Monday, September 19, 2016

Birding in the Great Rann of Kutch, Bhuj - 04th to 07th Jan, 2017

Date: 04th January, 2017 morning 07.25 am to 07th January, 2017 afternoon 07.00 pm (Travel days excluded). The bookings for the much awaited Great Rann of Kutch / Bhuj bird-watching trip are on… your seats now (see the complete details at the end of this blog).....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. 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 Rannof 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 Demoiselle 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 04th to 07th January 2017 (travel days excluded). We shall cover Naliya Grasslands, Kunathia & Banni Grasslands, Mandvi Coast, Pot Mahadeo 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. However, the Bustard nos. have drastically decline in the last few years and chances of seeing one is very low. There are however, several good species of birds to see in Naliya including Indian Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Syke's Lark, Long-billed Pipit, Stolickza's Bushchat etc.

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, 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 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, Oriental Darter, Blacknecked Stork and Indian Skimmer 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) Layari River – The prehistoric Fossil River

This monsoon fed river is primarily an un-even canvas of volcanic rock from which rose smooth domes of eroded lava in myriad shapes, sizes and colours from yellow to pink to white to Golden…. Walking on this river bed one can see shapes formed due to years of erosion. The mineral rich rocks sculpted and painted naturally giving the landscape a unique look. Watching sunset from the bed of Layari river is as spectacular as it is revelation   of sorts. This amazing fossil river is witness to the evolution of the surrounding Kutch landscape.

4) 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.(some images: courtesy. Mr.Vivek kale)

5) Kunathia Scrubland / Mandavi (Modhava) Coast

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 & Stolickza's Bushchat, 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 coast of Mandavi attract large flocks of migratory birds and waders including Plovers, Phalaropes, Godwits, Sandpipers, Gulls, flamingo, Pelicans, Shanks etc.

Some Bird Species : Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, White-naped Tit, Stolicksa's Bushchat, Marshall's Iora, Montagu's & Hen Harriers, Crab Plovers, Oyestercatchers, Bluethroat, Rufous-fronted Prinia, Isabeline Shrike, 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.(Some images: Courtesy. Dr.P.V.Subramanium)


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

Mr.Vivek Kale's amazing photoblog with stunning images

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 Itinerary & Other Details:

Date: 04th Jan, 2017 morning 7.25 am to 07th Jan, 2017 afternoon 07.00 pm (travel days excluded)

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

Overnight train travel can be booked from Mumbai (by participants)..... 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 Itinerary:(ex.Mumbai)

03rd Jan'17 (Tuesday) : Departure from Mumbai to Bhuj by 19115 BDTS Bhuj Exp. leaving Bandra Terminus at 14:50 Hrs.

04h Jan'17 (Wednesday): Arrival in Bhuj (7.25am) – breakfast - Drive to Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana-lunch, Eve. Bird-watching at Pot Mahadev area or Layari River (fossil river) for scrubland birds - return for dinner and Stay at JP Palace, Nakhatrana

05th Jan'17 (Thursday): Early morning Birdwatching in Fullay Village, Chari Dhand, Moti Virani with packed breakfast - Banni Grassland & Nearby areas - Lunch at Hodka village - Visit White Rann - Return - Overnight stay at Hotel JP Palace, Nakhatrana
(Note: Strenuous travel from early morning and returning by late evening/night)

06th Jan'17 (Friday): Early morning proceed to Kunathiya Scrubland with packed Breakfast- Explore some waterbodies - Lunch in Naliya town - A’noon birding in Naliya Grasslands - Return - Dinner - Stay at JP Palace, Nakhatrana

07th Jan'17 (Saturday): Early morning proceed to Mandvi (Modhava) Coast for birding - Lunch in Mandvi - Return & Checkout at 2.30pm  & Departure for Mumbai to catch 19116 Bhuj-BDTS Exp. @ 22:15.

8th Jan'17 (Sunday): Arrival in Mumbai at 14:05 Hrs

Please Note: This trip involves long distance travelling everyday in Force/Cruiser jeeps from early morning to late evening.

Trip charges (Bhuj to Bhuj only)............. Rs.14900/-

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. 8000/- after our email confirmation…..The remaining amount will be collected on the day of travel. Please note that the seats will be confirmed only after the advance payment.

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 accommodation. The food is mouth watering and we have kept a special arrangement for non-oily Kutchee food. The AC accommodation can be arranged at an extra cost if requested during the registration.

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

Mode of Payment: You can either
1) Transfer the advance money directly to my HDFC A/c (Please call Mandar @ 9930318665).. please mention your name, date and other details….
2) Courier a cheque of Rs. 8000/- as advance amount to the following address

Name: Mr.Mandar Khadilkar
Address: Flat No.2, Blossom Apartments, LM Road, Below Shantighan Hospital, Kandarpada,
Dahisar-West, Mumbai-400068

Please Note:
1) Once registered, the advance amount of Rs. 8000/- is strictly non-refundable
2) Alcohol & Smoking is strictly prohibited on all Nature India Tours
3) Nest photography or any collection of specimens is prohibited
4) Kindly register on this trip only if you agree with  Nature India's rules and policies

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

For any other queries I am available on 9869071091 or 9820455713 (Adesh) or 9930318665 / 9967518665 (Mandar)....

Thanks for your patience.

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

Warm Regards,
Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar

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