Perching Birds of Little Rann of Kutch
This blog is about birds of little rann of kutch.In the second day morning, the very first bird we met was a fantastic one. The bird reach there from the middle east (more precisely Oman) every year and GRK is the only place in India where this bird can be seen for about 2 months in a year, that too very few in number. The bird is Grey Hypocolius and nearer to Bulbul of our country.
On the side by side trees, at the topmost perches a huge number of a black headed another bird was calling too much. Those were Rosy Starlings a nearest relative to our common Myna.
Inside the acacia trees and small bushes, some smaller size birds were moving very fast. Not a single bird came out of the bushes and couldn’t get a very clear shot of any of them. A beautiful song bird Orphean Warbler and another was Lesser White throat were there. In a few small thorny bushes White-eared Bulbuls were creating clamour.
A few kilometres apart from the muddy lands, some small patches of greens, formed by mainly acacia trees and other are home of a number of foraging birds, perching birds and seed eaters like Marshalls Iora, Grey Headed Bunting and Rufous fronted Prinia.
We also met with smaller birds like Small Minivets and Chestnut-shouldered Petronia. Next day was fixed for our visit to the sea side for huge number of coast and sea birds.
Water and Sand Birds of Little Rann of Kutch
The Great Rann of Kutch being located near Tropic of Cancer (at the north) it experiences very harsh sunrays and in India highest temperature reaches here during summer every year and that’s near about 49⁰ C to 50⁰C. The birds of little rann of kutch come here in the winters.
Every water holes, small or large, just get dried. So before that, all the residents of the place try to maximum utilise the water available. Common Cranes, Demoiselle Cranes & Painted Storks, all try to reach the water traces in search of food.
A few hundred meters inside the desert, on the barren flats some beautiful birds you will locate if you can fix your eyes on the ground for sometimes. Those are a fleet of Sandgrouse, the Painted Sandgrouse. The male birds are so beautiful, resembles paintings. Eyes of both male and female are just awesome.
We had been there in February first week. Even before midday the sun had become so uncomfortable that we had to take our road back to homestay. On the way, by the side of a muddy water point a small flock of whit birds with big size bills were there. Those were Indian Skimmers. The speciality of the birds is the structure of their bills. The upper one being shorter that the lower one. They skim through the water surface for small fishes while on wings.
Lastly a large flock of Common Cranes we saw in the sky. We also came across a number of scavengers which I will be describing in my next birding story.
It’s a desert, an endless land of whiteness at the western end of our country. The Gulf of Rann of Kutch in Arabian Sea is at one end and the Indus River at the other end, about 7500 sq. km. of open land in the state of Gujarat is the White Desert.
Taking a car from outside Ahmedabad Airport, (pre-arranged) , we reached our stay point at Epicentre Homestay , owned and managed by none other than famous birding guide Mr. Bharat Kapdi, located at Lodai Village by the side of Kaswati Dam.
Next day at early morning, after a quick freshen up, our car started and in the driver seat, Mr Bharat Kapdi was at 90 kmph in the highway. A distance of about 55 km we covered just in less than an hour and immediately the car stopped, a Common Snipe at our right side waiting for the breakfast. At the same place on the opposite side a Ruff in its breeding plumage, sitting still.
After moving a small distance, on the thorny perch, a solitary Steppe Shrike was busy in feeding. The bird arrives there from Pakistan during winter and moves back as the temperature rises.
Bharatji’s eyes were in search of something else, and it’s there. The car stopped, engine off and from inside the car we could locate the Short-eared Owl at a distance of 100 ft app. sitting on the ground but absolutely camouflaged with the dry thorny bushes. The owl flew away within minutes and on our way inside Banni Grass land saw few desert birds on the small bushes.
Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Isabeline Wheatear, and on the ground Crested Lark and Sand Larks were moving very fast.
As soon as we moved less than 500 mts on our right side some yellow round spots were moving on the ground, highly camouflaged.. Bharat ji confirmed those were the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. A specialty of the birds he told, they travel hundreds of miles during summer to reach a water hole. They soak their under body feathers heavily in the water and carry that for their babies at the nest. They move in groups always to save themselves from the predators everywhere in the desert.
On the opposite side of the field some bigger size (22-25) cm birds were running on the ground, in a peculiar pattern, due to our presence. They were standing erect, running…standing for some time, looking back, again run and repeat till reaching a comfortable distance. Those were Cream coloured Courser. They too were very hard to find on the sandy surface.
We moved and travelled another few hundred meters and saw the Greater Hoopoe Lark, an originally resident bird of the Rann of Kutch, foraging on the ground and searching g for prey from under the surface by its big size bill. A few Siberian Stonechats and Citrine Wagtails were also there sporadically.
By this time we reached at a very deeper point inside the Rann and looking at all sides it was appearing same. Persons with clear idea and expertise only could be able to come out of the vast open land and we started our return journey.
The word “Rann” means the desert. The Gulf of Kutch in Arabian sea is at one end and the Indus River at the other end, about 7500 sq. km. of open land in the state of Gujarat is the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK).
The entire area gets flooded and stays submerged under saline water during the rainy season and the deposition of silt clay and salt at the bed creates a huge change in the character of the area every year. This deposition turns the land a desert of white sand as the water recedes. Sporadic existence of vegetation of a variety. Starting from grasses to acacia trees, transform the vastness into the lively habitat of a number of wild lives including birds. The abundance of small worms, small crustaceans, shrimps, small rodents, algae in the water attracts a variety of birds there from distant places even.
There are a number of entry points to the GRK. But for a wonderful birding experience, we chose the Lodai village end this time.
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To get up at the point, the city of Bhuj (Gujarat) is the nearest one, about 40 Kms. An airport is also there at Bhuj, but only Mumbai directly connect to that airport by Air India flights. The easiest and frequent connected point is Ahmadabad. It has its own airport, Rail station, Night Coach service everything. This city is about 370 Kms from GRK .
We stayed at Epicentre Homestay, a beautiful arrangement made by Bharatji our birding guide. To feel nature staying at modern amenity fitted rooms amidst the sands. In the year 2001, this place demolishes with a high magnitude tremor of which the epicentre was at Bhuj, being the background of the naming of the homestay.
Out first sighting was that of a Common Kestrel. Travelling few more kilometers inside the desert we found a few Steppe Eagles (14) and Western Marsh Harrier.
At a distance, on the tree, a beautiful Long-legged Buzzard was also seen which migrates from the Middle East during winter end there.
A Long-legged Buzzard and a Steppe Eagle were also found on their wings.
One common character of all the desert birds was found that all most all the birds were sand-colored. There were number of raptors in the sky of the desert. Moreover, very few vegetation and covers were available to hidden. Therefore, nature has provided the smaller birds camouflage advantage to save themselves from the predators.
On our way back saw some more raptors in the sky. They normally come out late because as the heat increases. Moreover, the wind gets hot and the thermal wind being light helps the raptors to soar high and glide easily.
Golden Birds of Little Rann of Kutch
There are places on earth, which may surprise you with its simplicity only. An almost endless view of a blank world still full of wild lives. Including birds is nothing but a surprise to enjoy. Yes I am talking about the white land of saline sand and clay of Gujarat, called Little Rann of Kutch, in short LRK. Rann means Desert in Hindi.
Little Rann of Kutch is a vast land of desert like place of white saline sands. It’s about 4950 square km of blank space on earth. It still is a place full of wild lives including variety of birds. Its located near Surendranagar, a place about 170 km from Ahmedabad Airport and about 40 km from Ahmedabad – Kutch Highway. Nearest Railway station to Little Rann of Kutch is Dharangadhra, about 45 kms.
Only way to visit the Little Rann of Kutch is by hiring cars. These easily available in the area with expert drivers and guides. The vastness of Little Rann of Kutch is a definite chance of getting directionless as soon as you enter 10 to 20 kms inside the desert. Only local guides are the masters here to get you back home.
At distant places in Little Rann of Kutch stray temporary huts. These are there self-conscious by Agaris, the salt producers in local language. They lead a very tough life and produce salt by creating salt panes and standing waters. A large portion of salt used in our country is produced here in Little Rann of Kutch. In the rainy season the entire area gets flooded with water from the Gulf of Kutch. Entire area of Little Rann of Kutch remains under 4-6 ft of water for about one month. And as the water dries up small shrimps, insects, make the area rich in food for birds. Wide variety of birds then appears to enjoy the gift.
This desert is the only place in the world where you will see Asiatic Wild Asses. Its endemic to this place and endangered species too.
As soon as small birds start coming to the place. Following the typical food chain formula of nature various Raptors arrive here in the same period. On the other side, the flat water areas get to fill with a variety of water birds and waders.
Commonly found birds of Little Rann of Kutch are – Sociable Lapwings, Sand Grouse, Ashy crowned Sparrowlak, Crested Lark, Brahminy Starling, Isabeline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, White eared Bulbuls and Common Cranes.
There are also Raptors like Montagu’s Harrier, Macqueen’s Bustard, Palid Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Western Marsh Harrier, Steppe Eagle,(021) Long legged Buzzards etc in Little Rann of Kutch. A nice big sized Short eared Owl you will see at this time just by the side of the acacia trees and dry grasses.
On the other side of Little Rann of Kutch , in the water front Painted Stork, Great white Pelicans and beautiful Greater Flamingos make the waterscape brilliant. Just to have a different trip and sighting of an ever remembering wildlife LRK is the place.