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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Little Rann of Kutch - A Day Trip

I had been planning to got to Thol on Sunday (9th November 2008) when Kunan Naik, an avid birder and photographer invited me to join him on a trip to the Little Rann. I had been planning to go there in December and hence jumped at the opportunity as Kunan had been there a couple of times and was familiar with the place.

The Rann of Kutch is a seasonally marshy region located in the Thar Desert biogeographic province in Gujarat state of northwestern India and the Sind province of Pakistan. The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran meaning "salt marsh".I n India's summer monsoon, the flat desert of salty clay and mudflats, averaging 15 meters above sea level, fill with standing waters, interspersed with sandy islets of thorny scrub, breeding grounds for some of the largest flocks of Greater and Lesser flamingoes. At its greatest extent, the Gulf of Kutch on the west and the Gulf of Cambay on the east are both united during the monsoon.



This inhospitable salty lowland, rich in natural gas and a resting site for migratory Siberian birds, is part of India and Pakistan's ongoing border dispute concerning Sir Creek. The Rann is also famous for the Indian Wild Ass sanctuary, the Little Rann of Kutch, where the last of three species of Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur or khar), the only ones in Asia, still exists along with wolves, foxes, jackals, chinkara gazelles, nilgai antelope and blackbucks. The Rann of Kutch is also the only place in Pakistan and India which plays host to migrating flamingoes. There are 13 species of lark in the Rann of Kutch.

We left Ahmedabad at around 4:00 and the 110 Km journey to the Little Raan took us around 2 ½ hours in Kunan’s Gypsy, with a couple of breaks thrown in along the way. We reached the forest guest house around 6:30 and headed off straight into the Raan along with Udaybhai, (a forest officer) who was a friend of Kunan and a local guide.

We traveled into the Raan in a Maruti gypsy’s as its 4 wheel drive is best suited to marshy soil of the area. It is also advisable to hire the local guide as they are familiar with the area and know which parts of the Raan are approachable by vehicles.

The first thing that struck me during our outing was the difference between bird watchers and photographers is their approach. While a bird watcher / environmentalist is content to sight birds through a pair of binoculars / telescope a photographer pursues the birds like a trophy often with disregard for the bird and its habitat. Watching these 2 experienced birders was a great learning experience for me.

One of the first birds we spotted was the Common Krestal (falco tinnuunculus) which is a common, but very shy bird which flies of at the slightest of noise / disturbance. A little further into the bushes we spotted the Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) and the Desert Wheatear, Oenanthe deserti. Some other common birds like the White eared bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis), Green bee eater (Merops orientalis) and the Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striata) were also spotted along the route.

Past the scrubs we came across a huge vast open piece of land where the parched earth was cracked and dry. At places the earth was stained with a white residue, salt, for the water that had long since dried up. Here we spotted the Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) which blends beautifully with the arid landscape and is hence very difficult to spot unless it moves. A little ahead we came across a heard of the famed Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) also called khur, which is a subspecies of wild asses native to southern Asia. While I was busy taking pictures of the wild asses Udaybhai called us over as he had spotted a Painted Francolin or Painted Partridge (Francolinus pictus). This one was pretty far of and I had a hard time photographing it.

It was almost 9:30 and we headed of towards the water bodies and marshes. There we spotted Black Stork (Ciconia nigra).There were a lot of birds including The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), The Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), The Common Spoonbill or Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) Skylark (Alauda arvensis) and also some ducks like the Brahminy Duck (Tadorna ferruginea), a couple of Spot-billed Ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha), though Udaybhai was pretty upset that there were so few of them.

The Common Crane (Grus grus) were seen in large numbers. You can see hundreds of them all clustered together and when they decide to fly, it’s an amazing sight to watch. They are pretty clumsy during takeoff, but amazingly graceful in flight. We also spotted The Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) and the Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis).

We decided to take another route back and there we were able to spot some Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus ), Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) and a couple of the Least Sandpiper, Calidris or Erolia minutilla and a few Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and some Common Redshank or Redshank (Tringa totanus). Here I was also lucky to get a couple of pictures of The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in flight.

There are a lot of Rock Pigeons (Columba livia), Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), Long-tailed Shrike or the Rufous-backed Shrike (Lanius schach), Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) and other common birds.

We also saw some Neelgai Antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus Pallas) near the boundary of the sanctuary.

We started back from the Little Raan at around 12:15 and on the way back alongside the road we spotted a number of Black-shouldered Kites (Elanus axillaris), White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalensis) and also a bird which looked like a Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), but was way too far to identify positively.

We reached back at around 14:30 and I was tired but happy to have had such a great experience of the Raan with two seasoned bird watchers and now appreciate their patience and thrill of being able to identify a bird correctly, which I now realize is pretty difficult given that a slight variation in colour, striation or a almost unnoticeable change is the shape of the tail could change the bird all together.

4 comments:

FINGERPRINTS said...

Where in the world do you get all this time Umang?
Though thanks for sharing this trip.
I like the bird section.

ramesh_lalwani said...

I must say you got great shots.Must be happy with this trip.

Umang said...

Hi Umang,

Thanks for sharing us the beautiful nature's snaps. They are really fantabulous.

Keep it continue, Best of luck.

Aryannn

Umang said...

By d way can u help me,
I also create a blogspot name is pyaridunia.blogspot.com

Now I want to register it with adsense. So plz guide me in above matter.

Thanks

Aryannn