First bird festival to commemorate 60th birth anniversary

Bhutan is among the top biodiversity hotspots in the world as a major chunk of its land is still under forest cover, thanks due to the farsighted vision of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

The protected areas in Bhutan provide home for a range of flora and fauna, including some of the rarest and threatened species. Bhutan has about 695 species of bird thriving within the pristine and untouched forests.

Hence, the first-ever bird festival is dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo who has done so much for nature conservation. The three-day long bird festival began on October 8 in Tingtibe, Zhemgang and ends tomorrow.

Bhutan Bird Festival, hosted in Zhemgang, was envisioned by the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay as a tribute to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. The festival is also expected highlight the dzongkhag’s incredible bird diversity and to realize tourism opportunities and benefit to its people.

According to an ornithologist at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), Sherab, a program called ‘BIRD-A-THON’ began a few days prior to the actual festival day. He said bird enthusiasts were formed into groups comprising of five or fewer individuals, and each group had to conduct a one-day long bird watching spree by covering as many sites and habitat types as they could cover, and arrive at Tingtibe at night.

“Each group maintained a running checklist of the birds the group observed,” he said.

As a part of the festival, long birding tour was conducted for the tour groups coming through different travel agents. A three-week birding group began their bird watching from Samdrupjongkhar, two-week birding group from Phuntsholing, and one-week birding group from Paro and finally the groups gathered in Tingtibe.

A bird photography competition, at junior and senior levels, was also organized during the three-day long festival. In addition, about 50 show booths were constructed with local designs and architecture, out of bamboo poles, thatched bamboo, and banana leaves.

The show booths were used to display science and nature posters, species brochures and photography, modern and traditional art works, local food and fruits, souvenirs, books, optics and camera.

According to the festival organizer, the location to host the first bird festival was proposed in Tingtibe since the place is suitable for bird watching given its high bird diversity range, and the area was recommended by bird watchers from around the world as the critically endangered Ardea insignis (White-bellied Heron) is known to roost and breed in and around Birti.

Furthermore, the communities in the area are a living example of a fishing community and indigenous handicraft producers. Tingtibe is a potential place for tour packages like Nudge for Nuthatch, Heron Hike, Hornbill Hike, Trogon Trail, Waterbird Walk, Hunting Hoots, Big Tit Trails, and Hunting Hooded Babbler.

The bird festival was organized by UWICE and Department of Forests and Park Services under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.

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