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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekend Trip to Dasada - Little Rann of Kutch

14th January, a Friday, was a holiday for Makarsankranti so I took a day off from work on the 15th and headed off to Dasada, a small town on the edge of Little Rann of Kutch for a 2 night vacation at Rann Riders.
Dasada is located around 110 Kms from Ahmedabad and is an ideal stopover for people planning on visiting the Wild Ass sanctuary at LRK. We left home at around 9:30 AM and a leisurely 2 hour drive via Sanand, Viramgam and then Mandal saw us at Rann Riders (
Gaggle of geese
We were welcomed by a gaggle of geese trotting around merrily. The resort has around 30 cottages, resembling the kooba houses of the Bajania community of Dasada and the bhunga houses of the Rabaris of Kutch, decorated with mirrors, mud-plaster work and embroidery. The morning was spent exploring the property and watching the few birds that frequent the place. The kids had a ball playing in the "Bore" plantation in the resort and fooling around with the 3 Labrador pups there.
Nilgai heard on the run
Nilgai -Male
Indian Wild Ass
After a wonderful lunch at the open restaurant we were off for our 1st safari of the trip. A 30 minute drive later we were in the Wild Ass Sanctuary. While the common cranes had not yet arrived we were lucky to spot the Short Eared Owl, some Wild Asses and Nilgai from pretty close. There are large salt pans here and we had a chance to visit a salt pan workers family. Its amazing to see the kind of hardship they have to endure. Imagine living in a vast open expanse with nothing is sight but dry barren land. Water is drawn from bore-wells dug deep into the earth and then pumped into patches on land where it dries out to leave behind salt. The workers earn a merger 14 paisa per bag of salt.

We returned in time for dinner after which the evening was spent gazing at the stars in the clear sky. Next morning we were up at 6:00am and after a quick breakfast we were off on our 2nd safari. This time we went to a lake around 45 minutes away. On the way we spotted a family of Sarus Cranes and a few Marsh Harriers. The lake was a bit of a disappointment as the birds were quite far off and we were not able to get close for pictures, but the sight of around a hundred flamingos taking off together is a one that has to be seen to be believed. At around 10:00am we headed back to the resort and were lucky to be able to spend some quality time with a Sarus Family as they happily roamed around scourging for food. It's quite amazing how comfortable they are in the company of locals, often moving within a few feet of them as they go about their daily chores.

In the afternoon we were joined by a few friends from Ahmedabad and post lunch we were off again to another part of the sanctuary which was around an hour and half from the resort. Here we were lucky to spot the Amur Falcon and some Pelicans. We waited for the sun to set and got some nice images of the sun setting. On the way back we spotted a Nightjar but it flew away before any one managed to take a picture.
Sarus Crane
Amur Falcon
Black Shouldered Kite

The evenings at LRK get really cold and one should remember to carry some warm clothes especially while travelling in an open jeep during the safaris.
On 16th morning the kids were really tired and decided to skip the safari but we went looking for the MacQueen Bustard. After around an hour of driving around, seemingly aimlessly, we suddenly spotted a solitary bustard in the dry scrubs. It was amazing well concealed and there was no way we could have spotted it, if it had not moved around. We also managed to spot a few cranes and Kestrels and the Desert Wheatear. Our favourite Short Eared Owl also posed for a few images on our way back.

After a late lunch we checked out and returned to Ahmedabad with fond memories and a new family member!! The kids had managed to convince us and the owner of the resort, Mr. Malik, to allow then to take one of the pups back home...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thol Bird Sanctuary ??

Sanctuary -A reserved area in which birds and other animals, especially wild animals, are protected from hunting or molestation

I went to Thol after a long time. All my plans of spending a peaceful Sunday morning with the cacophony of the birds for company were dashed the moment i reached there. Flash bulbs were going off like crazy as a group of boys were photographing thier girlfriends and making enough noise to put a thousand cranes to shame.
Hope is all persevering, so I parked my car and started walking towards the far part of the lake hoping for some peace and quite only to be passed by 3 cars trying to race each other with music blaring at full volume. As they rounded a turn I spotted 3 startled Grey Francolins jump out of their skin. Cursing the drivers, I found a nice secluded spot and settled down on the wet grass and in the dim light could spot a a few water-hens foraging for food in the small swamp nearby.
Just when I thought things would get better, a bus full of people arrived for their "Picnic" and soon sounds of "Jay Ambe Maa" blaring from speakers filled the air. I looked at my watch, it was only 6:45am . . . it was going to be a long long day.... This continued till around 7:15 and I was thankful that the goddess had put some sense into her disciples.
Soon things became quiet again and a beautiful Purple heron came and landed a few feet away from me. Before I could take a shot it was chased away by someone blundering through the undergrowth to take a pee as one of his friend followed armed with a camera to post the image on Facebook !! I was so disgusted that I had half a mind to take a pic of them myself and send it to the local tabloid detailing their exploits.
At around 8:30 a few more vehicles poured in and I could hear people arguing about the best place to play cricket at Thol. Soon children were shouting at the top of their voice and rendering their version of the bird noises while "Sheila ki Jawani" competed with "Munni Badnam Hui" for the title of the track the pelicans liked the most.
By around 9:30 Thol was finally quite as most families had finised with their picnic baskets and headed back home a few "bird watchers" armed with their binoculars and cameras were left wondering where all the birds had gone. I could hear discussions of how the locals were encroaching on the habitat of the birds and how the farmers were responsible for chasing the birds away from their fields. Guess if they had seen what had happened that morning, they would have a different story to tell...
In between all this chaos I managed to get some nice images a marsh harrier as it flew up and down the swamp sending the smaller water-hens and lapwings scattering for the cover of the undergrowth. Also managed to grab images of the grey heron also posed for a few minutes before flying off to a quieter place where children would not throw stones at it and the cormorant who managed to catch a nice big cat-fish before flying away to dry itself of a tree stump far away.
I left Thol at around 12:00, memories of how beautiful and peaceful it had been a few years ago etched in my mind while I attempted to discard the happenings of the morning as nightmare that hopefully would soon be forgotten. Unfortunately the dreams did not go away and I am still left wondering if it’s right to call this place "Thol Bird Sanctuary" ???