Saturday, December 31, 2011

Birding in Western Gujarat

(Khijadia Bird Sanctuary, Narara and the Little Rann of Kutch)

It’s been six months already and we (Yash and myself) have taken birding as a religion. Why we compare it to religion, simply because it brings us closer to nature.

Vacation time it was and we had to take a holiday to visit Jamnagar. My better-half Seema - loves adventurous road travel, so it did not take time to plan to drive to Jamnagar from Mumbai. It was just about a twelve hour drive.

Map to Jamnagar
Map to Jamnagar

Just after the last exit to Baroda city, we took the sharp left turn towards the NH-8 (Just where the Baroda-Ahmedabad expressway begins)

After driving a few kms on the NH-8, headed onto the diversion to Rajkot. The work on the two lane was in progress. En route we had planned to stop by Kanewal Lake.

We spent just about an hour plus at this famous Kanewal Lake in Anand District, near Tarapur (14KM Milestone). On reaching the lake, found it had a very deserted look.

The lake was large and had large weeds and shrubs along its periphery . We were given to understand by the locals there, that a boat can be hired. As we had to head and reach Jamnagar, did not probe more.

We sighted Strawberry finches, Silver bills, Osprey, Cormorants, Common Coots, Wagtails, Hoopee, Wooly-necked stork, and Green-bee eaters.

It was just about six months and we were excited with the birds we were sighting, more so ever could not even identify them, peeping into the book and binoculars, made all look the same.

Had always heard and read that the most number of birds in India are in Gujarat state and in the Gujarat state, the most number of birds are found in Jamnagar. We stayed there for three days, before heading out to a brief two day trip into the Little Rann of Kutch.

1.    Khijadia Bird Sanctuary - Jamnagar

One needs to get a entry permit, prior to entering the sanctuary which is spread over 605 hectares and just about 12 kms from Jamnagar city. It was our very first destination. The forest office is just at the start of the sanctuary and the officers were very co-operative. They also were kind enough to appoint a guide named "Nitin"

Khijadia Bird Sanctuary - Jamnagar (INDIA)
Having no previous experience, based on what we were guided by fellow birders, entered the Sanctuary at 6.30 in the morning. The place was very unique the wetland area had sea water on one side and fresh water on the other side. Hence, we found birds habituated to Sea as well as Fresh water in the same place.

Early Morning Sun-rise
The cool breeze and mild fog made us feel, we were in the clouds. Soon the sun rose and the place was indeed a paradise for bird watchers. Watching the arrival of the pelicans during sunrise for roosting was a fantastic experience. 

There were many types of ducks who arrive here during winters.

Motorable road - Fresh Water on one side and salty on the other.
There were three Watch Tower for bird watchers, as well as a trail leading to two zones. The best part was it was motorable. The only caution we took was drove almost at dead speed and kept our window glass rolled down. Stopping very slowly and moving even slower.

The wild cat and the grey francolin's seemed to be friends in this habitat.

The birds for sure seemed a little bolder and would pose well, apart from the Neelgai's (Scroll till the end for the checklist of the bird we sighted)   

Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) - Male
Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) - Female with Calf

Forest Office, Me and Nitin - The Guide (L-R)
By afternoon the winter sun got very harsh and we planned to return to the city. Thanked the forest officer and the guide. We had planned to travel to Narara by late afternoon.

2.      Narara - Jamnagar

Drive to Narara, was about 40 KMS from Jamnagar.

In India, Jamnagar is one of the few places where one can find huge flocks of Crab Plovers, the only other place you can find them, is in the Gulf of Munnar, but there, they are in few numbers, while here, they are in numbers beyond comprehension.
Narara Island - by Low Tide
We had checked the tide timings and reached there just as the tide started to reside. The place turned into a large open site. Birds started to flock the area, Little Stints, Gulls, Egrets, Sanderlings, Dunlins and a few Ruddy Turnstones.They would leave no stone unturned. Sighted a octopus in the shallow and residing waters. (Complete list of birds sighted - at the bottom)

A few meters away noticed a sea gull catch a squid or a jelly fish. As the bird settled down to smack on the prey, moved in close just to get a closer shot, and still kept the bird from flying off.

We had not realized that we had walked a couple of kms into the ocean. After a few hours, when the tide started to rise, we waited patiently for the famous Crab Plovers. Soon they came in large numbers. The shore had other visitors like the Whimbrel's and Oyestercatchers.
Seema and Yash
As we had sighted the star for the day - Crab Plovers, felt glad.
For visiting this part of the Marine Sanctuary you will need permission from the Forest Department. (which can be obtained from the city or from the main gate)

3.       Bedi Port- Jamnagar

Situated just a few kms from the city, this place has large salt panes and open areas, wherein a variety of shore birds like Ruff, Godwit, Gulls, Painted Stork apart from few others can be sighted.

4.       Lakhota Lake- Jamnagar

Lake Lakota is situated in the city center in Jamnagar.

We reached there in the evening only to see hundreds of Rosy Starlings flying and exhibiting their acrobatic skills! Met a known birder taking a walk, who told us to wait for the "formation flights" they would exhibit, before settling on the trees around this lake for the night.

5.       Little Rann of Kutch

Just about a four hour drive from Jamnagar, was situated the Devjibhai’s Kooba, a sheer luxury for a backpacker wildlife enthusiast.
Map of the region - Devji bhai knows the area like the back of his palm
Little Rann of Kutch was a unique place as its the only haven on earth for endemic Asiatic Wild Ass. After reaching the Kooba, we were greeted by Mr. Devjibhai, who has had the privilege of working very closely with Mr. Salim Ali and Mr. Sulemain Patel one a renowned birder and one a renowned wildlife photographer.
As the late afternoon sun started to set, we headed into the Little Rann of Kutch. This was our first experience of driving into the deserts.

Drive into the Little Rann of Kutch
The moment we drove in were greeted by a pair of Neelgai, Wild boar - Family, and different Birds. The larks would fly at ground level to save themselves from the Birds of Prey.

Driving into the Rann was a awesome experience, as the site till the end was a never ending!!
Wild boar family
The never ending trails - Little Rann of Kutch
Asiatic wild asses took to stride, on hearing our safari vehicle.  The last refuge of this species lies in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, (Little Rann of Kutch)
Asiatic Wild Ass
They can easily outrun a jeep by running at speeds (80 km. per hour) and also can withstand the harsh weather. (Heat upto 48 deg C)

Got back to the camp site, before sunset to enjoy lovely home cooked meals. The Koobas were very cozy and the night was cool and temperature kept falling. As we gazed into the sky the entire milky way was visible very clear. 

Surprisingly, woke up very early in the morning and could see the sun spread its golden light, feel the cool breeze, hear the chirps of  Silverbill's and Swallows. Absolute delight for the senses.
Birds chirping at Sunrise
Today was a full day safari in the desert. Drove deep into the desert, till we reached Bajana Wetlands. Lesser Flamingos, Common Cranes, Ducks and Waders had flocked the area in very large numbers. We kept sighting birds, some lifers and some that we had seen just a week before in Jamnagar.

Little Rann of Kutch - Terrain
On the way back, finding the way back to the camp site was adventurous. No GPS, no maps, no cell phone connectivity. The only reference point was to head towards the setting Sun. En-route, we came across a salt pan, which couldn't be crossed. Had to turn back a few miles and turn again towards the Sun. The last few KMS were just in the dark, Devjibhai spotted the familiar shrubs and drove us back safely to the camp site. The drive back was one of the finest.

Drive back to the Camp site
The time we spent here was too little and was surely injustice to the Little Rann of Kutch. With Fond memories, promised Devjibhai we will return.

List of birds we sighted during the 6 days trip, have shared the the links to see the clicks. Surely, there must have been more birds that we could not sight.

Happy Birding!

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    1.      Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
    2.      Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
    3.      Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
    4.      Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
    5.      Common Babbler (Turdoides caudata)
    6.      Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
    7.      Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala)
    8.      Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
    9.      Common Teal (Anas crecca)
    10.    Hoopoe  (Upupa epops)
    11.    Rosy Starling (Sturnus roseus)
    12.    Redshank (Tringa totanus)
    13.    Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
    14.    Paddyfield Pipit(Anthus rufulus)
    15.    Little Cormorant (Microcarbo niger)
    16.    Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)
    17.    Common Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
    18.    Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)
    19.    Western Marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
    20.    Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
    21.    Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
    22.    Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
    23.    Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
    24.    White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
    25.    Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)
    26.    Black-winged Stilt  (Himantopus himantopus)
    27.    White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
    28.    Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
    29.    Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
    30.    Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)
    31.    Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
    32.    Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
    33.    Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
    34.    Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis)
    35.    Grey Francolin(Francolinus pondicerianus)
    36.    Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)
    37.    Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
    38.    Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
    39.    River Tern (Sterna aurantia)
    40.    Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
    41.    Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)
    42.    Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
    43.    Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
    44.    Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
    45.    Oriental White Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)
    46.    Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
    47.    Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
    48.    Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
    49.    Blyth's Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum)
    50.    Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus)
    51.    Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
    52.    Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
    53.    Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)


    54.    Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
    55.    Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
    56.    Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
    57.    Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
    58.    Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus)
    59.    Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)    


    60.    Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
    61.    Sanderling (Calidris alba)
    62.    Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
    63.    Yellow-footed Gull (Larus livens)
    64.    Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
    65.    Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)
    66.    Pallas's Gull (Ichthyaetusichthyaetus)
    67.    Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) 
    68.    Garganey (Anas querquedula)
    69.    Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
    70.    Oystercatcher (Haematopus)
    71.    Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis)


    72.    Shikra (Accipiter badius)
    73.    Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
    74.    Tricoloured Munia (Lonchura malacca)
    75.    Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
    76.    Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
    77.    Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)
    78.    White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
    79.    Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
    80.    Crow Pheasant (Centropus sinensis)
    81.    Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
    82.    Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
    83.    Asian Openbill Stork (Anastomus oscitans)


    84.    Red-headed Bunting (Emberiza bruniceps)
    85.    Brahminy Starling (Sturnia pagodarum)
    86.    Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)
    87.    Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
    88.    Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
    89.    Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
    90.    Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 
    91.    Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) - Shot missed due to low lighting :)
    92.     Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix griseus)
    93.     Common Crane (Grus grus)
    94.     Rufous-tailed Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
    95.     Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicatus)
    96.     White-throated Munia (Lonchura malabarica)
    97.     Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
    98.     Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)


  1. Wonderful and Jamnagar is a haven. If you are there at the right time, then its a bounty of sightings for sure. Btw your LRK list looks low, any specific reason?

  2. Thank you for passing by @Santosh - Yes we did not spend much time, just a couple hours on the first day and the next day was a long drive to Bajana Wetlands. Surely, will need to visit again :)
    Happy Birding :)


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