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!