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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jamnagar - A must for any bird lover!

Jamnagar in Gujarat is a fascinating place for birders. I spent four days there from January 20th to 23rd. Beginning 2008 with a bang indeed!

Here you see a kind gentleman at "Lake Lakota", Jamnagar, feeding a crow as he chants ...



I decided to begin 2008 with a trip to Gujarat. While, I did want to see the Asiatic Lions, I was quite interested in photographing the birds that visit our coasts in winter, mainly waders. This led me to Jamnagar and Gir National Park. I was happy to have my wife and son traveling with me on this trip.

Arpit Deomurari and Yashodan Bhatia live in Jamnagar and have set up "WADERS* Inc." Among other things, they offer interested nature lovers all possible help in enjoying the birdlife in and around Jamnagar. I am extremely happy that I contacted them and am grateful to them for all the help they rendered to me during my entire trip.


Jamnagar is situated on the coast of the Gulf of Kutch in the state of Gujarat, India. I was amazed at the number and variety of birds I came across in my four days stay at Jamnagar. I had the good fortune of having a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic youngster “Chiraj Solanki” with me during my six sessions of birding in and around Jamnagar. With his help I enjoyed viewing, identifying and photographing many birds that I had never come across before! As always, I am happy to present them for your viewing pleasure!

We stayed at "Hotel President" in Jamnagar. Unlike a quite wildlife resort in a forest, this hotel is situated in a very busy area in the heart of Jamnagar. I found this place to be very convenient as most of the birding hotspots I visited were only a short drive from this Hotel. Mustak Mepani, who runs this place is a great nature lover himself and gladly offers support to other nature lovers. Mustak keeps "About Jamnagar" live and kicking!

SESSION ONE – Dhinchada (Bedi Port) – 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm – 20th Jan 2008

Our flight left Bangalore on time at 8.35 am. The journey from Bangalore to Jamnagar via Mumbai (Air India) was pleasant and uneventful. I was worried that we had less than an hour to change flights at Mumbai but as things worked out, we had nothing to worry about at all! We reached Jamnagar on the dot at 12.30 pm. Yashodan (Bittoo) and Chiraj (Chiku) met us at the airport and quickly whisked us to the hotel.

After checking into the hotel and enjoying a sumptuous lunch, Chiku and myself began our birding at Jamnagar! We were headed to a place called “Dhinchada” to view the “Great White Pelicans”. Ten minutes drive from the hotel I was happily shooting a superb group of “Lesser Flamingos”. I was suddenly in “Bird Wonderland”! A Saunder’s Tern was hovering like a Kingfisher just above my head, as several “Ruff’s” landed close by, A Shoveler swam into view, Gulls, Lapwings, Larks, Harriers, Stints, Shanks, Wagtails, Avocets, Pipits … my only constraint was time as I went berserk with my camera! Look a “Westren Reef Egret - Click-Click-Click”! This was the way it was on all six sessions!

And finally the highlight of the first session – “Hundreds of Great White Pelicans” roosting without fear on the banks of a large water body” – as I gaped in awe!




I returned at dusk, happy and excited. A wonderful “Gujarati Thali” for dinner and off to bed!

This Session, I managed to photograph the "Westren Reef Egret","Isabelline Wheatear"and a "Montagu’s Harrier"

Pied Avocets...

SESSION TWO - Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary – 6 am to 1 pm – 21st January 2008

5.30 am Wake-up call, departure 6 am. 12 kms drive from Jamnagar and we were in a unique wetland eco-system. The idea of leaving very early was to settle down to view the "at dawn" movement of thousands of cranes in golden light as the sun slowly appeared! The entry permit was quickly taken care of by Chiku and we drove into the "Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary" with great anticipation. It was very very cold and the breeze made it quite challenging to be out in the open. As we waited, that day, no cranes! We however watched a wonderful sunrise amongst a wide variety of birds!

Painted Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills, Common Teals, Black-headed Ibis .. the list started building up as I warmed up to shoot. Stop – I spy a White-tailed Lapwing! At one place we saw over twenty “Zitting Cisticolas” having a party, quite unusual I thought! We could see several Greater Flamingoes in the water as a Great Crested Greb quickly disappeared. A Rufous-tailed shrike and a Black-shouldered Kite gave us good close views as we reached the watchtower to finish our packed breakfast of egg parota, biscuits and orange juice.

We roamed the Sanctuary some more to view Black Drongos, Crested Larks, Common Babblers and a couple of Indian Crousers! I briefly looked at the very well made, brand new Interpretation center before returning to the hotel for a couple of hours of rest and of course some lunch.

These are some birds I managed to photograph from this session-> "Zitting Cisticola", Rufous-tailed Srike" and "Dunlin"

SESSION THREE – Gandhinagar and Valsura Road – 3.30 pm to 7 pm – 21st January 2008

Gandhinagar (part of Jamnagar) is best avoided by non-birders. This place is full of sewerage friendly birds feasting! For me a great opportunity to shoot some birds at close distance. Valsura Road is a long straight road that leads to a port. Great birding opportunity on either side of the road as you drive to the port and back.

These are some birds I managed to photograph from this session-> "Ruff" and "Eurasian Curlew"

SESSION FOUR – Narara – 12 Noon to 7 pm - 22nd January 2008

The Narara Marine Sanctuary and National Park are situated, on
the southern shore of the Gulf of Kutch. A coral reef ecosystem and mangroves,
Narara is a fascinating place. A very clean and quite area where one can clearly feel the beauty of nature.

A less than two hours drive from Jamnagar (about 60 kms) brought me to the end of a lonely road that almost touched the seawater. I reached Narara with Chiku at about 2 pm. I had taken the morning off to be with the family. Also, we had planned to reach Narara before the tide came in. However, as we stepped out of the car, there was waist deep water all around and birding seamed difficult at first.

As I watched the water started disappearing and in about 30 mts a vast beach opened up right in front of my eyes - I just stood and gaped! Soon several species of waders including Oyestercatchers, Crab-plovers, Shanks, Stints, Knots and Sandpipers dotted the entire beach. It was indeed a wader wonderland that suddenly appeared as the water receded. For the next two hours I was transformed into a wader myself! I had a wonderful time photographing many of these species of birds I was seeing for the first time.

At dusk with my heart filled with joy and my flash cards filled with images, I returned to the hotel. One of my best birding day! Another wonderful dinner and off to bed!

These are some birds I managed to photograph from this session-> "Kentish Plover", "Common Redshank","Ruddy Turnstone","Crab-plover","Eurasian Oystercatcher","Lesser Crested Tern","Terek Sandpiper","Bar-tailed Godwit""Whimbrel" and "Red Shank"

SESSION FIVE – “Lake Lakota” – 7am to 1pm - 23nd January 2008

Lake Lakota is a large lake in Jamnagar with the Lakota Palace as its center. Next to Lake Lakota there is a smaller lake. This area was quite a revelation for me! I have never seen so many birds inside a busy city before!

In the morning, hundreds of Gulls of different kinds including Slender-billed Gulls, Brown-headed Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls congregate here to feed on the food offered by bird loving locals. Rotis made of wheat are torn and thrown in the water, which the Gulls pounce upon. Peanuts are sold close by for people to buy and feed the birds. I saw one gentleman feed an entire bag of a kind of fried preparation that the birds simply enjoyed eating!
You can see this here ...



Then there were ducks of all kinds like Comb Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, Common Teals in the lake. A large number of locals come to this lake everyday to enjoy the presence of these birds, many of which are winter visitors. People are extremely friendly and leave you alone to do your Job. In fact one kind gentleman "Ashwin Bhai" called me to point out the only "Mallard" in the entire lake. I owe that image to him! Several youngsters came and shook hands with me .. it was all together a overwhelming experience.

These are some birds I managed to photograph at Lake Lakota -> "Slender-billed Gull", "Brown-headed Gull", "Yellow-legged Gull", "Phallas's Gull", "Mallard", "Gadwal", "Tufted Duck"

At about 11 am we left Lake Lokata. A short drive from Lake Lakota took us to a place called "Century Salt". I managed to photograph the "Sand Lark" and the "Desert Wheatear" there to end this session.

SESSION SIX – “Ranjit Sagar” – 3.30pm to 7pm - 23nd January 2008

This was my last session in Jamnagar. We decided to target some smaller birds. This led us to a place called "Ranjit Sagar" another short drive from Jamnagar. This is a large catchment area that supplies drinking water to Jamnagar. It is also a "Picnic Spot" for the locals. We were able to see Verditer, Tickle's Blue and Red-throated Flycatcher here along with a Black-naped Monarch and a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

These are some birds I managed to photograph in this last session. "Red-throated Flycatcher", "Plain Prinia", "Common Tailorbird", "Black Redstart", "Booted Warbler""Large Grey Babbler"

In the evening we returned to "Lake Lakota" to see thousands of Rosy Starlings flying at their acrobatic best! They do these "formation flights" every evening before settling on the trees around this lake for the night.

You can see the spectacular sight here...



This ended some hectic birding and photography in Jamnagar. A totally unforgettable experience for me! I had been to a bird wonderland with wonderful people all around!

The next day we leave to see the Lions at the Gir National Park!

* Yes, I took those "movies" using my "Nikon Coolpix P2" Point and shoot camera :-)

** You can see some of the images shot during this trip by visiting www.indiabirds.com

Vijay Cavale
January, 2008

2nd Visit - > "Jamnagar, January 2010" .