Friday, February 27, 2015

Birding in Rajasthan (Western and Central)

Birding in Mount Abu, Bikaner, Tal Chhapar and Bera

Birds in my opinion are surely the most premier frequent flyers, they can travel between countries and sometimes continents without going through travel formalities. February is the period when the reverse migration takes place, this definitely exhibits the expression of absolute freedom.

Had always read and seen posts of different types of raptors (birds of prey) visiting parts of Bikaner and Tal chhapar. After a quick search on the mode of travel, learnt that reaching these places were not very convenient from Mumbai and required some advance planning and logistics.

The brief one week birding (including travel time) was planned with my birding pals from Mumbai to Tal Chhapar (Churu district) by road . To make it convenient and less hectic had to take one stop over on the the way towards the Tal Chhapar sanctuary and one on the way back.

The first location we short listed enroute was Mount Abu to see the Green Munia also called as Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa) a species endemic to India and on the way back Bera to sight the illusive leopards. Both Mount Abu and Bera are mid way from Mumbai to Tal Chhapar.

Route from Mumbai

Itinerary and Distance:

Mumbai - Mount Abu - Bikaner (Jorbeer) - Tal Chhapar - Bera - Jawai dam - Mumbai (Approx 3000 Kms)

We hit the highway (NH8) in the wee hours of 18th February 2015 to return on 24th February 2015

Mount Abu (Oriya village)

Mount Abu in Rajasthan, is a detached hill of the Aravali range and we reached this only hill station of the state, much before sunset. We had plenty of options of  hotels to choose from as it was off season. We checked in to a hotel little away from the down town and relaxed.

Our only target bird here was the Green Avadavat who are vulnerable as per the IUCN redlist of threatened species. We drove towards Guru Shikhar, the highest point of the Aravali Range. Our first halt was a small farm behind Dilwara Temple. We sighted a small flock of around 5-9 who perched on the boulders in the fields a little far away. Soon they were out of sight. While we waited for them, could see parakeets and jungle babblers in large numbers.

After about 20 mins, we drove further and stopped in a village named - Oriya. Just at the start, where the step farming begins, sighted another flock who perched very close to us.

Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa)

Bikaner (Jorbeer)

A short drive of about 15 kms from Bikaner towards the National Research Center on Camel, we reached  a small protected forest area called Jorbeer . Jorbeer is a dumping site for carcasses of dead animals. Large number of carcasses are dumped at the site after skinning the dead cattle.

The place had a large entrance and a distinguished trail on which one is allowed to drive. A perfect habitat for the vultures and eagles. The place was dominated by Steppe Eagles and Egyptian Vultures. We learnt from local birders that the white-tailed eagle had migrated back as the temperatures had started to soar.

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) - Immature

Post lunch we could sight the big sized migrant Eurasian Griffon, which were about one meter long, who come from parts of Europe.

Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus)  

A "Wake" (a term reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding) of Cinereous Vulture's were seen feasting. They migrate from as far as Mongolia and Tibet while the Himalayan Griffons from Central Asia. The later two varieties were much lesser in number.

A Wake
Moments later a large vehicle drove into the core area and all took flight. It was a chaotic scene, had the choice to watch them fly over us, managed to photograph a few.

Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus)

Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

A large flock of Yellow eyed pigeon were seen flying, perching on the ground. They winter in this region and are also Vulnerable as per the IUCN redlist of threatened species.

Yellow-eyed Pigeon (Columba eversmanni)
The Indian Desert Jird would come out of their burrows occasionally and seemed to be very camera friendly.

 Indian desert jird

In all we made three safaris in our vehicle over one and half day stay in Bikaner city.

Tal Chhapar Sanctuary

Tal Chhapar had a unique ecosystem in the heart of the Thar Desert. It was around 150 kms via Ratangarh and took around 3hours to reach from Bikaner. We had made reservation in the forest rest house, located within the sanctuary.

The open grassland gave a pristine feel.  It is the only sanctuary in the country that has such a good number of blackbuck's in an almost tree-less and flat-land. Along the edges of the sanctuary could see Acacia and Prosopis trees..

On entering the sanctuary, drove to the different water bodies spread out in different locations within the sanctuary. During the early morning safari and late evening the raptors come and roost near them or by the open fields.

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Laggar Falcon (Falco jugger)

Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
The temperatures had risen in the last 10 days, which probably was the reason some migratory species had already moved out to cooler habitats. However, we did sight the common visitors to the region, like the Montagu's harrier, Western marsh harrier, Steppe eagles, Long legged buzzard, Palid harrier and Lagar falcon, though not in large numbers.

Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)

Very large flocks of Demoiselle cranes were seen, who on seeing us approach soar to the sky and could hear their calls.

Larks in very large numbers were seen flying low just over the grasslands. They would just emerge and settle down after flying small distances. Their flights were longer when a bird of prey would chase them.

The major wildlife species after the blackbuck were the chinkara followed by  wild boars and Nilgais (a large asian antelop)

During this trip learnt a very peculiar territorial behaviour of Blackbucks.

The male Blackbuck makes his territory (note the ring like dark areas) using his defecation mixed with his urine and orbital glands. Here there were almost 100 league male members.

The female comes in and roams around, sometimes taking the aroma of the territory. The males start to walk with their heads up. Most of the times, two males would get into a fight either over the female or territory. The winner gets the female and territory, the looser is chased away!

Early next morning we drove right about 3KM from Tal Chhapar sanctuary and reached the area popularly called as Goshala. On scanning the area along with our other birding friends sighted the Spotted tree creeper . It would fly down to the base of a tree and with its thin pointed down-curved bill, which was a bit longer than its head, extricated insects from bark and move upwards in circular motion. They were closely followed by small minivets. Southern grey shrike, Drongo and petronia's were seen in the area.

Indian Spotted Creeper (Salpornis spilonota rajputanae)
On high perch a steppe eagle was roosting. Suddenly noticed a large bird fly, it was only latter that we realized it was a Short eared owl !

Just a couple of kms away (left from the sanctuary) there is a small water body in the village named "Chodwas", Sighted a few waders, Demoiselle cranes, Bar-headed Geese and Common Teals.

Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo)


Bera, is a region along the river Jawai, on which the Jawai Dam is built in Rajasthan. It is situated 80 km before Mount Abu while travelling from Jodhpur to Mumbai. (our last stop)

It is surrounded by forests where leopards roam freely. Leopards are one of the toughest animals to spot as in any other jungle, they are scared of predators specially the Tiger. But, here they are the only predators preying on goats and cows belonging to villagers living in the area

The region is not a part of any National Park or sanctuary. Personally wasn't aware that one can see the biggest crocodiles one will ever see. (approx 15ft)

Here we stayed in an adventurer’s retreat destination amidst wilderness called “Leopard's Lair”. Thakur Devi Singh the owner of the resort is a conservationist and an avid wildlife expert for more than four decades and with his experience and knowledge managed to show us a male leopard (named Mowgli) basking in the evening light on the rock.

It would stretch once a while, yawn and relax again. As the day ended saw it leave.

The next morning we took a safari towards the same location just in case, however did not sight it. In and hour or so moved towards Jawai dam, where we sighted many waders, geese and ducks. Flamingos, Eurasian Spoonbills and Glossy ibis. A large crocodile was basking in the morning light.

By late night as scheduled we were back, had five more lifers. These regions definitely need a good guide, which we did not have this time due to last minute schedules.

Happy Birding!

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  1. Simply awesome reporting Aseem with lovely pics!!!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and appreciating Chetna. Happy Birding !

  2. That was quick Aseem. Lovely writeup and super pics specially the munia.

    1. The trip was planned in a giffy and all the information was so well imprinted, that penning it down was easy. Thanks for appreciating. Munia was indeed a beauty!

  3. Superbly written and excellent photography. Keep up the passion for birding

    1. Thank you Geetha, will surely keep the passion for years to come.

  4. Awesome Aseem .. with superb photographs :-)

  5. Lovely write up. Loved it happy

  6. Wonderful write-up and Fabulous shots !! 500 Rocks !!! Best Wishes !!

    1. Srini Sirji, thank you so much. Yes, the new equipment definitely is doing a good job :)

  7. Awesome write up & class shots sirji ...

    1. Sharadbhai thank you so much for the appreciation...

  8. Fantastic....Keep it up!!!!!

  9. Sir can u suggest me further scope in wildlife photography i'm ronit rankawat your instagram follower i want be a professional photographer in wildlife

  10. Sir u can reply me on instagram via dm please reply sir i need suggestions

    1. Hi Ronak, this is my hobby, I am unaware how one can pursue this as a carrier.

  11. Really Awesome Blog .. Well Design with informative content.. Thank you so much this post. . Rajasthan tour packages

  12. Wow your blog is so informative, would love to learn more about travelling in Rajasthan, especially the areas you have covered. Superb images too.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and appreciating the images. Glad you found it informative too. Do feel free to email me and shall share as much information I can on the region.

  13. Nice blog with fantastic pics. I'm going to Tal Chappar shortly. Planning to go to Jorbir Caracas dump from there for a full day trip. Any suggestions abt where else I can cover along with Jorbir on the same day? Pls reply as soon as possible. I can be reached on my email . Any suggestion is highly appreciated... Thanks... Anjan.

    1. Hello Anjan, I would suggest you do a full day safari in Jorbeer. As we sighted a few birds only in the evening. Personally, not aware of any other location in Bikaner where one can go birding. You can connect with me on

      Happy Birding

  14. Wonderful article and superb pictures. TFS. It was a pleasure to read this beautiful article.

    1. Thank you Makarand, glad you liked it. Happy Birding

  15. Great write up and good details.

    1. Thanks so much for appreciating, missed acknowledging your comment. Thanks again!!

  16. it is as amazing as your wild creature pictures. really informative blog. thank you for sharing it.

  17. I really Admire Your blog, thanks for this share, it is worth to watch and read. If you like it then visit
    Resorts in Jawai again this article is perfect and good thank you


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