Friday, November 18, 2022

The King and I

A lot of odd things happen to me on adventures big and small.  Uncommon things happen, and even things named like the common green magpie (above) are hardly common and even seeing them is uncommon as they hide in the forest.  Take this 19 day trip to Bhutan, a small country on the northeastern edge of India on the southern flank of the Himalayas. It is a birding trip and what could possibly go weird on a birding trip?  Who would have thought I’d possibly insult the king…let a lone meet him

There are just a few things to remember when meeting His Highness, the King of Bhutan.  First, don’t take a picture.  Secondly, remove ones hat, and well, I guess there are others, but I was not told of any more.  I was never going to meet the king, so why would it matter?

So here we are birding one fine morning in Manas Royal Bhutanese Park, along the Indian border when who should come heading down the forlorn road we were birding on, but the King of Bhutan and his entourage.  What does Olaf instinctively do, snap a picture.

note the kings license plate is just "Bhutan"

We kind of figured we'd see then parade of cars on the way back since they had taken over the reserve lodge and kept us from crossing the river and the King had a function at the Buddhist temple in the little town near us.

So we kept birding and it was getting hot so we moved in the bus for a moment, to cool down and then the pilot car came around the corner, and the bus stopped and out bounded Olaf to bird and get a better view of the King's Jeep, the only American made car I have seen on this trip so far.

So, around the bend comes the king’s car and it stops!  The driver rolls down the window (they drive on the left here and the king is in the other side passenger side of the Jeep).  He leans over and asks me.  “Seen any good birds?”  The King talking to!

At that moment, I had nothing to say, yes, Olaf was totally speechless.  I pulled out of it quickly. I literally forced out, “We’ve seen Scarlet minivets…..” Scarlet minivets I think to myself, where did that come from? I also force out, “and lots of hornbills.”  I then add, “but luckily, no tigers.”

“There was one on the other side of the park.”  The king responds to my addition.

“They can keep it over there.”  I snark. 

“What do you think of Bhutan?”  He asks.

“Wonderful country.”  I say.  What could I say?

“Thanks for visiting us.”  He concludes and the window goes up, and I see the foot go back in the car from the backseat of who I suppose now was a security guard ready to pounce should I do anything odd.

He drives off and I turn around to the pack of the other birders, including lead birder, Aaron Lang.  "You didn't take your hat off Olaf!"  I did not even turn back around to see the queen go by and the two princes.  I smacked myself on the head for being idiot.

And looking birds but...that was the best bird?
Female scarlet minivet

male scarlet minivet

The hornbills are more regal birds, we have seen three species...

The great hornbill (above) is a heck of a bird, and we had seen two that day but well, 
the story was a bit lost from all of the excitement

We have seen some sights and to be honest part of Bhutan, few see.  We are the second birding group in by three days to have been in the country in three years due to COVID.  The locals are waving, and one guy stopped the bus and gave us a basket of oranges.

The collared owlet was even being showy.

As of this moment, an update, I have seen 256 lifers on this trip and more to go.
I am still getting razzed about my King story and I am unsure how I got to be the spokesman of the group, but Olaf being Olaf, Johnny on the spot that I sometimes am, who else would it be?

I think I will do 5x7s of the two birds I mentioned and send a note of apology to the King, we'll see how that goes.  Tomorrow I hope to report from "Camp Cement" a tale that well, involves a corporate CEO, his back yard, making an outhouse in his garden, and a cement plant, but food is soon ready and the bird list must be discussed and I have a frogmouth to find tonight...

Rest assure Olaf and Silja are alive and well in Asia, and the King has hopefully forgotten about my breach of etiquette 



  1. I hope you addressed him by his full name - Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

  2. I'd not worry about the etiquette aspects, Americans are world famous for their disregard thereof. Imho the king would have been shocked if you had actually followed the local protocols.
    But I do think the apology and photos will be graciously accepted.
    Meanwhile, thank you for sharing them with us ordinary mortals.

  3. That hornbill is an amazing bird; our locally rare Fan tailed Warbler pales big time in comparison. Your cement factory camping adventure is bizarre. I appreciate that birding adventures can be unpredictable at best, but one would think your organizers could have done better than that; ( easy for me to say ). Like you say Carr Canyon Road looks like a freeway compared to your track. All good stuff for the memory bank, not to mention future books??? Hail to the King.


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