Our next stop was a ‘homestay’ near Sengor, with a friendly family and their pet cat. We were close to a nice area of forest and took a late-afternoon walk between showers, Sherab heard a bird-call of a species which we were all keen to see and tried some ‘playback’, the birds seemed to respond well but were very elusive, however he quietly-called me and pointed to a nearby stump where a superb Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler sat and watched us. Simply awesome….
Along the road we heard two species of Tesia and managed to call out a Chestnut-headed but it was a difficult chore with clouds of biting-midges and we had to be content with fleeting-glimpses. We also saw several Gold-naped and Scarlet Finches amongst others.
After Sengor we ascended to higher-altitude, pristine forest and the weather became increasingly monsoonal, this was to be the pattern for the remainder of the trip (…in the east) making road-travel even more ‘nail-biting’! Before starting the adventure we were led to believe that we would be camping for several nights in the Yongkhola district however new accommodation had been opened and our last stop was to be the Trogon Villa, a very comfortable hotel with wonderful staff.
Rufous-necked Hornbill call
Unfortunately the wet-weather restricted the birding over the next few days and we were forced to spend quite a few wasted-hours at the hotel awaiting dry-spells, the culmination came on one very wet morning when we had an early start and attempted to find a Ward’s Trogon. When ascending the mountain we were dismayed to see a road-slip blocking the main road forcing a return to our accommodation awaiting the blockage to be cleared and the rain to stop. After spending several hours watching the village-life, braving showers and attempting to photograph some of the farm-land birds we headed back to the forest in the van with a sense of optimism. Sherab decided that we should take a walk and it was with much surprise that I saw him go into a mild-panic searching for his laser-pointer and shouting “Beautiful Nuthatch“, announcing the discovery of one of my ‘most-wanted’ species! Eventually the whole group managed to see the bird, inconspicuously hiding underneath a Bronzed Drongo in a distant tree, although the sad quality of the photo is testament to my lack of photographic ability……
Grey-bellied Cuckoo call
Because of an admin ‘mix-up’ on my part, I had arranged my tour to be several days longer than the other two participants which meant that I would have to stay in Paro and await a later departing flight, so I was very pleased when Norbu agreed that I could extend my stay in Yongkhola for three more days and send out a new guide and driver (at no extra cost to me) whilst Bill and Easy returned back to the west. On June 15 I joined them as far as the high-altitude forest (…read Ward’s Trogon) I then hiked the 15 kms back to Trogon Villa, the contrast to the previous day could not have been more apparent, beautiful weather, lots of birds and wildlife (…minus trogon) although my feet were feeling a bit worse for wear in the afternoon!
Later that afternoon my new guide and driver arrived from Thimphu, Tshering and Ugyen, we introduced ourselves and prepared for an early start to go birding lower down the mountain towards Limethang. Another wet-day arrived but this time slightly more ‘intermittent-showery’ enabling us to get some interesting birding from the main road. It was also nice-change to go birding in more open-country and there was a quite a difference in the birdlife that we encountered. Tshering was a young and very-sharp guide, and soon we had several new species logged.
We spent our last full day in Yongkhola attempting (unsuccessfully) to find Ward’s Trogon and the rain-clouds returned. However it was still a fairly eventful day and we managed to find another Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Black-throated Parrotbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Black and Mountain Hawk-eagle and a large flock of ‘assorted’ swifts, mainly White-throated Needletails.
Finally it was time to leave Yongkhola and head back to Paro, the weather was very wet again and about 15 kms past Namling, we arrived at the road-slip spot to find our passage blocked again, this time it was slightly more ‘worrying’ as I had a flight to catch in a few days. We drove back towards Trogon Villa and met the ‘Excavator-team’ coming up from Yongkhola, explaining that they should have the slip opened shortly. We returned to the ‘slip’ and I decided to have a go at filming the event, a ‘poor-quality’ video-clip is the result, I was in total-admiration of the excavator’s work, removing large boulders, whilst ‘perched’ on a sheer-drop as other seriously-sized rocks tumbled down from above!
After an hour, the slip was clear and traffic passed but that was not the end of the excitement, we made our way to Trongsa in the rain and fog on one of the narrowest (…and ‘scariest’) highways that I’ve ever travelled on! Birding was very limited during this time (…as you might imagine!)
We spent the night at the gorgeous Yankhil Resort at Trongsa, but rain poured from dusk to dawn and when we departed for Paro the drive became even more exciting, we drove through ‘axle-deep’ mud and overtook large trucks on the narrowest road that I have ever seen (…and did I mention the thick fog?) After two hours we covered 60 kilometres and the situation eased considerably with better-weather and road-conditions (…later I found out that within hours of our travel this ‘stretch’ of highway was closed for several days, fortunate-indeed!)