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

gujarat wild ass blackbuck kutch desert india

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#41 Chakra

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 12:52 PM

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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#42 Galana

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 01:37 PM

<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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#43 Chakra

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 06:07 PM

<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



#44 Galana

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 06:30 PM

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


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#45 Chakra

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 11:42 AM

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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#46 Chakra

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 12:34 PM

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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#47 janzin

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 01:41 PM

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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#48 Kitsafari

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:56 PM

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?!

#49 Kitsafari

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 04:05 PM

@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, 23 April 2017 - 04:05 PM.

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#50 Chakra

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 05:23 PM

@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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#51 xnegvx

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 07:48 PM

Lovely trip report @Chakra. LRK is a beautiful place and birding there is very rewarding.

 

Spreading the wings of Shikra  look good for a Short Toed Snake Eagle.

King of the skies looks good for imperial eagle (juv)

 

Cheers


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#52 Chakra

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 08:20 PM

Lovely trip report @Chakra. LRK is a beautiful place and birding there is very rewarding.

 

Spreading the wings of Shikra  look good for a Short Toed Snake Eagle.

King of the skies looks good for imperial eagle (juv)

 

Cheers

Thanks very much for your input. Please do educate me as we go along. As I had mentioned in the beginning, all eagles, hawks and kites look same to me :(  :(  For many years I concentrated on landscape photography and then for some unknown reason started having an interest in birds and animals. But my knowledge is increasing exponentially, all thanks to the contributors to ST. 


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#53 Galana

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 10:08 PM

Did I lose a post somewhere? I recall commenting on the doubtful Shikra and am happy to go along with the Short toed Eagle. However I did and do thing the solo Eagle on the ground is Greater Spotted (Very dark with spots and spiky nape) although the final one in flight would fit Eastern Imperial (juv).

Keep the reports coming.


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#54 xnegvx

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:59 AM

@Galana: With your on greater spotted. Very high on my own list. So far I only had distant views via scopes.


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#55 Chakra

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:49 PM

Did I lose a post somewhere? I recall commenting on the doubtful Shikra and am happy to go along with the Short toed Eagle. However I did and do thing the solo Eagle on the ground is Greater Spotted (Very dark with spots and spiky nape) although the final one in flight would fit Eastern Imperial (juv).

Keep the reports coming.

 

@Galana: With your on greater spotted. Very high on my own list. So far I only had distant views via scopes.

 

 

:(  :(  :(  Oh No !! Then I haven't managed to see a Steppe eagle. 



#56 Galana

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 07:58 PM

<Oh No !! Then I haven't managed to see a Steppe eagle>

 

Sadly no but Greater Spotted is not to be sneezed at, especially one that gave such great photographs.


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#57 Chakra

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 08:32 PM

Sun was setting, moon was rising and the whole of Rann started to look deep orange as we drove deeper and deeper into the Rann. I did not know where we were going, but all of a sudden we came across a scene which reminded me of the movie Alien. There were quite a few cone shaped structures in the middle of the desert, like the baby Aliens hatchery. 

It was an abandoned flamingo colony. Flamingos I have seen many but never had the good fortune of standing in the middle of a flamingo colony. Kutch held the world record of 30,000 flamingos nesting in 1998 and I wonder how the researchers had felt in that particular year. Amazing how the birds had built their nests with care and precision. 

Watched a spectacular sunset over the flamingo colony and had to physically push my dear wife away as she kept on coming in the frame of my Nat Geo level shots, brandishing her stupid i-phone. 

In the night I realised how efficient the Kuba ( mud hut) was. There was no heating inside and temperature dropped to 2 degrees but the air inside remained warm and comfortable. 

Next morning a quick stroll looking for more birds, a cup of Kadak Chai made by Vikram with love and care, more chatting with Lalita Ben and after a simple breakfast we hit the road around 8-30 and hit the rush hour traffic jam head on. Had to wait for nearly twenty minutes while hundreds of cows, sheep and even a camel leisurely wandered around looking for their breakfast. 


Lesser Rann of Kutch : it was a memory to cherish forever.

 

 

 

Into the sunset.. 

 

 

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The "Aliens" hatchery 

 

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The National Geographic Videographer of the century refused to move away from my frame 

 

 

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​Photo taken by Devji Bhai in 1998 , the record breaking year from LRK

 

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#58 Chakra

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:00 PM

Time to say goodbye to LRK but not before a few more pics

 

 

Another glorious sunrise 

 

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Lunch time 

 

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Simple, vegetarian and absolutely delicious 

 

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There was a wetland area within two minutes of walking and it was quite productive.

 

 

My alarm call in the mornings. Not only crested but has an excellent voice as well 

 

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? yellow wagtail . A wild guess

 

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Kingfishers aplenty 

 

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I guess it's a shrike. I can't go beyond that 

 

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? Coucal

 

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Another memeber of the shrikes ?

 

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Nilgai looking for a morning drink

 

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Traffic jam 

 

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#59 Galana

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 09:29 PM

The food looks good and the whole trip is making me somewhat jealous.

We will make a birder of you yet with this latest offering. Isabelline Shrike I am sure and Greater Coucal but I will leave the "other member of the shrikes" to others more qualified than I and anyway it is someone's else's turn. Other than it is not a Shrike I cannot say more.

 

Really enjoying riding along with your family and you.


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#60 janzin

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 12:33 AM

"Other member of the shrikes" is actually Desert Wheatear, I'm pretty sure.
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