First trip of the new year, Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), Gujarat. Now-a-days we are more in Gujarat than Maharashtra... 2 Jamnagar, 1 GRK trips and now 2 back-to-back LRK trips..and 3rd Jamnagar trip coming up in Feb.
The train, Saurashtra Janata Express was on time to start with, I boarded the train from Borivali. As almost all the trips we have about 6/7 first timers on Nature India trips. I'm always curious to meet new people, with whom we spoke several times over phone regarding the trip, but see them first time mostly in train journey... As usual Adesh carried some food for me also for diner, as the train dose not have a pantry car. We make everyone sleep early, as we need to get down at Viramgaum at 3.50AM, yes no typo errors...3.50AM. The train reached 15 mins. late, it was chilling outside, I though good we told everybody again & again to bring warm clothes.:-)) Everybody has a tea on the station and then we all got one of the most amazing (?) chilled experience of travelling on windy, cold weather. I have told specifically to the resort person to send closed vehicle for pick-up, but that fellow, don't know why, sent open canter!!! Everybody was shocked to see the vehicle and then the 30km travel looked like 300km travel. Somehow, almost frozen, we reached the resort. The resort looked very impressive from the outskirts. We allocated rooms to all except 2 (Tanul & Radhika) who have already arrived by car. The rooms were excellent, specious and warm too.. :-).
Breakfast time was at 7.30, and then we were to start the first session. B'fast was awesome, Omelets, Aloo Parathas and pohas..we all gorged on it. After a quick introduction, we started for the session in 3 jeeps. We were heading towards a wetland in Bajana village, called as Bajana wetland. On the way we met 2 excellent photographers & birders from Gujarat, Neerav Bhatt and Yogendra Shah. On the way to wetland we saw, Variable, Isabelline & Desert Wheatears. The wetland was full of birds, but they were at some distance, but nothing to worry we had 2 Pentax spotting scopes this time, mine and Mayur & Prajakta's. There were Shoveller, Pintails, Common Teals, Wigeons, Gadwalls, Pied Avocets, Imperial Eagle and yes, Lesser Flamingos in good nos. Some of them were in breeding (dark pink) plumage. Few Juvenile Greater Flamingos were also present. Spent good time at the wetland and came back to resort. If B'fast was good, lunch was even better, and it was followed by Ice-cream too:-))
Evening session was for Rann Safari, my favorite one... Just before entering the Rann, there was some water stream across the village with few waders in it, but one of the them was different....with white head and red legs.. it was a Ruff in breeding plumage, looking very handsome. To go in Rann with dry/desert land all around you till horizon is something one can't explain in words, it has to be experienced!! The target was to look for Houbara (Macqueen's) Bustard and Short-eared Owl and obviously Wild Ass. Saw a family of 3 Wild Ass, all got some good snaps of them. Then we moved towards an area in the Rann which has some scrubs, we drove around the edges for Bustard and Owl. First to be seen was Houbara, but was quite far, and all could not see it, but then after some time another one was seen very clearly by everybody, wonderful site. Then the search for Owl started. I was also looking at each Kestrel female for a possible Merlin!! But all were turning out to be Kestrels...But there was something special, a falcon was sitting on a bush and because of vehicle it suddenly flew..initially I thought, it must be Kestrel, but no, it came again and settled down on another bush, we all could clearly saw through the scope, but what we saw??? Hehe....it was Amur Falcon, yes, a very significant sighting. Amur Falcons are passage migrant to our region. The breed in Amur Land (Mangolia) and spend there winter in Africa, On the way to Africa they stop over at few places in India, North-East(Assam), Central India, and western coast (Gujarat, Maharashtra & Goa). This year it was recorded, that Amur Falcons travelled from Mumbai coast to Africa, a distance of 1500kms, in 2 days non-stop!! Good nos. and variety of birds, we saw on first day. Had a local food (Kutchhee) for diner and slept early as it was a hectic day.
Second day, we again started with wetland this time Savda wetland or Nava Talav. On the way to Savda we stopped at one water body which was full of Greylag Goose and they were quite close. Everybody got some good pictures... we then moved towards the main wetland. The wetland was fullllll of waterbirds. Lots of Shovellers, Pintails, Common Teals, Wigeons, Spot-billed Ducks, Gadwalls, Garganey, along with River & Whiskered Terns, Montegue's Harrier, Greater-spotted Eagle, with many other water birds, but the best sighting was of Pacific Golden Plover. We spent some wonderful time at Savda & returned back to the resort for lunch. Post lunch, again we went to Rann safari. This time Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse were seen very clearly through scope, along with other regular birds. One jeep did some prolong photography of Asiatic Wild Ass.
Last day, in fact last session. We started a bit late by 7.30 & tried for Sociable Lapwing in some open fields, but no luck this time... We then went to Savda wetland again, along with all other birds, this time we tried to show some new birds (not seen during the trip) through scope, like Wagtails, Common-ringed Plover, Paddyfield Warbler etc... While coming back to resort, inside Bajana village we went a place, near some school, the Painted Storks are nesting there since many years now. We also saw a juvenile Peregrine Falcon on the tower nearby. In the pond near school, we saw, so far not seen, Common Pochards, also some 20-30 Terrapins were seen.
So another wonderful Nature India [:-)] trip ended with sighting of about 125 bird species. As usual Adesh took the revision and also concluded the trip. Everyone was happy with the trip, so do we.
We will be going again to LRK for second batch from 15th to 19th Jan.2011. Will get back with some details about the trip. Till then...Adios....