Friday, August 28, 2009

Birding in the Great Rann of Kutch, Bhuj - 7th to 13th Dec'09

Date: 7th December, 2009 morning 10.00 am to 13th December, 2009 eve 8.00 pm. The bookings for Great Rann of Kuth / Bhuj bird-watching trip are on… your seats now (see the details at the end).....Birdwatch in one of the India's greatest birding hot-spots with Nature India



One of the best hotspot to watch birds in India is undoubtedly Gujarat. Particularly, the Great Rann provides great opportunity to birdwatch to your hearts content. This rugged landscape has such a variety and sheer abundance of birdlife that it wont be an exaggeration to call this place the "Mecca" of Birdwatchers. Once visited, it becomes an addiction of sorts to pay a visit to this amazing place every year…..ask anyone who has been here :-)

Kutch is an erstwhile princely state of India. It is the largest district of the state of Gujarat and the second largest district in India covering an area of 45,612 sq kms. The land is virtually 'an island' resembling a tortoise "Katchua or Kachbo", surrounded by seawater. Kutch was also known as the kutchdweep or Kutchbet." The Great Rann of Kutch" which dominates a major portion of the district. The Great Rann of Kutch and the Little Rann of Kutch respectively-uninhabitable deserts which during the monsoon season (June to October) is often completely submerged by floods.

The Rann of Kutch is a seasonally marshy region located in the Thar Desert biogeographic province in Gujarat state of northwestern India and the Sind province of Pakistan. The name "Rann" comes from the Hindi word ran meaning "salt marsh".

Not just the variety but the sheer numbers of birds seen is amazing. This is due to the varied habitat types that include deserts and wetlands, vast grasslands, scrub lands, and mangrove swamps. .For many bird species Gujarat is a gateway to India coming in from Europe, Siberia and the Middle East. During the months of Dec-March this whole region becomes a birding Paradise of sorts with hundreds of Common and Demoisele cranes, Waders, Eagles, Harriers, Buzzards, Falcons, Warblers, Buntings, Ducks, and other passerine birds. Not to mention the Great Indian Bustard and Macqueen's Bustard. It has now become a norm for any birdwatcher to visit the Great Rann every year.
Nature India has organized an exclusive Birdwatching pilgrimage to this paradise from 8th-12th December 2009 (travel days excluded). We shall cover Naliya Grasslands, Lala Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands, Pingleshwar Coast, Chiyasar thorn forest, Chari Dhand, Fulay Chari & Other places around Nakhatrana district.....virtually almost all the hotspots.

Some of the places that we will cover during our trip are as follows:

1) Naliya Grasslands
A significant grassland habitat of Kutch wellknown for the Great Indian Bustard in Abdasa taluka. Though covering only about 20 sq km of area, this grassland is very important for birdwatchers as perhaps the only sanctuary in India where three species of bustard are found – the endangered Great Indian Bustard is resident here, the endangered Lesser Florican breeds here during the monsoon months, and the near-threatened Macqueen’s Bustard is a winter visitor.
There is a good drivable track through the sanctuary that offers a chance of seeing the endangered Great Indian Bustard and a variety of other birds like the Black and Grey Francolin, Spotted and Indian Sandgrouse, quails, larks, shrikes, coursers and plovers. This sanctuary is also interesting for birdwatchers as vulnerable species like the Stoliczka’s Bushchat and White-naped Tit could also be seen. The sanctuary offers mind-blogging numbers and variety of Raptors including Aquila Eagles, harriers, Buzzards & Falcons that feast on Spiny-tailed Lizards here.

2) Chari Dhand & Fulay Village
The flats of Banni conceal many depressions where rainwater gets collected during a good monsoon. These shallow water bodies are locally known as dhand, jheel or talav.

Chhari Dhand is the largest of these, with an area of almost 10 sq km. More than 50,000 waterfowls and 55 distinct animal species have been recorded here, while more than 30,000 birds have been reported during winter. Endangered species like Dalmatian Pelican (Pelicanus crispus), Oriental Darter (Anhingia rufa), Blacknecked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) and Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) migrate through these wetlands every year. Waterfowl are not the only migratory birds attracted to this region. In fact, 32 species of Raptors have been recorded here, together with a large number of Common Cranes. Due to this rich biodiversity, the Chhari Dhand and some of its adjoining wetlands are under serious consideration for inclusion in the Ramsar Convention.

The "Fulay" village on the way to Chari Dhand is a well-known spot to see the rare Grey Hypocolious that is only reported in India from here.

3) Banni Grasslands
Banni covers an area of 3847 sq km. This area is absolutely flat; the altitude only ranges between 3 metres to 5 metres above sea level. More than two thirds of the area of Banni is high in salinity.

During the fifties, Banni was predominantly grassland, with a very low density of trees and bushes. It was considered one of the largest and finest Asian grasslands. At that time there were more than 40 species of grasses, but nowadays there are just around 15 species, due to the planting of a non indigenous thorny shrub (prosopis juliflora) by the FD in the Sixties to control the soil salinity. This thorny shrub known locally as gando baawal, literally crazy thorn-bush, grew very fast, destroying several native species and eroding huge tracks of the grassland. Locals have learned to extract gum and to make charcoal from this plant as a source of livelihood.

This area is widely recognised as important for birds because of its location on the flyway for many migratory species and migration studies have been conducted here by well-known organisations like the Bnhs. The mix of grasslands, scrub and wetland also make this a heaven for raptors with the Tawny Eagle and Bonnelli’s Eagle breeding here and Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle and Steppe Eagle wintering in the Banni area. Endangered species like the White-backed and Long-billed Vulture are seen in the Banni area. White-naped Tit is a vulnerable species of the Banni region.

4) Lala Bustard Sanctuary / Chiyarsar Thorn scrubland / Jakhau Port
This grassland 74-km north of Mandvi is a superbly maintained wilderness area. Abode of the endangered Indian bustard and the monsoon breeding area of the rare lesser florican, this grassland is also good for seeing Indian gazelle, Indian and desert foxes, jackal, the endangered Indian wolf and birds like the black francolin. The coastal marshes between the sanctuary and the fishing port of Jakhau (known for its excellent lobsters, crabs and pomfret) attract large flocks of migratory birds and waders including Plovers, Phalaropes, Godwits, Sandpipers, Gulls, flamingo, Pelicans, Shanks etc.

Target Bird Species : Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, Macqueen's Bustard, Sociable Lapwing, White-naped Tit, Stolicksa's Bushchat, White-bellied Minivet, Marshall's Iora, Montagu's & Hen Harriers, Crab Plovers, Oyestercatchers, Red-necked Phalarope, Isabelline & Variable Wheatear, Hoopoe Lark, Rosy & Dalmatian Pelicans, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Short-eared Owl, Black Francolin, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Twany Eagle, Laggar Falcon, Eurasian Hobby, Long-legged Buzzard, Desert Warbler, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Flamingos, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Quails, Rufous-fronted Prinia, Orphean warbler, Grey-necked, Red-headed and Black-headed Buntings, Chestnut-bellied and Spotted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Grey Hypocolius, European Roller, Eurasian White Stork, several species of waders ……. And about 200 + other species.

Target Mammal Species: Desert Fox, Desert Cat, Jungle Cat, Indian Gazzelle or Chinkara, Hedgehog, Indian Wolf, Hyena.

Click here to see a report of the trip we had made to Kutch a few years back…..

You can also view Dr.P.V.Subramanium's amazing trip report with nature India Last year.

You can also see a magnificient photoblog by Mr.Vijay Cavale here


Tour Iterinary:

Date: 8th Dec, 2009 morning 9.00 am to 12th Dec, 2009 eve 8.00 pm (travel days excluded)

Mode of Travel : Trax Cruiser Jeep (The only travel option to move around the places quickly)

Overnight train travel can be booked from Mumbai..... however since it is a busy sector, the train bookings should be done soon to get the desired train and class .... there are 2 trains available for Bhuj from Mumbai....Nature India can ASSIST in bookings if required.

Rough Tour Iterinary:

7th Dec'09 : Departure from Mumbai to Bhuj

8th Dec'09 : Arrival in Bhuj (9am) – breakfast - Drive to Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana-lunch, Eve. Bird-watching at Pot-Mahadev to see the rare White-naped Tit and Marshal’s Iora – return for dinner and Stay at JP hotel

9th Dec'09 : Birdwatching in Fullay Village, Chari Dhand, Moti Virani. Lunch at Hodka village. Eve. - Banni - Dinner & Folk Music - Overnight stay at Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana

10th Dec'09 : Birdwatching in Nalliya grassland, Lunch – KERC, A’noon – Jakhau Port area

11th Dec'09 : Birdwatching in Kunathia Grasslands Lunch – KERS. Eve, and Lala Bustard Sanctuary, Chiyasar-thorn forest - Dinner & Folk music - Stay at JP Palace, Nakhatrana

12th Dec'09 : Birdwatching in Banni Grasslands – Checkout & Departure for Bhuj

13th Dec'09 : Arrival in Mumbai

Trip charges : Rs.9400/- only (Includes non- A/C room stay in Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana, on twin sharing basis, Local travel by Trax cruiser jeeps, Park entry charges, vegetarian food , Guide charges, Information articles & on board snacks and mineral water)…….

This does not include travel charges from Mumbai to Bhuj and Back or any charges other than the above.

Group Size: Max.12 persons only

Registration: You can register by sending a confirmation mail to and by paying a non refundable Advance of Rs.4000/- …..The remaining amount will be collected on the day of travel.

Kindly register soon as the train bookings are not easily available in Gujarat.

Stay Arrangement: Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana is a good and clean hotel. The Stay arrangement is on a twin sharing basis and non-A/c accomodation. The food is mouth watering and we have kept a special arrangement for non-oily Kutchee food.

Resource Person: Mr.Adesh Shivkar, Mr.Mandar Khadilkar & Mr.Mohammed (local expert)

Mode of Payment: You can either
1) Transfer the advance money directly to my HDFC A/c (Please send a mail for details).. please mention your name, date and other details….
2) Courier a cheque of Rs.4000/- as advance amount to the following address

Name: Mr.Adesh Shivkar
Address: D/8, The Adi Janata Society, Behind HP Petrolpump, Opp. Hotel Shangrila, Sion(East), Mumbai-400022

Please Note:
1) Once registered, the advance amount of Rs. 4000/- is strictly non-refunadable
2) Alcohol & Smoking is strictly prohibited on Nature India Tours

Please revert on ID, in case you need any clarification …..

For any other queries I am available on 9321463362 or 9820455713 (Adesh) or 9967518665 (Mandar) or sign up on to know more of Nature India.

Thanks for your patience.

Looking forward for a very rewarding trip with you all !!

Warm Regards,
Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
Nature India
Appreciate, Respect and Conserve

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birding in the Land of GIB, Nannaj - 10th to 11th Oct, 2009

After an overwhelming response for the 1st batch to Nannaj GIB Sanctuary....Nature India announces 2nd batch to this wonderful birding hotspot on popular demand.....from 10th to 11th Oct'09 (Added attraction - Delicious Local cuisine).... the bookings are on (see at the end for details).....Confirm your registration fast


India is blessed with a variety of habitats that hold varied birdlife. However, most of these habitats are under threat from something or the other. From these, the Grassland habitats in particular are the first to be encroached upon, on the pretext that these are wastelands. However, they are one of the most bio-diversity rich habitats that hold an amazing variety of birdlife. Once, there were far stretching areas which had grasslands throughout India, but sadly very few remain now (apart from the Terai Grasslands)……notably amongst them are Banni grasslands, Naliya, Velavadar and LRK in Gujarat, Rollapadu in Andhra Pradesh, Ghatigoan & Karera Bustard sanctuary in M.P., Sorson and Sonkhaliya in Rajasthan, Rannebennur in Karnataka, Rehekuri, Ozhar, Mayureshwar & Nannaj in Maharashtra.(GIB & Grey Francolin Image: Courtesy: Mr.Nayan Khanolkar)

(Participants of the 1st trip- 15th to 17th Aug, 2008)

Here's a link to the report of the 2nd trip (6th-7th Sep, 2008)

And Here's a link to the report of the 3rd trip (Nov'08)

With the exploitation of grasslands, the flagship species namely the Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, Indian Wolf, Blackbuck are also threatened. In fact, it is believed that there are less than 400 GIBs in the world and they are critically endangered.Not many know that this majestic bird was once a strong contender for the position of our national bird……but the tricky name got him out of the race.

Nannaj GIB Sanctuary : One such amazing grassland / scrub land is the famous Nannaj GIB sanctuary, approx. 22 kms from Solapur.

Nannaj is a small village approx. 22 Kms away from the main city Solapur, Maharashtra.The total area covered under sanctuary is approx. 600 hectares. However, it is not a continuous stretch, but a discontinuous area which is divided into various plots, some of which are owned by Govt. and some are Private lands.

The area called "100 hectare" is a plot of 100 hectares, and it is a core area of the sanctuary where the breeding pairs have been observed. Recent census estimates over 20 Great Indian Bustards.... However, the GIBs are spread over vast areas in the sanctuary and nearby cultivated fields depending on the availability of food.

Nannaj GIB Sanctuary also holds a very good population of Blackbucks that stroll over leisurely but cautiously around the park and the surrounding area. The main predators of these Blackbucks and the Black-naped hares which abound here are Indian Wolf and Indian Fox. There is a resident pack of 8 wolves in the core area of the sanctuary, that are regularly seen scanning their area with a dominant "Alpha pair".....

Apart from the above flagship species, Nannaj is a great place to see a number of other grassland and scrub land species like Larks, Pipits, Quails, Francolins, Sandgrouse, Lapwings, Raptors, Coursers, Munias, Doves etc…..

Click some of these links to know more about Nannaj

Though the GIBs are nomads and move about in a large area. The month of August is the best time to see the bustards in Nannaj when they seek a safe abode to display and breed in the core area.



Date: 9th Oct 2009 eve. 10.30 pm to 12th Oct 2009 mor. 6.30 am (travel days included)

Mode of Travel : Train uptil Solapur and local travel by Jeeps.

Tour Iterinary:

1) Friday 9th Oct, 2009 : Departure from Mumbai by train at 10.30 pm

2) Saturday 10th Oct, 2009 : Arrive at Solapur early morning - Checkin hotel & Refresh / Breakfast (really fast) - Birdwatching in Nannaj - Lunch at Hotel Nisarg for the mouth watering "Zhunka Bhakar, Shenga Poli & Thecha" - Visit to Eurasian Eagle Owl area - Evening Birding - Return to Hotel - Revision & Discussion of day's sightings - Dinner and early bed.

3) Sunday 11th Oct, 2009 : Early morning Birdwatching in Nannaj - Sumptuous lunch consisting of the typical Solapur delicacies -Evening visit to Hipparga Lake near Solapur city for watching water birds (or again near Nannaj) with Mr.B.S.Kulkarni (well known veteran ornithologist instrumental in declaring Nannaj sanctuary) - return to the hotel - Dinner and proceed to board the train at 10.45 pm

4) Monday 12th Oct, 2009 : Reach Mumbai (Dadar) in mor. by 6.30 am

More details on the iterinary will be given to those who register.....

Trip charges : Rs.3850/- (Ex.Mumbai-includes train fare) or Rs.3375/- (Ex.Solapur-excludes train fare)....

Includes Stay in Hotel at Solapur on a twin sharing basis, Mumbai-Solapur-Mumbai train travel (Sleeper Class) for Ex.Mumbai Charges (subject to availability), Local transport by Jeeps, Park entry charges, vegetarian food, Articles on Nannaj and Nannaj bird checklist, on board mineral water and snacks……

This does not include any other charges and also any individual camera charges ....Individuals will have to pay additional charges if any to the forest dept. as per the rules.

Registration: You can register by sending a confirmatory mail to and by paying a non refundable Advance of Rs.2500/- (The seats will only be confirmed after recieving the advance amount) …..the remaining amount will be collected in train on the day of travel.......Please Register before 15th Aug, 2009 to get the confirmed train bookings (subject to availability) and the desired class of travel.

Resource Persons: Mr.Adesh Shivkar & Mr.Mandar Khadilkar

Mode of Payment: You can either
1) Transfer the advance money directly to my HDFC A/c : (please call me for my A/c no.) .... please mention your name, date and other details….
2) Courier a cheque of Rs.2500/- to the following address

Name: Mr.Adesh Shivkar
Address: D/8, The Adi Janata Society, Behind HP Petrolpump, Opp. Hotel Shangrila, Sion(East), Mumbai-400022

Please Note:

1) Once registered, the advance amount of Rs. 2500/- is strictly non-refunadable

2) Alcohol & Smoking is strictly prohibited on Nature India Tours

Please contact us, in case you need any clarification …..

For any other queries we are available on 9321463362 (Adesh) or 9967518665 (Mandar) or

Hope to see you for this wonderful trip

Thanks for your patience.

Warm Regards,

Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
Nature India
Appreciate, Respect & Care for Nature