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Gujrat

Valavedar National Park

The Park lies inland from the Gulf of Cambay on the West coast of India, in the  Saurashtra Region of Gujerat. Bhavnagar the nearest city and usual entry point is 65 Kms away, and is connected by daily flights to Mumbai and by road to Ahmedabad. (137 Kms) and other parts of Gujerat.

 

Created for the conservation of the Blackbuck, Valavedar is a tiny 35sq kms but unique grassland ecosystem. Savanah grasslands along with areas of Mesquite and dry deciduous scrub are the habitat.Valavedar is of interest to birders because of the huge roost of about 2000 harriers, which is formed every winter. (Oct to early


Feb). The dominant species is Montagu’s. Another rare sight ( June to Oct) is that of the lesser Florican, which migrate and settle here to breed in the grasslands.

 

Sarus CraneShikaraBirders can spot the Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Ashy- crowned sparrow lark, Rufous-tailed, and crested Larks, Desert and Variable wheatears, Southern Grey and Rufous–tailed Shrikes. Apart from the Harrier, other raptors to be seen could include Black-shouldered Kite, Shikara, and Short-toed Snake Eagle. Common Crane and other waders can be spotted on the Alag River.

The park has more than 1,000 Black Buck that can be viewed on the open grassland from very close range. This exclusively Indian animal is perhaps, the most graceful and beautiful of its kind. A visit to Valavadar is worthwhile just to see their magnificent leaps and lightning sprints.
 

The wolf and the jackal are the main predators in the park. Other mammals likely to be seen are Bengal fox, Black–naped Hare, Indian Desert Gerbil, Jungle cat, and Nilgai.

 

Driving in jeeps with walks is the usual method of watching. There are also some watch towers and hides maintained by the forest department.

 

Montagu's Harrier. Photo by Yoginder shahBlack BuckInside the park, the Forest Department Lodge offers basic accommodation. Better accommodation is at Bhavnagar town, at Nilambagh Palace Hotel – a former Maharajas palace with stately rooms a swimming pool and good dining facilities. More details at Lodges.

 

A minimum of one full day is required for bird watching.

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Sasan Gir National Park

Lions photo by Yoginder ShahGir is located in southern Gujerat. It is connected by air to Mumbai via Rajkot airport 160 kms (3.30 hrs), and can be reached by a good network of roads from any part of Gujerat.

 

The main reason to visit Gir is to see the Asiatic Lion, in its natural habitat. Latest census reports have counted 107 lions at Gir.

 

Birders should know that Gir comprises diverse habitats - open scrub country, dry deciduous and tropical thorn forest and an evergreen corridor along the riverside. The forest is home to a large variety of birds. It is said that, had, Gir not been a lion sanctuary, it would have been termed one of the finest bird sanctuaries in Gujarat. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded.

 

Changable Hawk, Crested serpent, and Bonneli’s Eagle, Black Ibis, Wooley-necked Stork, Rock Bush Quail, Painted Sand Grouse, Crested Tree Swift, Greater Rocket-tailed Drongo, Black headed Cuckooshrike, Asian Paradise-Flycather, Brown, Fish and Great Horned Owls; Pygmy Woodpecker, Black Headed Oriole and Indian Pitta are the chief attraction

 

Crested Serpant Eagle Indian Pitta Black Ibis Changable Hawk-Eagle

 

Birding and wild life watching within the park by jeep safari. There is a good birding walk available just outside the park. Two full days are recommended for lion safari and birding.

 

The Taj Group of hotels operates Gir Lodge with luxury rooms and all facilities. For details click on Lodges.

Little Rann of Kutch – Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

Gujerat Little Rann terrain

The Kathiawar Peninsula in Gujerat State is separated from land to its North by the Gulf of Kutch. A large portion of this low-lying peninsula accumulates water and gets converted into a vast swamp during the monsoons. As it dries in the winter sun, it becomes a desert like expanse of dry silt, interspersed by lagoons and small islands with vegetation called “bets”. This is the Rann of Kutch, bordering Pakistan. The South East portion of the Rann called the Little Rann, is open to tourists. This unique region is astonishingly rich in bird life; particularly in winter when millions of waterfowl, along with desert species, can be spotted.

 

The entire 4950 sq kms of the Little Rann of Kutch, has been designated as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, as it is home to the rare and endangered “khur” – The Indian Wild Ass; not found anywhere else in the world.

 

Black Stork Red-necked Falcon Painted Stork Rufoustailed Lark Flamingo Greater Yellow Wattled Lapwing Birds of Little Rann of Kutch – Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

 

In winter the Little Rann is host to a variety of birds - almost 300 species.

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Some of the species that can be seen are:

 

Cranes: Demoiselles, Common, and Sarus,

Pelicans: Great White, Dalmatian, and Spot billed pelicans

Flamingos: Both lesser and Greater

Storks: Painted, Openbill, Wooly- necked, White, Black and Black-necked.

Ducks: Lesser-whistling, Spot- Billed, Comb, Marble teal, and most other common wintering ducks.

Waders: Collard, Oriental, and Small Pratincoles, White-tailed, Sociable, and Yellow-wattled Lapwings, and Long billed Plover (rare)

Raptors: Long –legged, common, and white-eyed Buzzards, Bonelli’s, Imperial, Tawny, Steppe, Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Booted, and Short toed snake Eagle, Six species of vulture, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers, Merlin, and Red-necked Falcon

Desert birds: Mac Queens Bustard, Lesser Florican (rare), Chesnut-belied and spotted Sandgrouse, Crean coloured, and Indian Coursers, Rain , Jungle Bush and Rock Bush Quails, and Yellow-legged and Barred Button quails,

Larks: Singing and Indian Bush Lark, Ashu-crowned and Black-crowned Sparrow larks, Rufous-tailed , Greater Hoopee, Greater short-toed, Sand, Bimaculated, crested and Syke’s Larks and Oriental Lark
Other birds:Wryneck, Plain, Crag, and Dusky Martins, Pied Cuckoo, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue –cheeked Bee-eater, European Roller, Eagle and Short-eared owls, Grey, Sykes’s, Indian and Savanna Nightjars, Rosy Starling, Large Grey Babbler, Red-breasted and Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Grey-breasted, Rufous-fronted, Ashy, Graceful and jungle, Prinias, Wire-tailed Swallow, Southern , Bay-backed, and Rufous –tailed Shrikes, Grey –backed, and Blyth’s Reed, Booted, Orphean, Desert and Sulphur –belied Warblers. Pied-Bushchat, Issabeline, Desert and variable wheatears, Blue-headed Rock Thrush, Greater and Lesser Whitethroat, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Tawny and long-belied pipit, Chesnut-shouldered Petronia, Baya and streakedWeavers, Black-headed, Grey-necked, and House Buntings Ortolan Bunting

( rare), and Blyethroat, Brown-rock Chat. 

 

Wild Asses at Little RannThe Indian wild ass represents the horse tribe. The Wild Ass is capable of marathon runs at a pace of about 24 km/h for as long as two hours, reaching a top speed of 70 km/h over short distances. In the Little Rann of Kutch, the Asses are attracted by the flat grass covered expanses of the bets, where coarse grasses spring up in the monsoons. With the advent of summer, the Asses move to bets in which there is perennial supply of water and grass.

 

Other mamalls found are: Blue-Bull, Chinkara, Hedgehog, Wolf, Jackal, Fox, Jungle and Desert Cats.

 

Zianabad is the logistics base for the little Rann. The nearest airport is at Ahmedabad – 110 Kms (2.30 hrs).  Rajkot airport is 175 Kms ( 3.30 hrs). Zainabad is well connected to all parts of Gujerat by road.

 

The method of exploration and birding is by open jeeps.- Morning and Afternoon safaris are an unusual experience. Two full days is the minimum period for bird watching.

 

Birders interested in local culture can take excursions to a typical Saurashtra village, handloom weaving and dyeing units and the village potter.

 

Desert Coursers, operate Camp Zaianabad whilst Rann Riders, operate another complex at Dasada. providing “kooba’ cottages, and “Bhunga” houses of the Rabari tribe of Kutch. Both provide Accomodation and meals. They are located amidst wet- lands, and are imaginatively designed using local materials to recreate the appearance of a village. For more details click on Lodges.

 

Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

 

Heronand-Egrets Waders Crab-Plovers Cranes Birds of Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

 

Located just 06 Kms from the town of Jamnagar in Gujerat, this sanctuary has been created by building an Earthen Dam, to block the rainwater run off into the sea. This forms a freshwater wetland habitat. The 12 kilometer long dam, separates fresh water on one side and salt water on the other. You can spot thousands of wintering common and Demoiselle cranes, and other water birds including flamingos, pelicans, gulls, Whimbrel, ducks, waders and Indian Skimmers, nesting, and geese. The Black stork nesting can also be seen.

 

Method of Birdwatching is to walk along the dam. It is a refreshing change from riding in jeeps. One full days birding is recomended.

 

At Jamnagar. Hotel President has luxurious rooms with all facilities, Indian, Chinese and continental cuisine plus a 24 hrs coffee shop. Click on Lodges for more details.

 

There are several spots along the shore line for watching shore birds.
 

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Tour options for non-birding spouse/friends: www.gurudongma.com.
 
 

Bird photographs by Yashodhan Bhatia,

Ronald Saldino,  Niels Poul Dryer, Ketil Knudsen
Kalypso Adventures & Gurudongma Team
.



 
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