You know, it’s hard to stand out in a crowd, especially if the crowd happens to be that of birds, since the species comes in an amazing array of colors, the plumage of one species outshining another’s. Well, the peacock is of course the undisputed leader among all birds in this field, and there are other like the Himalayan pheasants whose richly colored feather are a sight to behold. Among such finery of color, the color black might be somewhat of an infringement, but then one could say that it is due to this that the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis)stands out in the colorful crowd.
The black-necked crane is a striking bird, that’s clear; it is also the only alpine crane in the whole world. Most of its body parts including the upper body and the head are totally black as are the legs, the tail, and the lower part of the wings. The foreboding look is somewhat rectified by a small white patch to the rear of the eye and a red bald patch between the bill and the eye and a grayish hue to the rest of the body. Young ones, on the other hand, have a dull yellowish colored head on a white and black neck. This unique looking crane mostly breeds in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in China, and a small population has been reported in India as well. In winter, you’ll find them in the southern and eastern areas of the Qinghai-Tibetan and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus as in neighboring Bhutan. Like mother big bird, they are hearty eater and feed on grasshoppers, beetles, flies, earthworms, and shrimps, and even on bigger prey like lizards and frogs. When something that moves isn’t there for the taking, they do just fine on roots and tubers as well. Oh yes, these black necked cranes are resourceful, and pretty important birds in the avian scheme of things.
Black Necked Crain Festival. Image: Flickr/Doug Knuth
So special are the magnificent birds, Bhutan has a whole festival to celebrate their presence in the country. It’s called the Annual Black-necked Crane Festival (what else?) and it’s celebrated on November 11 with pomp and ceremony in the courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa, in Phobjikha valley. First held in 1998 at the initiative of the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), the locals take great joy in the fact that these rare and endangered birds have found their valley good enough to honor them with their presence during the winter months. The festival is also a good reminder to all about the need for conservation which is essential for a better way of living. The locals, besides honoring the magnificent birds, also use the occasion as a showcase to exhibit their various skills. There are plenty of folk songs and dances, some of which have the black birds as the main theme, and theatrical performances are also held emphasizing nature conservation.
Masked Dance during Black Necked Crane Festival. Image Flickr/Doug Knuth
Now, a few words on Phobjikha. It’s at a height of some 3000 meters above sea level in the inner Himalayas. A sprawling wetland valley, it is regarded as the biggest wetland in Bhutan, as well as the most important. There’s a lot of cultural significance attached to the valley as well, aside from the fact that it is considered as an example of how man can live in harmony with nature with mutual benefit to all. Come winter, and the area prepares itself for a fantastic sight, the arrival of hundred of striking black-necked cranes from the plateaus of Tibet. It I estimated that out of the about 500 cranes which migrate to Bhutan each winter, about 300 make Phobjikha valley their temporary home. The birds are of course what makes the valley so important. However, there are other highlights as well, such as the revered Gangtey Monastery that looks down commandingly on the wetlands (and blesses the birds too, one can presuppose). The valley, in itself, is blessed with abundant natural beauty that alone makes it worth a visit, black-necked cranes or not.
Others |Jun 22, 2023
So many of the streets are dotted with local shaving joints. You seem not to notice them at first but when you’re on the look out you’ll realise that they’re everywhere.
Nepal |May 28, 2015
Nepal was struck by a disastrous earthquake of 7.9 magnitude on April 25, 2015, and a series of aftershocks, two of which were of 6.8 and 7.3 magnitudes, respectively. More than 8000 people have lost their lives, thousands more have been injured, and hundreds of thousands of houses have been destroyed.
Nepal |Aug 6, 2014
Psychologists and psychiatrics would surely approve of Gai Jatra as being an excellent way to get rid of the bile in society’s soul, even if it’s only for a day. This day, as it happens, falls on the 11th August 2014 this year.
Trekking |Oct 22, 2015
When is the best time to go trekking in Nepal? This is a question often asked by people planning to go on a Nepal tour.
Trekking |May 26, 2023
Most tourists visiting Nepal will make sure they spend a couple of days in Pokhara. Many will surely extend their stay to take a sojourn around the region, since Pokhara is a sort of gateway to many attractive trekking destinations.
Tours |Jun 19, 2023
On the last week of one November, I landed in Kathmandu after a six-month stay in the United States of America. The very next day, I took a flight to Bhadrapur, from where I drove down to Kakarvita on the Indo-Nepal border, and then to Siliguri on the other side.
Nepal |Oct 9, 2022
Yarsagumba (Cordyceps, or also Ophiocordyceps Sinensis) is a most weird herb. One term often used—Chinese Caterpillar Fungus—is pretty descriptive of the species.
Tibet |May 5, 2023
So you want to travel to Tibet? Of course you do. After all, Tibet travel is a much sought after desire of many travelers around the world today. There’s not much mystery left in the world, and even the last bastion of mysterious lands, Tibet, is undergoing rapid transformation every other day.
Trekking |Jun 16, 2023
Darjeeling (2,134 m) was once known as the “Queen of Hill Stations”. If one were to look at photos of Darjeeling from the ‘60s and ‘70s, one would agree that it was well-deserving of this high accolade. However, things have changed quite drastically since then.
Trekking |Jun 21, 2023
Ramechhap is about 184 km east from Kathmandu. The trek to this region is well known as the Numbur Cheese Circuit, and it’s generally a two week outing. Enough time to get your fill of the magnificent mountain
Tibet |Jun 28, 2023
In both the great and the not so great monasteries of Tibet, you’ll often find a lot of devotees prostrating themselves on the ground.
Culture & Festivals |Jun 21, 2023
Bhutan has a score and more festivals throughout the year. Most of them are religious events known as tsechus, and they are celebrated on the 10th day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to Guru Rimpoche’s (Guru Padmasambhava’s) birthday.