Bhutan is considered a safe haven for the globally endangered Black Necked Cranes as their winter roosting grounds.
Earlier the Black Necked Cranes were only known to be confined in places like Phobjikha and Khotokha in Wangduephodrang, Gyaltsa, Chumey, Thangbi, Dhur and Tang in Bumthang and Boomdeling in Trashiyangtse.
However, this winter it is a different story; The Black Necked Cranes were spotted in many places in Bhutan where it has never been reported earlier.
According to experts from the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) it could either be misdirection due to overcast skies or the search for new roosting grounds.
“It could also be due to developmental activities taking place at the present roosting places or maybe the changing pattern pertaining to climate change,” officials from RSPN said.
Experts from RSPN, who monitor the bird confirmed that it was the first reported case of cranes roosting in places as far as the “warmer plains of Gelephu.”
“A group of about 11 cranes descended 2,635 meters below their normal roosting grounds and were spotted in Gelephu which is quite unusual,” officials said.
On December 13 last year, a couple of cranes were also reported to have landed at Kyichu in Paro while two days later a lone crane arrived at Kangpara in Trashigang. This was also reported to the RSPN.
Bayling, located to the south of their usual roosting grounds in Boomdeling in Trashiyangtse, witnessed a large group of 45 cranes this winter, RSPN officials said.
Crane experts attributed that a factor might be “adapting to the new environment and exploring new winter roosting grounds.”
“With one of their usual roosting places hit by flood in Boomdeling, they might be looking for new places with enough grain and marsh thus the new sightings,” said a Senior Research Officer with RSPN.
Bird Specialist at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment also shared the same view on displacements of these birds to new places.
The final Annual nationwide Black Necked Crane count for 2011-2012 was conducted on January 16 last month. The count was simultaneously made in all the major roosting sites of Bhutan with the support of the Department of Forest and Park Services. Phobjikha recorded the highest with about 335 followed by 102 in Boomdeling and five each in Bumthang and Khotokha. Paro, Lhuntse and Gelephu saw about 12 birds for the first time.
As per records main- tained by RSPN beginning 1991-1992 to 2011-2012 an annual average of about 424 arrivals have been noted in the country.
And with only about 225 birds visiting Bhutan in the winters of 1991-1992 to 447 visiting this winter there has been an increase of 75.29 % growth per- centage.
The average growth rate of cranes visiting Bhutan has increased by 3.58 % annually in the last two decades.
In the past two years RSPN has recorded sighting of the birds in various places in Bhutan. Four cranes, two adults and a pair of chicks, were seen in Karbithang about 200 meters away from Maokhola, Gelephu, in November 2010 and 2011 November.
About eight cranes were also sighted in Dawathang and upper Karbithang in Gelephu. A lone bird was sighted in Kangpara on December 14 last year and three in Tshekhathang in the early hours of December 16.
Similarly, for the first time Black Necked Cranes were also reportedly sighted in different places in Thimphu like Kabisa and Ramtokto in December last year.
Though no scientific scrutiny has been made on these unusual sightings, it is assumed that the cranes are in the look out for new habitat and roosting grounds.