A TOUR THROUGH GUJARAT, RAJASTHAN AND MADHYA PRADESH LOOKING FOR CATS AND OTHER SMALL AND BIG MAMMALS
23rd October 2016
The tour had been planned when Peggy and Marc were in north-eastern India looking for the elusive and shy small cats found there and we had decided to do this in October 2016. So it was great to meet them at the airport on the 22nd noon.
Peggy and Marc arrived from Nepal after their trek to Dolpo area passing through several high passes and seeing some stunning mountain scenery and looking very fit - the day before and had some rest and came over to our house in Dwarka for dinner. We regrouped early in the morning of 23rd and flew Jet Airways to Rajkot.
We landed at the Rajkot airport and left for Gir - took us 3 hours 10 minutes through mostly good roads. We left for the first safari immediately and went in to zone 6. Gir has 8 zones of which one is rarely open ( a short zone to Kamleshwar Dam and back) so effectively it has 7 zones. We were at 2 & 6 and it was a beautifully forested area with some dry deciduous forest mixed with teak. We had a few interesting birds - colourful green bee-eaters darted from the branches and the kingfishers (White-throated and Common) showed up well. We saw our first mammal just outside Gir - a Grey Mongoose that crossed the road. We saw Spotted Deer and Sambar and missed a pride of 6 lions that we so wished we had not missed. We checked in to our lodge - Lion Safari Camp located in one corner outside the town of Sassan and settled in for an early dinner.
24th October 2016
We left at 0530 hours to the park and got in to the zone 5. Highlights of the morning were a mating pair of leopards that played hide and seek for a while and eventually offered us excellent views. We also saw Sambar and a confiding Blue-bull. New Birds included a few White-eyed Buzzard and Yellow Throated Sparrows. We returned from the park at 0930 hours and had some rest before heading back to the park to zone 7. In hind-sight a poor decision. We did see some nice mammals and birds but we missed the pride of lions that posed in route 6 that we nearly got. We should have stuck to route 6 - you will see why.
25th October 2016
We had route 3 in the morning and route 5 in the afternoon - we did manage a lovely sighting of a male leopard that was 'sawing' (Peggy heard him and he sawed again in a few minutes time) and we managed to see it quite well in the end with both Marc and me getting some good images. We were disappointed not to see Asiaitic Lions and hope that we see one on the way out early in the morning on 26th.
26th October 2016
We left Gir early today and tried for the lions outside the park - we saw a couple of Asiatic Jackals and one unidentified mammal that just was too far to id. We realised that the lions were simply not around and started the drive to Kutch. The roads in Gujarat are in excellent condition and we drove north to Rajkot first where we stopped for a while and then carried on to Bhuj reaching around 1300 hours. From Bhuj to Nakhatrana took anouther hour and we reached CEDO Birding Lodge run by Jugal Tiwari around 1400 hours. We were greeted at the gate by Jugal and then showed our simple but well appointed rooms and after a delicious lunch we left for the long afternoon safari towards Banni grasslands. We saw the Desert Jird soon - a few of these inquisitive little mammals showed well. We also saw several European Rollers, a Great Grey Shrike, a few House Sparrow (burkini race), a fly by Indian Rock Eagle Owl and a few other birds. On the way back we followed a Jungle Cat as it took a stroll in front of our car through the town.
27th October 2016
We started early at 0600 hours and headed back to Banni where we hoped to see the Desert Cat and possibly the Desert Fox - but we were disappointed - we explored a large area almost seeing no mammals - the reason possibly lies in over-usage of pesticides, illegal hunting and commercial wind-mill farms coming up in Kutch. A lot of the fields that we covered produced no mammals. We returned for lunch and then left with Jugal to explore some of the most beautiful habitats that Kutch could offer. We did see a few interesting mammals - Indian Field Mice, Grey Musk Shrew, a couple of Indian Hare and lone Indian Fox was sighted in the evening. We did have two cats cross the roads but from a distance where we could not id them properly.
28th October 2016
We were a little relaxed about the lack of mammals and enjoyed the morning seeing a few birds with Vaibhab - Jugal's brother in law and a naturalist. He was kind enough to be out with us at odd hours and showed us the rare and endangered White-naped Tit. We also saw some amazing rock formations and a no of Fan-throated Lizards. This evening we managed to find a few good mammals we had Bare-bellied Hedgehog, a Desert Cat and an Indian Fox. We had a lovely dinner under the open sky. Jugal and his team were tireless, very warm and very knowledgeable and we would have loved to spend more time with them. But the lack of the mammals made us change plans and decide to leave next morning to Little Rann.
29th October 2016
We left after a nice breakfast and headed to Little Rann of Kutch (for no better name to this amazing place). It took us a little over 5 hours to reach and the roads were again excellent. On the way we managed a stop at the Pereshwar temple where we picked up the Greater Mous-tailed Bat, House Mouse and an un-identified Rat (possibly Rattus species). We did stop at the beautiful Bhuj House of Jehan and Katie Bhujwala - beautiful homestay in Bhuj town in the Parsi colony. They alreay run a camp in Kanha and this is a recent addition.
We were entertained by our driver who had sighted a Caracal some days back and casually mentioned it to me when I asked him if he has sighted any cats on his drives recently. We just laughed at the irony of life. We reached a busy Rann Riders and after lunch jumped into our jeeps to head to the Rann. We saw a few Asiatic Wild Ass within minutes of reaching. They were amazingly patient with us and allowed us to walk within about 100 metres from them. Possibly they thought of us as salt-workers in Diwali costumes. We also managed to see a glimpse of Desert Fox and a good view of the Indian Fox. We did see a large no of Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harriers, Common Cranes and some other interesting birds. On the way back at the Jinjiwuada town we managed to find a few Indian Flying Fox and also several Greater Mouse-tailed Bats.
30th October 2016
We left early to the Rann and were rewarded with an up close encounter with the Desert Fox. We did see McQueen's Bustard (6 individuals), Rufous-tailed Shrike, Desert Warbler and some other interesting birds. We returned in the evening and tried for the Jungle Cat and the Fox (both species) but failed to find one. On the way back we found an injured Indian Krait and we stopped to move it out of the road. However the lack of equipment, light and safety gear resulted in a few anxious moments but eventually we managed to put it way from the road after some effort.