Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trip Report – Thar Desert (covering Tal Chhapar, Jorbeed, Karni Mata Temple, Kheechan and DNP)

Day one – 12 Dec 2015 (Saturday)

Drove from Delhi in the morning on Delhi-Jaipur highway, thick fog. Took a left turn at Neem Ka Thana for Seekar.  Reached Taal Chhapar before the sunset. Barheaded Geese, Imperial Eagle, Black Bucks, White-eared Bulbuls, Grey Francolins, Variable Wheatears, Common Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrike, Indian Rollers, Lesser Whitethroats, Red-naped Ibises, House Sparrows, Small Minivets from the road.

Night stay at Forest Rest House being run by private contractors (who have no interest in birds – Sharad Shreedhar was an happy exception in the past). Sh Surat Singh Poonia was very helpful.  Meals made by FRH is below average though expensive, without any Rajasthani flavor.

Day Two – 13 Dec 2015 (Sunday)

Drive on the well laid down dirt tracks inside the sanctuary was a joy. Vast expanse of the dried up grass carpet was a light golden ocean waving in good breeze and sunlight. Spent  more than 7 hours inside and drove back to the FRH for night stay.

Birds – several flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks, possibly Asian Short-toed Larks with a few Bimaculated Larks, Southern Grey Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Desert Wheatears, Isabelline Wheatears, Variable Wheatears (two races), Paddyfield Pipits, Long-tailed Pipits, Tawny Pipits, Egyptian Vultures, Tawny Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Laggar Falcons, Common Kestrel, Lesser Whitethroats, Kashmir Flycatcher (Harkirat Singh Sangha was  doubtful about its ID), Cinereous Vultures, Montague’s Harrier, Marsh Harrier, White-eared & Red-vented Bulbuls, House Sparrows, Indian Silverbills, Common Babblers, Brahminy Mynas, Rosy Starlings and other common species. Spotted Creeper is now famous for this area.

Efforts should be made to encourage the local people whose houses are located between the road and the sanctuary to provide Home Stay to the birders and other tourists.

Day Three – 14 Dec 2015 (Monday)

Left Tal Chhapar and drove towards Bikaner (for Jorbeer) via Bidasar, stopping every now and then for birding on way. Locals must be admired for feeding wild birds near all temples small or big. Such a place was Benatha, where we saw huge concentration of doves, pigeons, mynas, bulbuls, sparrows, babblers, peafowl feeding together.

‘Ram Ram Sa’ written on roadside small dhaba attracted our attention and we relished hot paramtha with curd (all home made by the owner). I request friends to encourage such type of eateries.

Jorbeer Vulture Conservation Area : reached by noon and the sky was full of vultures and vultures, hundreds of them. The entire road from Camel Farm to Bhojanshala is full of birds on both sides. We tried to find out Vinayak Guest House location where we were expected to stay, but failed. Later one one Forest employee told that the guest house was located in Bikaner and not near Jorbeer, so we spent time till evening at Jorbeer and saw plenty of vultures and other raptors.

Birds : besides usual wheatears and pipits, hundreds of Egyptian Vultures, Griffon Vultures, Cinereous Vultures, Steppe Eagles, Tawny Eagles, possible a couple of Greater Spotted too were busy in feeding on the dump. Red naped Ibises, egrets, Common Starlings and Hoopoes were also enjoying. Plenty of stray dogs. Was told that when the wintering raptors migrate back and leave the site, the dogs keep the field clean of dead animals. Of course, Punjab Ravens too.

Drove towards Karni Mata ka Temple.

Karni Mata Temple : famous for rats, stayed at a hotel for night halt and relished ‘Bajre ke roti with Saankhre ka saag’.

Day four – 15 Dec 15 (Tuesday)

Entered the mandir and rats, thought the floor was icy cold, were slowly scampering everywhere. Took rat-tasted Prasad. This happens only in India.

Jorbeer again – drove back towards Bikaner and spent a few hours at Jorbeer, where we met and interacted with Dr Anil Kumar Chhangwani and Ram Nath Kumawat with their research team. Pale-eyed Pigeons too. Yellow-legged Gren Pigeons.

By noon time, drove towards Kheechan.

Kheechan : reached in the afternoon, sunny day, were thrilled to see thousands of Demoiselle Cranes resting along the water reservoir. Keshav Raj (incharge of tickets and safety of the cranes) was very informative about these cranes. A few wintering ducks in the reservoir.

Reached Sevaramji’s house opposite to Chugga Ghar. Such a cheerful and expressive person. He kept us enthralled by his a to z knowledge about the cranes and history of the place. Stayed at his place for the night.

Day Five – 16 Dec 2015 (Wednesday)

Next day morning, by 9 AM, Demoiselle Cranes started arriving. The sky was full of them. The atmosphere was reverberating with their calls. What a sight! Scores of bird lovers reached the roof of Sevaramji’s house and he was offering them tea, free of cost. He accepts donations though. We were free by 11.30 AM. We left Kheechan for Desert National Park. Sevaramji has one room with two beds and attached toilet .. basic amenities only, but he is planning to build more rooms. People can stay at a nearby Kurja Resort.

Reached Khuri by evening and night stayed at Khuri Fort resort. Food has Rajasthani flavor, though not many tourists.

Day Six – 17th Dec 2015 (Thursday)

Drove towards Sudasari. Cream-coloured Coursers, a pair of Great Indian Bustards, Black-crowned Finch-larks, swarms of larks including Great Short-toed and Bimaculated, Desert Larks, could be more lark species too but we were short of time. Three Punjab Ravens, wheatears were fairly common, and so were Tawny Pipits.

Drove back via Sam sand-dunes to Jaisalmer and from there to Philodi-Kheechan and by 8 PM reached Nagaur.  Night stay.

Day Seven – 18th Dec 2015 (Friday)

From Nagaur, our destination was Pushkar Teerth. Reached there and spent some time. Darshan at Brahmaji’s temple. At Ajmer, bowed to the Dargah Shareef. The large jheel was a joy to watch. Drove towards Sambhar lake.

Sambhar Lake : 3 Common Shelducks, dozen of Flamingoes – Lesser as well Great. Other ducks, Pied Avocets, 80-100 Painted Storks and equal number of Grey Herons. Unfortunately there is no guest house or hotels in the vicinity so we had to drive towards Jaipur for night stay.

Day eight – 19 Dec 15 (Saturday)

Drove back to Delhi, the hell of traffic snarls.

Planning to be do Desert trip again as soon as possible, for a longer duration.

Pix to follow.