The fantasies of many a world birder are all too frequently centred around the 5 mythical Tragopan species that haunt the Himalayan ranges from Pakistan to China. These forest-dwelling pheasants are brilliantly colored, intricately patterned, emit evocative calls and are generally extremely shy and elusive. Their name Tragopan is a combination of the word “tragus” meaning billy-goat and Pan, the half-goat Greek deity, in reference to the concealed pair of brightly colored fleshy horns on the sides of all Tragopans’ heads. Our bird of the month is Satyr Tragopan and its specific name refers to the Satyrs, a troop of male companions of Pan who roamed the woods and mountains.
Now that the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan has opened its doors and welcomed tourists, it is finally possible, with an excellent degree of certainty, to actually observe a Tragopan in the wild. All Rockjumper’s previous tours to Bhutan have enjoyed superb views of this incredible bird and this photo was taken by Rockjumper tour leader Markus Lilje on one of our 2010 Bhutan tours. Bhutan not only offers several other species of pheasants, including the unbelievable Himalayan Monal, but also other highly desirable Himalayan forest and riverine specials from Ibisbill to Fire-tailed Myzornis and Ward’s Trogon.
Exploring Bhutan not only provides superb birding, but also some of the world’s most incredible montane and forested landscapes; friendly, happy people, their lives little changed by the modern world and impressive Dzongs or fortress-monasteries. Rockjumper Birding Tours is offering two tours in April-May 2011 and during this Spring season, the flowering Rhododendron forests are truly a spectacle to behold. If you are considering this destination, we recommend a visit in 2011 as the Bhutanese government has raised the daily rate for visiting Bhutan by 25% from 2012.