Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Go Birding in Gujarat

Eisha Sarkar
Posted in Mumbai Mirror On Wednesday, December 01, 2010 at 05:01:28 PM

"If you really want to see some birds, head to Gujarat," says Mumbai-based ornithologist Adesh Shivkar, who organises nature tours for people interested in his feathered friends. Shivkar is just one of the hundred of ornithologists who flock to Gujarat every winter to see some of the most extraordinary species of waterfowl. Why only last weekend did the Gujarat government's tourism department host the first-ever Global Birdwatchers' Conference in India at the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary near Jamnagar to promote the state’s eco-tourism sites!

Why Gujarat?
Strategically located between two avian migratory routes, one from Central and North Asia to East Africa and another from the Middle East and Europe to peninsular India, Gujarat is a bottleneck for birds. Nearly 1.3 million migratory birds visit the state’s 1,419 wetlands every year. The birds migrate not only to escape the cold weather up north but also for food security. Gujarat’s wetlands are also used for irrigation and aquaculture of prawns, providing waterfowl with plenty of food. The Rann of Kutch and the lakes around Jamnagar also serve as breeding ground for flamingoes, pelicans and avocets during the monsoon.

Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Jamnagar
Located just 12 km away from Jamnagar, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is a unique eco-system with two separate fresh water lakes, marshes, mangroves, creeks of the Gulf of Kutch, salt pans and a marine sanctuary nearby and hosts over 300 species of birds. The legendary ornithologist Dr Salim Ali visited the sanctuary in 1984 and sighted 104 species on a single day! Facilities at the sanctuary include watchtowers, trails and paddleboats.
What you see: Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Crab Plover, Black-necked Grebe, Indian Skimmer, Brown-headed gull, Great White Pelican, Darter, Dalmatian Pelican, Grey Francolin, egrets, herons, White Stork, shrikes, wheatears, warblers, Black-tailed Godwit, Purple Swamphen, Brahminy Kite, Comb Duck, coots, pochards

Greater Rann of Kutch
During monsoon, this flat desert of salty clay and mudflats fills with water and is interspersed with islets of thorny scrub. It becomes the breeding ground for some of the largest flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingoes. The 80 sq km salt-affected shallow wetland of Charri Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve near Fulay village in Banni gets swampy only during a good monsoon and hosts about 74 different avian species. Kutch also boasts of India’s only bustard sanctuary at Naliya.
What you see: Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Glossy Ibis, Common Coot, Common Crane, Black-tailed Godwit, Northern Shoveller and Steppe Eagle

Nal Sarovar
Located 64 km from Ahmedabad, this 120 sq km freshwater body fills up during the rains and turns saline during summer. It includes 360 islands of varying sizes gives shelter to more than 250,000 birds. You can rent a boat for Rs 80 per hour to get a closer view of the birds nesting in the reeds.
What you see: Sarus Crane, flamingo, stork, pelican, Red-wattled Lapwing, fishing eagles, harriers, owls and hawks

Thol Bird Sanctuary, Mahesana
Located 40 km from Ahmedabad, the Thol Lake has several man-made islands and attracts about 75 species of birds.
What you see: Great White Pelicans, Flamingoes, Common Crane, Glossy Ibis, Mallards, Greylag Goose, Sarus Crane, Black Ibis, Odd Spotted Fly Catchers and Eurasian Curlews

Wadhwana Wetlands, Dabhoi taluka
Located 40 km from Vadodara, the Wadhwana reservoir hosts 150,000 avian visitors every winter. The birds favour the Hypomea weed for nesting, which is found in abundance here. Until a few years ago, local villagers hunted waterfowl for their livelihood but now, many of them have turned into self-taught ornithologists who rattle off birds' names to visitors. Facilities include basic accommodation, a watchtower and toilets.
What you see: Greylag Goose (Gajhans) from Central Europe and Siberia, Bar-headed geese (Rajhans) from Tibet, Coot, Brahmi Duck, Spot Billed duck, Wigeon, terns, Mallard ducks, Sandpiper from Siberia, Ibis, Ruddy Shelducks and Black Necked Grebe 

Pariej and Kanewal
Both located around 15 km from Tarapur on the Vadodara-Rajkot highway, these ‘wetlands of international importance’ host over 20,000 birds of more than 70 different species. The marshes are fringed with lotuses and weeds, ideal for many wetland birds, especially the Sarus Crane. Facilities such as watchtowers and boats are available at both the sites.
What you see: Common Moorhen, Little Cormorant, Great Egret, Indian Black Ibis, Pond Heron, Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Redshank, Eurasian Spoonbill and White Stork

Bhashkarpara, Surendranagar
Situated 20 km from Viramgam in Ahmedabad district, the Bhashkarpara wetlands and fisheries see around 20,000 waterfowl every winter.
What you see: Open-billed Stork, Bar-headed Goose, Demoiselle Crane, Great White Pelican, Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveller

The creeks, sewage ponds and the Porbandar Bird Sanctuary are rich in biodiversity and feeding grounds of many wetland birds.
What you see: Avocets, flamingoes, spoonbills, pelicans, jacanas, pintails, whistling teals, little grebes, coots and cormorants, Northern Shovellers and Black-winged Stilts

In some cases, there are more chances of spotting the birds in the surrounding fields and marshes than at the designated wetland eco-tourism spots. The best time to sight migratory birds is from October to March, with numbers peaking in December-January.

Bird Watching Tips
The best time to watch birds is at sunrise and sunset.
  • Wear clothes in earthy shades to blend with the surroundings.
  • Carry a handy guide-book on Birds e.g. Richard Grimmett’s Birds of India and Pakistan
  • Carry a set of powerful binoculars and camera with powerful zoom lenses and stand.  Avoid flash photography
  • Smoking and plastic are prohibited at all eco-tourism spots
  • Keep as quiet as possible
  • Carry your own food and water
  • Do not litter
  • Do not try going too close to the birds. No matter how gentile they look, they will attack if they feel threatened

1 comment:

Parag said...

The splendorous beauty of Porbandar bird sanctuary though not reflecting any emergent vegetation is enriched by the migratory birds visiting this area every year. The multihued, textured feathered creatures with their harmonious twitters and chirrups identify this area as a popular destination for ornithologists.