger" of red extending down the secondaries, a feature the similar Short-billed lacks.
SCARLET MINIVET (Pericrocotus speciosus)
Easily the most numerous of the minivets (probably also accounting for many of the unidentified red minivets along the way) with roughly 50 of them tallied. From the day we left Gelephu until the end of the tour, we only missed these gorgeous birds on a few days. The isolated patch of red (or yellow) in the secondaries makes this one pretty easy to identify, given a reasonable view.
LARGE CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina macei)
Our only sighting was of a pair that were actively chasing each other back and forth through the tall trees flanking the Gelephu sewage ponds.
BLACK-WINGED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Lalage melaschistos)
Singles and pairs were a regular feature of many feeding flocks between Darachu Camp and Yongkola. A summer breeding visitor to Bhutan, though evidently they arrive a bit earlier than the Long-tailed Minivets!
BLYTH'S SHRIKE-BABBLER (CHESTNUT-WINGED) (Pteruthius aeralatus validirostris) [N]
Note that this should be White-browed Shrike-Babbler, as Blyth's has recently been re-lumped with Himalayan and Dalat shrike-babblers after a brief stint as separate species (and I don't have the latest updates installed in my computer database yet). We saw and heard a few of these, primarily in the Yongkola region, with especially nice looks at our first, a nest-building pair at Jainala.
BLACK-EARED SHRIKE-BABBLER (Pteruthius melanotis)
We had excellent looks at our first one, in a big mixed flock near our camp at Darachu, then less excellent views of our only other ones at Jainala.
WHITE-BELLIED ERPORNIS (Erpornis zantholeuca)
Just a handful of birds between Gelephu and the Nganglam area. As always, they were very active, and it took several sightings before everyone got a reasonable look at these hyper little birds.
BLACK-HOODED ORIOLE (Oriolus xanthornus reubeni)
A couple of these striking orioles showed beautifully around the park headquarters at Royal Manas NP.
MAROON ORIOLE (Oriolus traillii)
Seen mainly in singles or pairs from Gelephu to the Yongkola region (with an outlier pair at Nubding), though we did have one group of half a dozen along the Tsamang Road.
ASHY WOODSWALLOW (Artamus fuscus)
It seems like these birds should be more common than they were on this tour, but the three we saw near Nganglam seems pretty par for the course on this itinerary.
LARGE WOODSHRIKE (Tephrodornis virgatus)
A group of 4 greeted us as we arrived at the Bird View Resort in Panbang, calling loudly from the trees flanking the parking area as soon as we disembarked from the bus. We also saw a pair at Royal Manas NP, and a single bird above Nganglam.
BAR-WINGED FLYCATCHER-SHRIKE (Hemipus picatus)
I think John spotted nearly all of our half a dozen birds scattered over several days between Gelephu and Nganglam.
WHITE-THROATED FANTAIL (Rhipidura albicollis)
I was pleased to see that these lovely birds were fairly common and not too hard to see well, at least much easier than they are in Thailand. We had sightings of fantails almost daily from Darachu Camp through to the Yongkola region.
BLACK DRONGO (Dicrurus macrocercus)
Very similar to the next species, though Black Drongo is much glossier, and generally is found in more open habitats. Our only ones were several birds in the scrubby pastures around the Gelephu sewage ponds.
ASHY DRONGO (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
By far the most numerous drongo recorded, seen on all but three days of the tour. Ashy Drongo is quite a varied species with numerous subspecies spread across 5 different groups, some of which could well be split in the future. Bhutanese birds belong to the race hopwoodi, part of the Blackish subgroup.
BRONZED DRONGO (Dicrurus aeneus)
A very small, very glossy forest drongo, this was the second most recorded species of the tour. Pairs and singles were seen pretty regularly through the middle portion of the tour.
LESSER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO (Dicrurus remifer)
A single bird with a mixed flock between Gelephu and Tingtibi, and a pair above Nganglam were the only ones for the trip.
HAIR-CRESTED DRONGO (Dicrurus hottentottus)
The twisted tail feathers make this one stand out from other drongos, and we saw this well on at least some of our birds, though there weren't many chances. We saw a pair above Tingtibi, and then 4 birds as we headed north from Nganglam and that's it.
GREATER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO (Dicrurus paradiseus)
Just two sightings of single birds. The first at Royal Manas NP was lacking its tail streamers, the second above Nganglam appeared to have untwisted rackets more in line with a Lesser RTD. In both cases, the obvious, bushy pompadour clinched the identification as this species.
BLACK-NAPED MONARCH (Hypothymis azurea)
Just a handful of sightings in the southern lowlands, but the first pair we saw between Gelephu and Tingtibi showed so beautifully that we really didn't need to see any more!
BROWN SHRIKE (Lanius cristatus) [b]
We spotted one from the bus in roadside scrub near Gelephu. It flew off pretty quickly after we stopped, though the stop also produced a few other good sightings. A winter visitor to Bhutan from their breeding areas in Siberia and Mongolia. The nominate race, part of the Brown subgroup, is the one that occurs here.
LONG-TAILED SHRIKE (Lanius schach)
Nearly all of our sightings came on a single day in and around Punakha, though there was a lone roadside bird on the ride from Nganglam to Yongkola. Both this and the next species winter in the lowlands along the southern border, moving into the uplands to breed in the summer. There are several different subgroups of this species; the ones here belong to the subspecies tricolor., part of the tricolor/longicaudatus group.
GRAY-BACKED SHRIKE (Lanius tephronotus)
By far the most common shrike in Bhutan. We saw these nearly daily in small numbers, beginning with our first along the Par Chhu river on our first morning in the Paro Valley.
EURASIAN JAY (Garrulus glandarius) [N]
With about 40 subspecies in 8 different subgroups, this widespread species seems overdue for some splitting. Birds here belong to the race interstinctus, part of the the Himalayan group, and they are rather plain-faced compared to most other forms. We saw a few of these around Dochu La, then saw a few others near Trongsa, including a bird building a nest near the roadside.
YELLOW-BILLED BLUE-MAGPIE (Urocissa flavirostris)
Our sightings of these striking birds bookended the tour, with a few records over the first two days around the Paro region, then none until we arrived at Sengor Camp, after which we saw them daily until tour's end. The ones around Sengor were especially showy, as they foraged in the pasture next to the camp, and posed on nearby fenceposts.
COMMON GREEN-MAGPIE (Cissa chinensis)
I was hoping these gorgeous birds would be easier to see than they are in Thailand, but that wasn't the case. Our first pair near our picnic breakfast spot along the river north of Nganglam were especially elusive, and only a few folks saw them. Luckily a pair we spotted from the bus on our way down from Jainala were somewhat more cooperative, pausing briefly several times as they clung to the trunks of pine trees lining the road. Still, they could have been much friendlier.
RUFOUS TREEPIE (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
A pair in the tall trees around the Gelephu sewage ponds showed nicely, unlike their gaudy green cousins.
GRAY TREEPIE (Dendrocitta formosae)
A very common, and often conspicuous species here, and we saw them nearly daily through the middle portion of the trip.
COLLARED TREEPIE (Dendrocitta frontalis)
A stop for a perched serpent-eagle along the roadside north of Nganglam took a turn for the better when I spotted a pair of these restricted range birds perched in the bamboo nearby. We quickly disembarked as the birds flew across the road and moved up the hillside, but one of them paused in the open for long enough to get a scope look at it. Interestingly, the treepies seemed to be moving with a trio of White-hooded Babblers, another prize from this same stop.
BLACK-RUMPED MAGPIE (Pica bottanensis)
Rather local in Bhutan, but pretty common where they do occur, as we saw in the Ura Valley where 25+ of them were counted foraging in the sheep pastures. This accounted for nearly all of our sightings, though we saw a couple on the drive out of Jakar the next morning.
EURASIAN NUTCRACKER (SOUTHERN) (Nucifraga caryocatactes macella)
Fairly common at all the higher passes, often perching up on prayer flags, or anything, really, that overlooked our picnic spots. Note that the ones here are part of the southern subspecies group.
RED-BILLED CHOUGH (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
A few birds were seen over the first couple of days around Paro, but the vast majority of our sightings all came from the Ura region, with 40-50 tallied in the Ura Valley, and many more seen as we drove onward from there to Jakar. Fittingly the subspecies here is himalayanus.
HOUSE CROW (Corvus splendens)
I've just discovered that this species is missing from my Ebird lists, perhaps as we only saw them as we drove through the cities of Thimphu and Gelephu.
LARGE-BILLED CROW (LARGE-BILLED) (Corvus macrorhynchos tibetosinensis)
This is the widespread subspecies across the country, seen most days except for in the lowlands along the Indian border, where replaced by the next subspecies.
LARGE-BILLED CROW (EASTERN) (Corvus macrorhynchos levaillantii)
This subspecies is the one we saw both at Gelephu and the Royal Manas area.
YELLOW-BELLIED FAIRY-FANTAIL (Chelidorhynx hypoxanthus)
Though quite fantail-like in appearance and behavior, this charming little bird is actually in the fairy-flycatcher family. We had 3 sightings involving 4 birds, but I don't recall any one bird that behaved all the well. Perhaps the roadside one at Thrumsing La showed best, though even that one only hung around for a very short time.
GRAY-HEADED CANARY-FLYCATCHER (Culicicapa ceylonensis)
Pairs of these were with many of the feeding flocks we encountered in hill forest regions, especially so in the Yongkola area where we had them daily.
YELLOW-BROWED TIT (Sylviparus modestus)
It requires a pretty active imagination to discern any yellow brow on the birds found here in Bhutan, for which the subspecies name, modestus, is far more fitting. We had three encounters, each with a single bird, at the Dochu La Royal Botanic Gardens, and near both our Darachu and Sengor camps.
SULTAN TIT (Melanochlora sultanea)
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the above species are these large, showy tits, which we saw beautifully several times on the tour, including a party of 7 or more in a roadside feeding flock above Nganglam. This was Marshall's pick as top bird of the trip.
COAL TIT (HIMALAYAN) (Periparus ater aemodius)
Similar to the next species (and often together with it), but this one is paler below, less obviously crested, and has a distinct row of pale spots on the wing coverts. We didn't catch up with these until near tour's end at Thrumsing La, but then saw them several times over the last few days. With nearly 20 subspecies across 8 different groups, this is a split waiting in the wings, so note the subspecies and group in your records.
RUFOUS-VENTED TIT (Periparus rubidiventris)
Fairly common in the higher passes, and first encountered on our first full day up at Chele La.
GRAY-CRESTED TIT (Lophophanes dichrous)
A pair at our breakfast spot at Dochu La showed well and looked like they were going to be the only ones for the tour, but we finally encountered a couple more pairs at Thrumsing La and Pele La.
GREEN-BACKED TIT (Parus monticolus)
By far the most common and widespread tit on the tour, with records pretty much daily except in the southern lowlands along the Indian border, where it seems to be replaced by the much less common Cinereous Tit (which is still labeled as Great Tit in the field guide).
YELLOW-CHEEKED TIT (Machlolophus spilonotus)
These handsome tits were first seen as part of a large mixed feeding flock along the road near our Darachu Camp (nice spotting, Terry!) then not seen again until the Yongkola area where we had a few more sightings.
COMMON TAILORBIRD (Orthotomus sutorius)
Not uncommon at lower elevations in the south, though far more often heard than seen.
HIMALAYAN PRINIA (Prinia crinigera) [*]
We never laid eyes on these but we heard them a couple of times, first above Tingtibi, calling incessantly from a hidden perch below the road, then again at our picnic spot above the deep gorge of the Kuri Chhu river, where the vertigo caused by trying to spot it kept anyone from trying too hard.
BLACK-THROATED PRINIA (Prinia atrogularis)
We fared much better with this prinia, getting excellent looks in scrubby habitats at several sites, including near Darachu Camp, along the Tsamang Road, and at the scenic Willing Waterfall Cafe near Trongsa.
SCALY-BREASTED CUPWING (Pnoepyga albiventer)
We were about to try to lure in a singing bird at Pele La when a report of a tragopan walking on the road diverted our attention. By the time we got back to the cupwing, it had gone quiet and was never heard again. Claire had gotten a quick look at the cupwing before we were distracted; for the rest of us, it was heard only.
PYGMY CUPWING (Pnoepyga pusilla)
The recent road expansion along the Yongkola to Sengor stretch of the main highway resulted in a lot of good understory habitat being too disturbed for small skulking birds, but we did manage to find a single one of these tiny birds. It initially proved a little bit difficult, but Megan's skill and persistence paid off with everyone finally getting a decent look.
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) [b]
A handful of these were picked out in flight over the Puna Tsang Chhu, while others remained as Riparia sp. as we couldn't rule out the very similar Gray-throated Martin which is also known from the region.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
A summer visitor to Bhutan, and our only ones were a pair among a larger group of Red-rumped Swallows during our ice cream stop in the town of Gyelpozhing.
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW (Cecropis daurica)
Aside from the 10+ birds with the above species, our only sighting was of a trio perched on a power line on the outskirts of Panbang town.
ASIAN HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon dasypus) [b]
Our only sighting was of a group of 20+ birds soaring around over our picnic lunch spot on the way from Darachu Camp to Gelephu.
NEPAL HOUSE-MARTIN (Delichon nipalense) [N]
Similar to the above species but with a dark throat and undertail coverts, features we were able to see well when we found a nesting colony of 40+ birds along the highway between Yongkola and Sengor.
BLACK-CRESTED BULBUL (Rubigula flaviventris)
Regular in the southern lowlands, with the majority of our sightings coming during our day at Royal Manas NP.
STRIATED BULBUL (Pycnonotus striatus)
We first saw this handsomely marked bulbul near our Darachu camp, but all the rest of our sightings came from the Yongkola region, where we had small numbers daily.
RED-VENTED BULBUL (Pycnonotus cafer)
Missing from the higher passes, but otherwise quite abundant and seen in good numbers daily.
RED-WHISKERED BULBUL (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Many populations of this lovely bulbul have been decimated by the cage-bird trade. That may not be the case in Bhutan, but we certainly didn't see many, just 4 birds over three different days. We had a pair at a puddle ahead of the bus as we waited at the Royal Manas NP entry gate, then singles on 2 days in the Nganglam region.
HIMALAYAN BULBUL (Pycnonotus leucogenys)
Seems quite local in the country, and on our tour route it is only regularly seen at Gyelpozhing, where it is pretty common. We stopped in there briefly, and easily found 15-20 birds, our only records for the tour.
WHITE-THROATED BULBUL (Alophoixus flaveolus)
Seemingly quite common at low elevations in the southern part of Bhutan, where we heard plenty. Getting good looks at them was another story, however, as they were far more elusive and skulky than your typical bulbul. But we had multiple opportunities, and eventually we all got some good looks.
BLACK BULBUL (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)
The most commonly seen bulbul this trip, usually in small parties, but sometimes in fairly large, apparently migratory flocks, probably heading up to their breeding areas (this is an altitudinal migrant). We missed this species only on our day up to Chele La.
ASHY BULBUL (Hemixos flavala)
A much more attractive bird than the name might suggest. We saw these bulbuls in small numbers on a stretch of days in the middle of the tour, from Tingtibi to the Yongkola region, including one pair with nesting material at Jainala if I remember correctly.
MOUNTAIN BULBUL (Ixos mcclellandii)
About 3/4 of our sightings came during the drive from Gelephu up to Tingtibi, with just a handful along the Tsamang Road.
ASHY-THROATED WARBLER (Phylloscopus maculipennis)
Phylloscopus warblers can be a challenge, and may be something of an acquired taste, so I understand if not everyone was quite as enthusiastic as I was about them, but I hope you came away from the trip with at least a bit of an appreciation for these birds. This is one of the more easily identified leaf-warblers, being quite brightly colored in comparison to some. We encountered a few pairs of them at most of the high passes.
BUFF-BARRED WARBLER (Phylloscopus pulcher)
After a couple of roadside birds on Dochu La, we didn't run into these again until Thrumsing La and Pele La, where we saw several and got to hear them singing, which is helpful in identifying them. I was happy to get to know this species and its song a bit better, as I've only seen a couple of birds on their wintering areas in northern Thailand prior to this.
YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER (Phylloscopus inornatus) [b]
A winter visitor here, and most had probably started northward by the time of our tour, but there was at least a couple of lingerers. We found one such bird after our picnic lunch above Nganglam when I heard the distinctive call (familiar from Thailand, where they are everywhere in winter), and we tracked down the source, a pretty ragged-looking individual. Another was heard the next day.
HUME'S WARBLER (Phylloscopus humei) [b]
Another wintering species that had mostly begun the journey to their breeding grounds with a few late departing birds still around. These are very similar to the above species, most easily separable by call. We found a couple along the road up to Tingtibi, and another in the same area, and around the same time, as our Yellow-browed.
LEMON-RUMPED WARBLER (Phylloscopus chloronotus)
The first few we saw at Darachu Camp and other lower elevations were birds that were still on their wintering grounds. By tour's end we were encountering them up at higher elevations (like Yotong La and Pele La) where they breed, and were singing. Behaviorally these acted much like kinglets, with lots of hover-gleaning beneath foliage, during which their yellow rumps are readily visible.
TICKELL'S LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus affinis)
Marshall and I saw a pair of singing birds in a scrubby ravine along the Po Chhu river, obviously birds still on their wintering grounds. Other folks caught up with these birds later in the tour, with our best views arguably coming at Yongkola, where we had excellent looks at a bird foraging in the scrub adjacent to our picnic breakfast spot on two consecutive mornings.
DUSKY WARBLER (Phylloscopus fuscatus) [b]
A couple of birds in the scrub on the fringes of the Gelephu sewage ponds, one of which gave some pretyy decent views.
WHITE-SPECTACLED WARBLER (Phylloscopus intermedius)
We struggled a bit at first to separate this species from the very similar Green-crowned and Whistler's, but in the end, I think we got it right. The first few birds we saw, at Dochula and Nganglam, were this species, though it was tricky to see the break at the top anterior portion of the eye ring.
GRAY-CHEEKED WARBLER (Phylloscopus poliogenys)
With its gray face and bold eye ring, this was a pretty straightforward identification. And by song, this species really reminded me of Nashville Warbler, which was also a helpful field mark. We saw a handful of these at Darachu camp and the Yongkola area.
GREEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Phylloscopus burkii)
We had a few doubts about the identification of a couple of our earlier warblers from this group, but when we finally did catch up with this one along the Tsamang Road, we became confident that none of our earlier warblers were this species. The evenly narrow eye ring with a small break at the back, couple with the green, not gray crown stripes, made this species look much less like White-spectacled Warbler than the field guide seems to suggest.
WHISTLER'S WARBLER (Phylloscopus whistleri)
We didn't catch up with this high-elevation breeder until near the end of the trip, around Sengor, and subsequently at the rest of the high passes we traversed. These warblers were evidently setting up breeding territories and were very vocal and not too difficult to see, and were especially numerous at Yotong La and Pele La.
LARGE-BILLED LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus magnirostris)
A summer breeding bird in Bhutan, and they seemed to be just arriving towards the end of the tour. We heard our first near Sengor Camp, then heard others over the last couple of days, and saw a singing bird along the road at Yotong La.
CHESTNUT-CROWNED WARBLER (Phylloscopus castaniceps)
A beautiful and distinctive warbler, these birds were seen fairly regularly with mixed flocks in hill forests, starting with a pair at the Royal Botanic Park at Dochu La.
YELLOW-VENTED WARBLER (Phylloscopus cantator)
One of the more common warblers in lower elevation forests, and once we keyed in on their songs, we recorded these often. We also had a few nice looks at these at Royal Manas NP, along the Tsamang Road, and at several other sites.
BLYTH'S LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus reguloides)
Quite common in upper elevation forests and the first Phylloscopus we encountered, at Dochu La. We recorded more of these than any other leaf-warbler, finding them in good numbers in pretty much all the higher passes. Their Common Yellowthroat-like song became pretty familiar by trip's end, and we even got to witness their unique behavior of flicking their wings alternately, which seemed to be most often done when interacting with another of the same species.
GRAY-HOODED WARBLER (Phylloscopus xanthoschistos)
After the above species, this was the second most often recorded warbler of the trip. We first found a couple of singing birds on our morning along the Po Chhu river, then saw or heard them almost daily through the remainder of the tour.
SLATY-BELLIED TESIA (Tesia olivea)
The surprisingly loud song of this small, skulking bird caught our ears as we were driving by a ravine on the road between Gelephu and Tingtibi. We made a stop to try for it, and soon after were all enjoying great looks at the singer as it continued to belt out its tune from the dense scrub lining the ravine. We heard a few others in the Yongkola area, but this was the only one we saw.
GRAY-SIDED BUSH WARBLER (Cettia brunnifrons)
Our first popped up in scrub along the roadside near our Darachu Camp, after which we didn't encounter these warblers again until the end of the tour, where we found them to be pretty common at the higher passes.They were obviously setting up their breeding territories at places like Thrumsing La and Pele La, with several birds singing their remarkable songs, and showing pretty well for such a skulker.
CHESTNUT-HEADED TESIA (Cettia castaneocoronata)
An unfamiliar but interesting call note caught my ear as we walked the trails at the Royal Botanical Garden at Dochu La, and I stepped off trail to discover that it was one of these tiny, elusive warblers. Luckily the bird was pretty cooperative (better than any I'd encountered before), and it soon popped up and showed off beautifully for everyone. Later we saw a couple of others slightly less cooperative ones near Sengor. My previous attempts to see this species had all ended in frustration, so I was especially pleased to get good looks at this delightful, colorful bird, and it was my favorite bird of the tour.
YELLOW-BELLIED WARBLER (Abroscopus superciliaris)
A single record of 4 birds on a bamboo-choked hillside north of Nganglam was our only one, but the birds showed nicely so it's all we needed.
RUFOUS-FACED WARBLER (Abroscopus albogularis)
Seen only by the folks that remained in the field following our breakfast lunch on the ridge above Nganglam. We had several superb views of this rather local and distinctive warbler with a large mixed flock in the middle of the afternoon!
BLACK-FACED WARBLER (Abroscopus schisticeps)
Regular with mixed species flocks in the Yongkola region, where we had our first of several excellent looks at Jainala.
MOUNTAIN TAILORBIRD (Phyllergates cucullatus)
Some so-so views for most of a pair along the roadside at Jainala, then far better looks at a very cooperative and close bird in the dense roadside bamboo at Namling.
BROWNISH-FLANKED BUSH WARBLER (Horornis fortipes)
The call of this species is incredibly reminiscent of Australia's Eastern Whipbird! We heard these numerous times in upland forests and had a couple of decent looks, including of a bird that popped up right next to us and sang loudly before flying across the road near Darachu Camp.
HUME'S BUSH WARBLER (Horornis brunnescens)
Another fantastic singer that we heard, and saw well several times, in bamboo thickets at Thrumsing La and Yotong La. This is a relatively recent split from Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler of China and Taiwan.
BLACK-THROATED TIT (Aegithalos concinnus)
This was the slightly more numerous of the two Aegithalos tits, seen primarily in the Yongkola area, though our first was in a roadside flock at Darachu Camp. The birds here belong to the Red-headed group (subspecies iredalei) which is restricted to the Himalayas.
BLACK-BROWED TIT (Aegithalos iouschistos)
This one seemed to occur at slightly higher elevations than the above species and was a bit less common as well. Our three encounters at Chele La, Dochu La, and Sengor all produced satisfying views of these little cuties. There are three subgroups contained within this species; the ones here are the nominate subspecies and in the Rufous-fronted group (and are called that in the field guide.)
GOLDEN-BREASTED FULVETTA (Lioparus chrysotis)
This stunning little bird only showed up one time, in some roadside bamboo near Namling, but one of the three birds present put on an amazing show, sitting out in the open a few times, though never for long.
WHITE-BROWED FULVETTA (Fulvetta vinipectus) [N]
After seeing our inaugural ones at Chele La, where there were a dozen or so feeding in the snow, and in the roadside shrubs, we went on to see a bunch of these at most of the higher passes we traversed, including some gathering nesting material at Pele La.
BROWN PARROTBILL (Cholornis unicolor)
GRAY-HEADED PARROTBILL (Psittiparus gularis)
Quite sociable, and relatively easy to see for a parrotbill, as was made clear with our first of two sightings (both on the ridge above Nganglam), when we had a busy group of 40+ birds foraging just above the road, often in full view, but always on the move.
WHITE-BREASTED PARROTBILL (Psittiparus ruficeps)
A pair of these pretty parrotbills foraged in a flowering tree below the road at Jainala, where they were deftly spotted and pointed out to us by Dorji. The field guide calls these Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill.
STRIATED YUHINA (Staphida castaniceps)
First encountered on our way up to Tingtibi from Gelephu, where we came across a group of about a dozen birds, some of them collecting and carrying nesting material. All of our remaining sightings were from around the Nganglam area.
BLACK-CHINNED YUHINA (Yuhina nigrimenta)
With Diane on the cusp of a major milestone, and a busy morning of birding on our way up to Tingtibi, there was some concern that in the frenzy of new birds it might not be clear which species marked the event. But as things quieted down, Diane remained one shy of her goal, so knew the next lifer was going to be #5000 for her. That bird came a bit further up the road, the first of several Black-chinned Yuhinas we would come across between here and the Yongkola region. Congrats, Diane!
WHISKERED YUHINA (Yuhina flavicollis)
The most regularly recorded yuhina species, first seen in a big roadside flock at Darachu Camp, then again pretty much daily from between Yongkola and Sengor.
WHITE-NAPED YUHINA (Yuhina bakeri)
Seen only in the Yongkola region, where we saw them daily, including one big group of about 15-20 birds foraging along the Tsamang Road.
STRIPE-THROATED YUHINA (Yuhina gularis)
The largest of the yuhinas, and the last species we caught up with. Seen in a few of the higher passes towards the end of the trip, including some good close birds at Pele La.
RUFOUS-VENTED YUHINA (Yuhina occipitalis)
The vent may well be rufous, but it is not as prominently rufous as the nape patch, which served as a much better field mark for this species. We had these only towards the end of the tour, first with a trio of birds at Jainala, then a few around Sengor, but arguably our best looks were at a half a dozen or so that came in close as they mobbed our Collared Owlet imitations on Pele La.
INDIAN WHITE-EYE (Zosterops palpebrosus)
Happily this is the only white-eye species here, as this is a tricky group of birds where more than one species occurs. These were fairly regularly seen throughout, though perhaps most numerous around Tingtibi.
PIN-STRIPED TIT-BABBLER (Mixornis gularis)
Heard more often than seen, but we had some pretty decent looks at a pair next to our picnic lunch spot along the road into Royal Manas NP.
GOLDEN BABBLER (Cyanoderma chrysaeum)
A beautiful little babbler, seen (or heard) almost daily from Darachu Camp to the Yongkola region. Often seemed to be together with the next species, and their songs are confusingly similar, so much so that sometimes I wasn't sure which species was calling.
RUFOUS-CAPPED BABBLER (Cyanoderma ruficeps)
First ones were a pair at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochu La, where I was certain it was actually Golden Babbler calling! We saw a few more from Darachu Camp to Yongkola, but overall they seemed to be less numerous than the above species.
STREAK-BREASTED SCIMITAR-BABBLER (Pomatorhinus ruficollis)
Our one and only sighting came along the road on our way to Sengor Camp. I was randomly trolling for any scimitar-babbler when I got a response from this species. We quickly lined up and watched in anticipation, and before long the bird popped up in a nearby shrub, then quickly disappeared again. It took a bit more effort to get everyone a satisfactory view before we moved on to other things. But the babbler wasn't done with us, and seemed to follow us up the road, often emerging onto a nearby perch to sing in full view before dropping back out of sight. Overall a superb encounter with a very cool bird!
WHITE-BROWED SCIMITAR-BABBLER (Pomatorhinus schisticeps) [*]
Heard only near the Yongkola camp.
RUSTY-CHEEKED SCIMITAR-BABBLER (Erythrogenys erythrogenys)
A well-seen pair in scrub along the Po Chhu river were our only ones until Yongkola, where we had some good views of this species at our picnic breakfast spot on two consecutive mornings.
GRAY-THROATED BABBLER (Stachyris nigriceps)
Not uncommon in the lowlands and foothills along the southern border, though we heard far more than we saw. We did have a few cooperative birds, mainly at Royal Manas NP.
WHITE-HOODED BABBLER (Gampsorhynchus rufulus)
One record of a trio of birds that flew across the road in the company of the Collared Treepies on a bamboo-choked hillside north of Nganglam. They were easily identifiable when they flew across, but they also gave some pretty decent views once they reached the other side.
YELLOW-THROATED FULVETTA (Schoeniparus cinereus)
Small parties of these very warbler-like fulvettas bustled through the low roadside vegetation at a number of sites from Darachu Camp to Yongkola, often coming quite close and showing wonderfully.
RUFOUS-WINGED FULVETTA (Schoeniparus castaneceps)
Seen only at some of the higher passes we crossed, with a single bird at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochu La, then a small group of them each at Darachu Camp and Sengor.
NEPAL FULVETTA (Alcippe nipalensis)
Groups of 10-12 of these scrabbled around in low bushes in the company of feeding flocks on the ridge above Nganglam, while smaller numbers were seen several time in the Yongkola region.
STRIATED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Grammatoptila striata)
Many of the laughingthrushes are shy, skulking, and difficult to see well. This floppy-crested species is not one of those laughingthrushes. We saw these very well a number of times, first at a random roadside stop at Dochu La, then several times around the Yongkola region.
HIMALAYAN CUTIA (Cutia nipalensis)
Behaviorally like a large nuthatch, this handsome bird is more closely allied with the laughingthrushes. Ann spotted our first at Jainala, a trio of birds that showed well as they foraged in some tall roadside trees. A couple of folks had walked on to the bus for a cold drink, and missed these three, but luckily for them, Dorji found another pair at the Yongkola camp and managed to clean up the looks for everyone.The cutias were Ann's pick as bird of the trip.
BHUTAN LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Trochalopteron imbricatum)
We did well with this smallish, rather unadorned laughingthrush, first finding a trio of them in some scrub around a small farmyard at Darachu Camp, then seeing them on several days in the Yongkola area. Those first ones were the best, with one of the three approaching the road and sitting in some roadside scrub preening in full view, its very short primary projection readily visible as it was just a few meters away.
BLACK-FACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Trochalopteron affine)
Our first laughingthrush, with fair numbers seen well in the snow at Chele La, then more at Dochu La and Pele La.
CHESTNUT-CROWNED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Trochalopteron erythrocephalum)
This one presented us with a few problems, but I think in the end everyone came away with some kind of look. They were common enough by voice at some sites, but tough to see well. Claire found us our first behind the cafe at Dochu La, and another pair showed reasonably well with a large mixed flock at Darachu Camp.
LONG-TAILED SIBIA (Heterophasia picaoides)
Our first pair with a mixed flock below the road near Darachu Camp were seen well by some, but missed entirely by others, mainly as there was a lot going on at the time. Our only other encounter was far better, a busy group of about 8 birds that fed in a roadside flowering tree and flew back and forth across the road on the ridge west of Nganglam.
RUFOUS SIBIA (Heterophasia capistrata)
Our first were memorable, as they fed in a lovely, low flowering rhododendron next to one of the ponds at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochu La. From that point on, we met up with these lovely birds more days than not through the rest of the trip
HOARY-THROATED BARWING (Actinodura nipalensis)
We saw this Himalayan specialty only twice on the tour, though both pairs gave great looks. Our first was a pair in a fantastic mixed flock along the road at Darachu Camp, showing up a while after we'd seen our initial Rusty-fronted Barwings. We had to wait until the final day of birding to see them again, this time a pair at Dochu La, one of which posed for photos as it sat in the open in a nearby tree.
BLUE-WINGED MINLA (Actinodura cyanouroptera)
Seen almost daily from about the Tingtibi region through to Sengor and Yotong La, mainly in small numbers but a couple of times in big seething flocks. Most notably, we had a group of about 25 scrambling through the trees over one of our picnic lunch sites between Yongkola and Sengor.
CHESTNUT-TAILED MINLA (Actinodura strigula)
There's a lot going on in the plumage of these gorgeous birds, and though we didn't see that many, we did have some excellent studies of them as we encountered them at several of the higher passes we crossed. Note that the field guide calls this one Bar-throated Siva.
RUSTY-FRONTED BARWING (Actinodura egertoni)
The slightly more numerous of the two barwings. We had fantastic looks at our first ones at Darachu Camp, where about a half a dozen of them foraged with a big roadside feeding flock, and one or two sat in the branches of a downed tree at about eye level. We saw a few more in the Yongkola area, but that first encounter was our best by far.
RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX (Leiothrix lutea)
We only crossed paths with a single pair of these colorful small babblers, and they were mixed in with a very active flock of a dozen or more similarly-plumaged Silver-eared Mesias, making them very difficult to see well. They seemed to spend more time moving and less time on open perches than the mesias, and I'm not sure everyone got a look at them.
SILVER-EARED MESIA (Leiothrix argentauris)
A beautifully-colored bird, with a rich, warbling song; there's a lot to like on this species, so it's easy to see why it's a popular target for the cage-bird market. Happily it still seems relatively common in Bhutan, and we had a bunch of great encounters, mainly near Nganglam and Jainala. Our biggest group was the flock of a dozen or more that also had the pair of Red-billed Leiothrix at Jainala.
RED-TAILED MINLA (Minla ignotincta)
Yet another stunning little babbler, this one seen several times at some of the higher elevation forests. Our best were a few close birds in a nice mixed flock not far from Sengor Camp.
RUFOUS-BACKED SIBIA (Leioptila annectens)
Apparently fairly uncommon and local in Bhutan, and that was certainly what we found, with only two sightings of single birds on the trip. Our fist was with a roadside flock as we drove up from Gelephu to Tingtibi, though not everyone got on that one. A few days later we found another with a mixed flock on the ridge west of Nganglam, and that bird was far more cooperative, giving everyone who stayed on for the afternoon birding a lovely view.
RED-FACED LIOCICHLA (Liocichla phoenicea)
A very shy and skulking laughingthrush, and though we recorded these on 4 different days, twice it was a leader-only bird, and once a heard-only. Happily, the other record was different, as we spotted a quartet of these lovely birds hopping through the branches of a fallen tree at the back end of a clearing below the power lines on the ridge west of Nganglam, in the company of a group of White-crested Laughingthrushes.
WHITE-CRESTED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Garrulax leucolophus)
These striking bird can be skulking and frustrating to see well, but they're common enough that we expect to catch up with them somewhere. And we did on at least a couple of days, first with the group mentioned above at Nganglam, then again as we came down the road from Jainala. We also heard them numerous other times.
RUFOUS-CHINNED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Ianthocincla rufogularis)
Generally one of the bad laughingthrushes, very secretive and unobtrusive. For some of the group, though, they were quite good, as we rounded a bend of the Tsamang Road to find a pair foraging right on the roadside. They didn't remain long, however, and a few folks at the back of the bus missed them entirely.
SPOTTED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Ianthocincla ocellata)
We had just two sightings of these big, boldly-marked birds, and neither was really stellar, though I believe everyone saw them at least well enough to count. Our first were a pair at Chele La that turned up just as our first Darjeeling Woodpecker came into view, distracting us from them as it posed in the open. The other sighting was marginally better for some, as one of three birds sang from a partially visible perch at the pass at Thrumsing La, but all three quickly flew off and disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.
RUFOUS-VENTED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Pterorhinus gularis)
Judging from the paucity of Ebird records, this is a very local and poorly-known species in Bhutan. It is also a very shy and elusive species (a "bad" laughingthrush!) so we were pretty lucky to get some decent looks at the pair we found on the ridge west of Nganglam (where most of the Ebird records are from). During our picnic lunch break, I was distracted by the sound of something scrabbling around in the dead leaves on the opposite side of the road, so I got up to investigate, and was thrilled to see it was a pair of these birds. We quickly rallied everyone onto the road, and soon saw the birds climb up into the trees at the top of the slope before flying down across the road in full view!
RUFOUS-NECKED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Pterorhinus ruficollis)
Past trip lists seem to indicate that this is one of the badly-behaved laughingthrushes, but that was not at all our experience. In fact we had a number of excellent views of these handsome birds without ever putting in any effort. Our first ones were a group of 5 at the Gelephu sewage ponds, with three of them posing in a tight cluster at the top of the wall at one point. Others popped out at various other sites including Nganglam, Jainala, and along the Tsamang Road.
GREATER NECKLACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Pterorhinus pectoralis)
While it is possible that we saw both this species and the Lesser, the two are similar enough that it requires a good view to be certain which one you're seeing. The only ones we saw well enough to identify to species were Greaters, and all were seen in the Nganglam region.
WHITE-THROATED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Pterorhinus albogularis)
Where they occurred, this species was often in large flocks and they were not at all shy and skulking like many of the other laughingthrushes. Our first group at Dochu La was also our largest, as there were at least 40 of these boiling through the roadside forest, with another 25+ down the road at the Royal Botanical Park.
WALLCREEPER (Tichodroma muraria) [b]
A winter visitor to the country, though somewhat local and not an easy bird to find, but Megan knew of a reliable site in the Paro Chhu valley, and sure enough, one was right where she expected it to be, competing for our attention with a close Black Eagle. We had another from the bus in the steep and narrow Kuri Chhu gorge, though there was nowhere to pull off safely nearby.
CHESTNUT-BELLIED NUTHATCH (Sitta cinnamoventris)
The most numerous of the nuthatches here, and we had plenty of good views. Our first along the Puna Tsang Chhu was easily our best, as it sat frozen in place on a nearby tree trunk for several minutes. Long enough for everyone to get multiple scope looks, and some great photos!
WHITE-TAILED NUTHATCH (Sitta himalayensis)
A bit less numerous than the above species, which is also a bit more richly-colored, though the two are fairly similar in appearance. This species also seems to occur at somewhat higher elevations than the above. We had our first of several nice looks at a pair of birds at the entrance to the Royal Botanical Park at Dochu La, then had others at Darachu Camp, and in the Yongkola area.
BEAUTIFUL NUTHATCH (Sitta formosa)
After several fruitless tries for this much-desired target species, we opted to make one last stab at it on our final morning at Yongkola. Initially it didn't seem like luck was on our side, but as we walked up the Tsamang Road, a nuthatch began calling that sounded good for this species. We located the bird atop a tall dead tree, but it was completely backlit, as well as using the same perch we'd had a Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch sing from the afternoon before, so we weren't 100% certain. We hurried up the road to try to get the light behind us, but the bird flew before we'd gotten into position. Then, quite fortunately, it flew back in and started singing again, and this time we managed to get our scopes on it to confirm that it was indeed this well-named nuthatch! A fine ending to a difficult quest!
HODGSON'S TREECREEPER (Certhia hodgsoni mandellii)
None of the treecreepers seemed especially numerous, but this was the most numerous of the three, by virtue of the fact that we had two separate sightings of pairs of this one as opposed to single sightings of the other two. We first caught up with a pair in coniferous forest below the summit of Chele La, than saw a second pair at Thrumsing La. Of the three, I'd say this one most closely resembles Brown Creeper from back home.
RUSTY-FLANKED TREECREEPER (Certhia nipalensis)
After being pulled away from a mixed flock by Nado spotting a pair of Blood Pheasants at Thrumsing La, Megan suggested we return to the flock as it "might have Rusty-flanked Treecreeper in it". Good thing we did, as, just as she said, there was indeed one of these birds in the flock alongside numerous tits and a pair of Hodgson's Treecreepers. And that bird, which showed its rusty flanks off nicely, was the only one we saw!
SIKKIM TREECREEPER (Certhia discolor)
After listening to a couple of calling birds at Jainala through much of our morning there, we finally managed to see a couple after lunch.
SPOTTED ELACHURA (Elachura formosa)
Once considered to be a wren-babbler, this shy understory bird has since been shown to have no close living relatives, and has been placed in a monotypic family sandwiched between the wrens and the dippers. We weren't expecting a whole lot from a bird we heard along the Tsamang Road, but it responded well to playback and moved closer and closer, its song becoming increasingly more painful as it was so loud and piercing! The bird then surprised us by breaking cover and flying across the road, though not many saw it happen. More surprisingly, once across, it moved through the branches of a fallen tree, eventually teeing up right in the open and singing before flying back to the original side and vanishing! An unexpectedly great view of a tough bird!
BROWN DIPPER (Cinclus pallasii)
David spotted our first flying up the Par Chhu river on our first day in Bhutan. The bird disappeared under the bridge, and we quickly hurried across to see where it was going, but it never appeared. Luckily John managed to locate it on a rock below the bridge, and we were all able to get some good scope views. We had a handful of others, but this was our best look at this bird.
CHESTNUT-TAILED STARLING (Sturnia malabarica)
Small numbers were seen on three days: a pair near a farmhouse along the Po Chhu, 4 birds in a roadside fruiting tree in the Puna Tsang Chhu valley as we drove up to Darachu Camp, and a pair at our camp in Tingtibi.
COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis)
Quite common, especially around towns and cities, from Punakha through to Panbang.
JUNGLE MYNA (Acridotheres fuscus)
A roadside stop for a Brown Shrike near Gelephu gave us our only sighting of this species when we spotted a group of 5 birds perched up in a bare tree down the road.
GRAY-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Turdus boulboul)
Seen only at Jainala, where 4 or 5 birds were seen along the roadside through the course of our day there.
WHITE-COLLARED BLACKBIRD (Turdus albocinctus)
Ann spotted our first perched quietly in some bushes along the road as we birded in the Paro valley on our first day. We went on to see many more at a number of the higher passes.
BLACK-THROATED THRUSH (Turdus atrogularis) [b]
Perhaps this year was an anomaly as our past tours seem to have rarely recorded this species or seen mainly the closely related Red-throated Thrush, with one or two of these mixed in. Whatever the case, there were good numbers of these birds this year. We started with 20+ birds seen well at Chele La, then followed up with smaller numbers at Dochu La, Darachu Camp, Gelephu, and Jainala. I'm very interested in what I might find next year!
DARK-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa sibirica)
A summer breeding visitor to Bhutan, this distinctive species only made an appearance towards the back end of the tour, when we spotted our first of several at Jainala. Others were seen along the Tsamang Road and at Namling, and all behaved as is typical of this species, sallying out for insects from high, prominent perches.
ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER (Muscicapa dauurica)
Also a summer breeding visitor here, but much less common (or just less visible?) than the above species, and we have rarely seen this species on the tour. This trip we found a single bird at a random roadside stop in the Puna Tsang Chhu valley en route to Darachu Camp.
ORIENTAL MAGPIE-ROBIN (Copsychus saularis)
A familiar sighting through much of the tour, except for the high mountain passes.
WHITE-GORGETED FLYCATCHER (Anthipes monileger)
A rather secretive and difficult to see species of forest understory, and only a few folks managed to get on a partially cooperative bird above the road on the ridge west of Nganglam.
PALE BLUE FLYCATCHER (Cyornis unicolor)
Another summer breeding visitor to Bhutan. I'm used to seeing these perched well above in the subcanopy, so it was great to get some eye level views of a pair on the ridge west of Nganglam, easily our best views of the tour.
BLUE-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Cyornis rubeculoides)
Also a summer breeding visitor here. We had just a few sightings, with a singing male in the Puna Tsang Chhu valley (at the same site as our Asian Brown Flycatcher, then a pretty cooperative pair on the road up to Tingtibi, as well as another pair at Royal Manas NP. This genus of flycatchers contains a number of very similar looking species, but this is the only one to occur here.
LARGE NILTAVA (Niltava grandis)
Though we heard the distinctive "three blind mice" song of this species a few times (first at Darachu Camp, I only recall seeing a single bird in roadside forest on our drive from Gelephu to Tingtibi.
SMALL NILTAVA (Niltava macgrigoriae)
We fared somewhat better with this mini-me version of the Large Niltava, having several good sightings in the Yongkola region, though our first were also seen along the drive from Gelephu to Tingtibi.
RUFOUS-BELLIED NILTAVA (Niltava sundara)
This gorgeous niltava is a summer breeding visitor to Bhutan. We had two sightings, both of brilliantly-colored males. Our first was foraging through the gardens of a small farmyard near Darachu Camp, and while most saw it well, one or two folks dipped on it. Our second sighting was far better, as we came across another male foraging on the ground right in front of the bus at the start of the Tsamang Road. Though the bird appeared lively and unscathed, the fact that it was foraging on the road, and moved off by scuttling under some low vegetation rather than flying, had us wondering if it might have been clipped by a vehicle.
VERDITER FLYCATCHER (Eumyias thalassinus)
I was a bit surprised to learn that these common birds are summer breeding visitors to most of Bhutan. They seemed to be pretty much everywhere, and were seen all but a few days, which is fine, as they are such beautiful, cheerful birds.
LESSER SHORTWING (Brachypteryx leucophris)
A roadside bird near Darachu Camp was pretty cooperative, though tricky as always. I believe everyone got some kind of look, though the views varied from fleeting glimpses as the bird moved quickly from perch to perch, to excellent, if the bird happened to pause in an opening you could see into. Marshall's photo is proof that the bird did that at least once or twice!
BLUE WHISTLING-THRUSH (Myophonus caeruleus)
We were welcomed to Bhutan by one of these right outside the airport on our arrival, and they became old friends by tour's end. We saw them daily, often in fair numbers, and regularly from the bus as they foraged on the roadside. If you didn't get good looks at these, you weren't trying!
SPOTTED FORKTAIL (Enicurus maculatus)
In my experience with forktails, they all seem to be quite shy and usually fly around a river bend or behind cover at the first sign of disturbance, so I feel fortunate that we were able to get decent views of any of them. Our first forktail appeared along the roadside as we headed up towards Tingtibi, but in typical fashion flew down the road and around the bend. We quickly got down and slowly walked back towards the bend, where we were eventually rewarded with some pretty good looks as it foraged next to the stream of water running along the curb. Good enough, at least, to identify it as this species.
SLATY-BACKED FORKTAIL (Enicurus schistaceus)
We fared even better with this species, though things started poorly. Our first pair in a ravine at Royal Manas NP took off before anyone got a decent view, and it was only by call that we determined it was this species. Our next was far better, as it was spotted on the roadside as we drove towards Nganglam, and instead of flying off up the ravine, it perched up on a water pipe next to the bus for just long enough for all to see. It didn't stop there, as a couple of days later we had excellent views of a pair seemingly chasing a third bird out of their territory on a river next to our picnic breakfast spot on our way up to Yongkola! Though I didn't include it in the list, we also heard what sounded like Black-backed Forktail at Royal Manas NP.
HIMALAYAN BLUETAIL (Tarsiger rufilatus)
Several males were up and singing at Chelela, and while tricky to nail down, we eventually all had some fair views of at least one. From that point on we had just a single female at Darachu Camp, which was something of a surprise as I totally expected we'd run into more in the other high passes we visited.
WHITE-BROWED BUSH-ROBIN (Tarsiger indicus)
With the disturbance from the roadworks damaging a lot of roadside habitat, it took us some time to finally locate anything that looked remotely good enough for bush-robins to frequent, but we eventually came across a promising patch of fairly dense bamboo scrub and got out to investigate. We were actually trolling for the next species when this one started singing, and Diane quickly spotted the male, allowing everyone to get some nice looks at both him and his mate. Not a species we expect every year, so well done, Diane!
GOLDEN BUSH-ROBIN (Tarsiger chrysaeus)
We also don't expect this bush-robin annually, so it was another nice surprise to see them. We found a pair skulking in some dense roadside vegetation a little up the road from where we found the above. These birds were not quite as cooperative as the other bush-robins, though I think everyone came away with at least a quick look at the female, while others got pretty good looks at the lovely male.
SLATY-BLUE FLYCATCHER (Ficedula tricolor)
Our first pair on the ridge west of Nganglam were pretty reluctant to show themselves, and we came away with little more than a glimpse of them. Happily we found a much bolder male by the roadside near the top of the pass at Yotong La, and we all had brilliant views of him.
PYGMY FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hodgsoni)
Formerly called Pygmy Blue-flycatcher, this adorable little bird seems pretty easy to overlook, though we wound up with 2 nice encounters. Our first was a singing male at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochula which showed well enough to count at least. Our second bird (also a male) near Sengor camp, performed far better, sitting in a roadside tree fully in the open for long enough to scope, pretty amazing for such a small, active bird!
RUFOUS-GORGETED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula strophiata)
Seen first along the road at Dochula, then subsequently at pretty much all the higher passes through the remainder of the tour.
LITTLE PIED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula westermanni)
Another cute little flycatcher, these were seen in the canopy at several hill forest sites, mainly in the Yongkola region.
ULTRAMARINE FLYCATCHER (Ficedula superciliaris)
Many of us missed the first one Megan spotted in the Puna Tsang Chhu valley, but we caught up with these beautiful flycatchers a few more times, mostly on the way up to TIngtibi, with another along the road in front of the botanical gardens there. This is a summer breeding visitor to Bhutan.
TAIGA FLYCATCHER (Ficedula albicilla) [b]
A pretty, red-throated male was along the roadside as we walked up from our picnic breakfast spot north of Nganglam, the only one for the tour. By the end of April this species has pretty much cleared out of Bhutan as they work their way north to their Siberian breeding grounds.
BLUE-FRONTED REDSTART (Phoenicurus frontalis)
A couple of pairs were seen in the Paro valley on our first day in the country, with good numbers the following day up at Chele La. After that we saw them in ones and twos at several of the higher passes.
PLUMBEOUS REDSTART (Phoenicurus fuliginosus)
We saw these delightful little redstarts pretty much any time we were birding along a rocky river from the first day in the Paro Valley. There was even a pair in the little stream at the Trongsa Dzong.
WHITE-CAPPED REDSTART (Phoenicurus leucocephalus)
These handsome birds were seen at pretty much all the same places as the above species, though perhaps in slightly smaller numbers.
HODGSON'S REDSTART (Phoenicurus hodgsoni) [b]
A handful of these wintering birds were still present in the Paro and Punakha regions on our first few days of the tour. One male along the Po Chhu was especially memorable, as he sat up and posed next to the road just a few meters away!
WHITE-THROATED REDSTART (Phoenicurus schisticeps) [b]
A species we rarely see on this tour, as most have left the country (or moved up to alpine breeding grounds) by the end of March. I first saw a male as we scanned for monals at Chele La, but was unable to refind it for anyone else. But later in the morning, just over the pass, Megan spotted a female redstart with a long white slash in the wing and we all had good looks as she moved from perch to perch through a large clearing.
CHESTNUT-BELLIED ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola rufiventris)
We saw small numbers along the road on 4 consecutive days from Sengor through to Pele La. Though I've seen these before, I never appreciated how much larger they are then the other rock-thrushes, especially the next species.
BLUE-CAPPED ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola cinclorhyncha)
Our first was a male along the road at Dochula, but these gorgeous birds were most common around Tingtibi and Yongkola, where they were a regular sight along the roads. These birds are summer breeding visitors to Bhutan.
BLUE ROCK-THRUSH (Monticola solitarius) [b]
Just three sightings of this wintering bird, a male seen by some from the bus in the Punakha area, a female perched on the bridge at the Twin Waterfall, and two different males at our lofty picnic spot overlooking the Kuri Chhu River. The birds here belong to the subspecies pandoo, one of the forms in which the males are all slate-blue.
SIBERIAN STONECHAT (SIBERIAN) (Saxicola maurus maurus) [b]
Most of these appeared to have moved northwards to their breeding grounds already, as we saw surprisingly few. Megan scoped a lone bird in tall vegetation along the Puna Tsang Chhu, and we had a couple of birds along the Manas River at Royal Manas NP, and that was it.
GRAY BUSHCHAT (Saxicola ferreus)
Our first was a pair at Darachu Camp, but the majority of our sightings were from scrubby areas in the Yongkola region, where we saw them daily.
FIRE-BREASTED FLOWERPECKER (Dicaeum ignipectus)
We saw very few flowerpeckers overall, but all the ones we positively identified were this attractive species. We didn't get really good looks at this one until a male posed nicely for us at Jainala. We also had a bird in a cluster of mistletoe along the Tsamang Road that I suspected was a Plain Flowerpecker, but poor lighting and obscured views kept us from ruling out a female of this species.
FIRE-TAILED SUNBIRD (Aethopyga ignicauda)
We arrived at the top of Thrumsing La to find another small birding group already there, photographing a pair of these brilliantly-colored sunbirds that they'd called up to the trailside, making our work pretty easy! For most of us, these were the only ones we saw, though one or two folks saw another the following day at Yotong La. These beauties were Larry's top choice for bird of the trip.
BLACK-THROATED SUNBIRD (Aethopyga saturata)
Quite common at lower elevations in the south. Though they often appeared quite drab, when seen in good light (as we did a few times) these are some pretty fancy-looking sunbirds!
MRS. GOULD'S SUNBIRD (Aethopyga gouldiae)
We had our first pair at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochula, then didn't see these gorgeous sunbirds again until Sengor. But they were pretty common at the series of high passes we traversed over the last few days, and quick to respond to owlet imitations. David's pick for bird of the trip.
GREEN-TAILED SUNBIRD (Aethopyga nipalensis)
Similar to the above species, we had these colorful birds early on (on the road to Punakha and at Darachu Camp), but the majority of our sightings came over the last 4 days at the higher passes. This was by far the most numerous sunbird at higher elevations, and we had numerous incredible close views of these stunners.
CRIMSON SUNBIRD (Aethopyga siparaja)
We saw small numbers of these at lower elevations, mainly in the Nganglam area. Yet another brilliantly colored species, and we enjoyed several excellent looks at shimmering males. This species is made up of a bunch of subspecies in three different groups. Bhutanese birds belong to the subspecies labecula in the Goulpourah subgroup.
STREAKED SPIDERHUNTER (Arachnothera magna)
Marshall spotted our first of these striking spiderhunters in a flowering tree adjacent to our picnic lunch gazebo on our way down to Gelephu, after which we saw these daily through to the Yongkola region. They were most numerous, though from Gelephu to Nganglam.
ASIAN FAIRY-BLUEBIRD (Irena puella)
Primarily a species of low elevation forest, and our only sightings were at Royal Manas NP where we had a total of only 4 birds. Though we did see a couple of males, we never really got one in the superb light conditions we were hoping for.
GOLDEN-FRONTED LEAFBIRD (Chloropsis aurifrons)
Only 3 birds total, with a single male that showed nicely outside of Gelephu (when we stopped for the Brown Shrike) and a pair among a larger number of the next species along the road north of Nganglam.
ORANGE-BELLIED LEAFBIRD (Chloropsis hardwickii)
The common leafbird here, first seen in the same flowering tree where we had our initial spiderhunter, then in small numbers daily through to Yongkola. The birds here are in the subspecies hardwickii, part of the Orange-bellied subgroup.
WHITE-RUMPED MUNIA (Lonchura striata)
As we drove along the road overlooking the Mangde Chhu river en route from Tingtibi to Panbang, a small flock of white-rumped birds flushed from some roadside scrub, and into a nearby clump of bamboo. Convinced they had to be this munia, we got off the bus, and after some careful searching, managed to find the birds sitting quietly in the bamboo. This clock of 9 birds was our only sighting of the tour.
ALPINE ACCENTOR (Prunella collaris)
Chele La is an important spot for accentors on this tour, as by the time we hit the other high passes that these birds frequent, they generally have already moved up to their high alpine breeding areas. We tallied 6-8 of these on our snowy morning at the pass, with some super close views as this species seems quite unbothered by human presence.
ALTAI ACCENTOR (Prunella himalayana) [b]
This species has often already moved higher by the time we run this tour, but this year there were still some lingering on Chele La, where we found a flock of 35+ birds foraging on the ground in a large clearing just beyond the pass. Easily told from the similar Alpine Accentor by these birds' all black bills (lacking the yellow base of Alpine) and more heavily streaked plumage. They also seemed to be warier than the above species, and wouldn't allow us to approach too closely.
RUFOUS-BREASTED ACCENTOR (Prunella strophiata) [b]
A seemingly widespread wintering species in open country, including at much lower elevations than other accentors. We saw a handful of these pretty birds, with one on our first morning in the Paro Valley, several at Chele La (giving us an accentor hat trick that day!) and a few other individuals at Dochula, along the Tsamang Road, at Thrumsing La, and in the Ura Valley.
RUSSET SPARROW (Passer cinnamomeus)
A fairly common and widespread species, seen first right outside of the Paro Airport, then daily throughout with the exception of the lowlands along the Indian border. This species was also seen at some of the higher passes, where the next species was absent.
EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus)
Also seen initially at the Paro airport, then most days throughout the tour, except for in the higher passes. Most regularly seen in close proximity to human habitation.
GRAY WAGTAIL (Motacilla cinerea) [b]
Two of the three birds we saw were at the Gelephu sewage ponds, with the other seen along the road to Jainala.
CITRINE WAGTAIL (Motacilla citreola) [b]
The Gelephu sewage ponds also were the site of our only Citrine Wagtails, with 3 birds present there, including one lovely plumaged adult male. The birds we saw all appeared to be of the gray-backed type, with the nominate subspecies being the expected one here.
WHITE-BROWED WAGTAIL (Motacilla maderaspatensis)
This widespread bird is at the northeastern edge of its range here in Bhutan. Could easily be overlooked, as at a glance they are quite similar to the common subspecies of White Wagtail here, but by carefully checking all the wagtails as we scanned the Puna Tsang Chhu, we were able to pick out a pair of these, which we often miss on the tour.
WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba)
The common wagtail species here, with small numbers along most of the rivers, and a single bird at the Gelephu sewage ponds. Most of our records pertained to the common, breeding subspecies, alboides (aka Hodgson's), but Megan and a couple of others saw a gray-backed bird of the subspecies personata (aka Masked) along the Par Chhu.
ROSY PIPIT (Anthus roseatus)
A high-elevation breeder, and most, if not all of the birds were either still in their wintering areas or en route to higher ground. Our first were 3 birds at Chele La, with 3 more along the Par Chhu later the same day. Towards the end of the tour, we also saw a couple in the Ura Valley, and a single bird at Pele La. At least a few birds showed the rosy wash to their plumage, making the identification pretty straightforward.
OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT (Anthus hodgsoni)
The common pipit here, regularly seen in upland regions, including several birds on territories at some of the higher passes (Pele La, for example). Much more likely to perch in trees than most other pipits, a behavior we saw pretty regularly.
SPOT-WINGED GROSBEAK (Mycerobas melanozanthos)
Just a single bird, a lovely male singing lustily from the top of a conifer along the road near Sengor, was a nice consolation prize in place of the tragopan we were hoping for.
WHITE-WINGED GROSBEAK (Mycerobas carnipes)
Two records, one at each end of the tour. We saw a couple of pairs of these at the top of Chele La, then had three birds at a puddle in the middle of the road at Pele La.
COMMON ROSEFINCH (Carpodacus erythrinus)
Not common every year, but they were on this trip. We had a large group of 50+ birds around the small farm near Darachu Camp, another dozen in the Tingtibi area, and about 5 birds near Sengor.
SCARLET FINCH (Carpodacus sipahi)
A backlit male was spotted from the bus, perched high above the road, but it flew off before we could get a decent look. Amazingly, we refound it perched high in another tree, where we were able to get some pretty good scope views. We usually get more on this tour, but this was our only one of the trip.
DARK-RUMPED ROSEFINCH (Carpodacus edwardsii)
While we were pretty sure that the first one we saw (a female) in some dense bamboo on Thrumsing La was this species, it wasn't until the male popped up and showed beautifully that we were 100% confident we'd gotten it right. Our other record was a lone female at Pelela.
CRIMSON-BROWED FINCH (Carpodacus subhimachalus)
A lone female spotted from the bus near Sengor took off quickly, before everyone was able to get a satisfactory look. Luckily, we found another three birds, all females, along the old road at Pele La, where everyone managed to catch up.
HIMALAYAN WHITE-BROWED ROSEFINCH (Carpodacus thura)
A pair popped up near where the bus was parked on Chele La, then proceeded to forage along the roadside, giving fantastic looks as we looked on from the slope above. Our only other sighting was of two lovely males at Pele La.
BROWN BULLFINCH (Pyrrhula nipalensis)
A single bird with a small group of Red-headed Bullfinches at the Royal Botanical Park at Dochula was missed by a few of the group.
RED-HEADED BULLFINCH (Pyrrhula erythrocephala)
In addition to the half a dozen mentioned above, we had a second sighting of 5 birds at Pele La, where one colorful male showed especially nicely as it foraged in a nearby tree.
GOLD-NAPED FINCH (Pyrrhoplectes epauletta)
It seems there's a fair bit of luck involved in finding this scarce species. On our past 5 tours, we've had it 4 times, with just a single sighting of one or two birds, and they have all been at different high elevation locales. This tour adds a 5th locale into the mix, as our lone bird, a smashing adult male, was spotted foraging on the verge of the road at Jainala.
YELLOW-BREASTED GREENFINCH (Chloris spinoides)
We were just about to board the bus after our picnic breakfast at Yongkola, when I spotted a trio of birds land in the top of a distant dead tree. Scopes were set up quickly, and we were able to see that they were this species, a bird we rarely see on this tour!
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
A group of 10 birds perched along the road near Sengor Camp, 4 at Yotong La, and a pair at Pele La was a pretty good showing for this tour. There are many different subspecies and groups; the ones here belong to the Himalayan group, subspecies himalayensis.
CRESTED BUNTING (Emberiza lathami)
Nice spotting by Megan to pick a distant, but unmistakeable male perched on a wire across the Puna Tsang Chhu from our vantage point. This is a species we miss more often than not.
LITTLE BUNTING (Emberiza pusilla) [b]
More than usual seemed to be lingering in Bhutan. We saw 6 or 7 on our first day in the country, mostly on the road towards Drogyel Dzong, than a group of 10 or more at Darachu Camp. Our final bird was a cooperative one foraging on the roadside west of Sengor Camp on April 16th, which is getting pretty late for this species here!
RHESUS MACAQUE (Macaca mulatta)
Very similar to the next species, which is more widespread in Bhutan. This one apparently replaces Assam Macaque in lowlands along the Indian border, such as at Royal Manas NP, where we saw our only ones.
ASSAM MACAQUE (Macaca assamensis)
Small numbers at a number of sites in the mountains. Perhaps the most notable was one inside the Trongsa Dzong. Luckily it did not take our shoes!
COMMON LANGUR (Presbytis entellus)
Also known as Gray Langur. Nado spotted our only one above the road as we worked our way up the Puna Tsang Chhu valley.
GOLDEN LANGUR (Presbytis geei)
Very nearly a Bhutanese endemic, restricted to this country and a small neighboring region of West Assam. We did exceptionally well with this endangered species, seeing them on 4 consecutive days, with our first ones seen while birding along the road near Darachu Camp, and the last along the drive to Nganglam.
CAPPED LANGUR (Presbytis pileata)
First seen near Nganglam, on the same day we saw our final Golden Langurs, then daily until we left Yongkola. We had perhaps our best views near Yongkola, where a fair-sized troop was resting in the sun on the concrete abutments along the road. As we approached, a couple of younger monkeys "hid" behind the concrete posts, perhaps thinking that if they couldn't see us, we couldn't see them, though they were still clearly visible!
HIMALAYAN PIKA (Ochotona roylei)
We saw about half a dozen pikas on our morning at Chele La, then more at several of the higher passes in the last few days of the trip. Though we generally lumped them all under this species (I've taken the common name from iNaturalist; we called them Royle's Pika), this may not be entirely correct. In fact, iNat has research grade photos of 4 different species in Bhutan, with 3 from Chele La alone. So, though we probably did see this species, it's possible we also saw at least one other. Photos could be helpful, but I suspect they're best identified by dentition or other internal features.
BLACK GIANT SQUIRREL (Ratufa bicolor)
A handful of these massive, monkey-sized squirrels were in the low foothills down near the Indian border.
HOARY-BELLIED (IRAWADDY) SQUIRREL (Callosciurus pygerythrus)
The common squirrel seen daily from Gelephu through to Yongkola.
HIMALAYAN STRIPED SQUIRREL (Tamiops macclellandi)
A few of these tiny, chipmunk-like squirrels were seen on several days from Nganglam to Yongkola. I was a bit surprised not to hear them though, as they are very vocal in Thailand, where they're calls are often mistaken for twittering birds.
HIMALAYAN GROUND-SQUIRREL (Dremomys lokriah)
Something of a misnomer, as these squirrels regularly are found in trees. The iNat name Orange-bellied Himalayan Squirrel may be more fitting, as the orange belly is a characteristic feature. The only one this trip was seen by part of the group at Sengor Camp.
YELLOW-THROATED MARTEN (Martes flavigula)
A roadside one from the bus at Tama La was seen poorly or not at all for some, so we were delighted to have a much better encounter at Pele La. As we enjoyed our picnic breakfast in a clearing surrounded by lovely flowering rhododendron trees, we spotted one of these handsome, large weasels at the edge of the clearing. Though it moved fast, we enjoyed its company for the next 20-30 minutes as it climbed tree after tree, snooping around among the flowers before moving onto the next.
WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa)
Our late afternoon drive from Ura to Jakar along the back roads brought us our only sighting of these wild pigs, when we rounded a bend to surprise a group of at least 3 adults and 10 small, striped piglets that were foraging in a little ravine next to the road. We had great looks as they charged off into the forest.
MUNTJAC (BARKING DEER) (Muntiacus muntjak) [*]
We heard the call near Darachu Camp but that was all we had.
SAMBAR (Cervus unicolor)
Heard on a couple of days, though our only sighting was of one walking on a track along the river as we boated across to the park headquarters at Royal Manas NP, and some folks weren't able to spot it before it was swallowed up by dense vegetation.
ASIAN WATER BUFFALO (Bubalus bubalis)
A truly massive bull was soaking in the Manas River as we boated up to the park headquarters. It seemed pretty unperturbed by the boat. In iNaturalist, this scientific name is reserved for Domestic Water Buffalo, with wild animals referred to as Bubalus arnee. Hard to say if this was truly a "wild" animal or a mix between wild and domestic buffalo, but Royal manas certainly does have a population of wild buffalo.
COMMON GORAL (Nemorhaedus goral)
One animal was spotted foraging on the lush grasses near the top of the Namling Waterfall, though we were initially unsure whether it was this species or the similar Serow. It eventually settled down to chew its cud while watching us from its lofty perch, at which time we spotted a second one traversing a very steep slope below the road!
COMMON HOUSE GECKO (Hemidactylus frenatus)
We heard these at Gelephu, though I don't think anyone actually saw any.
ORIENTAL GARDEN LIZARD (Calotes versicolor)
The lizard we had working its way along the rock wall along the Puna Tsang Chhu and the colorful one seen (and that I photographed) on the bridge railing at the Twin Waterfall look good for this widespread south Asian species.
Though there weren't many dragonflies (we saw more species on our one-day pre-tour excursion in India), I did photograph and identify the following species:
Ditch Jewel (Brachythemis contaminata): Hundreds of these small red (male) or yellow (female) dragonflies were busy producing more at the Gelephu sewage ponds.
Blue Marsh Hawk (Orthetrum glaucum): blue might be a bit of a stretch, blue-gray a bit more accurate. A couple of these were at the water puddles at the spring at Twin Waterfall.
Blue-tailed Forest-Hawk (Orthetrum triangulare): similar to the above, but more contrastingly black and white. One of these was with the above species at Twin Waterfall.
Crimson-tailed Marsh Hawk (Orthetrum pruinosum): a large blackish dragonfly with a bright red-tail, seen in the wet area beside the rest rooms we stopped at in the small settlement on our way north from Nganglam.
Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens): dozens of these large yellow dragons were flying over the ridge at our picnic spot at the Gashari turnoff (Nganglam area), as well as several other areas.
(Heliocypha biforata); another one from Twin Waterfall. A member of the jewel damselfly group. This was the rather thick-bodied damsel that remained perched on the rubber hose above the spring.
Totals for the tour: 339 bird taxa and 16 mammal taxa