Black-Winged Kite hovering

Rann Roadies – Part 2 – Jodhpur to Dholavira

We entered Jodhpur at around 8pm which wasn’t very late but according to the Covid Regulations, all restaurants had to be closed by 7pm. After a lot of looking, we found a decent hotel which was still serving food. As usual, by that time we didn’t know where we were going to spend the night. We found a hotel to spend the night, checked in, had a good night’s rest, checked out early in the morning and left for Mehrangarh Fort.

Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort

Contrary to what I expected, there was not much birding at Mehrangarh Fort. So, I spent most of the time photographing the fort itself. While we were at the top of the fort, I noticed a fast-flying raptor in the distance. I clicked a few shots and instantly identified it as Eurasian Sparrowhawk male. I could only manage a record shot of it unfortunately.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Butterflying near Mount Abu

On our way to Dholavira, we stopped at petrol pump near Abu Road. I noticed some butterfly activity on the back of petrol pump, so, I picked up my camera and went there to check. There was a patch of wild Tridax Daisies and feeding on them were tons of butterflies and bees.

The first butterfly I saw was a much much awaited one – Grey Pansy. It was the last of the Pansies found in India that I had not seen. So, now I have seen all of the Pansies that can be found in India!

Grey Pansy

After that, I found another long awaited butterfly species – Tawny Coster!

Tawny Coster

Other butterflies I saw there were Lemon Pansy, Blue Pansy, Large Salmon Arab and Plain Tiger.

Large Salmon Arab

Evening Birding

We were on the outskirts of a small village named Deesa in Gujarat when I noticed a large flock of Starlings a little further ahead in a garbage heap. There was a 20-30 strong flock of Rosy Starlings (another much much awaited species) foraging in the garbage.

It was not exactly the setting I wanted to see this beauties in but, I took some shots anyways.

Rosy Starling immautre
Rosy Starling adult

A little further ahead, just outside the village, I saw a Large Grey Babbler sitting on a fence post, by the side of the road. It’s a pretty common bird and I have seen it on multiple occasions, but, I didn’t have any good shots of it. So, I clicked a few here.

Large Grey Babbler
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Dholavira

We reached Dholavira late at night and found a basic hotel to spend the night in. Early in the morning, I went out for a walk in an empty field near the hotel. There I saw lots of Harriers – Western Marsh Harrier female, Pallid Harrier juvenile male, Montagu’s Harrier female – flying close to the ground.

Pallid Harrier juvenile
Eurasian Marsh Harrier female
Eurasian Sparrowhawk female

Just outside the hotel, I saw a rather funny looking Common Babbler. It’s upper bill was upturned and was overall shorter than the normal. At first, I didn’t understand how it happened. I thought that it was natural. But, later I figured that it is possible that the bird struck its bill on some very hard object, which broke it and deformed the upper mandible.

Common Babbler

After that we went straight to what locals call as “Flamingo Lake“. On the way, we stopped to photograph a flock of Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Larks.

Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Lark male
Black Drongo
Green Bee-Eater
Desert Wheatear female
Desert Wheatear female

We reached the lake in about 10-15 mins. The first thing we saw there were a pair and a juvenile of Common Cranes which were flushed by our car. The next thing we saw left us awestruck. We witnessed about 500 Greater Flamingos feeding in the middle of the lake. The lake was fenced and there seemed no way we could get close to the birds. We walked around the lake to get as close as possible to the Flamingos. In the process we found a place where there was no barbed wire between a few fence posts. I went straight in and of course flushed all the Flamingos, but, they were very forgiving and came back in a few minutes.

Greater Flamingos

As time rolled by, more and more Flamingos kept coming in. By the time I was satisfied with them, there were at least 1000 Flamingos in the lake.

There were thousands of Northern Shovelers and Common Teals. in the lake as well, but, because of the size and beauty of the Flamingos, they were hardly noticeable.

The surrounding areas of lake were also filled with raptors including Eastern Imperial Eagle, Long-Legged Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle and Western Marsh Harrier.

Eastern Imperial Eagle immature
Long-Legged Buzzard pale morph

I also saw my first Isabelline Shrike there.

Isabelline Shrike

On the way out, I saw 2 Common Crane families who were patient enough to give me some decent shots.

Common Crane family (#1)
Common Crane immature taking off (family #1)
Common Crane family (#2)
Common Crane adults (family #2)

After Flamingo Lake, we went to the Harappan ruins. On the way we stopped to photograph some butterflies – Indian Crimson Tip, Indian Little Orange-Tip and White Arab.

Indian Crimson Tip
Little Orange-Tip
White Arab

There was a ton a wildlife at the ruins. I saw Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Larks, Variable Wheatears, Black Redstart female and Bay-Backed Shrikes there.

Variable Wheatear (immature male / female)
Variable Wheatear female
Bay-Backed Shrike immature
Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Lark male
Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Lark female

I also saw Blue-Spotted Arab, Indian Crimson Tip, Indian Little-Orange Tip and Indian Pioneer butterflies there. Of these, I couldn’t photograph the Blue-Spotted Arab.

Indian Crimson Tip
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Fossil Park, Dholavira

On the way to Fossil Park, I saw a juvenile White-Eyed Buzzard, a flock of 40-50 Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse, a Common Snipe, a Common Kestrel female and 2 Grey Francolins.

White-Eyed Buzzard immature
White-Eyed Buzzard immature
Common Snipe
Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse pair ( male above and female below)
Common Kestrel female
Dangerous place to sit, don’t you think?

At Fossil Park, I was once again awestruck. There were even more Greater Flamingos here. Additionally, there were small groups of Slender-Billed Gulls, Gull-Billed Terns, Whiskered Terns, Ruffs and Eurasian Spoonbills. But, most of them were pretty far from me, so I couldn’t get good shots of them.

Greater Flamingos with Desert Wheatear male in foreground
Desert Wheatear male
Long-Billed Pipit
Indian Roller
Zitting Cisticola
Eurasian Spoonbill

As I was descending the stairs, I saw two huge birds which stood out in the group of Ruffs and Stints (Temminck’s and Little). At first glance I identified them as Whimbrels, but as soon as I looked at them through the camera’s viewfinder, I knew that they were Eurasian Curlews!

Eurasian Curlews

I went down to the beach after the Curlews and on the way found a Great Knot! Unfortunately, the Curlews flew to the far end of the beach and joined two other Curlews there.

Great Knot

After spending about an hour there, we left for Bhuj.

On the way back, I photographed a few Common Crane pairs and also got some pretty good shots of a hovering Black-Winged Kite.

Common Crane pair in flight
Common Crane pair (#2)
#2
Black-Winged Kite hovering!
Knock Knock…Who is it?

Just outside Khadir Bet Island (a small island on which Dholavira is situated), we got our first glimpse of the famous ‘Salt Desert’! There I saw a Greater Flamingo juvenile and a Lesser Flamingo juvenile.

Greater Flamingo juvenile (top) and Lesser Flamingo juvenile (bottom)

After clicking some photos of the white Salt Desert, we let for Bhuj.


Checklist

Birds

  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • Little Swift
  • Pied Bushchat
  • Large Grey Babbler
  • Grey Francolin
  • Rosy Starling
  • Wire-Tailed Swallow
  • Sand Martin
  • Indian Silverbill
  • Montagu’s Harrier
  • Western Marsh Harrier
  • Pallid Harrier
  • Variable Wheatear
  • White-Eared Bulbul
  • Common Babbler
  • Green Bee-Eater
  • Black Drongo
  • Desert Wheatear
  • Ashy-Crowned Sparrow Lark
  • Isabelline Shrike
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Common Crane
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Gull-Billed Tern
  • Slender-Billed Gull
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Long-Legged Buzzard (pale morph)
  • Eastern Imperial Eagle
  • Great Cormorant
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Black Kite
  • Black Redstart
  • Bay-Backed Shrike
  • White-Eyed Buzzard
  • Common Snipe
  • Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse
  • Common Kestrel
  • Whiskered Tern
  • Long-Billed Pipit
  • Indian Roller
  • Eurasian Spoonbill
  • Eurasian Curlew
  • Ruff
  • Little Stint
  • Great Knot
  • Zitting Cisiticola
  • Black-Winged Kite
  • Lesser Whitethroat
  • Lesser Flamingo

Butterflies

  • White Arab
  • Crimson Tip
  • Little Orange Tip
  • Indian pioneer
  • Blue-Spotted Arab
  • Striped Pierrot

and main highlight of the day were of course the Greater Flamingos!


Also checkout – Rann Roadies – Part 1 – Phillaur to Khichan


__ Thank you for reading __

~Arjun Basandrai

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