A feathered friends fest to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo

Occasion: In what may seem like a feast to birders within and outside the country, a three-day bird festival will be organised from October 29 in Tingtibi, Zhemgang.

Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), with the agriculture ministry, is organising the festival to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

UWICE director, Nawang Norbu, said that the idea of the festival came from Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who visited Zhemgang last April.

“Because of the rich biodiversity of birds, lyonchoen felt for the need of such event to celebrate its rich diversity,” Nawang Norbu said.

The festival will be held at Tingtibi, which is an area much sought after by bird watchers from across the world.  The place is also home to the critically endangered white-bellied heron (Ardea insignis).

Besides Tingtibi also houses hornbill species such as Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta Formosa), Ward’s Trogon (Harpactes wardii) and White-hooded Babbler (Gampsorhynchus rufulus).

In recent times new birds, such as Oriental Bay Owl (Pholidus badius), Hodgson’s Frogmouth (Batrachostomus hodgsoni) and Blyth’s Kingfisher (Alcedo hercules), were sighted in Tingtibi.

During the festival, artwork, depicting six major lifetime contributions of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, will be showcased.

One such exhibition would be the Fourth Druk Gyalpo sighting the White-bellied Heron at Lekithang under Punakha in 1973.   Other possible paintings could include His Majesty winning the Paul Getty Conservation Award in 2006, announcement of transition to democracy at Trashiyangtse, and green energy hydropower initiative.

Birding tours will also be organised a few days before the main festival.  Birding groups could begin bird watching from Samdrupjongkhar, Phuentsholing and Paro.

Guided birding will also be organised along the existing roads and trails and new nature trails made.  Birding packages, such as Heron Hike, Water-bird Walk, and Trogon Trek, will be available.

The festival will also include a bird-a-thon and a photography competition.  A short demonstrative hands-on-training on bird song recordings will be provided to the visitors.

Live demonstration of bird ringing and colour banding will also be conducted by capturing the birds with mist-nets.

Nawang Norbu said that the event was also targeted to promote tourism.  “Tourists have always come for culture, but bird watching is another promising field for tourism in Bhutan,” Nawang Norbu said.

According to UWICE ornithologist, Sherub the festival is also organised to celebrate birdlife.  He said it was time now for Bhutan to promote bird watching as a big time package for tourism.

“I think it’s equally important to build birding trails along the highways, feeder and farm roads,” Sherub said, expressing concern over the inevitable habitat destruction by the up-coming east-west highway widening.

By Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang