Hello all, just back from a birding / photography trip to the paradise called the Greater Rann of Kutch. It was a trip of 4 days and with some lovely sightings ….a few key summary and highlights.
· Got to see the Ghost lights of Banni – Char Bathi as the locals call it
· A Macqueens bustard sighting
· A Juvenile barbaric falcon sighting and images
· A late evening / night sighting of two pallid scops owl
· A male Stoliczka’s Bushchat displaying and puff dancing
· A desert cat seen again – seeing this in the second visit to this part of the world. Spotted and photographed this last year too.
Day 1 (Dec 7th 2009):
I started from namma Bengaluru on the 7th morning and arrived into Bhuj by the Kingfisher airlines. Vaibhav was there in the airport to pick me up. After having some tea (a shop recommended by Vaibhav bhai) enroute headed straight to CEDO left my bags, quickly assembled my tripod and set off to Banni accompanied by Vaibhav bhai. En-route stopped at a spot for the Buntings and after one hour found / clicked none then proceeded further to stop at a small pond. We scanned the pond and found a pair of Hoopoe, black winged stilt and parakeet. Made a few images of these and there was about 5 shovellers attempting to land in the pond….quickly ran for some cover and waited behind an acacia but every time the group would come close to the pond for landing abort and fly away, finally one landed but the other end of the pond….sun had already set by now and we went to Banni, we scanned the area for some owl and reached Khiero where we waited for a few minutes and we then saw the char bathi’s appearing around the horizon. These are small balls of fire that keep burning and are clearly distinguishable from beams of light. The beam has its light spread but this did not. There were atleast three different colors of these glowing objects – sometimes red, sometimes blue and sometimes white.
After wondering and admiring how / why this happens we left the area to return home. Just as we were planning to return to CEDO we saw one ghost light appear fairly close to us at about 300 meters and was clearly visible. It was fairly bright ball of light that moved from right to left of us and was visible for over 4 minutes before disappearing. It did not rise above beyond a height and at the same time it was not at the same height – it would gain and drop height but very little. We saw some vehicles too at the same time that were in Banni but clearly on comparison there was no vehicular sound around the ghost light when it appeared near us. If someone was running with a torch a bright light then there would be dispersal of beams of light but this was not seen by us. This gave a lot of thoughts and points to ponder over on and we moved ahead to return back to CEDO had dinner and then discussed the occurrence with Jugal who has seen this many times and have written about this in various forums and media.
Day 2 (Dec 8th 2009):This day was dedicated for Banni. We started off heading to the bird rock for some red tailed wheatear which I had ot a not so great photo. I tried to photograph the red tailed wheatear but it always kept a failr bit of distance and did not allow me to approach near at all. I climbed on the rock to click some of the red rumped swallows and waited for the red tailed wheatear but it was not the day perhaps…it was getting late the sun was throwing a lot of heat…decided to move on. There was a spot where some common shelduck flock and lesser flamingo flock were seen so we decided to head there. Enroute clicked some images of larks and warblers and stopped to see pair of Greater spotted Eagles – typical of their habits were seated by the shore side of Chaari Dandh (a huge water body in Banni)on a tree top. On the way we had a lovely sighting of the Macqueens bustard and immediately flew away without any chance of a click. We reached the spot, had breakfast observing the flamingos and common shelducks from over a 2 kilometer distance in the binocs. After breakfast we started to approach the flamingos and common shelducks….no clicks were possible because of the distance. We decided against approaching further and returned back to CEDO for lunch, umesh bhai had already come with lunch we quickly gobbled up the Chappati and rice. Must mention about the curd in Moti – Virani it is just amazing curd that is sold in the dairy here.
Post lunch went back to the bunting spot waited to see a few of them – had some decent images of the bunting (House and the Grey-necked), sparrow (migratory sub species – Parkini), silver bill, white cheeked bulbul and started off to Banni to look out for Short eared owl. We scanned the area for other raptors too but both were not lucky to find any. We did not want to miss the excellent light so proceeded to click some images of the common shelduck but the luck had not changed. They kept a cool 1km + distance. There was a greater spotted eagle perched on the ground so decided to approach it even that fella was very shy and flew away. The light was dipping away and we could not get close enough to flamingos also….finally made some compressed landscape images of the flamingos and common shelducks @ 600mm J. The sun set by then so against a very colorful sky tried some images of the common cranes returning back to roost and then started on the way back to CEDO to retire for the day.
Day 3 (Dec 9th 2009)
We headed for the coast to capture some waders. I had only one in mind – Crab plover. En-route we had to take a deviation from the road due to a construction and in that muddy road was able to click some images of the wood shrike on a lovely cactus perch and totally out in the open. We proceeded towards a small pond where Brown headed gulls were seen to watch and see them and then finally reached coast which was a neat 100+ kilometers. Whilst the breakfast was being set made some images of the western reef egret. Whilst having breakfast a peregrine falcon dived in all its glory to catch something and flew away – what a sight it was! Armed with my equipments and Vaibhav with the spotting scope and binocs we then walked around the coast to make images of the coast birds including Crab plover. We saw a group of Eurasian Oyster catchers and started to approach them – a cool 1.5 hours it took for us as we walked slowly, crawling many times but these birds were shy they kept a minimum of 80 – 90 feet+ . It after all this did we realize that we were well past 4 PM and thought of lunch…we headed our way back and checked different restaurants with none having any food. Finally had some ice cream and snacks to shore up our energy levels. We headed to a spot where we had seen a lot of demoiselle crane but we could see any…after searching the space for some sandgrouses and owls headed back to CEDO.
Day 4 (Dec 10th 2009)
The day was dedicated to the Nalliya grassland. The day began really well with me spotting a really rare Homosapien – Addie the birdie J after a quick exchange of pleasantries and wishes we decided to proceed further. We entered the grass land area and were greeted by a black francolin walking towards us. No images though as it was always in the clutter. We then had some good sighting and a few images of the Eurasion Griffon. After this we went around the grassland at a particular spot saw an Indian Eagle Owl in the open on a rock but it did not pose long it took off immediately and flew away. It was actually a pair of these that flew away – the reason was it was being mobbed was a falcon . There was frenzy immed as both Vaibhav and my shutters fired continuously at the falcon initial impression was this could be a laggar Juvenile but later got confirmed that it was a red naped saheeen falcon juvenile. The falcon would tease both the owls and will fly away, soar again turn around come back and tease the owl again – was this showing the huge owls whose territory this was? After this amazing experience we quickly had lunch made a few clicks of the pallid harriers in golden light and returned back to CEDO. We witnessed about 1000+ harriers making their way back to nalliya to roost and what a sight it was to see the flocks of harriers return back to their bases for roosting.
Day 5 (Dec 11 2009)
Banni again. Banni in kanada means come – welcome. It’s a desert land full of surprises. We quickly made images of the grey hypocolius and then proceeded to the area of where red tailed wheatear is found post all this we set out looking for raptors – main goal of the day. This whole trip the number of raptors I sighted or clicked was way lesser than my previous visit here in Banni. Probably good rains and availability of food dispersed the steppes and long legged buzzards wider? No luck on other raptors or the short eared owl, so went around the parched desert land with the sun beating down – suddenly we got excited at seeing some activity what did we see – a desert cat again thrice in two years? Last year twice I saw it and this year too saw it. With the excitement of seen the desert cat again made a quick trip back for lunch and quick rest and came back to Banni again. Afternoon started well with a Montagu’s harrier posing well and then a female kestrel (BTW, I have not clicked the kestrel this year although seen around quite a few times). We headed back to the area where we had seen greater spotted eagle – no luck on clicks was very shy. Tried for short eared owl – no luck with that either. The sun was dipping and I was nearing the time when I had to bid adieu to Banni, so tried to head to the spot where we saw the desert cat. We waited patiently and well past sunset the cat popped out its head for a minute, I clicked a few images and it vanished into thin air. We headed back to CEDO and suddenly there was bird that was sitting in the road side and in the vehicles light it immed caught our attention. It was a pallid scops owl, a few images were clicked in a frenzy using the spot light as a help. We started to move on when another bird flew down it was the other pallid scops owl, much close. More clicks and finally bid amigos to Banni for this visit.Day 6 (Dec12 2009)
Proceeded to a thorny scrub forest looking for white naped tit and Marshalls iora saw both but no clicks. Returned back to CEDO by 11 am to get ready and catch the kingfisher flight back to Bengaluru via Mumbai.
Had a very pleasant trip and thanks to all staff at CEDO and especially Jugal bhai and Vaibhav bhai, Thanks for reading this long post, see you all soon in another post till then adios amigos. The list of birds seen and photographed is in another post and is available here.
Please note both the Red Naped Saheen falcon and the Pallid scops owl were not in the list but were pleasant surprises to find.