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

Desert National Park, Rajasthan - August, 2013.

Some areas of the Desert National Park look like this...

Pratap Singh and myself left Jodhpur by road on the 23rd August morning and were in the Desert National Park (DNP) area by early evening. We were relaxed as Dr. Gobind Sagar Bhardwaj, IFS, the Chief Conservator of Forests in-charge of DNP had briefed us well! There was excitement though as both of us were visiting the DNP area for the first time.

At Jaisalmer, we made a brief stop at the DFO’s office. Mr. VK Bissa was kind and give us a list of birds seen commonly in the area. Mr. Gajander Singh the RFO in charge of DNP accompanied us and after a short drive from Jaisalmer we reached DNP!

DCF's office in Jaisalmer

How to reach

Desert National Park is situated in Rajasthan, India. Getting to the DNP area is easy. Jodhpur has an airport. The road from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer (via pokhran) is superb. You can do the 300+ kms in about 5 hrs.

Location of our place of stay - Sudasari
Passage Migrants

The very first bird I photographed was the “Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin”! a Passage Migrant.

wiki says -> Many of the smaller insectivorous birds including the warblers and flycatchers migrate large distances, usually at night. They land in the morning and may feed for a few days before resuming their migration. The birds are referred to as “passage migrants” in the regions where they occur for short durations between the origin and destination.

August is a good time to try your luck for some rare “Passage Migrants” in the DNP area!

About DNP

Whatever I had imagined was all wrong! This area (at least the ones I saw) was nothing like LRK or GRK I had seen. Also, this was August, it had rained and the area was green! I later learnt a few things about the area that I could not fully understand!

DNP is one of India’s largest national parks, covering an area of 3162 km². Sand dunes form around 20% of the Park. ( I did see some! ). In my three days of wandering in some areas of the DNP, what I actually saw was a lot of open area that either had grass growing as the Forest Department had fenced the place (enclosures) or I saw acres and acres of tilled land! 

Common landscape we came across...
We stayed at a place called “Sudasari” which is setup by the “Rajasthan Forest Department” and has a few simple huts as accommodation. In early June “Project Godawan” was launched from here! Mr. Gajander Singh, the Range Forest Officer made sure our stay was comfortable. Thank you sir!

There were areas near “Sudasari” which had been secured by the Forest Department by fencing and many other areas where the locals were growing 'Bajara' and ‘Guar’. Everything about DNP was very confusing. Enclosures to save the grass and large landscapes of tilled land and standing crop dotted with small settlements, large number of cattle and amongst all this some very rear birds!

Protecting grass by fencing large areas...
Small families growing crop in the desert....
The “Sam Sand Dunes” was the main tourist attraction in the area, though this was not the tourist season. The area has over a dozen resorts to cater to tourist needs.

Sam Sand Dunes
Great Indian Bustard and its Conservation

The Thar Desert in Rajasthan that consists of flat open landscapes with scrub and grass form an ideal habitat for the now critically endangered “Great Indian Bustard”. These ground loving, omnivores birds that occur only in the Indian Subcontinent are already missing from 90% of its former range. Experts agree that the “Desert National Park" holds the current largest population of about one hundred of these birds! DNP is the last resort for this once commonly seen “State Bird of Rajasthan”.

Great Indian Bustard
Dr. Gobind Sagar Bhardwaj had briefed us that this was the breeding season of the “Indian Bustard” and the department was doing its best to help the birds breed in peace. We noticed that the staff had been motivated and were keeping a strict vigil in the area.

One time I noticed some 300+ cattle confined in a small area. These had been seized by Mr. Gajander Singh and his staff in the middle of the night as they were found grazing inside the enclosure! While I went closer to take a picture, about 50+ villagers came over and argued that they had done no wrong and they simply do not understand what DNP is all about? What is wrong in their cattle grazing on the freely growing grass, that too in a desert!?

Seized Cattle
I also noticed that the Forest Department is actually fencing large areas that prevent cattle from grazing and thus helping the grass grow tall. The villagers who own the land outside the fenced area (the exact extant of land ownership seems to be disputed) till their land during this time and grow “Guar”. A major conflict situation indeed!

A few days later, while I was in Tal Chapper, I heard the Mr. Gajander Singh had be transferred out of the area. Strange!

Cattle Grazing, Widespread Cultivation and even poaching! Anyone with common sense can understand that the last of the “Great Indian Bustards” are surviving at DNP because of the open grassland habitat that suits them. Saving this habitat will surely save these birds…only a hundred+ left in the universe!

Please note!
My whole hearted good wishes to “Dr. Gobind Sagar Bhardwaj” and his entire staff in their challenging endeavour to save the Bustard! More strength to you sir!

So, in our three nights of stay at “Sudasari” we generally wandered on the main roads and the village areas where I was able to photograph birds like the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Tawny Eagle, King Vulture and Lagger Falcon. As if to complete the story, near one village, we did see and photograph a wonderful male “Great Indian Bustard”! The bird was quite unafraid and walked away slowly…


While Pratap Singh walked a lot around the camp area in pursuit of “Bird Calls” , I mostly spent time sitting at a small waterbody where the local cattle would come for a drink. I was indeed rewarded with a few good species like the “Spotted Flycatcher” and the “Black-crowned Sparrow Lark”.

We also enjoyed seeing several other desert wildlife like The "Spiny-tailed Lizard", “Desert Monitor”, Chinkara (plenty) and the Gerbil!

Spiny-tailed Lizard
Indian Gazelle ( Chinkara )
Gerbil (Desert Rat)
Desert Monitor
On the 26th August, after a late breakfast, we drove back to Jodhpur! Later, while I was writing this report and looked at Google Maps, the area in green marked as DNP, we never went there! However, this was a fine first trip indeed! An eye opener!!

Searching for tiny birds in this vast openness is not easy, to photograph them is indeed another story. I did have my moments though! I guess this area will be attracting many more specie of birds in the winter…

I was able to add the following bird images to indiabirds:

Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Rufous-tailed Lark, Spotted Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Rosy Starling, Eurasian Collared Dove, Indian Courser, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Red-headed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Lagger Falcon.

Tomorrow, we drive from Jodhpur to Ajmer in search of the “Lesser Florican”!

Vijay Cavale
August 2013