10 DAYS IN GUJART (JANUARY 2007)

In winter 1994 I traveled for 1 month on a motorbike in Gujarat. I remember endless pothole roads, very spicy food and riding for hours in the Little rann of kutch in an unsuccessful search for the Wild Ass.
Gujarat was not a place I thought to come back to. Then came the internet and oriental bird club with a lot of information about birding in this state. The last monsoon was very generous to Gujarat and Idecided to visit again.
These days, the road system is the best in India and I never saw a cleaner state and I developed a favor for Gujarati food.

Permits and Forest Department
Most of the birding sites in Gujarat are protected
areas and that puts them under the control of the
forest department and an entrance fee is charged. The
system is that foreigners have to pay 10 times more
then Indians. Resident permit sometimes help to get an
Indian price and sometimes not. In Gir NP they charge
for a minimum of 4 people in a jeep and if in a group
there is only 1 foreigner your group will still have
to pay 40$ for each entrance. In Velavadar NP. The
forest rest house has been slightly renovated and
except of entrance fee, they also charge from
foreigners 5 times the rate of Indians for
accommodation and food. Here they did not except our
resident permit and we decided to go to Bhavnagar for
the night.

Flamingos, Cranes and Pelicans
The heavy monsoon rain had a big influence on
flamingos. We only saw lesser flamingos and only in
the Little rann of kutch and in Bhavnagar. Greater
flamingo probably still nest in the Big rann. Common
cranes were everywhere and 2 flocks of demoiselle, in
Narada (jamnagar) and 80 km. south of Bhavnagar.
The first 6 pelicans we saw in the Little rann were
Dalmatians. Later in the wetland we saw another 8,
together with about 80 white. 6 dalmatians were seen
in Maliya salt pans, 12 in Narada (with 4 white) and 8
in Bhavnagar. 2 flocks of white pelicans were seen
from the road near Maliya and near Dholera.

Together with my girlfriend Heleen we drove from Goa
to Mumbai where we picked up her uncle and aunt that
arrived from Holland and drove to Vadodera where we
spent the first night. The birding tour started the
next day, 7th January 2007. Early morning start and
drive to Ahmedabads ring road, took the road towards
Rajkot and after a few km. turned into a small country
road that goes to Nal-Sarovar. This 40km. road was the
best bird watching rout of this trip. This is flat
agriculture countryside with a lot of water that
created seasonal wetlands and was packed with birds.
Here we saw the only sarus cranes of the trip. The
flooded agriculture fields had thousands of waders,
mainly ruff, little stint and black tailed godwit and
about 200 comb ducks. The electric wires and the
bushes and trees on the side of the road had hundreds
of short toad larks, oriental skylark, common and
large grey babblers, spanish sparrows, grey necked,
black headed and red headed buntings and black
breasted weavers. I drive a lot all over India but
never saw such a large concentration of birds. We
should have spent more time there as when we reached
to Nal Sarovar, we realized it was Sunday. The park
was packed with locals and after an hour we continued
towards Dassada near the little rann of kutch where we
stayed in Rann Riders camp. On the afternoon I went
with a local guide from the camp to search for
sociable lapwings, but without success.
The following morning we drove into the Little rann
with a guide to the hubara (maqueen?s) bustard area.
My jeep, Mahindra bolero 2WD was good enough and there
was no reason to rent a 4WD vehicle. We soon saw Wild
Ass. There were plenty of animals and we also saw them
on the high way to Maliya the next day. We saw 4
hubaras, a roosting short eared owl and the first
Dalmatian pelicans, all birds I only saw once before
25 years ago in Israel. In the afternoon we drove to
another part of the rann, a wetland, where we saw
flamingos, pelicans, ducks and other waterfowl.
The next morning we drove 350km. to the very west of
India to Nakhatrana in Kutch district where we met
Jugal Tiwari. Jugal worked in research for BNHS in
this area for many years and now he made his home near
Nakhatrana. We arrived in time to go to see the
specialty of the area and we found 3 males of grey
hypocolius. Before evening we drove to the nearby
Banni grassland. A big lake is formed this year with
the usual waterfowl and a very large group of common
cranes. We arrived to Banni for sunset and longer time
should have been spent in this magnificent place.
The following day Jugal took us to bird in grassland
areas near Lala bustard sanctuary. Very fast we
located 2 indian bustards. All the stonechats we saw
were females and it was very difficult to identify
stoliczka?s. Jugal is using photography to confirm
difficult birds.
Waterholes in the grassland attract many birds
including bimaculated and sykes?s larks and long
billed pipits. Other common birds like rufous tailed
shrike, sand martin, Indian bushchat and red collared
dove can be rather scarce in other parts of India.
The best birds that day were on the way back. From the
car we saw white bellied minivet on the roadside. Few
km. later we stopped in a scrub forest and within 20
minutes Jugal located a white naped tit. Further on
the road I saw another white bellied minivet and when
we stopped to look, we found 2 marshal iora (replace
common iora in Kutch) and another 4 white bellied
minivet.
Next morning I went with Jugal for a morning walk in
his village and saw more marshal ioras. After
breakfast we went on another long drive to Jamnagar ,
the main city in the gulf of kutch where we arrived
late in the afternoon to hotel president that arranged
us the permits and the local guide Chirang Solanki who
took us very early in the morning to Narada 60 km.
north of Jamnagar and part of Marine NP. Narada is
the site for crab plover. When we arrived in the
morning there was high tied and on the last bit of
sand we saw about 300 birds. An hour later the sea
withdraw a few hundred meters and the coast was
covered with waders. Among hundreds of curlews,
whimbrels, stins, plovers and sandpipers we saw 25
great knots and another 1000 crab plovers. In the salt
pans next to the beach we saw black necked grebes and
dalmatian pelicans.
In the afternoon we drove 150km. to Junagagh. We
checked a few water reservoirs around Jamnagar, but
not much except of more common cranes. The next day
was devoted to Girnar hill, a pilgrim place with many
temples on a hill over 1100m high. Girnar hill holds
very good forests and more bird watching should be
done here. When Heleen and the family went to see the
Ashka pillars, I went down into a nearby nalla and in
10 minutes saw 4 kinds of flycatchers including brown
breasted, a bird that I don?t know its status in
Gujarat.
Gir NP. Is famous as being the last home for the
Asian lion. The forest is mainly teak and from bird
watching point of view it has little to offer. Sasan
gir has plenty of accommodation to offer and we stayed
in a local farm house. We stayed for 2 nights, went in
2 safaris into the park and birded around the farm and
in the forest. I was very lucky to see 2 lions. Here
the forest department located the animals; about 30
people including children went out of their jeeps,
walked about 100m. (Something nobody would dare to do
in Africa) to about 20 m. away from the lions.
The last destination was Velavadar grasslands. There
it was where we encounter bad roads and bad luck with
punchers and it was little before sunset that we
arrived to the NP. We had time to see blackbucks and
hundreds of harriers coming to roost, but it were too
dark to see if any of them were hen. At night we drove
40km. to Bhavnagar. The coast road between Velavadar
and Bhavnagar is a lot shorter and better these days
than the other road which in the map is the main road
to Ahmedabad.
The next morning was the last of the trip. We went
bird watching in the salt pans near the harbor. More
flamingos, waders and ducks and at midday we started
the journey back to Goa. On the way we past again in
Velavadar and a black stork was the last bird of this
trip.

Many thanks to Nik Devasar for all the information to
make this trip successful.

BIRD LIST
Grey francolin
Painted bush quail
Peafowl
Ruddy shelduck
Comb duck
Gadwall
Wigeon
Spot billed duck
Common teal
Pintail
Shoveler
Yellow crowned woodpecker
Brown capped pygmy woodpecker
Black rumped flameback
Coppersmith
Hoopoe
Indian roller
Common kingfisher
White throated kingfisher
Green bee eater
Koel
Coucal
Rose ringed parakeet
House swift
Alpine swift
Spotted owlet
Short eared owl
Indian nightjar
Rock pigeon
Laughing dove
Spotted dove
Red collard dove
Eurasian collard dove
Yellow footed green pigeon
Hubara (McQueen?s) bustard
Great indian bustard
Sarus crane
Demoiselle crane
Common crane
White breasted waterhen
Coot
Common moorhen
Chestnut bellied sandgrouse
Black tailed godwit
Bar tailed godwit
Whimbrel
Curlew
Common redshank
Marsh sandpiper
Common greenshank
Green sandpiper
Terek sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Great knot
Ruddy turnstone
Sanderling
Little stint
Dunlin
Curlew sandpiper
Ruff
Indian courser
Eurasian thick-knee
Oystercatcher
Black winged stilt
Pied avocet
Crab plover
Bronze winged jacana
Oriental pratincole
Grey lover
Kentish plover
Lesser sand plover
Greater sand plover
Yellow wattled lapwing
Red wattled lapwing
Heuglin?s gull
Pallas?s gull
Brown headed gull
Black headed gull
Slender billed gull
Gull billed tern
Caspian tern
River tern
Lesser crested tern
Common tern
Little tern
Whiskered tern
Osprey
Black shouldered kite
Black kite
Egyptian vulture
White backed vulture
Long billed vulture
Short toed eagle
Marsh harrier
Pallid harrier
Montagu?s harrier
Shikra
Honey buzzard
White eyed buzzard
Common buzzard
Long legged buzzard
Steppe eagle
Booted eagle
Changeable hawk eagle
Common kestrel
Black necked grebe
Little grebe
Little cormorant
Great cormorant
Little egret
Western reef egret
Great egret
Intermediate egret
Cattle egret
Pond heron
Grey heron
Purple heron
Lesser flamingo
Glossy ibis
Black headed ibis
Black ibis
Eurasian spoonbill
White pelican
Dalmatian pelican
Painted stork
Asian openbill
Black stork
Rufuos tailed shrike
Bay backed shrike
Long tailed shrike
Southern grey shrike
Rufuos treepie
House crow
Jungle crow
Golden oriole
Large cuckooshrike
Small minivet
White bellied minivet
White browed fantail
Black drongo
Paradise flycatcher
Marshal iora
Common iora
Common woodshrike
Blue rock thrush
Asian brown flycatcher
Brown breasted flycatcher
Red throated flycatcher
Tickell?s flycatcher
Grey headed canary flycatcher
Indian robin
Magpie robin
Black redstart
Common stonechat
Stoliczka?s bushchat
Pied bushchat
Variable wheatear
Desert wheatear
Isabelline wheatear
Brahaminy starling
Rosy starling
Common myna
Bank myna
Great tit
White napped tit
Sand martin
Plain martin
Crag martin
Barn swallow
Wire tailed swallow
Red rumped swallow
White eared bulbul
Red vented bulbul
Grey hypocolius
Grey breasted prinia
Jungle prinia
Plain prinia
Oriental white-eye

Blyth?s reed warbler
Paddyfield warbler
Clamorous reed warbler
Lesser whitethroat
Orphan warbler
Common tailorbird
Common chiffchaff
Greenish warbler
Tawny bellied babbler
Common babbler
Large tailed babbler
Jungle babbler
Indian bushlark
Ashy crowned sparrowlark
Rufuos tailed lark
Bimaculated lark
Greater short toed lark
Crested lark
Sykes?s lark
Plain flowerpecker
Purple sunbird
House sparrow
Spanish sparrow
White wagtail
White browed wagtail
Citrine wagtail
Yellow wagtail
Grey wagtail
Paddyfield pipit
Tree pipit
Tawny pipit
Long billed pipit
Black breasted weaver
Indian silverbill
Scally breasted munia
Grey necked bunting
Red headed bunting
Black headed bunting

MAMALS

Wild ass
Blue ball
Chinkara
Blackbuck
Chital
Smbar
Porcupine
Lion
Jackal
Indian fox
Wild boar
Gujarati rabbit

David Stanton

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