Whilst planning a birding trip to the Jaisalmer area, I consulted Krys Kazmierczak and Raj Singh's new book
A Birdwatchers Guide to India 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 of Kutch. This was good for Pelicans (Great White and Dalmatian), Flamingos (both), Tawny Eagle, Eurasian Griffon, Long-legged Buzzard, Hen harrier (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, White-winged Tern,
Red-backed Shrike, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Plain Martin, Pale Martin, Variable Wheatear, Desert Warbler, unidentified quail sp. Common Starling, 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. At the exact spot where John 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 Greater Hoopoe Lark and Singing Bushlark.
I wanted to visit Okha Island but it's quite difficult to get there from Desert Coursers 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/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 the flock in the fields around the "village" marked at the southern end of Krys & Raj's 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 elusive. 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.
Jaisalmer was fantastic. All hoped for species were seen except Sandgrouse sp. 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. [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.] Other 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 the Fossil Park 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 Central India but is now quite rare. If its behavior is as elusive 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!
Bharatpur: Harrier roost.
I will share an experience I had at Bharatpur about six years ago. I don't have my notebook for that time with me, so I don't have the exact date.
This may seem dull to those who have seen a large harrier roost but for me it was one of my most exciting finds. I was up at the far end of the park (the "dry area"), at dusk on a bicycle when I saw one by one, many harriers of several species coming to the same spot to roost. I was pretty excited to see my first Pied Harrier ever, (although I had a possible a couple of days before). The number of birds was impossible to tell, especially as I had never seen
this phenomenon before. They seemed to land and take off again several times taking a long time to settle down. There could have been anywhere between ten and thirty birds, possibly more including the Pallid, Montagu's, and a possible Hen.
When I asked the guides why they didn't tell me about this roost they looked very surprised and said they had no idea about it. Since then perhaps word has got around, but anyway, if you are visiting the park, check it out. The only problem is, you have to cycle back in the dark but that can be fun too. The guards were always a little surprised to see me but didn't seem to mind.
If anyone else has any news of the roost, I'd like to hear about it.