See Bhutan through a native birder’s eye

Picture Courtesy : River Fall Journal

Bird enthusiasts can follow a feather-loving flight path to a special, free event 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the public library. Two bird clubs will sponsor avian enthusiast and photographer from Bhutan, Chubzang Tangbi.

The St. Croix Valley Bird Club, which has many members and activities in River Falls, and the St. Croix Falls-based Gaylord Nelson Audobon Society partnered to bring the event to both their memberships and communities.

“This will be our first joint effort,” said local member of the SCVBC Cathy Olyphant. “Everyone is very excited about him coming. This will be our first international speaker.”

Chubzang Tangbi (Picture Courtesy : River Fall Journal)

She met Michelle Carlisle, the GNAS member with whom she’s been coordinating Tangbi’s visit, at a training program of the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management.

Carlisle received the ‘heads-up’ call from fellow birder and Tangbi’s “personal assistant,” Cathy Ley, during his visit to Wisconsin.

Ley met Tangbi when she worked at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, a job that piqued her interest in birds.

While in Bhutan, ICF’s founder had met Tangbi, who later visited the ICF twice for an internship.

A premier birder of Bhutan and professional photographer as well, Tangbi’s talk includes a kind of image-driven tour through Bhutan and its mix of alpine and jungle environments that tout “beautiful landscapes with amazing flora, fauna, and avian species.”

Bhutan is said to be one of the world’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots.

Said Ley: “He’s doing 21 speaking engagements,” most in Wisconsin, with some in Illinois.

River Falls will be Tangbi’s next-to-last presentation before returning home. Audiences have included “way more people than we thought.”

Ley says Tangbi has been overwhelmed by people’s response and interest but is pleased to be educating them about his country.

Ley said his presentation lasts about 40 minutes. People may ask questions or talk with Tangbi afterward.

Olyphant agrees that while birders will be interested in catching a glimpse of a species they’ve never seen before, the event will be interesting for anyone since he talks about his culture and traditions.

She adds, “Bhutan is known for its gross national happiness.”

The SCVBC member says the local club is moving into its ‘speaker season with one who accomplishes the club’s first mission of “to educate.” Generally, May through August are active watching months, and speakers come during the other months except December.

A Bhutan story
According to his web site, Tangbi was born and raised in Trongsa, Central Bhutan — a small country nestled into the Himalayan mountains between India and China. He is an avid bird enthusiast, professional photographer, tour guide with Langur Eco Travels and goodwill ambassador for his native land.

He believes strongly in protecting his country’s environment, as well as its culture, traditions and heritage. Bhutan sits where “snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys, dense jungles and crystal-clear rivers combine with a calming ancient Buddhist culture.”

Tangbi grew up in a remote village, roaming the jungle to enjoy all kinds of new discoveries. The country has three, main environmental areas: sub-tropic lowlands, temperate zone and alpine zone.

Bhutan has 70% forested land and is committed to leaving at least 60% of that way in perpetuity. Nature-protection policies go hand-in-hand with the Buddhist way of life.

It also has 650 species of birds, 221 global endemic bird areas, more than 120 types of butterflies and 750 plant species. And a piece of Bhutan’s history makes the photographic tour even more intriguing: Outside visitors have only been allowed since a Bhutanese king decided to allow it in 1970.

Courtesy : River Falls Journal