Bhutan Travel Diary - p 4Striated Laughingthrush

11 April 2007
We've moved to a lower elevation campsite for the next 3 nights, and even have a portable outhouse at this one.  Near the campsite I photograph a type of bird that's been driving me crazy:  the laughingthrushes.  This one is the Striated Laughingthrush.  Never have I seen birds with such a knack for always being in the midst of dense bush or constantly on the move, never stopping for a second to pose for the photographer.  This photo is as close as I've come in spite of hours of stalking in vain the White-throated, Black-faced and even the most handsome, the White-crested Laughingthrush.  By now I imagine that they're really laughing at me and the idea that I could actually photograph them.




Ward's Trogon

Yet again Chozang produces the bird, this one perhaps the best of the Bhutan trip:  a rare and beautiful Ward's Trogon.  We drive up from our campsite and he uses its call to draw in the yellow-and-brown female, then a gorgeous male, who is much more beautiful than the guide book shows.
     Trogons are found from Arizona through tropical America as well as Africa and Asia, a colorful bird that usually sits quietly in mid-story.  A true avian gem.
      The Ward's only stayed on his mossy perch a few seconds before flying away on long graceful wings.  I got this one good image, and was beginning to think that I was a pretty good photographer after all.  However, BreezeBrowser, a program that I use to manage my images on the computer, has a feature that shows the focus point when the photo was taken.  Turns out I was actually focused on the moss below the bird.  By sheer luck, its breast and head happened to be in the same plane.
      But I'll still keep it.










Rufous-bellied Niltava

For whatever reason, blue and chestnut seem to be the fashionable colors for an great variety of Bhutanese birds including thrushes, flycatchers, chats and the like.  Few are more handsome than the Rufous-bellied Niltava, a flycatcher that we meet on the road down the mountain toward the eastern semi-tropical lowlands.













Rufous-necked Hornbills

It's easy to find splendid Rufous-necked Hornbills in this part of Bhutan.  Their barking calls can be heard most of the day, and in the morning and evening they fly about with a great whoosh of the wings.  We found this female (left) sizing up the male (right) not far below our campsite. 
   You can't watch these birds without thinking how much they resemble the toucans of tropical America.  Here's my theory:  we know that toucans evolved from barbets; perhaps they did so only in the American tropics because in Africa or Asia that niche is already filled by hornbills.








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