Dec 31, 2013

Summarizing 2013

As I had wished for in the last post of 2012 here, I did travel a lot in 2013 and importantly to newer places making new friends and discovering a lot on offer. Let me summarize it monthly on how the year unfolded...

January: A quick visit to Ooty (the queen of hills) for some birding around the area with buddies, was a very fast one indeed and the only group outing for the year! Blowed away by the endemics seen but disappointed by the way the Ooty hills are being razed down!

February: A new vehicle adds to the stable replacing the old. With that, a weekend getaway visit to Kolli hills, a discreet place with some amazing hairpin bends to counter and for the first time the married person in our group came along with his wife! A nice outing but sad to see the litter all around Kolli hills.

March - April: Almost dry months with not much of traveling except some birding trails in and around Bengaluru to Nandi hills and other places.

May: 5 years of blogging and a reason to celebrate. Been a fantastic journey so far. Invited some wonderful bloggers to guest blog for me. Honored to have hosted them here.

June: Attended the lone bloggers meet for the year, missed attending many others!
Plans and arrangements for Valley of Flowers were all done and had to be shelved due to the devastating floods that shook Uttarakhand. Disappointed!
Attended a 'frog' workshop at Bisle Ghats conducted under the guidance of frog expert Dr. K.V. Gururaja, courtesy buddy Avinash Kannammanavar.

July-August: Monsoon mania at Agumbe at Gowri's place (much awaited).
Certified as a volunteer from the KEDB in association with JLR after attending their two part week long course at Bandipur. Learnt many a new thing in the week spent and made some new friends.

September: A first time trip towards Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (Bheemeshwari).
A week long spiritual drive along with family covering BR hills, Coimbatore, Guruvayoor, Janardhana, Varkala, Kanyakumari, Totadri (Nanguneri), Rameswaram, Madurai and back home spanning 2000kms. Loved the drive all the way!

October: Dasara festivities and multiple sojourns towards Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary covering Bheemeshwari and Galibore regions. Catching up with travel freak Amith Kumar triggered off mutual interests to an all time high.
Visited Ganeshgudi for the first time in the year along with a vociferous group, had a blast throughout. Sadly, only one visit to our favorite jaunt in the year.

November was a busy month
Nandi hills and Maidenahalli for birding along with Amith and other people.
One weekend in and around Mulki (near Udupi) for some wonderful coastal birding.
The last week entirely in Andamans, yes a much awaited and longed for destination visit along with Kesava. Maiden dive under water was the key highlight for a non-swimmer.

December: A weekend visit to Kole wetlands and Chavakkad beach (in Kerala) for some more coastal birding and a day outing to Makalidurga and Nandi hills yet again!

New places were visited this year and many new contacts and friends made, blogging has been slow, as you see the Gujarat Diaries is yet to finish, that means the content of 2013 is completely pending!

As the calendar year changes to 2014, I hope to visit newer destinations, indulge in more adventure activities, travel a lot more and well travel and keep traveling :)

Before I close, didn't participate in many contests due to lack of time and creative mind, and pleased to be recognized amongst several giant bloggers (see the badges at the end of the page).

As always, the audience of this blog has been a great source of encouragement and support, wish to offer much more in content of this beautiful world and take you along on virtual journeys.

Do drop a note if you have time, encourages me all the more :)

Kutch memories...

Gujarat Diaries so far...

The series from Gujarat is seeming to never end, so much to share, so much to say, but as all good things should come to an end, I'll end this series with this post and probably another having information with all contacts and other necessary information.

To summarize in short, I had a jolly good time enjoying the food, the hospitality, the Rann, the mind boggling variety of birds / animals I saw and pretty much it was an wonderful solo trip for me.

Do make a visit to experience yourself... Gujarat calling eh? :)

 A fearless mighty hunter, the Bonelli's Eagle

White-naped Tit, a rarity and highly endangered

I'll putting up a dedicated album for this and updating the link soon... Stay tuned :)

Dec 27, 2013

Kutch special - Black Francolin

Gujarat Diaries so far...

As I mentioned in the last post, one of the birds that made me exclaim 'wow' was the Black Francolin, a medium sized ground bird belonging to the partridge family. It's stunning pitch black coat with petals of gold, white and a beautiful red collar made me gaze at it for a long time. To start off with, it was reluctant to show itself hiding behind the bushes and only giving me glimpses of its beautiful self.

Patience pays, and soon it was out in the open in the early morning sunlight glowing in all its might. The fine detailed patterns on its body, the various colours it wore took my breath away.

Indeed 'Black is Beautiful!'

Have a look at it yourself and enjoy the beauty on offer :)

(the above individuals seen is a male and in most of the avians, the male is prettier of the two)

hold on... more to be unleashed...!

Dec 21, 2013

Gujarat Diaries - Kutch magic continues...

Gujarat Diaries so far...

My modus operandi was very simple during my stay at CEDO, be on the field. We used to wander out with packed breakfast, indulge in some hectic birding activity either at Naliya grasslands or at Banni grasslands or at the thorn scrub lands or other birding places and then head back home for lunch prepared by a local household and then after a gap of an hour back to the field with some packed tea/snacks to return only after the sun goes down. Post that, some chatting in the cold, hot dinner and then much needed 'sleep'.

All through, it was pretty cold much more than LRK and being at the fag end of my tour, all the fatigue was slightly showing up and I had difficulty in waking up early and more felt like being asleep under the comfortable cushions. Yet, braving all odds, I was busy when in the field looking all around for birds and would generally end up seeing many.

The Sandgrouses, and the Francolins took my breath away with their brilliant colours and patterns that may lead any non-interested person to give a second look at them while the Wheatears and the larks had me in a toss in identifying them correctly.

Below are some more from the land of Kutch, have a look and enjoy the show!

Globally Threatened species... one of the highlight species from Kutch

Globally Threatened species and very skittish... another highlight from Kutch

widespread winter visitor, but again a Globally Threatened species

more to follow...

Dec 20, 2013

Gujarat Diaries: Kutch magic

Gujarat Diaries so far...

Okay, I'm skipping the introductory post for the Kutch part of my last year's Gujarat sojourn and let me take it forward with an exciting post. Read on!

After fruitful days of birding in Jamnagar in the able company of Chirag, I headed next towards Kutch or the bada Rann or to say, Greater Rann of Kutch (GRK). My bookings were already done with Jugal bhai who runs the CEDO (Centre for Desert and Ocean) for the next 3-4 days.

From Jamnagar, I had booked a ticket for self in the Patel travels sleeper bus to Bhuj with the help of Chirag and he happily dropped me to the bus in the night and bid me goodbye. Patel travels is the most recommended operator in Gujarat and is known widely and is supposed to be good is what I thought! Mid way through my journey I realized half of the window would not close properly and it was freezing cold outside the wind gods were more than happy in raiding my berth time and again sending shivers down my spine. Braving the cold without a blanket and after some juggling around in the dark, found a way to keep that darn window closed or rather away from me.

Early morning as I reached Bhuj,  a vehicle sent by Jugal Tiwari was waiting for me and then we proceeded towards Moti virani, about 50kms away, an hour's drive. Soon, we reached and were welcomed by Jugal and Vaibhav. Jugal would be accompanying me for all the days I stayed at CEDO and I had an vehicle exclusively for my sojourn into the Kutch.

From Kutch or GRK, I added about 20 species of birds that I had not seen before to my list and a total of 30 odd species in addition to the many repetitions I had seen earlier in my trip, so to say it was a fantastic experience and I'm pretty sure I've head back there soon as still there are quite a few to be seen including the elusive Caracal that Jugal bhai has to show me.

Ok, back to the post... let me showcase one of the colorful bird species that I came across that are slow flyers and ground birds and their art of camouflage is their best weapon of defense. An untrained eye can hardly see them on the ground and its only when they take off in a phurrr right next to you, you realized you missed seeing something!

Here they come, the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses, the patterns are beautiful on them and you just cant stop admiring them :) Have a look! Enjoy!

Hold on... more to follow...!

Dec 8, 2013

Jamnagar: Water birds, Land birds

Gujarat Diaries so far...

Have a look at the some of the water winged beauties I got an opportunity to see in plenty :)

It's a tern-o-tern!

Size does matter!

These are known as 'Mudskipper', amphibious fish, fish that use their pectoral fins to walk on land. They use their fins to move around in a series of skips. They can also flip to catapult up to 2 feet. The hole behind is its burrow where it dives into when it senses danger.

Dec 7, 2013

Jamnagar birding: Photolog

Gujarat Diaries so far...

Peregrine Falcon(s), Red-necked Falcon(s) that totally eluded me in Rann were seen quite regularly but none offered me close views. An opportunistic Osprey (eagle) chose to perch on an electric pole, another first timer for me.

Chiku (Chirag Joshi) was so good and started blurting out names, Little Ringed Plover, Stint, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and every time I could only see some small-sized birds in the distance. Phew! much to learn still!

The way of identifying waders or coastal birds is that you need to see and observe them carefully, very slight differences differentiate species and that is where your binoculars come handy more than the camera and importantly you need to spend time and lots of them waiting for them to approach you closer.

Don't expect any fast paths in learning to identify waders and shore birds, experience is the only way to go about it and patience and loads of them is required!

You should watch them to feel their beauty, a riot of colours indeed!

Peculiar beaks...isn't it!

Demosielle Crane's

Ruff's in different plumage's...

await...more to follow :)

Nov 22, 2013

Gujarat Diaries: Jamnagar Jatra

After my adventures and misadventures, next on my schedule was to do birding in and around Jamnagar city. Here again, with the help of Falguna, I was in contact with Chiku (Chirag Joshi) who had arranged everything including cab, tickets, accommodation and had chosen the birding spots to visit and would be guiding me during my stay.

The first thing I liked in Jamnagar was the weather, brilliant for a coastal city (can be as its just located near the Gulf of Kutch). Tea was another delight delighting my taste buds every time I sipped tea. I loved the Gujju food I had all through my stay and Chiku handpicked locations that served the best of the varieties on offer. Also, the number of 'paan' shops outnumbered any other shops in Jamnagar and the couple I tasted were too good to say the least.

The people I encountered, met and saw right from Ahmedabad to Kutch are addicted to either paan or tobacco and one such auto driver I met said he could stay without food or water but not without paan!

Back to the birding part, I was bowled over completely by the variety in offer I could see in Jamnagar. Being my first coastal birding, I was at my wits end trying to figure out what is what. From a distance, all of these look alike unless you observe them carefully for the differentiating features. Not only that, I saw them in hundreds all over the birding spots and on the roads too and the Rosy Starlings show at Lakhota lake was just pure bliss.

The tide timings went a little haywire for me but still with just about 2 days, I added 41 new species to my list (excluding about 60 odd I had seen over the last few days) making it a very productive trip to say the least. Contrarily, I would have missed out easily about 20-30 species but nevertheless that would be covered on my next trip here right :)

I birded along Charakla, Dhinchda, Narara-Marine National Park, Khijadiya bird sanctuary, Balachadi and Lakhota lake over the two days I stayed in Jamnagar. I stayed at the recommended President Hotel for a hassle free comfortable stay.

The posts of Jamnagar will be more of photo-logs than write-ups and hope you enjoy each of them... Stay tuned!

Gujarat Diaries so far...