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Chakra

Garavi Gujarat: a tale of prophets,blackbucks, wild asses, white desert and India's forgotten mother

122 posts in this topic

It would sell well. I have long taught that most birds can be successfully identified by simple description.

Even here Chakra's system would work.

e.g. Bird with Silverbill in India?

Purple Hen like bird in a swamp?

A BeeEater that is Green?

Not sure about Bronze Cranes though!

And the scientific names may cause problems Dicrurus pugilistic emotioni perhaps. :angry:

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Posted (edited)

Wow ! I never realised that I had such a prospect in ornithology. Thanks for directing me towards that.

@@Galana : what you are trying to say is Latin to me. I can sense some link with CR Darwin. Please enlighten.

 

Ok, how about some mammals now ? Let me show my knowledge there. But first let me tell you that, when I was scanning the horizon with my binocs I spotted a carnivore and urged the driver to make a dash for it, which he did. It was indeed a carnivore, but not the one I had identified, turned out to be a feral dog !!

 

 

My wife and I in the beginning of the day. In perfect harmony moving towards our goal in unison ......

 

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My wife and I after just one hour. In perfect disharmony, going in totally opposite direction...

 

 

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Lone Nilgai in the ocean of grass

 

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Close up

 

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This wild boar surprised me totally, very well hidden in short dry grass. I missed my toothpicks for the hunt, so let him escape.

 

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African savannah

 

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They are indeed handsome

 

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This one has lost half of his antlers

 

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Pronking

 

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Early morning exercise

 

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Ladies Day out

 

 

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Sparring practice

 

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This is a big bull in "Mating Mode. . Ears completely down, neck up : shows he is having an overdose of Testosterone and has only one thing in mind

 

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Sorry, not a mammal but honestly my list of mammals exhausted quickly

 

 

Turtle

 

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Some bugs ! I'm desperate to prolong my list of non-blackbuck creatures

 

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Now some more of the park and the lodge and that'll be the end

 

 

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33262558444_6a187d9e1d_b.jpgUntitled by Desi DNA, on Flickr

 

 

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Overlooking the little pond :

 

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Open shower

 

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Brightly decorated walls

 

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Touch of Africa

 

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Bye bye blackbuck NP & Blackbuck lodge. Next accommodation couldn't have been more different. Mud huts "Bhunga" in one of the tiniest villages. Long drive ahead.

Edited by Chakra
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I never did Latin at school so suggest you ask your guest editor. (When he gets back from Namibia.)

 

Meanwhile on a mammalian note Antelope have horns not Antlers. Horns are bone covered in Karatin, non branched and permanent. Deer have antlers which are just bone and are shed and replaced each year often with extra branches.

Looking forward to the mud huts.

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I never did Latin at school : What ? I thought you went to a Grammar school where the head always used to say, "You must do better ! "

 

so suggest you ask your guest editor. (When he gets back from Namibia.) I better ask Uncle Google.

 

Meanwhile on a mammalian note Antelope have horns not Antlers. Horns are bone covered in Karatin, non branched and permanent. Deer have antlers which are just bone and are shed and replaced each year often with extra branches. Hmm, my book on mammals won't be very popular unless I appoint you as the guest editor.

 

Looking forward to the mud huts.

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I agree. Maybe it would be best to stick to birds for the time being. (And keep the day job open!!) :D

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Those are really Africa style photos. What was the gear used?

Regarding the latin name, I am torn between a Drongo and a Klitschko ^_^ .

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Those are really Africa style photos. What was the gear used? Thanks. Just the Nikon 24-120 and Sony RX 100

 

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Blackbuck lodge was quite flexible about meal times. The breakfast was delayed till our return from morning safari and I drowned my sorrow of not seeing a wolf by tucking into a delicious breakfast with some rich north Indian style Masala tea with cardamom. Then started our long drive north towards Devji Bhai's place at LRK via Surendranagar.

 

On the way my wife spotted some fresh ber or Jujuba fruit (kul to me in Bengali) on sale by roadside. She has an iron stomach. I was in two minds whether to eat from the roadside or not. We do get most of the Indian fruits in UK but somehow the freshness is lacking. This particular fruit had sweet memories of the festival of Swaraswati ( goddess of knowledge ) in the brief pleasant winter months of Calcutta, from my distant past. Some delicious semi-ripe guavas on sale as well.

 

The fruit-seller took the trouble of wiping the fruits with a piece of cloth to get rid of the dust accumulated from the roadside traffic . I ate a couple, got into the car and then saw the seller blowing his nose and wiping his snot with the same piece of cloth he had used to wipe the fruits. :wacko: :wacko: :wacko:

Looks like it was a common practice. Well, it was too late for me. All I could do was to add an extra purifier Iodine tablet to my water bottle and drink it straightaway. But I was spared ! :o :o

 

 

Roadside fruits

 

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Heavenly delicious semi-ripe guavas wiped clean lovingly with a cloth

 

 

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Local pottery sellers

 

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On the way we saw some impressive salt dumps. Surreal, like snow covered peaks in the midst of barren land.

 

 

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All of a sudden I saw a very long roadside patch bright red in colour. It was red chili getting dried. Of course we had to stop, hand pick our chilies and then get that grounded to chill powder, the mainstay of Indian cooking. I was surprised to see many varieties of chilies on display, of varying intensity.

Somehow this reminded me of an excellent Hindi movie called Mirch Masalla ( Hot Chili powder ) where the brave heroine took refuge in a chili factory and foiled the molester by throwing Red Hot Chili powder on his face. Long before Americans invented pepper spray.

 

Wow !! I can feel the heat !

 

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Different varieties

 

 

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Being processed

 

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Ready to be added to my special Murgh Musallam

 

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Mini spice bazaar

 

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Right from the source

 

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On the way I also ventured into a cotton filed to learn more about that. Cotton is one of the most important products in Gujarat which had lot more cotton mills than Manchester in the era of Industrial Revolution. It is one of the most versatile natural products. You get the cotton out of seed, then grind the seed to get cotton seed oil and then use the nutritious husk and the rest of the plant to feed cattle. Similarly raided a field of Gram to grab some gram as well.

 

Cotton flower

 

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Cotton fruits

 

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Cotton itself

 

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Cotton fields

 

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One of hundreds of cotton mills

 

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Freshly picked Gram from filed

 

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The drive was long and boring and after reaching Dhrangadhra we decided to ignore Devji bhai's advice of continuing on national highway towards Halvad and took the shortcut route 147 through tiny villages with names like Kuda, Kidi etc. The road was not too bad and we safely negotiated several huge grand canyon size potholes and flooded sections to reach Jogad around 4 pm. I had downloaded the routes beforehand for offline navigation and Long Live Google : spot on about direction.

 

Here is a map of LRK to give you an idea about the place. The blue square of arrows represent our forays inside the LRK

 

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Most of the western tourists enter from the Eastern side villages of Bajana/Dasada, which has a few decent hotels and my travel agent was recommending the Rann Rider resort. But the more I read about those places the more I felt those were geared towards not so independent travellers and won’t give my daughters the real taste of rural India. Then I came to know of Devji Bhai's Eco camp through India Mike and that place looked just perfect for me. A few small mud huts, homemade food, no swimming pool or artificial entertainment and bang on the doorsteps of LRK. So I was sold. I sent a test e-mail and Devji bhai promptly replied in his not so fluent English. But our stay could have been a lot better if Devji bai himself could guide us. I'd come to that later.

 

Devji bhai needs to improve his advertisement. ;) A sign on a lamp-post is all I saw.

 

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Acts prohibited . Which acts ? Half the sign post disappeared. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

 

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Had my first glimpse of the Gudkhar ( wild ass) in front of our huts.

 

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A sure case of priapism :wub:

 

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A gang of local children followed us. They kept their distances initially but got bolder and bolder and they were absolutely shocked to hear my wife (topi-wali memsaab : lady with a hat) speak to them in their dialect. It was a pleasure to interact with them. Posed for me willingly, did not ask for money and was just happy to talk. Pure innocence.

 

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Lovely post sunset hue

 

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Then it was to have a dinner and get into the round mud huts of Kuba, all constructed by Devji bhai himself. No heating at all, just some blankets. The temperature in the night dipped to around 5 degrees but the air inside the hut remained surprisingly warm. Mud is an excellent insulator.

 

The "Kuba"

 

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Enjoying this a heck of a lot. Keep it coming.

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Me too!! Wonderful report! Love the chili and spices. We'll be staying at Rann Riders with all the other unadventurous tourists :D

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Me too!! Wonderful report! Love the chili and spices. We'll be staying at Rann Riders with all the other unadventurous tourists

Just reaching the Rann Riders would be an adventure and honestly with hindsight I feel the guides at Rann riders would have been better than Devji bhai's son Vijay, who was not that interested. Devji bhai himself was a gem of a person and extremely knowledgeable and shared my joy of seeing a steppe eagle.

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Enjoying this a heck of a lot. Keep it coming.

Thanks for your continuing interest. Hope it is not too much of culture. The moderators probably haven't noticed yet. I promise next few posts shall have no mention of history, religion or culture.

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Loving this report @@Chakra - Thank You!!! I've got to make it a point to get to these places next winter ........ and to Gir for the Asiatic Lion.

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<Thanks for your continuing interest. Hope it is not too much of culture. The moderators probably haven't noticed yet.>

I cannot see the moderators objecting. Safari is not just about wildlife but the whole diaspora of traveling in a country. Even I would get bored reading just about Ellies and birds. :rolleyes: And anyway you saw a Steppe Eagle!!! :)

Keep it coming! More about topi-wali memsaab too!

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Loving this report @@Chakra - Thank You!!! I've got to make it a point to get to these places next winter ........ and to Gir for the Asiatic Lion.

Thanks. From what little I know about your passion about nature and wildlife reading your posts, I'm sure you'll love LRK in winter.

 

 

Keep it coming! More about topi-wali memsaab too!

Memsaab sends her regards. I'll put up a special photo just for you.

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Here is a picture of Devji bhai , his wife Lalita Ben and the helping hand Vikram, a smart chap. Vikram would definitely prosper in life. The village school has no teaching facilities beyond grade 8. Vikram looks after guests in the winter months and from his earnings and tips, he has saved enough money to buy a bike so that he can travel to the bigger town about 20 km away everyday, which has a secondary school, to complete his education. He was forever ready with a cup of hot tea for me. He also directed me to the best spot for taking pics of sunrise and sunset. I had never felt better after tipping.

 

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Lalita ben was over the moon to find that she could converse with us in Gujarati and literally poured her heart out to my wife, talking about her own life, showing us the old faded pictures of weddings, her educated daughter who was working for an NGO in Mumbai and lamented about her two sons who were happy to stay in the village, but not as industrious as her husband.

She did not seem to be too fond of tourists from Calcutta, even though she had quite a few ( Bengalis are the most travelled in India). Apparently Calcuttans can't live with the simple food available in her place and demand "Aloo paratha and Sabji" and what not ( Stuffed flat-bread with potato and Potato curry) etc for breakfast. She tells them to get lost ! But we had royal treatment. My wife casually asked if there were some popoddam. Unfortunately there was none but the following day it was there. Somebody from the village was travelling to Halvad, 25 km away and Lalita ben had ordered him to get Popoddam for us.

 

Devji bhai talked to me in great details about his experience of working in the Flamingo Census and in 1998 LRK broke the world record for flamingo nesting. I believe it was 30,000 nests they counted. That must have been a sight to behold. Unfortunately because of his age he can't drive and guide anymore in this harsh dusty environment.

He has two sons : Ajay and Vijay. We never met Ajay, although he was there and had taken a German tourist out the same day. That was unusual as usually in this small places all the family members work together.

We had Vijay as our driver/guide. I won't say he was rubbish but he lacked the enthusiasm and warmth of his father. Language was not a barrier at all. Our driver Gambhir Singh ji accompanied us and he also commented on that. Honestly I probably spotted more birds than he did.

On the way back in the night I was hoping to see some nocturnal creatures like foxes , nightjars etc but he just drove straight back without even looking for that.

From this aspect I wondered if the guides at Rann Rider would have been better. But I forgive him entirely just for one thing he showed us : sunset and moon rise over the vast desolate landscape with not a single soul around, only the abandoned flamingo colony sticking out like a scene from the movie "Aliens".

 

Time for some pics now.

 

Sun rises over LRK

 

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First views of LRK. It's very easy to lose the sense of direction here.

 

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Deep tracks of vehicles ferrying salt in and out of LRK

 

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Our First Flamingos. Interestingly this was entirely of juvenile flamingos who were about 8 month old and have not acquired the pink colour.

 

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Salt pans in the middle of LRK. Sadly the monsoon was not great last year , so flamingos were nowhere near the numbers of 1998.

 

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I was a bit disappointed but then we came across another pan and there the numbers were pretty impressive.

 

 

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It was a mix of adults and juveniles

 

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33663019506_73f6d7dbf9_b.jpgUntitled by Desi DNA, on Flickr

 

 

 

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My path to the flamingos

 

 

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Incredible India !!!! Sometimes I forget that the place where I'm standing as a tourist enjoying the splendour of nature is actually a place for back breaking work for locals.

 

Where else can you find a motor bike being dragged across the muddy salt flats to the makeshift plastic and wood shelter for who live and work in the salt extraction industry, with thousands of flamingos wading in the background ?

 

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They even stopped and smiled at me

 

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Success at last !!

 

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Another pan, but by this time I had enough of flamingos !!!

 

 

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Time to go looking for some Wild Ass !!

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<Time to go looking for some Wild Ass !! >

Your American readers have now either fainted or yelled "Bring it on!" Divided by a common language.

Another great report on an excellent subject. What lovely hosts you found. One can forgive a fair bit for such a homely place!

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<Time to go looking for some Wild Ass !! >

Your American readers have now either fainted or yelled "Bring it on!" Divided by a common language.

Another great report on an excellent subject. What lovely hosts you found. One can forgive a fair bit for such a homely place!

No comments as I don't want to get told off by the moderators, but perhaps I should follow the example of the politically correct county council in Wales, who started serving "Spotted Richard" in their canteen and say that I went looking for last few remaining wild donkeys.

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Ha Ha. Well best not to go there if you want "Toad in the hole" or a plain Tart. :wub:

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Let me tell you in the very beginning, that there is nothing "Little or Lesser" about Little rann of Kutch. It is a vast vast land of desolate beauty where barren earth turns into a lake for several months.

It is just that the other "Greater" Rann of Kutch is even bigger so it is known as Little. India is blessed with these two wonderful places and I strongly feel every nature lover should visit these places.

My love affair with Rann of Kutch began in 1978 when I read a fascinating story in a Bengali periodical where an evil man was trying to catch the last few roaming wild asses ( Gudkhar in Kutchhi) to sell them to a zoo.

I still remember the passages where the chase was on between the Jeep and the group of wild asses and after many hours in scorching heat, the stamina of the Gudkhaar won and I was so happy.

I had already seen a few wild asses but those looked docile, grazing gently. Where was the wild ass from my childhood who could run at a steady speed for hours in the scorching sun, outrunning a Jeep?

Very soon we found some and they lived up to my expectations. I was lucky to see a big herd of 50 plus asses, which I believe is quite rare. And one baby as well. Amazing creatures to say the least. Hardiness personified.

It was surreal to see abandoned boats in the parched land and realise this area was used for fisheries and shrimp farming just a few months back.

Couple of Marsh harriers and other birds and then it was time to have a delicious Gujarati thali prepared by Lalita ben, followed by a jug of Chaans ( buttermilk), a little relaxation and off we go again.

 

 

A big herd

 

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The Herd marches on

 

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Let's have a race

 

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Neck and neck

 

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Buckaroo

 

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Looks very wild to me :P:P

 

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One wild ass being videoed by the videographer of the century.

 

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Mummy and Baby

 

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Abandoned boats

 

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As soon as I got to the Rann, I saw a Nilgai in a weird pose, bums lowered, looking in distress. I thought it was going to give birth. How exciting !! But sadly it was clearly constipated and soon produced a large bowel motion.

Next was Steppe eagle : a big attraction. And I was thrilled to see not one, not two but three. Abundance of cranes, marsh harriers, a few other raptors and some wading birds, pelicans as well. This place is a birder's delight. I was in wrong time and in December/January it would be even better.

 

 

The harrier diving in

 

 

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Labour pain ?

 

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I recommend increasing the fibre in your diet

 

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My patient runs away

 

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You may be Common , but still very pretty

 

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Extremely skittish birds

 

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Legs still dangling after take off

 

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The classic scene of LRK : Cranes in their hundreds, the wild ass and the invasive Babool bush

 

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Nilgai family

 

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Not one, not two but three Steppe eagles

 

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Majestic birds

 

 

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King of the skies

 

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Lovely white throat

 

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Mountains of salt

 

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The salt dumps

 

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The Moon also rises, Hemingway

 

 

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Cute looking Kestrel

 

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Spreading the wings of Shikra

 

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Take off

 

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Loving this report @@Chakra - Thank You!!! I've got to make it a point to get to these places next winter ........ and to Gir for the Asiatic Lion.

@@madaboutcheetah if you do that, maybe we can meet up somewhere--that would be cool! :)

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Loving this report @@Chakra - Thank You!!! I've got to make it a point to get to these places next winter ........ and to Gir for the Asiatic Lion.

Did you say gir?!

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Posted (edited)

@@Chakra im enjoying the report immensely with your tongue in cheek and wicked sense of humour, and great photos. And stunning shots of those awesome wild asses. The nilgai look immense! Are they as big as gaur?

 

The blackbuck are stunning..

Edited by Kitsafari
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@@Chakra im enjoying the report immensely with your tongue in cheek and wicked sense of humour, and great photos. And stunning shots of those awesome wild asses. The nilgai look immense! Are they as big as gaur?

 

The blackbuck are stunning..

Thanks my friend. Nilgais are the biggest antelopes in India but they are not as big as the gaurs, who are really well built !! I guess bull nilgais are probably a shade taller in head, but not as muscular as gaur. I may be wrong , hopefully some more knowledgeable person would chip in.

Looks like there'll be a get together next year in Gir.

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