Western India part 5: The Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat – 22nd – 24th January 2016   Leave a comment

This post covers the first site we visited in Gujarat, the Desert Coursers camp near the Little Rann of Kutch.

IMG_3261 cattle on the road

After a final morning at Mt Abu we descended to the plain and continued south-westwards towards Gujarat. We met many cattle-jams on the road ….

IMG_3295 village scenes

…. passed through many traditional Indian villages ….

IMG_3454 villagers Little Rann of Kutch

…. and makeshift camps of migrant workers.

IMG_3367 village scenes

Rubbish tips beside the road were a frequent sight ….

IMG_3429 Peacock on dump

…. although it was quite surprising to find Peacocks foraging amongst the trash.

IMG_3299 Bhraminy Starlings

Among the many birds we saw on route were these Bhraminy Starlings …

IMG_3264 Streak-throated Swallows

…. and under a bridge we found a large colony of Streak-headed Swallows ….

IMG_3285 Streak-throated Swallowsjpg

…. although it was a job to get decent flight photos of them over the water.

IMG_3365 Pallid Scops Owl best rotated

Even before we had checked into the lodge we were shown this very obliging Pallid (or Bruce’s or Striated) Scops Owl in the grounds. The bird looked down at me at such a strange angle that I had to rotate the photo through 90 degrees for it to appear normal.

 

IMG_3293 open vehicle Desert Coursers

Like at Siana, transport was in these open-sided vehicles ….

IMG_3340 Little Rann of Kutch

which was fine in the afternoon sun, but in the early morning was very cold indeed ….

IMG_3353 Little Rann of Kutch

…. and extremely dusty as well.

IMG_3348 Heidi inLittle Rann of Kutch

Even so, I think it would be fair to say that some tour members rather overdid the protective clothing!

IMG_3343 Rainer Little Rann of Kutch

Most of the Little Rann of Kutch consists of barren mud flats. During the monsoon season storms force sea water over the area adding to the flooding caused by the heavy rain. As the water evaporates salt deposits build up over the millennia.

IMG_3344 Little Rann of Kutch

Temporary shelters spring up in the dry season as migrant workers harvest the salt deposits.

IMG_3345 salt pans Little Rann of Kutch

Salt pans can be seen in many places ….

IMG_3456 salt Little Rann of Kutch

…. and the product of their labour is piled up on the edge of the flats.

IMG_3349 Little Rann of Kutch

Much of the acacia woodland that surrounds the flats has been cut for firewood.

IMG_3303 Common Crane

To cater for the need for firewood the Mexican mesquite bush was introduced a few decades ago and has spread explosively throughout western India. However acacia is still prefered as firewood, so the native wildlife-friendly acacia has been replaced by a wildlife-adverse alien. Shame they didn’t plant acacia saplings instead! Wintering Common Cranes are quite numerous in the area and can be seen feeding along the edge of the flats or in long Vs across the sky.

IMG_3452 Onagers

The Little Rann of Kutch is one of the last strongholds of the Asiatic Wild Ass or Onager.

IMG_3449 Onagers

The Onager is not the ancestor of the domestic donkey, that honour falls to the African Wild Ass of the Danakil area of Ethiopia and Somalia.

IMG_3372 Onager

Once ranging from Israel to Siberia the range has contracted greatly and now only occurs in Iran, Pakistan and India plus parts of Central Asia.

IMG_3313 Syke's Nightjar best

As darkness fell we stayed to spotlight the restricted range Syke’s Nightjar.

IMG_3412 Indian Courserjpg

After a morning of bustard searching on the flats we visited a nearby lake and in the surrounding fields found the endearing Indian Courser.

IMG_3425 Indian Photographers

This group of Indian photographers were clearly watching what we were doing as within minutes of us finding the coursers they drove right  into the field for closer views.

IMG_3395 flamigos

The lake held good numbers of Lesser Flamingos. The Little Rann of Kutch is the only area outside of Africa where Lesser Flamingos breed.

IMG_3397 cranes flamingos

As well as Lesser Flamingos there were numerous other water birds, ducks, waders, Spoonbills and these Common Cranes.

IMG_3390 Nilgai

A few Nilgai were seen along the lakeside ….

IMG_3387 Onagers

…. as well as a number of Onagers.

IMG_3388 Onager & dogs

This stallion was getting hassled by feral dogs ….

IMG_3389 Onager & dog

…. but he soon gave them the boot (or should that be soon gave them the hoof?)

IMG_3544 RT Lark

We were just about to leave the Little Rann of Kutch when we found this Rufous-tailed Lark close to the road.

308 Turkestan0459

But one of the top bird on most people’s agenda was the increasingly rare Macqueen’s Bustard  which is now a scarce winter visitor from Central Asia. Formerly lumped with Houbara Bustard of North Africa and the eastern Canaries, this bird is the traditional target of Arab falconers and its numbers are dropping rapidly as a result. This bird was seen twice on the Little Rann of Kutch, both times briefly in flight and I missed it on the first occasion. Of course I didn’t get any photos so I have included one I took on the breeding grounds in Kazakhstan in 2005. This species is much smaller than the Great Indian Bustard, but just as hard to see and I only saw it on the final morning just before we headed off to our next stop at Moti Virani further north-east in Gujarat.

IMG_3310 sunset Little Rann of Kutch

Let’s be corny and end with another glorious desert sunset.

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