Bird Watching in the Wetlands of Gujarat

Gujarat as a traveller’s delight to many of our senses. From temples to historic sites to forests to wetlands to its typical food and handicrafts to its lively, bright people, it seems the State has it all. Another feather on its cap is as a bird-watching destination. A great many options of ardent bird watchers are available here – from the Rann of Kutch to the Forests of Gir to the dense, moist deciduous forests bordering the Western Ghats in the South. Several species of birds can be spotted here – from migratory birds to commonly found to almost extinct species.

If you are an ardent bird watcher then Gujarat is your sighting haven for any season. The state’s unique location in the north-western corner of India, bordering the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on one side and Pakistan on the other makes it an interesting mix of landscape. Along with its geographical location, its distinctive topography makes it a great bird-watching destination for any naturalist or bird lover. Northern Gujarat has much to offer through its wastelands – from the deserts of the Rann of Kutch which merge seamlessly into the arid

Banni grasslands, attracting a wide variety of wintering birds to the thorn scrub and great stretches of seasonal wetlands. Furthermore, several other geographical locations such as the 1660 km coastline on the Arabian Sea, the world famous dry deciduous Gir Forests, home to the magnificent Asiatic lions and the dense, moist deciduous forests in the South of Gujarat add more options across seasons. A landscape interspersed with a range of ancient hill ranges of Aravallis, Satpura, Vindhya and the Sahyadhris adds incredibly more to the bird-watching experience.

Birding at The Rann of Kutch: Mostly seasonal sightings from November till end of March each year, the Kutch area is home to around 370 species of birds and is particularly known for raptors, waterfowl, waders and larks. Specialties include the Grey Hypocolius (Kutch is the only known wintering site in India), White-naped Tit, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Sykes’s Nightjar, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Merlin, MacQueen’s and Great Indian Bustards. Over 30,000 Common Cranes, hundreds of Steppe Eagle, Marsh, Pallid and Montague’s Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, Sandgrouse, Pelicans, Flamingos and great flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks are a feature of any winter visit to the area.

The Great Rann of Kutch, along with the Little Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands on its southern edge, covers some 30,000 sq. kms. of dry and desolate tabletop surface, interspersed with small uplands between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan.

Banni Grassland and Chhari Dhand
‘Banni’ derives its name from the word ‘Banai’ which means made. With arid grasslands spread across an area of 3,847 sq. kms, this grassland is interspersed with thorn scrubs, more than 20 grass species and 20 more herb and shrub species that are found here. The inherently saline soil, deposited by long lost river systems, is naturally suited for nutritious grasses that grow in Banni.
Chhari-Dhand is a seasonal wetland in the Banni. ‘Dhand’ means a saucer shaped natural depression. Chhari-Dhand is an important wintering area for a variety of waterfowl and is also a roosting place for over 30,000 Common Cranes in winter. A list of over 250 species of birds have been reported from the areas around Chhaari-Dhand.
This place is a great location to spot many types of raptors and water dependent birds, and other key birds such as the Grey Hypocolius, White-naped Tit, MacQueen’s Bustard and Dalmatian Pelicans.

Great Rann of Kutch – The Desert Sanctuary here overs an area of 13,540 sq. kms. There are 13 elevated portions (bets) in GRK. Out of these Khadir, Pachchham, Tragadi, Sol and Kakida are well known. It is a great place for many types of raptors and water dependent birds. The endangered Indian Bustard makes a home here and is also a breeding area for Greater Flamingos.

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Naliya Grassland (Lala Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary) in the Little Rann of Kutch
Spread over an area of 500 sq. kms., this sanctuary comprises of tropical and desert scrub and thorn forests mixed with dry grasslands. This is a breeding area for the threatened Indian Bustard and about 20 other key birds are known to reside here. Species include Lesser Florican, MacQueen’s Bustard, Stoliczka’s Bushchat and nesting populations of Tawny Eagle.

Gir Forest: Famous as the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion, Gir boasts a list of 300 bird species, which includes an impressive list of raptors and woodland species.

Velavadar: Located at 170 kms to the south of Ahmedabad lies the Velavadar National Park spreads over 34sq. kms that has been created to provide protection to the last herds of Blackbucks. Velavadar is famous for its huge harrier roosts in winter and is also a good place to see Stoliczka’s Bushchat and breeding Lesser Floricans.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary: The Nal Sarovar is a large lake located at a distance of 65 kms southwest of Ahmedabad. Depending on the availability of water, Nal Sarovar can cover an area exceeding 120 sq. kms. Dotted with hundreds of islands, this large waterbody attracts large flocks of Common and Demoiselle Cranes, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans plus a variety of storks and wintering waterfowl.

Thol: Thol Wildlife Sanctuary is located 40 kms northwest of Ahmedabad, in Mehsana District. Thol Lake, created in 1912, covers 7 sq. kms of mostly open water. There are small marshes at the edges and some scrub forest on the sides of the high embankments. Thol is well known for wintering Great White Pelicans, Flamingos, a variety of waterfowl including Mallards and good numbers of Greylag Geese, Sarus Cranes and the odd Spotted Flycatcher.

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