Travel Diary - p 2
My fever broke last night. At last I begin to feel
almost normal, and can enjoy Bhutan and its bird life. As if to mark
the event, we find a colorful Blue-throated Barbet near the river. The
barbet represents a fascinating aspect of bird life here. Just as our bird
life in the U.S. is a mix of the neotropical (tanagers, warblers) and nearctic (jays,
waxwings), Bhutan's bird life is a mix of the Oriental (barbets, hornbills) and
the palearctic (parids [tits], accentors, rosefinches).
Chozang tells us that barbets are his favorite birds. We hear
the Great Barbet calling daily, and later have scope views of a Golden-throated
Barbet, but never again see these (usually) treetop birds so close as the
We continue east along
the one main road through the country which although paved is not really a
two-lane road, more like 1 1/2 or even one lane. Fortunately there are
shoulders where Tandi can negotiate passage when we meet trucks and buses,
usually with several inches to spare.
It's always fun to stop along the roadside where Chozang stirs up a
gang of songbirds with his owl imitation. Green-tailed Sunbird and Rufous
Sibia are usually the first to become irate, but another that's becoming a
favorite is the lively Chestnut-tailed Minla. Minlas are
insectivorous and belong to a group called babblers (Timaliids), related to Old
Green-backed Tit is another bird that takes great interest in the owl call and
is in fact one of the commonest forest birds of Bhutan.
we stop at cliffs where wild bees have large nests. Perched nearby is
a decidedly odd bird, the Yellow-rumped Honeyguide. Found in Africa and
Asia, honeyguides are known to "lead" mammals including humans to
After the nest has been raided, the honeyguide moves in to eat the bee larvae
and, oddly enough, the beeswax too.
Most birders eagerly seek the honeyguide as another tick on
their list, but it's perched way up high. Much more obliging for a
photographer is a nearby Plumbeous Redstart, who poses for me along a
mountain stream. Nearly every stretch of river in Bhutan has a pair of
these charming little birds.