Travel Diary - p 6
Last night we stayed in the delightful and cozy Hotel
Dewachen in the high Phobjikha valley, famous as the wintering ground for the
endangered Black-necked Crane. But the cranes cleared out weeks ago,
returning to their nesting areas in China.
This morning we worked the Tsele La, searching in vain for a
Himalayan Monal. But other nice birds came by, including the handsome
few minutes later a bird flew out of a bamboo thicket above the road and perched
for a few moments, calling and looking things over. Chozang became very
excited, saying that this, the Great Parrotbill, almost never comes out into the
open and is often missed by birders. The photo is a bit of a monochrome
study, but it must be worth including if Chozang says it's that much of a
Parrotbills are a group of East Asian birds, many of them found
only in bamboo, that feed mostly on seed and perhaps flowers, as this one seems
to have a lot of pollen on its face. Their family name, Paradoxornithidae,
is the scientists' way of saying that they are confusing, paradoxical birds
taxonomically. Recent DNA evidence puts most of them with the Old World
warblers and those darn babblers again.
We've seen Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers off and on throughout
Bhutan, and finally get a photo op. It would seem that the bird is like
our sapsuckers, boring holes systematically in trees and then re-visiting them
to eat the insects that are attracted to the open sap.
Now we're back where we began in Paro, at the Hotel Gangtey
Palace. It sits across the valley from the Rinchen Pung Dzong, which
houses about 200 monks and is lit up at night, quite a spectacle. The
hotel itself, built in the 19th century, was once the residence of the Paro
penlop, roughly translated as governor. It's easily the most ornate place
we've ever stayed, with good food and friendly staff to match.
Now we're joined by Hishey Tshering, founder of Bhutan
Heritage Travels. Our first bird walk is an easy one, out past the dining
room to the hotel grounds where we find open-country birds like Red-billed
Chough, Russet Sparrow, Hodgson's Redstart, and Black Bulbul.
chough is found across Europe and Asia. Here it's a fixture in farming
villages, often seen feeding in the terraces and soaring about most pleasingly.
In many Bhutanese houses, the upper floor is used to store and dry hay for the
winter, and the roof is raised a foot or so to allow ventilation. This is
a favorite nesting spot of choughs.