Bhutan the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” is known to have lived for ages as independent and sovereign nation between the two giant neighboring countries, with India in the south and Tibet in the North. The country has remained in isolation for centuries because of its natural geographical barrier such as rugged snowcapped mountains, deep valley with fast flowing rivers and malaria infested bushes in the southern region having prohibited outsiders from visiting this tiny country of Bhutan. Today Bhutan has an area covering around 38,394sq.km, stretching 300km from East to West with North and South axis is around 140km.. Topographically ascending from South to North the country’s land has been linked to a staircase, climbing from the foothills which lies at 985ft/300m to the Himalayan peak in the Northern border of Tibet that are at highest as 24735ft/7541m. The natural environment beginning from the subtropical foothill through inner Himalaya and to the greater Himalaya, Bhutan’s mountainous geography and rugged topography is mostly in undisturbed and pristine form with forest cover under 72.5% and the importance of environment under national policy and law is to preserve 60% of the country under forest cover. There are more than 26% of the land under protected areas with 09 protected areas, which are into strict nature reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries representing typical biodiversity at different levels of species, genetic, landscape and eco-system.
Today the country in the midst of Himalaya pride itself in its biological diversity and rich flora and fauna. Within its biodiversity realm, the country’s forest contains more than 7000 vascular plants, 360 orchid species, more than 46 species of rhododendron and about 500 species of medicinal plants were found in the country. Bhutan is also home for many wild animals like – snow Leopard, blue Sheep, red Panda, tiger, takin, marmot and must dear which are found in the high altitude along with Tiger, Leopard, Goral, grey languor, Himalayan black Bear, Red Panda, Samber, Wild Pig and barking Deer which are found in the temperate zone. The subtropical forest or the plain in the south is known For Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Elephant, One Horned Rhino, Water Buffalo, Golden Languor, Gaur, Swamp Deer and Hog Deer.
The rich forest of Bhutan also provides diverse home for bird species. There are more than 800 – 900 bird species has been recorded. About 106 species known birds are winter migrant with 16 species vulnerable birds. Bhutan is also home to many bird species that are in danger of extinction, including Imperial Heron, which is the fifth rarest birds in the world and the rare Black-necked Crane, which breeds in Tibet and then migrates over Himalayas to Bhutan during the winter months of mid October to early March.
Series of Major Mountain passes that divides the valley of Bhuta
Chele La Pass: 12402ft / 3780m - between Paro & Haa Valley
Dochu La Pass: 10223ft / 3116m - between Thimphu & Punakha Valley
Pele La Pass: 11122ft / 3390m - between Wangdue & Trongsa Valley
Yotong La Pass: 11000ft / 3354m - between Trongsa & Bumthang
Thrumshing La Pass: 12000ft / 3659m - between Bumthang & Mongar Valley
Kori La Pass: 7800ft / 2378m - between Mongar & Trashigang Valley
The general weather in Bhutan, Permanent snow in the high mountain peaks and the pass covers snow in the winter months with light snow in some of the regions like, Paro, Thimphu, Haa, Bumthang, Phobjikha and Gasa. Summer in the valley is warm with cool evening and the valley possesses heavy rain during the monsoon season. In general, Bhutan has warm summer and cold winter.
The Himalayan Mountain Peaks that dominates the northern regions of the country
Mt. Masa Gang:7158m(23484ft)
Mt. Tsenda Gang:6960m(22835ft)
Mt. Teri Gang:7060m(23163ft)
Mt. Jejegangphu Gang:7158m(23484ft)
Mt. Kangphu Gang:7170m(23524ft)
Mt. Zongaphu Gang:7060m(23163ft)
Climatic conditions in Bhutan vary vastly across the country because each of the valleys virtually has an independent ecosystem varying different temperature. Beginning from the southern foothills the maximum temperature goes up to 35 degree Celsius in the summer months of May to June with lower temperature of 15 degree Celsius in the month of December to February. The temperature in the inner Himalaya is much lower with summer maximum temperature of 30 degree Celsius in the month of May to June and minimum with -8 Celsius in the winter months of December to February. Snowfall is rare in the valley but mountains and ridges usually covered with snows in the winter. The climate condition in Bhutan is the major concern of vegetation and hence the habitats of birds. The birds in Bhutan are more directly or indirectly depend upon the climatic condition for food supplies like fruiting and flowering of trees, seeding of grasses and the abundant availability of invertebrate insects. The majority of birds also govern the agricultural farmlands, which provides food for many birds’ species.
The climate in Bhutan varies depending on elevation. The southern Himalayas the climate range from warm and humid to damp and misty in the hills. The central or inner Himalaya have a semi-tropical climate with cool winter with some region have a colder climatic condition with light snowfalls. The higher or greater Himalaya in the northern part of the country remained snow covered throughout the year round. During the monsoon season, the central and eastern regions of the country receive heavy rainfalls.
The overriding climatic and temperature influence zone of Bhutan are (1) Subtropical (2) Inner Himalaya (3) Greater Himalaya or Alpine Himalaya.
Sub Tropical Himalayan foothills has a vegetation particularly tropical forest of broad-leaf evergreen forest with rich wildlife and the average rainfall received by this region reaches up to 200 inches with climate range from warm, humid, damp and misty in the hills. The altitude in this subtropical foothills, range from 985ft/300m to 3280ft/1000m.
Inner Himalaya or the second layer the temperature usually gets cooler as you climb higher and the region here in the inner Himalaya provides with major wetland in the country. It offers a broad valley with densely populated forest along the hillsides. All the major settlements and towns of Bhutan are situated in this zone and is the core of the country. The region’s forest covered here thick with blue pine, conifer, oak, magnolia, maple, birch, rhododendron, willow, poplar, walnut and other flowering trees and plants. The climate in this region varies from 3280ft/1000m to 11480ft/3500m.
Greater Himalaya or Alpine Himalaya usually the large part of this region stays covered with snow all year round. The region is also bewitchingly beautiful with many permanently cover snowcapped peaks, glacier lakes and alpine meadows covered with beautiful wild flowers. It has few inhabitants and those are mostly engaged in yak herding. This major geographical zone has a forest cover below the snowline are fir, juniper, hemlock, dwarf bamboo, dwarf rhoddendron and alpine meadow. The alpine region of the north lies at an elevation beginning from 11480ft/3500m to that of the greater Himalayan high peaks of Mt. Gangkar Puensum towering at 24735ft/7541m.