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Gujrat

Kutch

The Kutch region is located in the North Western part of Gujarat. It borders Pakistan on its North, and has a long coast line on its East. Though the Little Rann of Kutch is a part of the Kutch region, on these pages it has been excluded, as it has already been described as a separate birding area.

As most guide books do not mention this bird rich area, Gurudongma, with the assistance of local bird watchers carried out a birding exploration to set up tours for bird watchers. During the winter of 2005-2006, we operated three tours in Gujarat – of which two included the Kutch region . What follows is based on experiences gained and assistance provided by Arpit Deomurari; a keen and knowledable birder of this region.


Grey Hypocolius Lesser Whitethroat White-naped Tit Stoliczka's Bush Chat Painted Sandgrouse Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Steppe Eagle Birds of Kutch

Kutch is the land of The Great Rann, deserts and wetlands, vast grasslands, scrub lands, and mangrove swamps. It also has lovely beaches and an ancient culture. Its stark and wild beauty and exotic species of birds, makes it a birding destination to remember

   The region is well known for its extreme arid conditions with scanty rainfall of 25 – 40 cms. Temperature variations are high – 10 to45 C The desert conditions are characterized by fissured land, hard soil, with saline layers. There are no sand dunes. The topography is mostly flat to gently undulating, occasionally interspersed with small hillocks.

The Great Rann is a unique piece of land which has no counterpart in the world. There are patches of dry and marshy land just 2 to 3 meters above mean sea level. 20,900 sq km of the land area of 45600 sq km of Kutch comprises the Great Rann. A substantial part of the vast desert is transformed into seasonal wetlands during the monsoons. This feature is unique and supports bio diversity.

In Kutch there is plenty of vegetation around, represented by Acacia species. The habitat comprises Dry grasslands, Babul forests, Saline scrub savannah, Tropical thorn forests, Desert thorn forests, Euporbia and Zizyphus scub occurs in patches. Rann saline scrub is found in the Great Rann Khijado Tree lands are now mostly degraded but are thriving in and around agriculture fields..

The Banni grasslands covers 2900 sq km.  This; the largest grassland in India is unique. It gets partially flooded during the monsoons forming numerous wetlands – an important habitat for migratory and resident water birds

Very few birders have visited the Kutch region. More than 300 species are found in Kutch. Of these we have recorded about 160 species. More are waiting to be seen. Three rare species of bustards -Great Indian bustard, Houbara bustard and Lesser florican can be seen. Other sought after species are Sykes’s Lark, Grey Hypocolius, Indian Bushlark, White-naped Tit, Rock Bush Quail, Sirkeer Malkoha, Red-necked Falcon, Laggar Falcon, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, White-naped Tit, Jungle Prinia, Hume’s Lesser Whitethroat, Indian Bushlark, Grey-necked Bunting, Heuglin’s Gull, cream colored courser, painted sand grouse, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, White- bellied minivet, Marshall’s Iora, Grey-necked Bunting, Crab Plover, Crab Plover, Black necked stork, Tawny Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, and more.

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Great Indian Bustard sightings  in Kutch :

Great Indian BustardRegular sightings of this endangered species were made in the winter of 2005/06, by tours operated by Gurudongma Tours & Treks, at Nalia Dhond.

Birders now have better prospects as the Nalia Dhond has been declared a Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary.

Exciting news reported on 26 Aug 2006, is that Great Indian Bustard nests have been sighted in two places. There may be more – but the presence of the mother bird, ruled out a closer look . Each bird lays one egg at a time and it takes 45 days to hatch. The current population of 45 in the sanctuary is expected to rise to 50.

It is estimated that there are just about  200 of these birds in the world.

 

The main birds watching areas are:-

  • Chari dhund and Fulay
     

  • Banni Grasslands
     

  • Naliya Done
     

  • Lala Bustard Sanctuary
     

  • Jakhau salt pans
     

  • Soneri hills
     

  • Kumari hills
     

  • Dhinodhar hill
     

Method of Birdwatching is by jeep with short walks. Birds are easy to spot if you know where to look for them. A competent guide – who knows the area is a must.  You need 3-4 days to spot the key species. It is advisable to combine about 03 days of birding at the Little Rann, staying at Camp Zainabad, and then driving to Ahmedabad ( 3.30 hrs) which has air and rail connections to all parts of India.

Entry to Kutch is either by highway from Ahmedabad ( 8-9 hrs) or by air to the capital city of Bhuj. There are daily flights from and to Mumbai. The Bhuj airport is about 100 kms from the birding areas. There is a good network of highways

It is also possible to drive by a good high way to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (The Desert National Park)

After the great earthquake, Bhuj and effected villages have been rebuilt with imaginative town and country planning. At Bhuj, Hotel Prince has good rooms with all facilities, and an excellent restaurant with Indian, Chinese and continental cuisine. Alas Bhuj is not favorably located for bird watching.

For birders we recommend the following lodgings:-

  • For those who like high standards at affordable prices there are luxurious rooms in a  Spanish hacienda – The Casurina Grove. 75 Kms from the airport near Nakhatrana

  • Rooms in a farm house amidst a fruit orchard , also 75 Kms from the airport near Nakhatrana

  • Rooms in KERC guest house at Tera

Click on Lodges for more details.

Kutch has its own distinctive culture and exceptional handicraft. Combining a three to four days cultural tour around Bhuj or a beach holiday at Mandvi, with your birding tour is another option.. Please get in touch with us for more details.

Photo Credit : All photos on this page by Arpit Deomurari


 

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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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