Monday, 20 May 2013

My Life in JSW National Park.

The magical clouds over Thimphu city and the first crystalline flakes of 2013 that danced down the air of Wang valley appears to be the last source of inspiration for me to jot down lines in my blog. My blog went silent for quite long since the January 19th post but that doesn’t mean that my inspiration to write ended with the disappearing of magical clouds and melting of crystalline flakes. Indeed, there were lot of inspirations and many new experiences that I have gained since the inception of my new life in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.

My first couple of days in the office had been quite boring, not knowing what to do and how to proceed. However, owing to the benevolent gesture of our Chief Forestry Officer and cooperation of the fellow colleagues of the office, I felt very comfortable without much worry. My joining the office was on such a time that the local residents were conducting their annual lochoe, so it was such a treat for me to be part of the JSWNP family to attend dinners at the homes of the local residents for quite a number of occasions.

As time passed by, I felt the need to explore the park areas and fortunately, the park is in the process of carrying out biological corridor survey so I got the opportunity to be part of the survey team that gave a chance to be in field to explore the forests officially. Knowledge is gained through experience but experiences are never gained overnight. While in the field, we were to record the diversity of flora and fauna but my taxonomic knowledge was baseless as we were in temperate forests. All I know is the name of certain plants of tropical region. However, the team comprised of what I can call a field botanist, a local ornithologist, mammal and camera-trapping specialist, though all of them are either Forester of Asst. Forester by rank. Their working in the field for many years made them experienced and knowledgeable, which I could learn from them.

While conversing with my mates who opted Territorial Divisions and Districts, I came to learn that they hardly get any chance to be in field or out of station for official purpose but my Chief, he has nominated me to attend an important workshop on Biodiversity in Thimphu in March, giving me a chance to be in Thimphu for the first time after my joining the office in January. Attending such workshops give us an exposure and better interaction with outsiders, thus building our capacity of a civil servant.

And currently, we in collaboration with UWICE of Bumthang is in the process of  stationing camera traps in our park, thus giving more chance to interact with nature, hiking up the hills and descending down the ancient trails. This is the pleasure of being in a leisurely profession.
Excerpts from my last expedition on Tiger Survey:
week-long adventuring through the jungle began with disappearing of mobile network as we entered the forests of Berti in Zhemgang. We were on an expedition to camera trap Tigers in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Following the ancient trails, the journey took us on top of ridges and deep into riverbanks all in the forests. Discovering pugmarks and scats inspires us to venture further in weather beaten days of spring and as the week ends, the mobile signal is back and now we are to exit from Surey in Sarpang. What an adventure together with Professor Mark of Montana University, Dr. Ellen of UWICE, the UWICE team of researchers and of course my fellow JSWNP mates.
For now, the next expedition through the nature is just a day away. Hope the weather will play fair this time as well. :)

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Rhododendron Trail, an Arduous Hike worth a Hike.

This is a time when all the passes all over Bhutan are adorned with the blossom of rhododendron. Bhutan herself being a home to wide diversity of rhododendron, with species list as high as 46, the passes of Dochu la, Pele La, Yotong La, Thrumshing La, etc are the paradise of Rhododendrons. While such passes are in clear glimpse of every traveler, Bhutan has many ancient trails that are now least used, linking every valleys, and these trails too are offers a scenic glimpse of the glow of different rhododendrons, and one such trail is Khebethang-Rukha ancient trail in Wangdi Phodrang.

It was the third phase of remote camera trapping for tiger survey in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and our team was to station around eleven plots starting from Khebethang (13 Km from Phobjikha) towards Taksha following the Khebethang-Rukha ancient trail. It took us 10 days to station cameras in all the plots in an arduous hike of as many as 31 kms a day. However, the beauty of Rhododendrons that were in full blossom helped us relieve the pain that our leg endured and fatigue that our muscles borne. Even the beat of torrential rains and hailstones appeared blessing as we sit beneath the dropping branches of rhododendrons, hearing the splashes rain and hail but sighting the petals of rhododendrons fall.

Khebethang is located at an elevation of 2713 masl, and as you ascend upward for four hours, you will finally reach a pass at an elevation of 3669 masl, after which we have to again descend. It is in this range of elevation that the following rhododendrons species were found blooming.

  Rhododendron thomsonii,
Rhododendron arboreum,

 Rhododendron barbetum,


Rhododendron falconeri,

Rhododendron kesangaie,

Rhododendron hodgsonii,

Rhododendron cinnabarium

Rhododendron glaucophyllum.

There might be few others but not in blooming stage. With such diversity of rhododendrons, the trail has a potential to turn into an exciting eco-trail. However, the path being too steep and non-availability of water is a biggest constraint. For our team, besides successfully setting the camera traps, it was a wonderful expedition to be cherished from the spring of 2013.

So rightly, the Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri has also celebrated the first ever rhododendron festival in the country from 11th-13th May 2013.

P.S. The quality of photographs are poor as i used my cell phone to snap it. I tried to identify Rhododendrons at my best but if there are errors in naming the type of flower, kindly comment for rectification.