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18 Days

Manas Bird quest

18 Days Manas Bird Quest in Bhutan: A Birdwatcher’s Dream Expedition Overview

This 18-day Manas Bird Quest is meticulously crafted for bird lovers, researchers, environmentalists, and ornithologists. It offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore the diverse and rare avian species in Bhutan, a country with over 770 identified bird species and many more waiting to be discovered. This expedition is not just a birdwatching tour but an immersive journey into the heart of the Himalayan avifauna.

Highlights:

  • Diverse Bird Species: Encounter rare and exotic birds, including the Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, and the endangered Black-Necked Crane.
  • Rich Habitats: Traverse through various parts of Bhutan, each offering unique habitats from subtropical forests to alpine meadows.
  • Cultural Integration: Experience Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage, including visits to monasteries and dzongs, complemented by traditional Bhutanese hospitality.

Summary

The 18-day Manas Bird Quest in Bhutan is an exceptional birdwatching adventure, offering enthusiasts a chance to witness some of the rarest Himalayan birds in their natural habitats. Bhutan, known as a bird paradise, hosts over 770 bird species, including several that are endangered or endemic to the region.

This tour is an invitation to explore the diverse avian life in Bhutan’s pristine forests, ranging from the majestic Imperial Heron, one of the world’s fifty rarest birds, to the elusive Black-Necked Crane known for its migratory patterns from Tibet to Bhutan. Highlights include the opportunity to spot the Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Satyr Tragopan, Blyth’s Kingfisher, and the Beautiful Nuthatch, among others.

The journey spans various ecological zones of Bhutan, offering a kaleidoscope of bird species set against the backdrop of the country’s stunning natural landscapes. Alongside birdwatching, participants will immerse themselves in Bhutanese culture, visiting historical and religious landmarks, and experiencing local traditions and cuisine.

The Manas Bird Quest is more than a birdwatching tour; it’s an exploration of Bhutan’s natural wonders and a testament to its conservation efforts. It promises an enriching experience for birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking to connect with the unique biodiversity and culture of the Himalayas.

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Detailed Program

We begin our tour from Paro in western Bhutan. We explore the valley which is a delight to see as it is filled with cultural and historical monuments. Our particular interest will be to spot the Ibisbill which inhabits sandbanks of the rivers and the Black-tailed Crake.

Other birds to look for include:

  • Brown Dipper
  • Plumbeous
  • White-capped Water-Redstarts
  • Siberian Stonechat
  • Grey Bushchat
  • Blue Whistling Thrush
  • Himalayan Wagtail
  • River Lapwing
  • Oriental Turtle Dove
  • Eurasian Hoopoe Himalayan Black Bulbul
  • Grey-backed Shrike
  • Red-billed Chough
  • Large-billed Crow
  • Green-backed Tit
  • Russet Sparrow
  • Green Sandpiper
  • Rosy Pipit
  • Rufous-breasted Accentor
  • Black-throated Thrush
  • Hodgson’s Redstart

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We start early to the scenic Chelela mountain pass (3,780 m). This place is excellent to spot the Himalayan Monal, considered to be among the world’s 10 most beautiful birds. We will also sour the area for Blood Pheasant and Kalij Pheasant.

Other species found include:

  • Long-tailed Thrush
  • White-collared Blackbird
  • Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird
  • Olive-backed Pipit
  • The huge Collared Grosbeak
  • White-winged Grosbeak
  • Himalayan White-browed
  • Dark-rumped Rosefinches
  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • Grey Nightjar
  • Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
  • Spotted (or Eurasian) Nutcracker
  • Long-tailed Minivet
  • Coal
  • Grey-crested
  • Rufous-fronted Tits
  • Black-faced Laughingthrush
  • White-browed Fulvetta
  • Rufous-vented Yuhina
  • Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
  • Buff-barred Warbler
  • Himalayan Red-flanked Bluetail (split from Northern)
  • Blue-fronted Redstart.

Towards evening, we will drive to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu (2,350m), and camp near Dochula for the night.

Attractions and places:

Dochula (3,100m) is the most scenic mountain pass in Bhutan, surrounded by forests of hemlock, fir, rhododendron, and evergreen oak. With the mighty peaks of the eastern Himalayas as the backdrop, we begin to look for:

  • White-throated, Striated
  • Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush,
  • Darjeeling Woodpecker
  • Rufous Sibia
  • Hoary-throated Barwing
  • Stripe-throated Yuhina
  • Rufous-winged Fulvetta
  • Lemon-rumped
  • Ashy-throated Warblers
  • Whistler’s Warbler
  • Yellow-browed Tit
  • Rusty-flanked Treecreeper
  • Green-tailed Sunbird
  • Common Crossbill
  • Dark-breasted Rosefinch
  • Red-headed Bullfinch.

We may even spot the beautiful Fire-tailed Myzornis here.

Towards the evening we descend to Punakha (1,350m).

This sub-tropical valley has its crown jewel, the splendid Punakha Dzong, the ancient capital flanked by male and female rivers, Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. We hike up the Mo Chhu, and along a wide stretch of forests along the riverbank and its tributaries, we look for:

  • Crested Kingfisher,
  • Great Cormorant
  • Slaty-backed Forktail.

In particular, we will be keen to see, among numerous other species, Yellow-vented Warbler, Spotted Wren-Babbler, and, if lucky be on our side, the extremely rare White-bellied Heron, and Pallas’s Fish Eagle.

Other species found in this area include:

  • Grey-headed Woodpecker
  • Greater
  • Lesser Yellownape
  • Maroon Oriole
  • Ashy & Hair-crested Drongos
  • Common Myna
  • Grey Treepie
  • Black-winged Cuckoo-Shrike
  • Mountain Bulbul
  • Ultramarine
  • Verditer and Grey-headed Flycatchers
  • Small Niltava
  • Slaty-bellied Tesia
  • Blyth’s Leaf
  • Green-crowned and Grey-hooded Warblers
  • Black-throated Tit
  • Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
  • Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
  • Crested Serpent Eagle
  • Spotted Dove
  • Himalayan Cuckoo
  • Himalayan Swiftlet
  • House Swift
  • White-throated Kingfisher
  • Great and Golden-throated Barbets
  • Black-throated Sunbird.

We will also look for babblers including Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Red-tailed and Blue-winged Minlas, Whiskered Yuhina, and Nepal Fulvetta.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

Today, we head into the interior, from Wangdue to Phobjikha valley. The route is thickly forested and we will be birding along this way amongst ever-changing vegetation from the sub-tropics to the temperate to the alpine. We will look out for the elusive Yellow-rumped Honeyguide among hives of Rock Bees.

Other birds usually found in this stretch include:

  • Grey-sided Bush Warbler
  • Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon
  • Fork-tailed Swift
  • Chestnut-bellied and Blue-capped Rock Thrushes
  • Yellow-bellied Fantail
  • Fire-tailed Sunbird Himalayan Griffon
  • Lammergeier
  • Indian Blue Robin
  • Hume’s Bush Warbler.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We continue eastward, along what is locally termed as a “lateral highway,” crossing two mountain passes, Pele La (3,300m) and Yotong La (3,400m) We will try to spot Himalayan Wood Owl, the rare Wood Snipe, and high altitude species such as Alpine Accentor, White-browed Bush Robin, Great and Brown Parrotbills, and Fulvous Parrotbill.

Other new birds along this stretch may include Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Spotted Forktail, and Speckled Woodpigeon. We finally reach the wide pine-forested Bumthang valley, considered one of the most beautiful in Bhutan.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

Our main birding area today is in and around the thick hemlock and rhododendron forests of Thrumshing La Pass (3,750m). The pass is often visited by high-altitude species like the Goldcrest, Golden Bush Robin, Rufous-vented Tit, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch Blood Pheasant, Snow Pigeon, and Spotted Laughingthrush. From the pass, we descend, through hairpin bends, to Lingmethang road.

This stretch of road is an ornithologist’s delight so much so that it has often been dubbed the “birding capital of the world”. The icing on the cake is that only a handful has been here in the past.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We spend five nights along this road. The fact that this area is so rich in birds is attributable to its incredibly wide climatic and forest variations. Lingmethang is just 650m above sea level. But, in barely 80 kilometers or so, one gains a height of 3,750m. This region harbors some of the most sought-after Himalayan bird species, the list too long to be mentioned here in its entirety, and the variety so diverse.

The list includes:

  • Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill
  • Satyr Tragopan which is described as the “poster bird of the Himalayas”
  • Blue-fronted Robin
  • Yellow-throated Fulvetta and Grey-cheeked Warbler
  • Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill
  • Rusty-fronted Barwing
  • White-naped Yuhina
  • Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler
  • Bar-winged Wren-Babbler
  • Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler
  • Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler
  • Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler and Broad-billed Warbler.

Others on the list include:

  • Yellow-bellied Fantail
  • Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesia
  • Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
  • Hill Prinia
  • Mountain Tailorbird
  • Large-billed Leaf
  • Chestnut-crowned and Black-faced Warblers
  • White-browed and Lesser Shortwings
  • White-tailed Robin
  • Grey-winged Blackbird
  • Yellow-cheeked Tit
  • White-tailed Nuthatch
  • Brown-throated Treecreeper
  • Oriental White-eye
  • Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
  • Crested Goshawk
  • Mountain Hawk Eagle
  • Large Hawk-Cuckoo
  • Common Lesser and Drongo Cuckoos
  • The dazzling Asian Emerald Cuckoo
  • Asian Barred Owlet
  • Red-headed Trogon
  • Blue-bearded Bee-eater
  • Crimson-breasted and Bay Woodpeckers
  • Oriental Skylark
  • Nepal House Martin
  • Grey-chinned Minivet
  • Striated Bulbul
  • Streak-breasted and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers
  • Scaly-breasted and Pygmy Wren-Babblers
  • Golden Babbler
  • Black-throated Parrotbill
  • White-crested
  • Grey-sided and Scaly Laughingthrush
  • The near-endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush (split from Streaked)
  • Red-billed Leiothrix
  • Cutia, White-browed and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers
  • Chestnut-tailed Minla
  • Black-chinned Yuhina
  • The stunning little Golden-breasted Fulvetta
  • Dark-sided
  • Little Pied
  • Blue-throated
  • Pygmy Blue and Pale Blue Flycatchers
  • The shy Sapphire Flycatcher
  • The secretive White-gorgeted Flycatcher
  • Large and Rufous-bellied Niltava
  • Yellow-breasted Greenfinch and Crimson-browed Finch.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We first drive to Trongsa and then onward, taking a southerly direction, to Zhemgang and finally to Tingtibi. From our campsite at Tingtibi, we will be looking for more birds for the next three days.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

The Tingtibi and the adjoining areas also offer some of the best birding sites in Bhutan. Our principal chase will be Beautiful Nuthatch, which is also rare and localized.

Other species found in this area are:

  • Scarlet Minivet
  • Red-vented
  • White-throated and Ashy Bulbuls
  • Bronzed Drongo
  • Long-tailed Shrike
  • Oriental Magpie Robin
  • Blue Rock Thrush
  • Striated Prinia
  • Rufous-faced Warbler
  • Yellow-bellied Warbler
  • The superb Rufous-necked and Blue-winged Laughingthrush
  • Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush
  • Crimson Liocichla
  • White-browed Scimitar Babbler
  • Grey-throated Babbler
  • Silver-eared Mesia
  • Striated Yuhina
  • Long-tailed Sibia
  • Sultan Tit
  • Streaked Spiderhunter
  • Crested Bunting
  • Oriental Honey Buzzard
  • Black Eagle
  • Emerald Dove
  • Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Dove
  • Pin-tailed Green Pigeon
  • Whistling Hawk-Cuckoo
  • Indian and Violet Cuckoos
  • White-throated Needletail
  • Blue-throated Barbet
  • White-browed Piculet
  • Rufous Woodpecker
  • Long-tailed Broadbill
  • Orange-bellied Leafbird
  • Common Green Magpie
  • Rufous-necked Hornbill.

This place is also frequented by the rare and endangered Golden Langur monkey.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We drive further downhill and camp at a roadside clearing on the way to Gelephu, the town which shares a border with the Indian state of Assam. This stretch is relatively unexplored by birding enthusiasts and as we make our way down, we will make several stops to look for, among other species, Scarlet Finch and Brown Bullfinch.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

We stay overnight at Gelephu. Here, in this warm and humid plain, we will look for lower foothill forest birds such as:

  • Dark-rumped Swift,
  • Thick-billed Green Pigeon,
  • Mountain Imperial Pigeon,
  • Plaintive and Banded Bay Cuckoos,
  • Green-billed Malkoha,
  • Dollarbird,
  • Wreathed,
  • Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills,
  • Blue-eared Barbet,
  • Speckled Piculet,
  • Grey-capped Woodpecker,
  • Large Woodshrike,
  • Common Iora,
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird,
  • Asian Fairy-Bluebird,
  • Black-crested and Red-whiskered Bulbuls,
  • Striped Tit-Babbler,
  • Black-naped Monarch,
  • Rufescent Prinia,
  • Common Tailorbird,
  • White-rumped Shama,
  • Greater Racket-tailed Drongo,
  • Common Hill Myna,
  • Black-backed Forktail and Crimson Sunbird.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

Today, we cross into India and travel to Guwahati, the state capital of Assam which lies on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra River. Enroute, we will be able to see many species of the plains such as:

  • Indian Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Great
  • Intermediate and Little Egrets
  • Asian Openbill
  • Greater Adjutant
  • Lesser Adjutant
  • Little Cormorant
  • Lesser Whistling Duck
  • Black and Black-eared Kites
  • White-rumped Vulture
  • The endangered Slender-billed Vulture
  • Grey-headed Swamphen
  • Bronze-winged Jacana
  • Red-wattled Lapwing, Rose-ringed Parakeet
  • Asian Palm Swift
  • Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  • Indian Roller
  • Richard’s Pipit
  • Zitting Cisticola
  • Striated Grassbird
  • Black-hooded Oriole
  • Black Drongo
  • Ashy Wood-Swallow
  • Asian Pied Starling
  • Jungle Myna
  • House Crow and Eastern Jungle Crow

reach Guwahati airport in the late afternoon.

  • Inclusion
  • Exclusion
  • Insurance
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off by private vehicle.
  • 3-star accommodation (4 & 5 stars may require an additional premium update).
  • Bhutan visa fee – including all necessary processing
  • Route Permit
  • Three meals per day during your stay in Bhutan
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide
  • All land transportation by private vehicle
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Monuments entrance fees where applicable
  • Drinking water
  • All internal taxes and charges
  • A sustainable development fee of $200. (This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, and poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.)
  • Airfare & Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of personal nature, Tips to guides and drivers
  • Expenses occurred due to unavoidable events i.e. road wrecks, flight delays etc.

Package does not include insurance of any kinds, and that you are required to obtain separate coverage from your home country before your trip begins.

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