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» Bird Century

Bird Century

Introduction

Tucked away in the north-western corner of India and bordering Pakistan and the Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Gujarat is a great bird-watching destination in India. From the deserts of the Rann of Kutch which melt into the arid Banni grasslands much of northern Gujarat is a wasteland which  attracts a wide variety of wintering birds to the thorn scrub and great stretches of seasonal wetlands. Add to this a 1660 km coastline on the Arabian Sea, the famous dry deciduous forests of Gir and the moist deciduous forests in the south, in a landscape interspersed with ancient hill ranges of theAravallis, Satpura, Vindhya and the Sahyadhris, and you have the perfect recipe for some great birding.


Kutch Birding At Grand 3D Hotel in Bhuj

Kutch

Kutch is the second largest district in India covering an area of 45, 612 sq. km.and is part of the Kathiawar Peninsula occupying the northwestern part of Gujarat. It is a land of deserts, dry salty alluvial mudflats, extensive grasslands and great stretches of water in the ‘dhands’ left by the monsoons. Dry thorn forests and mild hillocks punctuate the flat limitless stretches of land and a great variety of birds find refuge in these seemingly hostile surroundings. Kutch can be divided into 4 distinct regions: (i) The deserts of the Great Rann, to the north, (ii) The Grasslands of Banni, (iii) Mainland, consisting of plains, hills and dry river beds and (iv) Coastline along the Arabian Sea in the south with mangrove creeks to the west .
Due to its unique geographical location and habitat, Kutch 
is considered to be at the crossroads of Palearctic migration streams and witnesses great waves of migratory birds in winter.
Vegetation: 
Vegetation is mainly xerophytic with the ground cover predominated by ephemerals whose active growth is triggered by monsoon rains. 253 flowering plant species have been listed, out of which the number of species of trees was 18. Large areas have been colonized by the non-indigenous Prosopis juliflora, locally known as ‘gando baawal’ (mad weed) for it’s almost manic ability to spread, the species is now used to make charcoal.Prosopis juliflora was introduced by the Forest Department to prevent salinity ingress from the Rann. The plant proved disastrous, as it gradually began replacing indigenous grasses and vegetation. Bets and fringe areas support a variety of indigenous plants like Suaeda spp.,Salvadora persica, Capparis decidua, Capparis deciduas, Calotropis procera, Tamarix sp., Aeluropus lagopoides, Cressa cretica, Sporobolus spp. and Prosopis Cineraria.. 
Bird life: The Kutch area supports around 370 bird species (see Checklist) and is particularly rich in raptors, waterfowl, waders and larks. Specialties include the Grey Hypocolius (Kutch is the only known wintering site in India), White-naped Tit, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Sykes’s Nightjar, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Merlin, MacQueen’s and Indian Bustards. Over 30,000 Common Cranes, hundreds of Steppe Eagle, Marsh, Pallid and Montague’s Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, Sandgrouse, Pelicans, Flamingos and great flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks are a feature of any winter visit to the area.

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Kutch Birding Hotspots

Banni Grassland and Chhari Dhand
Location: 69o24′ E 23o42′ N
Area: 3
,847 sq. km
Habitat: 
Arid grassland interspersed with thorn scrub. The inherently saline soil, deposited by long lost river systems, is naturally suited for nutritious grasses. More than 20 grass species and 20 other herb and shrub species grow in Banni. ‘Banni’ comes from word ‘banai’, meaning made.
Chhari-Dhand is a seasonal wetland in the Banni. ‘Dhand’ means a saucer shaped natural depression. Chhari-Dhand is an important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl and is also a roosting place for over 30,000 Common Cranes in winter. A  list of over 250 species of birds have been reported from the areas around Chhaari-Dhand.
Key species: Great place for many types of raptors and water dependent birds. Other key birds include Grey Hypocolius, White-naped Tit, 
MacQueen’s Bustard and Dalmatian Pelicans.

Great Rann of Kutch (GRK)
Location: See map
Area:
 The Kachchh Desert Sanctuary covers 13,540 sq.km.
Habitat: 
The Rann of Kutch was described as “a desolate area of unrelieved, sun-baked saline clay desert, shimmering with the images of a perpetual mirage” (Cubitt and Mountfort 1991). The Great Rann of Kutch, along with the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands on its southern edge, covers some 30,000 sq. kms. of dry and desolate tabletop surface, interspersed with small uplands between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan.
There are  13 elevated portions (bets) in GRK. Out of these Khadir, Pachchham, Tragadi, Sol and Kakida are well known.
Key species: Great place for many types of raptors and water dependent birds. The endangered Indian Bustard makes a home here. GRK is also a breeding area for Greater Flamingos.

Little Rann of Kutch: See page HERE

Naliya Grassland (Lala Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary)
Location: 68o45′ E 23o30′ N
Area: 500 sq. km
Habitat: 
The habitat comprises of dry grasslands mixed with tropical and desert scrub and thorn forests.
Key species: 
This is a breeding area for the threatened Indian Bustard and about 20 birds are known to reside here. Other species include Lesser Florican, MacQueen’s Bustard, Stoliczka’s Bushchat and nesting populations of Tawny Eagle.

 Other Birding Spots in Gujarat (see Map)
Gir Forest:
 Famous as the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion, Gir boasts a list of 300 bird species,which includes an impressive list of raptors and woodland species.

Velavadar: 170 kms to the south of Ahmedabad lies the 34sq. km. Velavadar National Park. Created to provide protection to the last large herds of Blackbucks, Velavadar is famous for its huge harrier roosts in winter and is also a good place to see Stoliczka’s Bushchat and breeding Lesser Floricans.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary: Nal Sarovar is a large lake 65 kms southwest of Ahmedabad. Depending on water availability, Nal Sarovar can cover an area exceeding 120 sq. kms. Dotted with hundreds of islands, this large waterbody attracts large flocks of Common and Demoiselle Cranes, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans plus a variety of storks and wintering waterfowl.

Like the Wild Ass Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar is home to a wide array of wildlife, including many species (15 of which are considered threatened) of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The principle species here is the chinkara, an Indian gazelle. In this harsh landscape, only animals well-adapted to the desert climate can thrive, with extreme heat, high winds, and frequent storms. For this reason, many species can be seen here that are not easy to find elsewhere.

Most of Narayan Sarovar is desert thorn forest and scrub forest, with some seasonal wetlands and dry savannah-type vegetation as well. Gorad and babul are the prevailing plant species; gorad in the east and babul in the west. Also found among the 252 species of flowering plants in the sanctuary are hermo, ber, pilu, thor, gugal, salai, ingorio, kerdo, carissa, and the invasive “gando baawal” (prosopsis juliflora), though less so than in other nearby areas.

The endangered chinkara is the only gazelle in the world with horns on both males and females. Of the roughly 7000 chinkaras known to exist, 80% of them live in Kutch, and since their primary habitat is the scrub and thorn forests so common here, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary is crucial to their well-being. The sanctuary also houses many other mammals, from wildcats like the caracal (African or Persian Lynx) to desert foxes and the endangered Indian wolf, from spotted deer to wild boar. The ratel, or honey badger, renowned for its snake-killing ability and fierce self-defense against leopards, lions, poisonous snakes, and swarms of bees, earning it the title of “most fearless animal” in the Guinness Book of World Records, also lives here.

Birds abound in the sanctuary, with no less than 184 distinct species to be found here. All three species of bustards (the Great Indian Bustard, the Houbara Bustard, and the Lesser Florican) live here, as well as the Black Partridge, 19 different birds of prey, and many species of waterfowl. No bird lover will leave here displeased.

I bird watched in Gujarat from 2-8 February 2007. From 2-5 February I was with Sumit Sen in Kutch, based at CEDO in Moti-Virani village (west of Bhuj) and following a programme organized by Jugal Tiwari. I transferred to Gir on 6 February and spent two nights at Gir Birding Lodge with a programme organized by Ganesh of Asian Adventures. On 8th I visited Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary with Ganesh en route to Ahmedabad. Sumit spent much of 6th with Niraj V. Mistry and Maulik Suthar visiting Thol Lake near Ahmedabad. Sumit had carefully researched past reports and lists and computed that in Kutch alone we should manage 200 species with up to 50 more from the other sites in Gujarat.

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We arrived at Ahmedabad by air and took an overnight train to Bhuj. We were received by our friend, local birder and travel expert, Anil Mulchandani at Ahmedabad Airport and were treated to one of our best meals on the trip. Gujarat is a dry state and permits are required for those who need a drink. Food is mostly vegetarian and even eggs are hard to come by.

Our drive from Bhuj on 2nd gave us a chance to see what were the commoner species in Kutch. Laughing and Collared Doves, Common Babblers, Indian Robins, Rosy Starlings and House Sparrows were all numerous and it seemed that at almost every 100m the wires were graced with a Variable Wheatear. All were of the race pictata but I did see one male opistholeuca (the all black race) We learnt that in this extreme western part of India many species common elsewhere in the country (and even the state) do not occur in Kutch. These included Jungle and Large Grey Babblers, Magpie Robins, barbets, Green Pigeons, tree pies and hornbills! In fact it was my thinking I had glimpsed a Grey Hornbill entering the canopy of a neem that led to our first stop and our first local specialty, a confiding group of noisy Marshall’s Iora; now an extremely local species confined to north-west India and apparently extirpated from Delhi. However we came across several parties in our time in Kutch. No trace of a hornbill (or indeed any similar sized bird) was found!

 Some small birds

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Habitat of Red-tailed Wheatear

After arrival at CEDO around lunch time we spent the remainder of the day in the Banni grasslands and Chhari Dhand. We started in an area of gravelly desert flats with rocky outcrops and quickly found a fine Red-tailed (formerly Rufous-tailed) Wheatear that Jugal had first located some days ago. This is the subspecies chrysopygia which some (including Birds of South Asia) consider warrants full specific status. Two other wheatears featured prominently throughout our birding in Kutch; Isabelline and Desert. Both favour more barren habitats than Variable but all proved to be very approachable as did the Siberian Stonechats in the grasslands. Several of the Desert Wheatears were acquiring their very smart breeding plumage. Common as the wheatears were, they (and all other passerines) were roundly eclipsed by the large flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks which swarmed over the dry lands and the tracks and by the gatherings of House Sparrows (apparently of the large north western Himalayan race parkini) in the thorn scrub.

  Cranes and Raptors Galore

Raptors of several species are numerous in Kutch and we were not disappointed. From early on we started seeing Pallid Harriers and Long-legged Buzzards. An excellent monsoon had produced a fine crop of grass which in turn nurtured a huge population of Lesser Bandicoot Rats Bandicoota bengalensis. These are apparently the main prey of the harriers, buzzards and eagles. Other mammals included Golden Jackals, Indian Hares, Jungle Cat, Nilgai and Chinkara but none were numerous. Near Chhari Dhand up to 12 Marsh, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers and a similar number of Steppe Eagles could be seen at any one time. In the evening over 40 Steppe Eagles scuffled over the favoured roosts on top of the scattered bushes with the majority forced to perch on the ground. On two evenings we watched the fly-past of around 200 harriers of three species going to roost, an excellent way to hone id skills on the ringtails. Some seemed to deliberately change direction to fly over us and have a closer look!

In smaller numbers we saw in this area a couple of very pale immature Imperial Eagles, Short-toed Eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Osprey, a single Greater Spotted and Tawny Eagles together with good numbers of Black-shouldered Kites and Common Kestrels. What were missing were any vultures, only on the 3rd did we have very distant views of four Eurasian Griffons even though we visited a carcass dump.

In terms of numbers probably the most impressive species was the Common Crane. Groups of birds were frequently encountered in the grasslands and on the dry flats, many including juveniles which spoke of a good breeding season. On our two evening watches we were treated to the remarkable sight of at least 25000 streaming in from all quarters over a couple of hours to roost on mud banks in the lake. The well-disciplined chevrons and lines were constantly bugling their contact calls. This must be one of the largest wintering concentrations in India and contributes to Kutch’s status as the host of the largest numbers. What was interesting during the day was the number feeding (apparently on roots and tubers) on dry flats and in the thorn scrub. Certainly they were not restricted to wet or even damp areas.

 The mystery Hypocolius

The village of Fulay on the edge of the Banni grasslands is the only place in India where the fabled Hypocolius can be seen with almost certainty in the winter months. Indeed it is one of the few reliable sites in the small south western Asian range. Here the numerous Salvadoria persica bushes provided food and roosting sites although the berry-bearing bush is numerous in Gujarat so it is not the limiting factor. On our first evening we went to see the birds going to roost and were not disappointed although the views were limited. On 4th morning we were back for longer and had extended views of up to 30 birds perched on the tops of bushes or towering high like Long-tailed Minivets as they moved from bush clump to bush clump. A beautiful, subtly coloured bird and well the worth the trip alone, indeed I class them with Wallcreeper, Ibisbill and Crab Plover as special birds that cannot disappoint! Also of interest here were numerous Rosy Starlings, Common Rosefinch, Black-headed Buntings, Orphean and Sykes Warbler.

  Sea fogs and bustards

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On 3rd morning we ventured into the Naliya grasslands on our Indian Bustard search. Heavy sea fog limited visibility at first but perhaps enabled us to drive very close to numerous pairs of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and small flocks of magnificent Bimaculated Larks among the Greater Short-toes. Interestingly three other Indian dryland specialities (Eurasian Thick-knee, Indian Courser and Yellow-wattled Lapwing) were in much smaller numbers than the sandgrouse throughout the area; indeed we saw and heard none of the former at all in Kutch. We had a couple of sightings of Desert Warblers in low scattered scrub as ever, numerous arenarius Rufous-tailed Shrikes, more wheatears and Rufous-tailed Larks. One of the best sightings was a fine Laggar eating a Spiny-tailed Lizard, which species seemed extremely numerous along the sand roads. Jugal found us the Indian Bustards without much difficulty. Four were picked up in flight at some distance and we found them or another five with limited searching. The five comprised 4 immature males and a female. With care we were able to drive close to them as the stalked haughtily through the long grass. We moved on to visit a Tawny Eagle’s nest with young and while viewing it had unusually close and open views of Common Quails in the patchy grass. We searched for Stoliczka’s Bushchats but only well marked Siberians Stonechats showed. In the warm weather some of these looked very attenuated and many females showed strong supercilia. It is not surprising that the females have caused confusion recently.

  Leaving Kutch

We drove back to Bhuj that afternoon to catch our train to Ahmedabad. The hoped for White-bellied Minivets didn’t materialize but we traveled through some beautiful rolling hills. Three short of our 200 Mr. Varu took us to his local village pond. This was a beautiful lotus covered lake bursting with birds. We quickly added Great Crested Grebe (about six), a pair of Garganey and a lone Ferruginous Duck as a fitting end to an excellent trip in Kutch.

  Thol Lake

thol28gThol Sanctuary is located 40 kms northwest of Ahmedabad city. Images from Thol had raised my curiosity and I had long planned to visit this 7 sq. km. wetland. Thanks to Niraj V. Mistry and Maulik Suthar my desire was fulfilled and accompanied by Maulik, I headed from Ahmedabad for Thol on a pleasant February morning. The drive to Thol was interesting with abundant birdlife. Small village ponds held Ruddy Shelducks and Common Teal. Greylag and Great White Pelicans flew overhead and common mainland birds like Jungle Babbler, Oriental Magpie Robin and Yellow-footed Green Pigeons quickly made it to our trip list. Thol itself comprises of a large stretch of open water with a few artificial islands providing a resting place for the birds. It is surrounded by marshy ponds and in many ways reminds one of Bhindawas and Sultanpur. A good variety of

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 wintering birds were observed, the most eye-catching amongst which was a 500 strong flock of Great White Pelicans. A few Mallards were also noted amongst the Greylags, Common Pochards, Pintails and Coots. The star bird was a family of three Sarus Cranes seen at the edge of the sanctuary as we were

preparing to leave. All in all a very attractive place and a must visit for birders traveling to Ahmedabad. (Thol text by Sumit Sen)

Species Kutch Gir Vela-
vadar
Ahmedabad &Thol

Remarks

Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus x x x x Common
Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus x x Scarce
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix x Only at Naliya
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus x x x Common
Greylag Goose Anser anser x Over 400 at Thol
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea x x Very local
Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos x Only a few seen
Gadwall Anas strepera x x Very local
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope x x Very local
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos x x Rare
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha x x Small numbers encountered
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata x x Very local
Northern Pintail Anas acuta x x Good numbers at Thol
Garganey Anas querquedula x x Rare
Common Teal Anas crecca x x x Very local. Large flock in Hodko Dhand
Common Pochard Aythya ferina x x Over 300 at Thol
Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca x Single bird in tank near Bhuj
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula x Very local
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos nanus x One sighting
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis x x Widespread
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense x Two sightings
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala x Common in Gir
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops x x x x Common
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis x x x x Fairly common
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis x x x Local
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis x x x x Common
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis x x Local
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis x x x Abundant
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea x x Local
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis x x x Common
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri x x x Common
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala x Local
House Swift  Apus affinis x x Very local
Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata x Very local
Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bengalensis x Single bird seen near Chhari-dhand
Spotted Owlet Athene brama x x Local
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus x Single bird seen at Chhari-dhand
Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus x One heard
Sykes’s Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis x A few on the Banni grasslands
Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus x A few on grassland tracks
Rock pigeon Columba livia x x x x Numerous as ever!
Laughing Dove  Streptopelia senegalensis x x x x Common
Red Collared Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica x Local
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto x x x x Common
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera x x Local
Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps x 5 seen in the Naliya grasslands
Sarus Crane Grus antigone x Family of 3 at Thol
Common Crane Grus grus x x x x Over 25,000 in the Banni area
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus x x x Local
Purple Swamphen Gallinula chloropus x x Local
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus x x Local
Common Coot Fulica atra x x Local
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus x Common in Banni and Naliya
Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus x One pair only at Morai None seen in Gir
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago x x Local
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa x Local
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica x Flock of 7 at Bhadreswar
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus x Single bird near Mundra
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata x A few seen on the coast and one near Fulay village
Common Redshank Tringa totanus x Mainly on coast
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis x x Mainly inland
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia x Inland
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus x Inland
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola x x Inland
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus x Only at Bhadreswar
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos x x x Few
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres x 11 birds seen feeding at Bhadreshwar
Little Stint Calidris minuta x Mainly inland
Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii x All inland
Dunlin Calidris alpina x Small numbers at Chhari-dhand
Ruff Philomachus pugnax x Inland
Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus x Surprisingly scarce
Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris x Very local
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus x 3 birds seen in flight at Pingalehwar
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus x x x Common
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola x A few on the Mandvi coast
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius x x Inland and coast
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus x   Inland
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus x Inland and coast
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malarbaricus x Surprisingly scarce (4 seen)
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus x x x x Common
Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus x Unexpectedly very scarce. 6 birds seen in Kutch.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum x Single observation at Chhari-dhand
Heuglin’s Gull Larus heuglini x Common at Bhadreshwar
Steppe Gull Larus (cachinnans or heuglini) barabensis x Fairly common at Bhadreswar
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans x Two at Bhadreswar
Pallas’s Gull Larus ichthyaetus x Several
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus x Common at Bhadreshwar
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus x Common on coast
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei x 4 birds encountered on the coast
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica x Common on the coast
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia x Only at Pingaleshwar
River Tern Sterna aurantia x x Large numbers at Thol Sanctuary
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis x Common at Bhadreshwar
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii x A couple seen at Bhadreshwar
Little Tern Sterna albifrons x A few at Bhadreshwar
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus x x Large numbers at Thol Sanctuary
Osprey Pandion haliaetus x x x Rather widespread At least 6 seen
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus x x x x Common
Black Kite Milvus migrans x x Surprisingly local
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus x x Coast only
Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus x Scope views of 4 birds near Pigaleshwar coast
Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus x x x Fairly common
Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus x x x Common but all dark birds
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus x x Common. Mainly ringtails
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus x x Much less common than Pallid
Shikra Accipiter badius x x x x Common
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus x x x Common
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus x x Fairly common in Kutch
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga x Singkle immature  bird seen near Chhari-dhand
Tawny Eagle Aquila  rapax x A few encountered
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis x x x Most numerous aquila in Kutch. Very few adults.
Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca x 2 immature birds seen. Oneat Kothara the other inBanni
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus x Very local
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus x Very local
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus x x x Common
Laggar Falcon Falco jugger x Single bird on a post near Kothara, Kutch
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis x x x Common
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus x 7 birds in a tank near Bhuj
Darter Anhinga melanogaster x x x A good number at Thol.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger x x Local
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo x x x Local
Little Egret Egretta garzetta x x x Local
Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis x Most birds seen were in full breeding colours
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea x x Scarce
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea x x Scarce
Great Egret Casmerodius albus x x Scarce
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia x Scarce
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis x x x x Common
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii x x x Scarce
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax x Very local
Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor x A few near Chhari-dhand
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus x x Local
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus x Very local
Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa x x Frequently encountered in small flocks in Kutch
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia x x Over 500 birds at Thol Sanctuary
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus x x Small flocks seen resting in the Banni and over 400 in Thol
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus x A couple at Chhari-dhand and a family of three near Mundra
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala x x Breeding
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans x A few just outside Thol Sanctuary
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus x Very local
White Stork Ciconia ciconia x A few dozen seen on the Banni grasslands.
Rufous-tailed Shrike Lanius isabellinus x x Common. 
Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus x x x Scarce
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach x x x x Scarce
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis x Uncommon
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda x Local
House Crow Corvus splendens x x x x Common
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos x x x Local
Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus x x Local
White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola x Very local
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus x x x x Not numerous
Asian Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi x Very local
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia x Local
Marshall’s Iora Aegithina nigrolutea x Fairly common in suitable habitat
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus x x Very local
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva x x Scarce
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae x Very local
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica x Single bird seen at the edge of Hodko Dhand
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis x x Local
Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata x x x x Common
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros x x x Common
Stoliczka’s Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha   x One only
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata x x x x Widespread
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata x x Rather scarce
Brown Rock-chat Cercomela fusca x Local
Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata x x Very common
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti x x Common
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina x Rather scarce
Red-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe chrysopygia x A couple of birds seen near the rocky parts of the Banni
Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum x x Local
Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus x x x x Large flocks observed throughout the trip
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris x Local One flock of 10 at Banni
Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra x x Surprisingly local
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis x x x x Common
Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus x x x x Common
Great Tit Parus major x Very local
White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis x Only seen at Morai
Sand Martin Riparia riparia x A few Banni
Dusky Crag Martin Hirundo concolor x x Common
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica x x Common
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii x Common
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica x Local
White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis x x Local
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer x x x x Common
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus x Over 30 birds seen near Fulay village
Rufous-fronted Prinia Prinia buchanani x x Frequently encountered
Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii x x Common
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis x Local
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata x x x Common
Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis x Very local
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis x x Rather scarce
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus x Local
Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola x Local
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus x x Local
Sykes’s Warbler Hippolais rama x Local
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius x x x Local
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita x x Local
Hume’s Warbler Phylloscopus humei x Local
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides x Very local
Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra x Very local
Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense x Local
Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus x x x Most common scrub species on this trip
Large Grey Babbler Turdoides malcolmi x x Local
Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus x x Local
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca x x x Local
Desert Warbler Sylvia nana x Very local
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis x Very local
Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera x Local
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix grisea x x x x Rather scarce
Rufous-tailed Lark Ammomanes phoenicurus x x Locally common
Bimaculated lark Melanocorypha bimaculata x Small flocks of 20+ in the Naliya grasslands
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla x x Abundant in Kutch
Sand Lark Calandrella raytal x On coast only
Crested Lark Galerida cristata x x x Common
Sykes’s Lark Galerida deva x Very local
Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica x x Scarce
House Sparrow Passer domesticus x x x Numerous in grassland scrub
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis x x Local
White Wagtail Motacilla alba x x x Scarce
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis x Very local
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola x x Scarce
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava x x x Local
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea x x Very local
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus x x x Scarce
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris x x Common
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis x x Locally common
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis x Very local
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus x Scarce
Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica x x Reasonably widespread
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus x One sighting at Fulay
Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani x Fairly common
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala x Small flock in southern Kutch

Little & Great Rann of Kutch
Dec 17th – Dec 25th, 2011
The wildlife of Gujarat is at its best during the winter especially when loads of migratory birds arrive at the Rann of Kutch. Toehold’s acclaimed photographers are going to guide budding wildlife photography enthusiasts on this boot camp. Situated in the north-western part of India and bordering Pakistan and the Indian states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra; Gujarat is an excellent bird photography destination in India. The deserts of the Rann of Kutch, spread across the Banni grasslands attracts a wide variety of wintering birds to the thorn scrub and great stretches of seasonal wetlands. Adorning this is a 1660 km coastline of the Arabian Sea.

Our Destination Kutch:

Kutch covers an area of 45,612 sq. km. and is part of the Kathiawar Peninsula occupying the northwestern part of Gujarat. Kutch consists of deserts, dry salty alluvial mudflats, extensive grasslands and great stretches of water left by the monsoons. Kutch can be divided into 4 distinct regions: (i) The deserts of the Great Rann, to the north, (ii) The Grasslands of Banni, (iii) Mainland, consisting of plains, hills and dry river beds and (iv) Coastline along the Arabian Sea in the south with mangrove creeks to the west .

The Kutch area supports around 370 bird species and is particularly rich in raptors, waterfowl, waders and larks. Specialties include the Grey Hypocolius which is found only in Kutch in India. Other species include White-naped Tit, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Sykes’s Nightjar, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Merlin, McQueen’s and Indian Bustards. Over 30,000 Common Cranes, hundreds of Steppe Eagle, Marsh, Pallid and Montague’s Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, Sandgrouse, Pelicans, Flamingos and great flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks are a feature of any winter visit to the area.

A rare Desert Cat sighting on our previous Rann of Kutch Tour, Dec 2010.

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