Category Archives: rann of kutch

Rann Roadies – Part 4 – Ahmedabad, Churu, and Back to Base

After spending a wonderful day at the Salt Desert in Dhordo, we started towards Ahmedabad in the afternoon. On the way, we stopped at a marsh that spread on both sides of the highway. There we found several Common Pochards, Northern Shovelers, Little Grebe, Common Coots, Great White Pelicans, some Little Egrets, and a Eurasian Marsh Harrier.

Somewhere close to Ahmedabad, I found my first Yellow-Wattled Lapwings at a construction site.

Yellow-Wattled Lapwing

Ahmedabad

We reached Ahmedabad late at night and the next morning we left for Thol Bird Sanctuary.

Thol Bird Sanctuary

The first bird I saw at Thol was a much-awaited one – Spot-breasted Fantail.

Spot-Breasted Fantail

Within a few minutes of seeing the Fantail, I found another much-awaited species – Red-Collared Dove. Though it is a fairly common dove, I had never seen it properly before. This one also didn’t stay for long but, at least it gave me a decent record shot.

Red-Collared Dove male

Near the entrance, I found a Clamorous Reed Warbler and a Sulphur-Bellied Warbler both of which were new additions to my list. I took turns photographing both of them. The Reed Warbler flew off within a minute, the Sulphur-Bellied Warbler, who kept scaling up and down the length of a signboard, however, gave me some interesting shots.

Clamorous Reed Warbler
Sulphur-Bellied Warbler

Next up, I found a White-Browed Fantail (another new addition) by the side of the trail I was following.

White-Browed Fantail

There was a waterhole inside the dense tree cover where I could see a lot of bird activity. I found an opening and tried photographing the birds present there, but it was very dark – just enough to see the birds and identify them. There was a Spot-Breasted Fantail, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Common Chiffchaff. I found a couple of Indian Robins, a Red-Breasted Flycatcher, and another Sulphur-Bellied Warbler in the vicinity.

Sulphur-Bellied Warbler

By then, we were getting a bit late because we planned on reaching Udaipur by the end of the day. So, we said goodbye to Thol and to Ahmedabad and headed towards our next destination.

Udaipur

There was not much birding at Udaipur except a long-awaited Brooks’s Leaf Warbler and a fairly common Yellow-Throated Sparrow, that I saw at Moti Magri.

Brooks’s Leaf Warbler

Since there wasn’t much to see in Udaipur, we left for Chittorgarh in the evening.

Chittorgarh

The Chittorgarh Fort is the largest fort in India, covering an area of roughly 700 acres.

There were a lot of birds inside the fort, but time was our enemy and so I couldn’t spend much time birding. I found another Sulphur-Bellied Warbler there along with a White-Capped Bunting and a few Gray-Breasted Prinias.

Gray-Breasted Prinia

After some sightseeing inside the fort, we left Chittorgarh and headed towards our next destination – Tal Chhapar.

Ajmer

On the way to Tal Chhapar, we stopped for a coffee break at Ajmer. We found a nice cafe there, overlooking Anasagar Lake. There, I got the opportunity to photograph a few Black-Headed Gulls.

Black-Headed Gull

Tal Chhapar, Churu

We reached Churu pretty late and as there are not a lot of hotels in Tal Chhapar, we decided to go to Salasar instead to spend the night. We got up early the next morning, went to the Salasar Balaji Temple, and left for Tal Chhapar Black Buck Sanctuary which is only an hour drive from there.

Tal Chhapar Black Buck Sanctuary

Even before entering the sanctuary, we were already amazed by the sight of hundreds of Indian Blackbucks, feeding in the golden grasslands of Tal Chappar.

Right outside the sanctuary, I found my first Great Gray Shrike.

After photographing the Shrike I found a flock of Rosy Starlings on a dead tree nearby. They were sitting against the light so, I couldn’t get decent shots of them.

After that, we entered the sanctuary and were greeted by a couple of Blackbucks and another Great Gray Shrike.

Great Gray Shrike

There we encountered a very curious male Blackbuck who kept on poking his snout in my lens hood! Our guess was that it was an old individual and was thus very friendly.

Indian Blackbuck

Within a few minutes of this wonderful encounter, I found a large flock of Greater Short-toed Larks a bit far off and a female Common Kestrel.

We spent some more time inside and were getting very frustrated by the lack of Raptor Activity when my dad spotted a few Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses. After spending some time hopelessly trying to photograph the grouse, we left the sanctuary.

Besides the Blackbuck encounter, Tal Chhapar was mostly a disappointment. I expected a lot of raptor activity and was really looking forward to finding some Laggar Falcons, which are the area’s specialty, but except a few female Kestrels, I found pretty much no raptors at all.

I later found out that all these birds are mostly found in the Gaushala area of the village and are not as common in the sanctuary. I guess now that gives me a reason to go back there again.


Checklist

Birds

  • Common Pochard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Little Grebe
  • Common Coot
  • Great White Pelican
  • Eurasian Marsh Harrier
  • Long-Legged Buzzard
  • Little Egret
  • Western Reef Heron
  • Yellow-Wattled Lapwing
  • Spot-Breasted Fantail
  • Red-Collared Dove
  • Sulphur-Bellied Warbler
  • Clamorous Reed Warbler
  • White-Browed Fantail
  • Shikra
  • River Tern
  • Common Chiffchaff
  • Lesser Whitethroat
  • Indian Robin
  • Red-Breasted Flycatcher
  • Brooks’s Leaf Warbler
  • Yellow-Throated Sparrow
  • White-Capped bunting
  • Gray-Breasted Prinia
  • Black-Headed Gull
  • Great Gray Shrike
  • Rosy Starling
  • Indian Rock Chat
  • Common Kestrel
  • Oriental Honey Buzzard
  • Greater Short-Toed Lark
  • Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Animals

  • Indian Blackbuck

and the main highlights of the day for me were the two fantails – Spot-Breasted Fantail and White-Browed Fantail!


Also checkout – Rann Roadies – Part 1 – Phillaur to Khichan
Rann Roadies – Part 2 – Jodhpur to Dholavira
Rann Roadies – Part 3 – Bhuj and the White Rann


__ Thank you for reading __

~Arjun Basandrai

Rann Roadies – Part 3 – Bhuj and the White Rann

Bhuj is a small city in the Kutch district of Gujarat. It has great historical importance and is famous among tourists going to Dhordo for ‘Rann Utsav’. Besides the Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal, there is not much to see in Bhuj city. So, after spending some time there, we left for Mandvi in the evening.

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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.

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Indian Peafowl male

Rann Roadies – Part 1 – Phillaur to Khichan

Every New Year, I go on road trips to wonderful destinations across India with my family. This New Year 2021, that wonderful destination was Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat! The initial plan was a 14-day road trip covering Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Dholavira and Bhuj. But, since we had to be back by 13th for Lohri, we left Jaisalmer for another trip.

Our planning was rather spontaneous throughout the trip. Most of the days we didn’t know which city we were going to spend the night in until about 8 pm. Then at 9 we began the search for a hotel. In almost all the hotels we had late night check-in and early morning checkout.

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