Thursday, November 16, 2006


The word “Kutch” comes to a layman’s mind, first picture stand in front is of Desert, Hot climate, Scarcity of water and Thorny bushes. In short a no no place for any tourist. But that’s not true, in fact it’s a treasury land which we discovered in our five day trip to this grassland heaven.

Pre-trip Preparation:
A thought cropped in Adesh’s mind after our Nannaj Grassland trip as he had read some trip report of Kutch grassland on e-group. I, Mandar and Adesh search on net about Kutch and we decided to tour this destination in upcoming Diwali vacation. Mandar and I started gathering information such as Bird lists, Maps, best destinations and so on. We read reports from Mr. Arpit Deomurari – Expert Birder of this region. Arpit helped us a lot in all possible ways, right from booking a vehicle, our accommodation, providing us maps, itinerary for our trip and many more things. I think none of us personally knew him or ever had met him and in spite he was always there to respond to all our queries pertaining to the trip.
Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) Photo: Pallavi Joshi

20th & 21st Oct 2006:
Finally the day arrived as Our Team* boarded our train – Kutch Express, from Borivli (Mumbai) at 5:50 P.M. and next day reached Bhuj at around 10:00 A.M. and were received by our vehicle driver. Our luck was not with us as Arpit couldn’t accompany us due to his ill health and his recommended driver ditched us and provided a substitute driver who was new to this area. After having our breakfast and some local shopping we headed to Kutch Ecological Research Centre (K.E.R.C.), our base camp situated in a village called Tera about 100 kms. from Bhuj.
European Roller (Coracias garrulus) Photo: Ritesh Bagul

On our way we saw Common Babblers, Pallid Harrier (female), Black-shouldered Kite, Common Kestrel and Grey-necked Bunting. European Roller, a passage migrant in this area was lifer for me. We counted about 55 of them in just 3 hours and were tired as they were such a huge in number. We reached KERC at around 3:00 P.M. and were welcomed with glass of chilled water followed by mouth watering vegetarian lunch.
Not spending much time unpacking, we straight rushed to Naliya Done (Done is grassland in local language). Our driver Mr. Bharatbhai, being new to this area, lost the road, but it was blessing in disguise as we drove to a village called Bara (10 kms from Tera). Here we saw Grey Francolin in a group of 3 to 4 running in front of over vehicle. It was a great sight to watch these shy birds at a close quarter. While driving towards Bara, I observed a good population of House Sparrow thriving in this area. At a given point of time we saw a flock not less than 40 birds. This reminded me about the dwindling population of House Sparrow in metro cities.
Being totally lost and unable to find our way to Naliya grassland, we decided to bird along the road to our base camp. The sun was about to set and we came across a “Water Body”, which paid us with Northern Shoveler, Spot-billed Duck, Cotton Pigmy-Goose, Common Coots and tutorial display of Little Grebe. Red Collared Dove was looking very handsome through Dr. Vaibhav’s Swarovski spotting scope.
Heronary - Full Of Life Photo: Pallavi Joshi

22nd Oct 2006:
We started early at 6:00 A.M. and the best thing was our lunch was packed and ready at that time. On our way to Naliya we saw a spectacular sight of Falcon attacking a Black-napped Hare. This drama continued for a minute or two and the Falcon flew away, as the full grown Hare was too big for the bird. We were unable to identify the Falcon as this drama occurred beyond reach of our binoculars and light was too low. On our way we also saw Variable Wheatear – a beautiful black and white bird, which was lifer for our group. Mandar also got an opportunity to film Black Francolin at close quarter.

As we entered this “huge grassland”, we sighted a Tawny Eagle on its nest. There after it was treat to our eyes as we saw Steppe Eagle, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Snake Eagle circling above us. Few other key sightings were Red-backed Shrike, Rufous-tailed Shrike and Indian Courser. It was great sight to watch a Spiny-tailed Lizard basking.
Little further we saw three Cranes flying over our heads and settling down in a nearby field. I was very much eager to watch these birds as I had never seen them before. I was too excited and could no longer wait to be on top of our vehicle with spotting scope. Voila! All my efforts were well rewarded to catch a glimpse of a young one and two adult Common Cranes.
Desperation to see Common Cranes (Grus grus) Photo: Adesh Shivkar
We then headed towards Jakhau – place good for wader watching. On our way to Jakhau we saw a nesting pair of Black-necked Stork, one of the major sightings of the trip. We learned from Adesh as this bird has very few nesting sites in India. This made us proud on sighting one. We even saw Bartailed Godwit and Eurasian Oystercatchers both lifers for me and Adesh respectively.
Kids at Jakhau Port. Photo: Animish Mandrekar

Speaking about Jakhau – It’s a place where huge trucks from Salt company were moving up and down the road, large amount of fish was being sundried. In nut shell the place was full of disturbance, but we could see waders very close to the road and were totally ignorant of human disturbance. As we were watching Heuglin’s and Yellow-footed Gulls walking on the tar road, Dr. Vaibhav yelled as he spotted Red-necked Phalarope. There was a big ciaos and confusion. This ciaos scared the local girls who were being photographed by Pallavi and Adesh. The girls ran for their lives, it was such a hilarious site to watch.
We saw all together 7 Red-necked Phalarope, out of which one was bigger and different than others. We had doubt as this could be Red Phalarope. We immediately forwarded the photographs and video shoot to Experts for identification after reaching Mumbai. Experts initially confirms this to be a Red Phalarope on viewing the Video mentioned below. Only to reconfirm this sighting and to be dead sure, we gathered all the images and sent them for identification again ( ). Alas!!! The bird turned out to be Red-necked Phalarope. Experts are still not sure as why this Red-necked Phalarope was expectionally larger. Red Phalarope is vagrant to Indian subcontinent. Once the bird was sighted in Pakistan. The last sighting recorded in India was in 1846 at Calcutta Market (must be a dead specimen for sale). Please go through the compressed video link:
Check out the last 2 birds from left to right, the one in fore-ground is the Mistry Bird and the other in back-ground is Red-necked Phalarope. Photo: Pallavi Joshi

While having our lunch, on the way towards Lala Bustard Sanctuary, we saw a huge flock of Pelicans and our group ran it that direction. Alas!! The birds were out of reach of our binoculars. While returning to our vehicle we saw a lone Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) surprisingly coming close to us. Everybody got good snaps and I grabbed an opportunity of posing in background for the Chinkara Photo shoot. Further we learned from our driver, that the animal frequented the nearby village and was habitual to humans.
On reaching Lala Bustard Sanctuary in fading light, I could only bag single lifer – Tree Pipit. At night myself and Shashank went on a night stroll in search of snakes, but saw toads every where – Bufo species. They were so huge it number; the scene looked like from one of those scary Hollywood movies.
Great Crested Grebe with chicks (Podiceps cristatus) Photo: Nirav Bhat

23rd Oct 2006:
Nirav Bhat, our birder friend from Surendra Nagar, joined us to Narayan Sarowar. On the way we saw a huge flock of Common Cranes, around 250 plus flying to their feeding ground. We suddenly stopped the vehicle as Adesh spotted a bird lying on the road. We went closer and it was Laughing dove – a road kill. I also observed there were white patches all over the road. On examining closely, found out all were toads - smashed to death. They were in hundred, a shock to us as what a road can do to lesser fauna. And we greedy humans want more and more roads, bridges, flyovers at the cost of our wildlife. Also felt disabled as not much has been studied or no data available to avoid such incidences in future.
Road Kill Photo: Adesh Shivkar

Further we came across a water body full of waterfowls. We sighted Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe with 7 chicks, Common Pochard, Female Comb Duck, Nesting of Common Coots and also saw young ones of Common Coot with red cap on the head, some thing which I had never seen before. At Narayan Sarovar we were little disappointed as there were not many birds, contrasting to what we read in the earlier repots. Still we could see Great Thick-knee, Saunders’s Tern, and small waders. Few kms from Narayan Sarovar was another fresh water lake – Kayari Lake, where we spotted Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Great White Pelicans, Dalmatian Pelicans and huge flock of Northern Shovelers.
All of us searching for shade in scorching hot afternoon. Photo: Pallavi Joshi

While returning back Nirav saw elegant raptor – The Red-necked Falcon. Every one was lost in watching the graceful feather folk. We were thoroughly satisfied for the day as we retired after a very delicious dinner.
Quenching Thirst. Photo: Pallavi Joshi

24th Oct 2006:
We started for Soneri Hills hoping to see White-naped Tit. This place is situated some 35 kms from Naliya Village. On our way we saw female Golden Oriole, not a very usual bird in this region (since green patch of woods in vicinity). Now we again lost our way. I know, we troubled Arpit a lot by calling him every time and every time he used to guide us and put us back on right route. Hats off to his patients and spirit of helpfulness.
Near Bhimnath Dam we spotted second nesting of Black-necked Stork. Little ahead we saw a hilly region with good number of Acacia trees. All members were well spread out busy scanning the area hoping to get a glimpse of this endangered bird. Adesh and Mandar were watching Common Wood Shrike and a pied bird landed in front – WHITE NAPED TIT, it was the bird for which we had traveled all the way from Mumbai to Kutch. Our team also saw Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Wryneck, Hume’s Lesser White throat and Marshall’s Iora. In all this excitement, Adesh lost his pouch containing his cell phone. Again we started scanning the same area, very fortunately while searching Adesh heard his cell phone ringing and what a sigh of relief it was….
We spotted White-naped Tit twice in this thorny patch (2 sightings were few kms apart from each other)
Scanning Naliya Grassland for Great Indian Bustard. Photo: Adesh Shivkar

It was afternoon and the mercury was rising up. We decided to spend some more time in Naliya Done as Nirav had promised to show us the King of Grassland – The Great Indian Bustard. He took us to a lone Hillock in the grassland which was the best vantage point. Our binoculars and spotting scopes were engaged in scanning the area and I yelled on spotting this graceful bird. I just saw the neck coming out of the tall grass. Every one was over-whelmed as we had seen two highly threatened species in just one day. I was sitting on the top of the vehicle scanning the area, as it moved slowly through the grassland. We also spotted Hen Harrier which was lifer for me. We also observed a Montague Harrier trying to mob a female GIB, but it made no difference to this huge bird of grassland. We were thankful to Nirav as he kept his promise and we bid him goodbye as he departed to catch bus for Bhuj.
KING IN FLIGHT - The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps). Photo: Nirav Bhat
The Sun was setting and we saw a spectacular phenomenon. Around 200 plus harrier were returning to the grassland for roosting. That night we decided to have a night safari and were lucky to see a Hedgehog crossing the road. We moved further and saw 2 eyes shining in the grass – it was a small feline and all of us were excited to identify this small wild cat. But our excitement did not last for a long time, on realization of that animal being a domestic cat. We could confirm this as we saw a small human settlement on the turn of the road. While returning back to Tera, we also spotted a lone Jackal running alone the road.
Timid little Hedgehog (Erinaceus albiventris). Photo: Adesh Shivkar

25th Oct 2006:
It was the last day of our trip, and we started real early at 5:00 AM as we had to cover a great distance to bird in Chari Dhand and Khavdha region well known places for Grey Hypocolius and MacQueen’s Bustard respectively. We headed towards Moti Virani, as Adesh decided to visit Mr. Jugal Tiwari, well known birder of this region and seek his guidance. We were grateful as he personally accompanied us to Chari Dhand area. Key sighting on our route were White-bellied Minivet, Painted Sandgrouse and Peahen with chicks. There were Common Cranes scattered in large number on the Chari Dhand plain, but we missed on Grey Hypocolius.
After having a quick lunch we headed to Khavda region. Inspite being our last day, our spirits were real high, as we sung and clapped on Bollywood tunes and had a ball of time. Around 4:00 PM we reached Khavda and regretted keeping this place for last day on our itinerary. This place was combination of wet land and grassland and was teeming with life. Star sighting in this region were Greater Flamingo, Imperial Eagle and Egyptian Vulture. We had no luck with MacQueen’s Bustard. We ended our day by visiting Rudramata Dam, on our way to Bhuj where we saw young one of Purple Heron in a coconut plantation.
We boarded the same Kutch Express to return to Mumbai with 30 lifers and a total 186 species of birds and our driver at the end of our trip could identify and spot birds like Roller, Harrier, Common Cranes and so on. To summarize had a great time as a group and wonderful experience to cherish for life.
First row sitting (left to right): Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh, Me (Animish Mandrekar), Shashank Dalvi & Mandar Khadilkar
Second row sitting (left to right): Bharatbhai (Our Driver), Pallavi Joshi & Adesh Shivkar
Photo: Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh
Our Team*:
Adesh Shivkar, Animish Mandrekar, Mandar Khadilkar, Pallavi Joshi, Shashank Dalvi, Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh & Nirav Bhat.

How to Reach:
There are 2 ways to reach Bhuj, by Air from Mumbai or by Train from Mumbai.
KERC is in village Tera which is around 100 Kms from Bhuj. Roads are well maintained with out any pot holes.
Kutch Ecological Research Centre - Our Base Camp. Photo: Adesh Shivkar
Contacts for Stay:
KERC (Kutch Ecological Research Centre): Dr. Thakkar - 09427272771 or 02831-289305
Contact for Vehicle:
Mr. Bharat Goswami (Our Driver) – 09998386097
Route Map:
Places we visited:
1. Bhuj.
2. Tera - KERC (Our base camp).
3. Nailya Grassland.
4. Jakhau Port.
5. Soneri Hills.
6. Narayan Sarovar.
7. Moti Virani & Chari Dhand.
8. Khavda Region.
Two Female Great Indian Bustard feeding. Photo: Nirav Bhat

Bird List:

  • Grey Francolin
  • Black Francolin
  • Common Quail
  • Barred Button Quail
  • Indian Peafowl
  • Lesser Whistling Duck
  • Comb Duck
  • Cotton Pygmy Goose
  • Gadwall
  • Spot-billed Duck
  • Northern Shoveller
  • Northern Pintail
  • Gargeney Teal
  • Common Teal
  • Common Pochard
  • Tufted Duck
  • Eurasian Wryneck
  • Yellow-crowned Woodpecker
  • Coppersmith Barbet
  • Common Hoopoe
  • European Roller
  • Indian Roller
  • Common Kingfisher
  • White-throated Kingfisher
  • Green Bee-Eater
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater
  • Blue-tailed Bee Eater
  • Asian Koel
  • Greater Coucal
  • Roseringed Parakeet
  • House Swift
  • Spotted Owlet
  • Savanna Nightjar
  • Blue Rock Pigeon
  • Laughung Dove
  • Spotted Dove
  • Red-collared Dove
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Indian Bustard
  • Common Crane
  • Purple Swamphen
  • Common Moorhen
  • Common Coot
  • Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
  • Painted Sandgrouse
  • Common Snipe
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Eurasian Curlew
  • Common Redshank
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Common Greenshank
  • Green Sandpiper
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Little Stint
  • Temminck's Stint
  • Dunlin
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Ruff

White-naped Tit3

White-naped Tit (Parus nuchalis). Photo: Adesh Shivkar

  • Red-necked Phalarope
  • Indian Courser
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Great Thick-knee
  • Grey Plover
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Kentish Plover
  • Lesser Sand Plover
  • Greater Sand Plover
  • Yellow-wattled Lapwing
  • Red-wattled Lapwing
  • Yellow-legged Gull
  • Heuglin's Gull
  • Slender-billed Gull
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • Caspian Tern
  • River Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Whiskered Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Osprey
  • Black-shouldered Kite
  • Black Kite
  • Brahminey Kite
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle
  • Eurasian Marsh Harrier
  • Montegue's Harrier
  • Hen Harrier
  • Pallied Harrier
  • Shikra
  • White-eyed Buzzard
  • Oriental Honey Buzzard
  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • Greater Spotted Eagle
  • Tawny Eagle
  • Steppe Eagle
  • Imperial Eagle
  • Bonelli's Eagle
  • Booted Eagle
  • Common Kestrel
  • Red-necked Falcon
  • Little Grebe
  • Great-crested Grebe
  • Darter
  • Little Cormorant
  • Little Egret
  • Western Reef Egret
  • Grey Heron
  • Purple Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Intermediate Egret
  • Cattle Egret
  • Indian Pond Heron
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Black-headed Ibis
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Black Ibis


Common Pochard (Aythya ferina). Photo: Pallavi Joshi

  • Eurasian Spoonbill
  • Great White Pelican
  • Dalmatian Pelican
  • Painted Stork
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Rufous-tailed Shrike
  • Bay-backed Shrike
  • Long-tailed Shrike
  • Southern Grey Shrike
  • Large-billed Crow
  • House Crow
  • Small Minivet
  • White-bellied Minivet
  • Eurasian Golden Oriole
  • Black Drongo
  • Marshall's Iora
  • Common Woodshrike
  • Indian Robin
  • Black Redstart
  • Common Stonechat
  • Pied Bushchat
  • Variable Wheatear
  • Desert Wheatear
  • Isabelline Wheatear
  • Brahminey Starling
  • Rosy Starling
  • Common Iora
  • Bank Myna
  • White-naped Tit
  • Dusky Crag Martin
  • Barn Swallow
  • Wire-tailed Swallow
  • Red-rumped Swallow
  • White-eared Bulbul
  • Red-vented Bulbul
  • Rufous-fronted Prinia
  • Grey-breasted Prinia
  • Plain Prinia
  • Zitting Cisticola
  • Blyth's Reed Warbler
  • Clamorous Reed Warbler
  • Common Tailorbird
  • Greater White Throat
  • Lesser White Throat
  • Hume's Lesser White Throat
  • Greenish Leaf Warbler
  • Common Chiffchaff.
  • Common Babbler
  • Indian Bushlark
  • Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark
  • Rufous-tailed Lark
  • Greater Short-toed Lark
  • Crested Lark
  • Syke's Lark
  • Purple Sunbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Citrine Wagtail
  • White Wagtail
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Paddyfield Pipit
  • Tawny Pipit
  • Tree Pipit
  • Baya Weaver
  • Indian Silverbill
  • Grey-necked Bunting


Indian Silverbill (Lonchura malabarica). Photo: Adesh Shivkar


Arpit Deomurari – Helped us in all possible ways to make this trip a hit.

Jugal Tiwari – Accompanied & guided us to the Chari Dhand Wetlands on very short notice.

Mandar Khadilkar – Helped me out in putting this blog.

Photo Credit:

Very Thankful to Nirav Bhat, Adesh Shivkar, Pallavi Joshi, Dr. Vaibhav Deshmukh and Ritesh Bagul for allowing to use their images.


Sunset at Naliya Grassland. Photo: Animish Mandrekar