Autumn survey unveils rich avifaunal diversity of Royal Botanical Park

Photo courtesy: Royal Botanical Park, NRED

At the end of a week-long survey, park officials have come out with the detail checklist of birds in the Royal Botanical Park for autumn. The team recorded a stunning list of 65 different bird species, with majority sighted on the spot while few were indentified through their calls from behind thick canopies of tall trees.

However, bird species such as Black- winged Cuckooshrike, Rufous gorgeted Flycatcher and White wagtail which are usually seen around Royal Botanical Park, refused to pop-out of bushes during the survey.

The Royal Botanical Park is home to 223 species of birds only within 47 sq km of its area and this is only an estimated figure, without research on the bird diversity it shelters.

A team of officials of the botanical park and Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED), under the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) complete with  binoculars by their necks, reference books in pockets, backpacks and other equipment on their backs took to the forests.

The team walked and climbed the lengths and breadths of the park, with a sole purpose to establish a strong research based account of the rich avifaunal or bird diversity.

As they walked through the forest floor covered with plant debris, their eyes and ears remained laser focused and microscopic attentive for the slightest movement on top of a tree canopy, under the bushes, on top of a rock or by the ledge of a cliff.

Such excruciating efforts although optional would but pay off to site as many of the feathered varieties as possible or fail to overlook as less as possible of the species.

It took just a small disturbance among the trees for the survey team to redirect all their binoculars towards that direction. Soon, they referred their books on the birds they carried. But, they are not able to get a perfect view, as it is blocked by the leaves and branches of the tree.

They try other angles and finally get to the reference book. It is confirmed, the bird balanced on a small branch is a Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush. After shifting their attention for several times between the picture on the book and the real one on tree, they finally record its name on a sheet.

The survey team led by the botanical park’s Phub Dorji has done this routine exactly for a week, carrying out bird survey of the park for the autumn season.

Such activity as per the park’s report is aimed to collect detailed information about the birds thriving within the parks areas in autumn. Park officials said that it is targeted to prepare the bird checklist of the Royal Botanical Park and to study migration of the birds.

“Since estimate is totally based on observation made by the tourists groups, the information collected in the survey will enable the Royal Botanical Park to come out with the checklist of Bird diversity,” said Phub Dorji.

The park is located at Lampoeri along Thimphu-Punakha highway, within the proximity of capital city and other major towns. “Due to close proximity to such places, the park attracts lots of visitors which include birdwatchers, Travelers and students,” said Phub Dorji in his report.

The survey was conducted using the method called Species Frequency Richness Method (SFRM). The walking, observing and enumerating was done along the trail transect. The team members used nature trials, motorable roads and footpaths within the parks to navigate and reach a random point using Global Positioning System (GPS).

The report claimed that they were able to cover and cross various habitat types and eco-types ensuring not many birds are left from the survey. First 20 bird species is recorded in List 1 and next is recorded in List 2.  “Each list must contain 20 first species, but subsequent lists can include species previously listed,” states the report further adding, however, efforts must be made to exclude the same individual/flock bird from the list.

List is repeated until no new species is recorded. A running species total/bird species diversity is obtained by extracting the number of species in List 2 that were not listed in List 1 and so on throughout all the lists recorded for each site.  Species richness is the species total/bird species diversity reached when no new species are recorded.  Species richness is thus assumed to be an approximate number of bird species diversity present in a habitat at that time of the year

In addition, other data were also collected from site or habitat. This included locality, habitat type, location (geographic coordinate), altitude, threats (ecological or human induced: grazing, shifting cultivation, evidence of poaching.

Besides many nature trails, the survey team reported using the trail used by the central monastic body in the past for movement for their summer and winter residence. “Lama Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine madman is also believed to have travelled through this ancient trail and left many stories,” reads the report.

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