Gujarat Diaries so far...
Day 2 morning as Falguna was busy getting the permits done, I was witness to a group of blackbucks being chased by jackals and the elegant way in which the blackbucks run and jump is a sight to behold, a positive start for the day. Eagle’s, Francolins, Kestrel and other birds kept us busy for over a good hour with no signs of hyena’s or the wolves.
After a far distant sighting of the Jungle cat the previous day, the current day was better when we got to see at least 5-6 of them and some of them very close. Interesting is their hunting behavior that is to be seen to be believed.
As soon as it sets its eyes on a prey, it immobilizes itself in a launch position and stays still till the prey is close and then leaps in the air and lands hard on the prey instantly killing it. The way it launches itself and lands on its prey in perfection surely puts the acrobats to shame, a very skilled and opportunistic hunter and preys on anything that comes in its grasp.
A visit to the interpretation centre gave me some gyaan lessons on the different mammals and birds that inhabit or visit the park all round the year and during the rains when the park is flooded, its time for the critically endangered Floricans to be seen!
Herds of blackbucks of various sizes was our fuel for the day interspersed with numerous birds, at last count they would be about 52 species from and around the Blackbuck National Park only, great going I should admit!
A sighting of a lone Red-necked Falcon, a first time for me took both of us by surprise was another highlight for the day; similar to other falcons with a distinctive red neck cannot be missed for any other falcon species.
As we were engrossed in seeing everything on offer on our afternoon round, we saw a couple of raptors perched on a distant tree. We moved in that direction in a hope to catch them near but saw the tree in the middle of the grassland with no approach to it. We were in for a mighty surprise as there were six mighty raptors, aka, eagles perched on the tree but closer only to our trusted binoculars, but why?
We got the answer later that a blackbuck kill lay concealed in the grass probably brought down by a pack of wolves and the raptors were there precisely to enjoy the feast. Being engrossed in watching them, I almost missed a male Pallid harrier glide by elegantly, another species that evaded me from getting a decent capture.
With time running out on our last drive, we went ahead in pursuit of the elusive hunters of the grassland, but they were still invisible to us and we spent a good time with a herd of Neelgai (Blue Bulls) and a quietly perched ‘laughing Buddha’ or the Short-eared Owl on a branch nicely concealed on a tree, a common Owl widely distributed but hardly seen.
Finally, to close things off a Jungle cat kept us occupied moving along with us along the track for a good distance before vanishing into the high grown dry grasses, an elusive opportunistic small-time hunter of the grasslands.
The forest rest house (or the Kaliyar Bhavan) that I stayed was very comfortable to say the least and well maintained and located in quiet surroundings just inside the periphery of the park. There are just about 3-4 rooms and I seriously hope they do not expand. Contact for booking: Assistant Conservator of Forests, Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar-Bhal, F-10, Annexe, M.S. Building, Bhavnagar; 0278-2426425. The Range Forest Officer at the park can be contacted at 0278-2920222.
Ramzan bhai is a very good guide at Velavadar and he can be reached at +91 81408 10087.
Well, of course to say, I will be visiting again for those elusive hyenas, wolves, the harriers (Pallid), raptors and probably the endangered floricans!
up next LRK or Chota Rann or the Little Rann of Kutch... stay tuned!