Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
The GIR Forest National Park is situated about 342 kilometres from the city of Ahmedabad and is a breeding area for the Asiatic Lion. The place was declared to be a protected area in 1990 by the Nawab of Junagadh. One can also expect to find panthers lurking about here. The park is also home to deers, peacocks, gazelles and nilgais. The borders of this forest reserve are home to some villages and hamlets inhabited by the Maldhari tribes. A tour of these villages will also one a glimpse into the lives they lead and their folk art. One needs to be attentive to the sounds here as the cry of a languor or monkeys could indicate that some jungle cat is on the prowl.
Thol Bird Sanctuary
The day 3 morning session was again planned at Bajana. We had seen quite a number of species till now; 101 to be specific but one key species of LRK was missing – The Falcons! As we entered the Bajana area, Bura Bhai did not take much time before sighting one of the falcons; rather the fastest bird – Peregrine Falcon. We approached cautiously till we got decent shots and enjoyed a good sighting of the bird. Yet again, we spotted the Short-Eared Owl and also the Red-Necked Falcon. Unfortunately we only managed to see it in flight and could not manage a click. We also saw quite a number of Greater Short-Toed Larks, Common Cranes, Wild Boars and Steppe Eagle. After exploring for a while we halted for breakfast. After a good breakfast and some more group photo session we finally started our return journey to the resort. That was the last session at LRK, but wait, it was not over just yet. We saw a raptor take flight towards our left which turned out to be Shikra. However going little further, Bura Bhai helped us spot the Merlin!. This was the best sighting among all the birds we saw. We could only manage record shots but we did enjoy some good views of this little falcon.We were back to the resort by 11 AM, and with a bird count of 106 at LRK it was a fantastic birding experience. A special thanks to Bura Bhai without whom we may not have been able to sight a lot of the species which were key highlights of the trip and lifers for most of us!We started our journey to Thol Bird Sanctuary which was around 2 hours from the resort. As we were cruising along at around 60 Kmph, Suru spotted a family of Sarus Cranes. The vehicle was halted and we got our shots. Super sighting by Suru! We missed a cut on way to Thol and hence reached a little late by 2 PM for lunch and we halted just outside the Thol Bird Sanctuary. Just as we finished our lunch and came out of the hotel, we saw a few raptors in the sky- a Steppe Eagle, a juvenile Shikra and a booted Eagle. We also saw Bank Mynas, Jungle Babblers and an Indian Roller.Finally we entered Thol Bird Sanctuary at 3:30 PM; our last birding session of the trip. Personally I did not expect much as this was more of a wetland and thought we might have covered most of the species at Nava Talav; and I was glad to be proved wrong. We had a fantastic birding session at Thol with sightings of Great White Pelicans, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Darter, Cormorants, Knob-billed Duck, Eurasian Wigeons, Dalmatian Pelican, Great White Pelicans,Egyptian Vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle, River terns, Whiskered Terns, Painted Stork, Citrine Wagtail and so on. Thol Bird Sanctuary is a wetland however has quite some forest attached to it. Hence we did spot a lot of warblers, Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, Red Collared Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves, Lesser Whitethroat, Jungle Babblers, Red-vented Bulbul, White-bellied Drongo, Plum-headed Parakeets and the beautiful Bluethroat.Finally the trip ended with a total species count of around 133 birds. We couldn’t have asked for more and apart from birding what we enjoyed the most was the company of lovely like-minded folks. From Mihir and Basant of Orissa, the Bhagwat duo from Baroda (Rahul Bhagwat and Subhash Bhagwat Sir), Mallikarjun Sir from Ahmedabad, Arvind Singh from Mumbai, the “birds in flight” shot specialist Suru. the bird Antakshari specialist Rupali (jokes apart, she was the only one without a camera who was out and out into birding with a pair of binoculars, observing birds and their behaviour); and finally my gurus Bhavesh and Sunil.Coming back to LRK and the Indian Wild Ass, the species is currently endangered with a mere population of around 5000 across the world. Key contributors to the decline in the population have been poaching and habitat loss primarily due to illegal salt mining. However, a recent census of Indian Wild Ass population has predicted that the figures may touch 5000 (a 25% increase from 2009). Majority of areas in LRK were declared as a sanctuary area by the Gujarat Government in 1973 and few areas from the Greater Rann of Kutch were also added to it in 1978. Apart from the wild asses, this region has various other mammals like Hyena, Desert Fox, Wild Boars, Nilgai and birds like the endangered Macqueen’s Bustards, variety of Falcons, Wheatears, Cranes, Flamingoes and Pelicans.How to reach1. Best way to reach LRK is from Ahmedabad. The roads are smooth and pretty straight forward. Same is the case with Thol Bird Sanctuary as well. Note that if referring Google Maps, DO NOT search for “Thol Bird Sanctuary”, instead search as “Thol Bird Sanctuary Rd” and follow the road till the end.Tips:1. Birding in LRK is not as easy as it looks. As the sun comes out, the environment becomes dusty and one needs to take care of the equipment.2. Most of the times, one will be birding from the Jeep / Vehicle itself in-order to avoid disturbing the bird. Hence a Monopod always helps as it takes less space. If you can manage hand held shots; nothing like it.3. For photography, keep a check on the exposure setting. It gets very bright in noon hence you may want to reduce the exposure a bit to get good details.4. Please do not litter and keep the place clean.Here are some of the key bird species sighted during our trip to LRK and Thol Bird Sanctuary (9th, 10th, 11th Jan 2015).At LRK:– Merlin (Record click)– Peregrine Falcon– Red-necked Falcon (Only sighting)– Short-eared Owl– Steppe Eagle– Eastern Imperial Eagle– Macqueen’s Bustard (Only sighting)– Spotted Redshank– Common Greenshank– White-tailed Lapwing– Lesser Flamingoes– Common Crane– Demosile Crane– Sarus Crane– Desert Wheatear– Mallard DuckAt Thol Bird Sanctuary:– Darter– Great White Pelican– Dalmatian Pelican (Record click)– Egyptian Vulture (Record click)– Bluethroat– Knob-billed DuckNote that we were total of 12 people and hence not everyone could see all the species we spotted and vice versa. We missed the following species which few others in our group sighted:– Booted Warbler [Thol]– Brahminy Starling [Thol]– Red-breasted Flycatcher [Thol]– Common Iora [Thol]This post was originally published on Whistling trails.
Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary
Globally threatened birds such as Black-necked stork, Dalmatian pelican, Asian open bill stork, Darter, Eurasian spoonbill, and Indian skimmer have found a sanctuary at this six-square-kilometre protected area. There are no lodges here, but you can stay in Jamnagar, which is only 12 kilometres away.The Details: Jamnagar has an airport, and you can hire a car from the city to come to this bird sanctuary. The city has an array of hotels such as Hotel President (hotelpresident.in) and Hotel Vishal International (hotelvishal.com). The entry fee per car is Rs 500; additional Rs 200 for camera.Central Gujarat
Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
In Shoolpaneshwar, moist deciduous forests and Rajpipla hills dominate the landscape. The most sighted birds here are grey hornbill, fowls, and Alexandrine parakeet. Also fascinating here are 575 species of flowering plants.The Details: The nearest airport is Vadodra. You can also take the train to Bharuch, where you will find many guesthouses, and drive to the sanctuary. Alternatively, you can stay at Hotel Presidency Forest County (presidencyhotels.com), which is close to the sanctuary. No entry fee or camera charges.South Gujarat
Indroda Nature Park
Why: Indroda Nature Park or India’s Jurassic Park is thought to be the second biggest incubation hatchery of dinosaur eggs on the planet. In case you’re in Ahmedabad and you’re a nature and animal lover, you can visit this exceptional place and discover various sections, like Dinosaur and Fossil Section, Mammal Section, Reptile Section, Marine section, Earth Section and the Botanical Garden!Where: Geer Foundation, Deer Park, Indroda Village, J road, Gandhinagar, Gujarat - 29 km from Ahmedabad on the banks of river Sabarmati