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Celebrating the feathered friends

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering takes part in a Khuru (dart) game at the opening of the three-day Bhutan Bird Festival in Tingtibi, Zhemgang

November 13, 2019 

A total of 286 bird species were identified during the three-day bird-athon organised as a part of the ongoing Bhutan Bird Festival in Tingtibi, Zhemgang.

More than 30 national birders strolled the rugged terrains through dense forest in six different stretches spotting the rich avifauna of the Khengrig Nam-Sum region.

The birders counted a total of 3,793 birds.

 Lyonchhen released three different species of birds during the opening day of the bird festival in Tingtibi, Zhemgang on November 11
Lyonchhen released three different species of birds during the opening day of the bird festival in Tingtibi, Zhemgang on November 11

Ornithologist and researcher with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) in Bumthang, Sherub, popularly known as Bird Sherub said that the event was organised to strengthen the conservation efforts through information generation and recording coordinates of the various bird species in the dzongkhag.

During the three days, birders captured pictures of different birds along with their location coordinates. The highest species were found between Batasey and Tingtibi where about 194 species were found.

The maximum number of Great Hornbill, a flock of 25 was found in Tingtibi. A total of 40 Great Hornbills were counted during the three days.

The three most common birds observed during the event were the Red-vented Bulbul, Nepal House Martin and Orange-bellied Leafbird.

Sherub said that birder base in the country has gradually increased over the last decade with at least 50 active birders today. “These additional eyes would help us find new records for Bhutan.”

Currently there are 747 recorded bird species in the country of which about 500 species are found in Zhemgang.

Besides Zhemgang, the area stretching from Phrumsengla National Park to Limithang in Mongar is considered to be the best birding sites in the country. Sherub said that given the wide range of elevation and habitats, the stretch is also regarded as the best birding site in Asia.

“We have a good diversity of birds and it is because of the conducive conservation policies that we have,” he said. “If we continue to have these policies in place, Bhutan would remain a hotspot for different species of birds for generations.”

From 616 bird species recorded in 1996, the numbers have grown over the years. “If we continue with the current progress, it wont be long before we achieve the internationally predicated number of 770 species. It would be a time to celebrate when we hit that number.”

Bhutan Birdlife Society

In an effort to bring in all the birding enthusiasts together, a community based group – Bhutan Birdlife Society (BBS) has also been formed.

One of its founding members, Kelzang Dorji, said that BBS started from a Facebook group know as Birds of Bhutan, which has over 12,000 members.

“We have many birds and equal number of bird-lovers in the country. However, a forum that brings together these people and their interest was missing,” he said. “BBS was formed to bring together these people and work towards the conservation of birds and protection of its habitats.”

Kelzang Dorji who is a civil servant said that members from diverse backgrounds, which included teachers, tour-guides, foresters and engineers are the members.

Bird Sherub who is also a founding member of the society said that BBS should develop to become a centre of experts in ornithology in the long run.

The society currently engages in encouraging children into birding in schools through the establishment of bird clubs and providing them with the equipment like binoculars.

“We want to become a full CSO in the near future and are currently exploring international collaboration,” said Kelzang Dorji.

One of the birders, Thinley Wangchuk, said that so far he had spotted more than 600 species of birds across the country. “However, the most interesting and rare birds I got the see so far was in Zhemgang.”

Meanwhile, on November 11 Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering released a newly found bird species, Siberian Rubythroat in the open.

Bird Sherub said that the species native to Siberia, Russia has been seen in other places like Gelephu, Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar. “This is the first time we have seen this bird in Zhemgang.”

The bird is a winter visitor and breeds in Siberia and migrates south during winter.

Along with the Siberian Rubythroat, Lyonchhen also released two other existing  species of birds – Rufous-necked Laughingthrush and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher as a part of the festival’s theme, “giving you the wings to fly.”

The three-day event organised by Zhemgang dzongkhag will end today.


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