It is the highest altitude sighting of the bird

Birds: The black stork (ciconia nigra) and bar-headed goose (anser indicus) have been recorded for the first time in Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP) in Bumthang.

A pair of bar-headed goose was sighted on the banks of the Pralang river while a lone black stork was sighted below Pralang village in Tang gewog at an elevation of around 1680m.

This is the first time the black stork and bar-headed goose have been recorded in Bumthang.

WCNP species management and research section senior ranger Tenzin said the villagers of Pralang had never seen a black stork before in their village. Ornithologists from the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) also said that the black stork’s presence at such an elevation is being recorded for the first time according to the senior ranger.

“During my correspondence with UWICE ornithologist, Sherub, who is currently in Germany, via email told me that both the birds weren’t recorded before in Bumthang,” Tenzin said.

The black stork has a white lower breast and belly. Its bill and legs are red in colour.

Sighting the black stork in Bumthang, otherwise usually found only in the southern region, is quite a discovery said the senior ranger.

“It seems to be migrating to higher elevations probably because of climate change effects,” Tenzin said.

A book titled “Birds of Bhutan” by Carol and Tim Inskipps and Richard Grimmett states that the black stork is uncommon and local winter visitor and passage migration below 600masl.

According to the villagers of Pralang, the black stork was spotted only in the second week of March. He said that the wading bird arrived in Bumthang in March. The foresters spotted it on March 21.

While the villagers reported seeing two black storks only one bird was found when WCNP staff went to monitor the feeding and roosting grounds, the report on the agriculture and forests ministry’s website stated.

Meanwhile, WCNP has started maintaining a record of observations of the black stork.

“We have asked the people to see how long it roosts here to deduce if it its here for migration,” Tenzin said.

The senior ranger said the other bird, the bar-headed goose, which is classified as a rare passage migrant was discovered coincidently when the officials went to monitor the black stork. The goose has a white head with black banding and a white line running down its neck.

The bar-headed goose, though, has been recorded at equally higher elevations in other dzongkhags. It was recorded for the first time in Bumthang. Tenzin and WCNP forester, Choki Gyeltshen spotted the bar-headed goose from the banks of the Pralang river.

“The goose might have been roosting here from before but we could have missed it either because it was overlooked or ignored it for other birds,” Tenzin said.

While the bar-headed goose is found abundantly in the neighbouring Tibetan plateau and beyond, the black stork has long been in decline in Asia due to habitat degradation and is relatively rare, according to the report on ministry’s website.

WCNP had recorded a total of 250 bird species. During the last survey in October 2008, Brandt’s mountain finch (Leucosticte brandti) was recorded for the first time in Bhutan from WCNP.

The park also has 42 species of butterflies.

Tempa Wangdi