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Gujrat - Rajasthan India Birding Trip Report
by Prasad Anand
Whilst planning a birding trip to the Jaisalmir area, I consulted Krys's new book "A Birdwatchers Guide..." and decided that since I was on my way from Poona I could also visit a few other sites.
My trip was from 5th to 17th of January 1999. First I spent a few days at Desert Coursers by the Little Rann. There, was good for Pelicans (Great White and Dalm.) Flamingos (both), Tawny Eagle, Eurasian Griffon, Long-legged Buzzard, (actually raptors were very scarce and it is of real concern when you talk to people who are a witness to the incredible raptor decline in India, for example both here and Poona), Sarus Crane, Oriental Pratincole, MacQueen's Bustard, Red-backed Shrike, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Plain Martin, Variable Wheatear, Desert Warbler, unid. quail sp. and the best bird a Short-eared Owl. Also a large falcon which was a possible Barbary! and what I thought was a Greater Scaup. Also in the exact spot where J. Gooders saw an Ortolan Bunting, I saw a Bunting which I'm pretty sure was a Grey-necked.
There's a graveyard about 1Km from the camp which used to be good for Savanna Nightjar but I saw only Indian.
It was good food there and nice hut accommodation. You need to make it very clear if you want to bird full time. They are used to taking things at a very relaxed pace and you need a jeep for all birding but they do know some good sites.
I dipped on Hoopoe and Singing Bush Larks.
I wanted to visit Okha Island but it's quite difficult to get Desert Coursers there unless you have a car. There is a direct train from Bombay or Poona (I don't remember which) but I shall try that this winter to see Crab Plover and Oystercatcher. There was actually a letter come ad. in "Newsletter for Birdwatchers" for a resort there but after 6 months I have received no reply, so good luck if you look for it.
Next I went to Kumbhalgarh to look for Green Avadavat. I found a flock very quickly by showing my Pictorial Guide (still carried for lightness sake) to the locals. I found a flock in the fields around the "village" marked in Krys & Raj's map at the south of the map. For those without, it is the first village on the right hand side when heading south from the Hotel Aodhi on the road to Saira. It's only about 2Km from the hotel.
They are quite illusive. Once they had disappeared into the sugar cane I could not relocate them. In fact I only saw them when they crossed a path, so you might have to be patient.
I had no luck here with White-naped Tit, best birds were White-capped Bunting and White-naped Woodpecker.
I then tried Jaisamand for White-naped Tit but had no luck, best bird there was White-bellied Minivet. Jaisalmir was fantastic, all hoped for species were seen except Sandgrouse sp. as there was a lot of water about so drinking places were many.
It was good to see the tail wagging behaviour of Stoliczka's Bushchat. I wonder if anyone has seen this behaviour in the long staying Goa bird (still present in early April 1999). Incidentally other birders are now seeing this species in other places in Goa (Baga) but I've seen many Common Stonechat in India with a very pronounced supercilium and I am going to keep an eye out for this feature in the future. (I saw the Baga bird and was not convinced).
Birds seen include Indian Bustard (beware of "helpful Forest Guards" riding up on camels to offer you a ride and scaring the Bustards about 5 miles away!) Both this and Stol. Bush Chat seen at D.N.P. Also on the way back to Sam a pair of Laggar (one of the few times I regret not having a camera because they were sitting quite close in a dead tree). Laggar is in my opinion in serious decline and much more scarce than for example Red-necked Falcon at least in the Poona area.
Other birds around Sam were Cream-coloured Courser, Trumpeter Finch, Bimaculated Lark, Desert Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Desert Warbler and Desert Lesser Whitethroat. At fossil I saw Plain Leaf Warbler and C.C.C. Red-tailed and Variable Wheatear are common.
Green Avadavat is a bird which used to be seen all over Northern India but is now quite rare. If its behavior is as illusive as the flock I saw it may be being overlooked but the habitat was also quite unique at Kumbhalgarh with hills, and very non intensive farming of rape and sugarcane.
Sadly the next I saw of Green Avadavat was captive birds being sold at a Buddhist temple in Kathmandu in April!!!!