Jul 31, 2013

Blackbuck'd all over - Velavadar II

Continuing my Gujarat Diaries here is a photolog for the beautiful and the fastest antelope species in India, the Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) that is classified as 'Near Threatened' due to their drastic reduction in population owing to their loss of habitat, overgrazing and hunting.

Need to say more... Sit back and enjoy!

horns...horns is all that you see...

the glossy beautiful male comes into sight...

the herd follows the male... some walking some jumping, look at the cute fawns...

more of the herd... comprises of females, sub-adults and fawns...

a male poses...

an alert doe...

female bucks are dull yet beautiful...

2 brothers...? possibly, one brownie one blackie...

off on a stroll...keeping the herd together

my home, my land is the key for my survival...!

to be continued...

Jul 30, 2013

Buck'd @ Velavadar National Park I

After a seven month long wait after the initial post here, time to kick off some posts from my wild Gujarat sojourn done in December'12 under the label 'Gujarat Diaries'. Relax and enjoy the long reading to come :)

the stories unfold...

Blackbuck National Park, Gujarat

To begin with, a multitude of thanks to Falguna Shah from Ahmedabad who helped me plan the entire sojourn and gave some vital inputs and also arranged logistics as well accompanied me to Velavadar and treated me to some delicious home food. Thanks a ton Falguna!

After the sagging 30 hours of journey in the train, I finally descended at the Ahmedabad station to be welcomed by Ritesh bhai, who would be traveling along with us to Velavadar, he in fact would be driving us all the way and back in Falguna’s car.

The first thing I liked was the tea (with the old style of drinking from the saucer rather than the cup), very different from the tea down south and very refreshing to have. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at a dhaba and I was treated to some delicious Fafda with chutney and some good Jalebi’s, yummy! …and this was just the beginning!

the 'Little Hunter' of the grasslands - Jungle Cat

We drove along and crossed over the diversion to Velavadar to the nearby Kumbarawada salt pan for some birding and also got to see a Jungle Cat out in the open by the highway and plenty of birds. The salt pan yielded the biggest sight of the Lesser Flamingo’s for me and that was a great starter to my trip and also plenty of ducks, whimbrel’s avocets, sandpipers and many more.

We reached the national park by afternoon after a sumptuous authentic Gujarati lunch at a dhaba on the highway and completing the formalities drove inside to our respective rooms at the rest house situated right inside the national park.

Being my first proper grassland outing, I could not but just amaze at the view the dry grassland had on offer for me, but I could sense something amiss here, the dry grass was all uniform and I could see them clearly marked in boundaries and a few tractors/mower’s moving around…! On further probing, got to know the department was indeed cutting the grasses and keeping them at a minimum height and that explained the presence of the heavy machinery inside the park.

But, on the flip side, due to this cutting (excessive), a couple of hyena families had vacated their dens as they were now in the open because of the grass cutting and that was a disappointing news for me as I hoped to see some hyena’s/wolves in action that were regularly seen here. Bad timing of my visit or bad luck, whatever you may call it!

a fine adult male in full glory - Blackbuck @ Velavadar

Blackbucks are the attraction of the park and once you start seeing them, you’ll see hundreds of them all over the park. Not only that, you wander out of the park and you’ll them around there too grazing in the fields adjoining the park. Blackbucks are elegant antelopes with long twisted horns and the males are either dark brown or elegant black in color with a white underbelly. The females, sub-adults and fawns are typical brownish in color.

roosting time at dusk, one of the thousands that roost here at Velavadar

Velavadar park is also famous for being the largest site for roosting harriers, i.e. in winters, thousands of harriers (montagu’s marsh, pallid) roost here by dusk and fly out in search of food by dawn. We saw quite a few Montagu’s and Marsh harrier individuals all through our drives on both the days but at near dusk, I could literally see them flying in from all corners into the park to roost, truly a roosting ground for them. Just a drive in the park and I was already loaded with gb’s of photos of blackbucks, nilgai, harriers, other raptors and loads of other birds and some landscapes too…

Neelgai at sunset - a day ends...

A long day after a hectic travel and I had plans of only dreaming of the hyenas and the wolves... Keep hooked! more to follow!

Jul 16, 2013

Birding diaries

Of Sunbirds and Leafbirds

Well, every outing to Ganeshgudi (Old Magazine House camp) has something to offer, something new, and something to learn, a place that never disappoints any time of the year!

As I was hogging lunch in the afternoon in the dining area on top, the activity on the Helicteres isora or the Indian screw tree caught my attention. As I went closer to see, I could hear the familiar calling of the sunbirds hoping between the flowers sucking the nectar in peace. Shortly, I realized the female sunbird was the more aggressive of the two and was vociferously chasing away the male from a particular branch that had good number of flowers.

The male sunbird was being opportunistic and used to fly to the branch whenever the female sunbird was out of sight and used to fly out being chased by the female sunbird again. Well, the male had other branches with flowers but none matched this particular branch in the tree. This continued till about dusk and finally their activity ceased for the day.

Next morning, much before the sunbirds came to the tree, there were a new bigger couple sucking the nectar, highly camouflaged and enjoying their morning sugary breakfast, the Golden-fronted Leafbirds were there much before ample light had filtered down the dense canopy at Ganeshgudi.

This was my first sighting of these brilliantly camouflaged birds in open and at close quarters, I had only seen them either on the canopy or in between leaves in the mid portions of a tree making it extremely difficult to spot. I was thrilled on seeing the pair in action and here again that particular branch was occupied by the female and the male had to satisfy his tastes from the remaining flowers located sparsely on other branches.

Soon, the sunbird couple came over and were promptly chased away by the leafbirds from that particular branch and also from the other by both the male and female leafbirds. Despite repeated futile attempts, the sunbirds hardly got opportunities to get closer to the rich nectar yielding flowers. Of the leafbird couple, the male leafbird was the aggressor chasing the sunbird couple long distances away and in turn was being chased away by the female leafbird from that particular branch.

Soon, there were more leafbirds coming for the flowers and more sunbirds but none were able to come near that particular branch that was being guarded by the female leafbird. All along, I never realized the time fly by as it was almost 2 hours being engrossed in their chases and antics. In between, there were the White-rumped and the Black-throated Munia’s, Orioles, White-eye’s, Woodpeckers, Warblers frittering all around the place.

With so much activity all around and with loss of time, I moved away bewildered and amazed at the behavioral patterns of nature to the more defined breakfast table to satisfy my taste buds :)

Jul 10, 2013


Travel needs

Traveling is a sine die element of my life and many a times, I’m stuck with the amount to carry and the various stuffs that I would need / not need. This is in fact a phobia that affects many a people and the thinking is that we would need everything and many a times end up carrying additional baggage.

1. Plan better – Plan before hand for the number of days of travel and relative to the type of place, decide on the number of dress wear that you would need.

2. Reduce - Shortlist your dress stuff and then further reduce them removing all those that you think might be necessary.

3. Baggage – Don’t make them so heavy that you may not be able to carry along, plan lighter. Toiletries – Again carry only that is required and nothing additional. I prefer to be very light on this and carry all items of travel versions, i.e., smaller ones that would last me for days. Additionally, I do not need to look all clean and bright; after all I’m on a vacation!

4. Gear – If you are a gadget freak, carry your gear enclosed in a proper designated bag/backpack to withstand the shocks / drops while traveling. Additional batteries / memory cards come handy.

5. Camera – Personally for me a good DSLR camera is really important because it helps me to remember those special moments and capture those moments to relive them in the future. If you do not have a good camera, you could always look for excellent deals on Amazon for DSLR cameras.

6. Shoes – If you are hiking, then a good shoe with ankle support is necessary to prevent ankle sprains and fractures. If into water activities, then a water proof light shoe would be required. For general travel, a good durable floater should work well. Always plan accordingly. I personally rely on Woodland / Decathlon / Bata products.

7. Accessories – Watches, belts, jackets, caps, sunglasses and additional stuff as required.

I always prefer to travel light and often reuse the stuff I carry. I’m usually seen with my backpacks or soft trolleys if driving / riding around.

Always travel light, travel safe.