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

Little Rann of Kutch – LRK – January and February, 2012.

This is perhaps the first time I have made back-to-back trips to the same location for bird photography! LRK!

“Short-eared Owls” are easy to find at LRK

My first visit to the “Little Rann of Kutch” was way back in “2003” . I was very much impressed then, as I am now. The desert is a unique landscape that offers unlimited opportunities to enjoy nature and wildlife. There is something about the vast open land that can be both intimidating and exhilarating.

“Mujahid Malik” has made it very easy for any nature lover to enjoy the feel of the desert by setting up this place at “Dasada” called ““Rann Riders”. Neat cottages with lots of privacy, good food, nice open vehicles to travel across the desert and a host of friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you in every possible way. Nature lovers and wildlife photographers get a warm welcome here – pack your bags folks!

Mujahid Malik with some visitors at Rann Riders

23rd January, 2012. After the morning round at “Velavadar” MN Jayakumar and myself drove to “Surendranagar” and headed straight to Yogendra Shah’s house. A very warm person, Yogendra has been helping me in all possible ways to enjoy the wildlife of Gujarat. Nirav Bhatt another great nature lover from the area joined us and the four of us had a sumptuous lunch at Yogendra’s house. The joy of home food!

After lunch, Yogendra drove us to a part of LRK called Bajana where I had my first sighting of the famous “Peregrine Falcon” on the stone post. It felt wonderful to be in the desert again! Common Kestrels and Montagu’s Harriers were the most common. We saw a large flock of flamingoes roosting in the nearby lake. Groups of cranes would slowly walk away, always keeping a safe distance from our vehicle. That evening, as the sun set, we all sat happily in the open desert and watched a small group of “Asiatic Wild Ass” silently grazing . Thus, began yet another adventure for me in LRK!

Sunset at LRK with the “Asiatic Wild Ass”

After the wonderful sunset, Yogendra headed back home as Jayakumar and myself headed to the “Rann Riders” at Dasada. Such a lovely place!

Cottage at “Rann Riders”

Next day (24th) after the morning round, Jayakumar left back to Bangalore. In the evening, another good friend from Bangalore VN Vishwanath joined me. The two of us continued enjoying the desert until the 28th morning and returned to Bangalore on the 28th night. Thus, ending my “12 day” trip to Gujarat which began on the 17th at Gir! Time really flies when you follow your passion!

Long-legged Buzzard

My raptor luck that started on the 22nd (Sunday) morning at Velavadar (see previous post) continued through till the 28th (Saturday) morning in LRK. This is my most productive week ever for photographing raptors! Below is the list of raptors I came across this week:

1. Greater Spotted Eagle 2. Steppe Eagle, 3.Short-toed Snake Eagle 4. Common Kestrel 5. Shikra 6. White-eyed Buzzards 7. Black-winged Kite 8. Eurasian Marsh Harrier 9. Pallid Harrier 10. Montagu’s Harrier 11. Peregrine Falcon 12. Amur Falcon 13. Merlin 14. Short-eared Owl 15 Pallid Scops Owl 16. Long-legged Buzzard 17. Lesser Kestrel.

Lesser Kestrel chases a Harrier!

I noticed that most of these raptors were feeding on something in the grass. They would hover for a while and then dive into the grass and come out with something in their claws. A closer look reveled that both Velavadar and LRK were filled with “Locusts”, thousands of them! The birds were having such a feast!

These “Locusts” were all over the place!!

A Harrier carries off a large Locust!

On the 26th of January, Yogendra and Nirav drove over to Dasada and picked Vishy and me up at 6 am. The four of us spent the entire day in the desert. A fine day in the open. Four nature lovers, superb birding, seemingly directionless driving, absolutely no sense of time and my first sighting and image of the desert fox too! Quite an unforgettable experience – thanks guys!

A “Desert Fox” – My first look!

There was this large lake that I visited more then once with Babu. Thousands of birds were standing inside the water. Most of them were out of reach for photographers. I was however able to make a few images by moving around that water body…

Demoiselle Cranes roost in large numbers in and around this lake!

A Steppe Eagle – dead – no injuries!

On the 20th of February, 2012, I went back to LRK with my wife and son. By coincidence Mohan Pai and family were in Ahmedabad and decided to join us for one night at LRK. Mujahid treated all of us to a great lunch at Ahmedabad after which we made that smooth (about 100+ kms) drive to Dasada in about two and a half hours. And lo! We were watching the sunset in the desert again! And yes, we were surrounded by a large group of Asiatic Wild Ass!

That evening we explored how salt was being made by nuclear families in the desert and had a wonderful “chai” in their make shift home in the middle of nowhere!

After a wonderful dinner and a comfortable nights sleep at the “Rann Riders” we were up early and made that long seemingly directionless drive into the desert. That feeling of openness with the cold breeze hitting your face, can really take your breath away!

After lunch, Mohan Pai and family left back to Bangalore very impressed with Mujahid’s hospitality and the first time experience of the Indian desert! My family and myself stayed on till the 24th Noon enjoying the desert.

Babu -The bird man of LRK!

On both my visits to LRK, I made all the trips into the desert with Babu. Simply put, he knows his job!

This "Desert Fox" Pup was almost ready to begin its intriguing life in the desert!

On this visit, along with plenty of birds, I was amazed to come across five live dens of the Desert Fox and one of the Indian Fox. Just about a month ago I had struggled to see just one fox!

Please visit indiabirds to view bird images...

See you soon in the sea ;-)

Regards,

Vijay Cavale
February 2012