A recent sighting of a Yellow-eyed babbler (Chrysomma sinense) in the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) has now increased the bird count in the country by one to 718.

The Yellow-eyed babbler is found in open grassland and shrubs in South Asia. The passerine bird, which was spotted by RMNP research section forest ranger, Dorji Wangchuk in January 2016 has been confirmed as a new sighting.

Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment  (UWICE) ornithologist Sherub confirmed the find as a new record for Bhutan. “I submitted pictures of the bird after I spotted it for the second time on February 14 this year and he said it’s a new record,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

Though the bird was spotted in January last year, the discovery could not be confirmed for lack of photographic evidence. “I knew it was a new record but could not prove it,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

The Yellow-eyed babbler was spotted at Manas Special Thang, which is a few hours walk west of the Manas range office.

But on February 14, this year, the forest ranger and two other RMNP foresters Jampel and Pema Loday spotted the bird in a group of nine at the same spot in Manas Special Thang during an annual tiger monitoring activity.

With the new sighting, the total number of birds in RMNP has increased to 493. Some of the newly recorded birds at the park include the Garganey Duck, Slaty-breasted rail, Chestnut-capped babbler and Great myna. RNMP is home to 70 percent of the total number of bird species in the country.

The annual waterbird count in January also recorded around 50 Black storks (Ciconia nigra) along the river Phibsulonga Khola. During the same survey, UWICE’s fourth batch of nature guide trainees recorded the Black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigrcollis) for the first time along the Chamkharchhu in Bumthang.

The female mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) was also spotted for the first time along Thimchhu in Babesa last year.

Tempa Wangdi