White-bellied Heron (WBH) conservation project team from Royal Society for Protection of Nature visited key WBH habitats that included past and present nesting areas in the county from February 14-24, 2017. The team also met with members of local conservation support groups, local people and forestry officials and discussed on White-bellied Heron, its habitat and sightings in the area for the last one year.
The first WBH nest in the country at Zawa, was also visited. The nest at Zawa was sighted in 2003 and it is the first nest found in the world after the last historical nest, which was reported in Myanmar in 1929. The sighting of WBH at Zawa has declined since 2013, and the decline according to the locals is primarily attributed to the construction of Athang farm road and the bridge across Digchu, above Punatsangchu-Digchu confluence near Kamichu.
Though the first nest has been abandoned since 2007, the Chirpine tree on which first nest was found still stands across the stream at the end of the village at Domthang. The area is important for conservation of White-bellied Heron as the first nest found after 1929, which has given a new hope for conservation of this species in the world.
Athang, Nangzhina and Hararongchhu are other key habitats of WBH along the Kisonachu. Two to four individuals of WBH has been found in Athang since 2003. While the first WBH nest at Athng was found in 2007, no live nest was located in the area since 2015.
Nangzhina had the highest number of birds and known nest until 2013. During 2009 to 2011, there were seven individuals of WBH and three live nests in the area. No nest has been located in the area in 2016, however remnants of four nest are still seen on top of Chirpine trees on cliffs across the river.
Harachhu is another promising habitat of WBH. Three to five individuals of WBH are found in the area since 2006. One live nest each has been found in the area since 2006. In 2016 two juveniles fledged from the area.
Berti is another small area in Mangdechu basin where WBH is found. It was first sighted in 2006 and one live nest was located in the area in same year. In 2016, four individuals were recorded in the area and two juveniles fledged from this nest.
Since 2013, the sightings of WBH in Wakleytar, Burichu and Sunkosh area has been increasing. In 2016, seven individuals of WBH were counted along the Punatsangchu stretch under Tsirang and Dagana region. There are two regular breeding pairs of WBH in the area.
In 2016, three individuals of WBH has also been reported from two new locations, Kalikhola and Trashi Yangste. Three live nest were found in 2016 at Harachu, Burichu and Berti, and six juveniles fledged from these nests in 2016.
The annual population of WBH in Bhutan was 28 and 60 globally in 2016. White-bellied Heron nationwide population survey for 2017 will be conducted from March 7 to 11, 2017.
Some birds sighted during the trip:
Asian Barred Owlet
Butterflies sighted during the trip: