Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Indian Epic- Travels in Kutch, Gujarat - Birding in Banni



Just before sunrise on Friday morning we were collected from Devpur by an ecologist & his driver from the Centre for Desert and Ocean (CERO) and taken to the Banni Grasslands, a semi-arid region skirting the Great Rann of Kutch for a morning of bird and mammal spotting. That's a desert warbler in the photo above (or sylvia nana, which has to be one of the greatest Latin names ever).




I'm beginning to run out of words to describe Gujarat's astonishing landscape so I think other-worldly is probably the best I can come up with. The odd shaped rock formations and pink-tinged environment were breathtaking at sunrise especially accompanied by the soundtrack of Kutch's dawn chorus.









Other than us, our guide and his driver there wasn't a soul around.







To be honest I was a bit worried about going bird spotting as I know hardly anything about them. I leave food out for them at home and know the difference between a robin, a sparrow and a blackbird but that's about it. I'm also useless at looking through binoculars so I was expecting to spend the morning having to pretend I'd seen things I hadn't.


I needn't have worried. Our guide, Veer's passion for birds, mammals and nature was contagious. He didn't expect either of us to be familiar with the creatures we spotted - he even slowed down to point out a domestic cat (Felis catus). He'd position his telescope on a tripod so we could see exactly what he'd seen. He played their calls on his smart phone and showed us the individual birds in his manual just in case we couldn't understand his accent (we could, his English was excellent). 




The Indian paddy bird.




The common crane (Grus Grus).




A pair of painted sandgrouse. As is usual in the birding world, the boys are prettier than the girls.



Time for our car bonnet breakfast!





The long legged buzzard.



The silence was broken by the sound of bells emanating from a hundred-strong camel caravan passing through. The maldhari* comes from one of Kutch's nomadic tribes, the Jat community, whose forefathers fled from Baluchistan in Pakistan around 500 years ago. Following a feud with the king, the Jats sold all their other animals replacing them with camels to prepare for their 440 mile journey to Gujarat.

*Camel herder.

The maldhari and his family were moving on after a week spent grazing their herd elsewhere in the area. Although the Jats are Muslim and our guide & driver were Hindu they greeted each other warmly. When asked if his family were in need of food and water he happily accepted what was left of our breakfast picnic and continued on his way.



One of the most enchanting things I've ever seen. I'm so glad we bought a bell from the workshop in Nirona, I'll have a reminder of those precious few moments forever.


We came across another tribe of nomads on our journey through Banni. The milk from their water buffalo is so highly prized that each beast is said to be worth over one lakh rupees (£1,100).


The herd is looked after by these young men, also from the Jat community, whose tribe have been herding water buffalo in Kutch for over half an millennia.


We found it very strange that, unlike elsewhere in Gujarat, the nomads showed absolutely no interest in our foreignness and definitely didn't ask us for a selfie.






We also spotted (to name but a few) the white tailed tit , the grey hypocoliusSkye's NightjarSkye's Lark, the MacQueen's bustard, the lesser florican, the cream-coloured courser, the sociable lapwing, the white-browed bush chat, the grey necked bunting, the white bellied minivet, the graceful prinia, and the red-tailed wheatear.


Our favourite spot of the day had to be this gorgeous Indian grey mongoose.


You can see rest of our Banni photos HERE.

80 comments:

  1. ohhh, what an amazing landscape, those pink rocks!, and the wild life!, I would be also afraid of don't recognize any of these birds!, so many species!
    That mongoose is so cute!
    besos

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    1. I wanted to take that mongoose home, he was so cute! x

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  2. That landscape really does look weird you described it perfectly and the mongoose is so sweet xxx

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  3. as always your holidays are the highlight of my grey boring damp winter. The mud of Lincolnshire is all I have to look forward to at the moment with the odd foray to various hospitals , I did look at insurance for a simple jaunt and found that Mr cant even get coverage for anywhere decent ..lol .. so we would be stuck in Europe

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    1. Travel insurance can a nightmare, can't it? It cost me loads for the first few years after my hip replacement. Here's to a decent mud-free UK summer! x

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  4. majestic!!!
    what a gorgeous way to start a day! wonderful!
    xxxxx

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  5. Other-worldly indeed! The mongoose is cute, but shouldn't the Dalmatian Pelicans be white with black spots lol?!?!

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    1. Haha! I was unbelievably excited to see pelicans. I think I'd only ever seen them on the TV before. xxx

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  6. How absolutely amazing! The camels I loved, especially the camel standing to one side to feed her baby and the herder just left her knowing she will catch up. Such a special place.

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    1. Seeing that camel caravan was such a magical experience. It was funny to see the herder striding off across the desert in a scene that was almost biblical carrying a loaf of white sliced bread under his arm! x

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  7. Very other wordly and very beautiful.
    Hugs-x-

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  8. Fabulous post! What a staggering landscape ...and brilliant guide by the sound of it. How special to see that procession of camels and I loved your photos of the buffalo herders. xx

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    1. Thanks, Fiona. The nomads fascinated me. All the men wore the same style of outfit but each tribal member wore a different colour - I wasn't sure if it was personal choice or something to do with their role in the group. xxx

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  9. A heard of camel isn't something you see every day. It was quite delightful listening to the sound of the bells as they walked onwards.

    Suzanne

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  10. This is my dream day of adventure: geologic formations unlike any I've seen or touched and birds and beasts from a film fantasy. Thank you so much for including the clip of the camels!

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    1. My pleasure, Beth. Glad you enjoyed the trip. x

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  11. Ah wonderful. I'd been saving your posts until I had enough time to sit and read then properly. It looks like such a fantastic trip. It's so diverse and vibrant! I look forward to reading more
    x

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    1. Thanks, Hazel. I'm sorry, I've been bombarding Blogland with my tales of India - there was just so much to see I couldn't do it justice by reducing it into a single post! xxx

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    2. I had to come back and look at those rock formations again, they look like something from a James T Kirk away mission!
      No need to apologise, these posts have been amazing, no one is forcing us to read them, and how could you possibly fit it all into one post?
      xx

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  12. So many great birds, a herd of camels and a mongoose! A great Indian wildlife treat

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    1. It was! It was good to learn something, too! x

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  13. Camels and a mongoose-how exciting! The herders didn't want your pictures? I'm sure they regretted it after you moved on ;)

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    1. Ha! I bet those nomads are regretting not asking for a selfie - I wonder if they had smartphones? x

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  14. Isn't our planet AMAZING? So much we don't really know about it that it feels like being on another planet, if not in another galaxy! The rocks, the birds, the animals, the people you've met! I love every single picture. What a trip!

    Lots of love!

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    1. Isn't it just? It's not often i'm lost for words but confronted by that scenery at just after 7am on a Friday morning was pretty special! xxx

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  15. That is an amazing landscape. If I had gone birdwatching at dawn I would look knackered but you look beautifully dressed!
    The wildlife looks diverse and wonderful. xxx

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    1. Those big sunglasses are a lifesaver!!! xxx

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  16. Beats sitting on a sun bed on a beach lol (not that I have ever done that or been there )I holiday in Britain and there is so much to discover if you look! What a wonderful world we live in and I would have loved to have tagged on behind you, (travel insurance permitting )loving your description of what you are seeing, no wonder you keep returning to this part of the world
    Tilly

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    1. Hi Tilly. I do love a bit of sun - but never packed like a load of sardines sweltering on a sunbed on a tourist beach, hell on earth!!
      We do live in a wonderfully diverse world, there's something for everyone. xxx

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  17. Other wordly is an apt description of those fantastic, pink tinged rock formations. And if that wasn't enough: all those wonderful birds! I'm especially taken by those pelicans in flight. The herd of camels is really special, too. I'm also loving the colourful outfits of those young shepards. And how cute is that mongoose? xxx

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    1. I need to Google "do mongooses get on well with cats", I'd love one as a pet! xxx

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  18. Wow, I had no idea that landscape was there - fantastic.

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  19. It is quite extraordinary....some of the rocks look like people and animals. There's a chap from India who now lives here and he adores all the shades of green we have here. He thinks we don't appreciate our lush landscape enough! The cold and wet of Winter is his favourite Arilx

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    1. Aren't those rocks crazy? I could see all kinds of animals in them! I take it that your Indian colleague isn't from Kerala, Karnataka or Goa - the greenery of those landscapes make ours look positively anemic! xxx

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  20. How absolutely magical. Your birding excursion looked amazing. The landscape was incredible. All those fabulously eroded rocks in such beautiful colours. I loved all the camels. The sound of their bells was just lovely and the baby feeding was a delight. I am having a chuckle about the bird names. It reminds me of Monty Python for some reason. That is a fabulous photo of the water buffalo. It's quizzical expression is so funny. Do you remember the Kipling story of Riki Tiki Tavi? I loved that when I was wee so really like your mongoose photo too. Xx

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    1. Monty Python! You're not wrong there. I loved the Latin name for the mongoose - Herpestes edwardsi - thinking that if I had a pet mongoose I'd call it Edward.
      Funnily enough I was going to say that we'd spotted Riki Tiki Tavi but wondered if anyone would know what I was talking about - great minds think alike! xxx

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  21. I think I would have died and gone to heaven to see all those wonderful bird species! We have Montagu Harrier's in the UK (I think) but all the rest were totally new to me. I found it hard to decide which of the Sand Grouse was the most attractive.

    The landscape and rock formations are definitely other worldly. The first photo of the rocks made me think of a a pelvis in cross section for some reason!

    I'm so enjoying reading about and looking at your wonderful photos - and I'm learning lots, too!

    Loved the mongoose...
    xxxx

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    1. I did think of you when we were there and wondered if you'd be familiar with any of the birds we spotted. I read that montagu harriers are in the Uk but increasingly rare. I liked their Latin name, too - Circus pygargus - I wonder what the circus bit must mean? xxx

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  22. Breathtaking - I'm utterly in awe of the landscape and wildlife. It sounds like your guide was fantastic, and so essential to this whole experience.

    In the first photo of the big rock formation I thought I saw a dead fish and had to go back and check when you didn't mention any dead fish in your post. Turns out it was just a bit of rock. Funny the things you see in rock formations!! xx

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    1. We saw so many weird and wonderful animals within those rocks - there's a tortoise and a lizard somewhere, I'm sure of it.
      The guide was brilliant, so enthusiastic and engaging. xxx

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  23. Another day of magnificent photos! The birds and camels!! And the rocks! Wow.
    Did the airline get your luggage back to you?

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    1. Thanks, tana50! It was a pretty way to spend a morning.
      Our bags came back a couple of days later - one on Saturday night and the other on Sunday. Jon reckoned they'd had a row at the airport! x

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  24. Just have to say (again) - you should get paid to go to India and do as much tourist touting as you do! You are such an excellent writer, and one almost feels like one has been there with your descriptions and photos.

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    1. Thank you so much, Alwin! If Incredible India want to sponsor me to travel I'd be more than happy! xxx

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  25. Wow! All those muted khaki colors remind me of the California desert. I'm bewildered by all the bird varieties in Asia too.
    xox

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    1. Hi Bibi! I bet you get some wonderful visitors to your garden. xxx

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  26. I have so enjoyed all your India posts , your photographs are wonderful. Other wordly is spot on to describe this landscape . The vast bird life must have been quite something to witness. The video of the camels and their bells was just so good. Thank you for sharing your trip. xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Jill. Kutch is such an arid region the abundance of bird life surprised me. xxx

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  27. I loved the camel caravan with tinkling bells :) I so don't want these posts to end, they are just so fabulous! The rock formations were amazing, one looks like a giant clam, I never knew India had such different landscapes.

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    1. Thank you so much, Betty. To be honest we were both a bit worried about going bird watching but we both absolutely loved it - and felt like we'd learnt a lot. xxx

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  28. Those rocks were amazing - half close your eyes and you could be looking at dinosaur fossils! Loved the picture of the grues - cranes - as we are now welcoming cranes back for spring on their journey north - we are on their flight path. Incidentally, I didn't know that grues were cranes (grue is the name the French use) until I saw a boxed toy lifting-crane one Christmas, and realised the word for crane was the toy AND the bird!

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    1. I never thought I could get so excited by rocks but I really was!
      How wonderful to be on the cranes' flight path, I was surprised at how elegant they looked in flight, they're such big, almost ungainly looking creatures, aren't they?
      Fancy grue and crane having the same double meaning. I wonder if that's something to do with the old wives' tale of them carrying babies? xxx

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  29. That landscape is Sci-Fi cool for sure... and the Wildlife is so diverse!

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    1. I was seriously lost for words, it was incredible. x

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  30. That would have been so peaceful and interesting being amongst nature, looking at the birds! Xxx

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  31. You have the most interesting holidays of anyone I know!

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  32. Those camels! They don't all wear bells?
    The bright outfits of their herders!
    Who knew India had unpopulated arid areas like Australia.
    I love all your latin names!
    We get pelicans landing on our local river when we are at the coast. To see them fly so close they just tip their wings into the misty water as they lazily take off at dawn, is sooo magical! On land they are a different beast entirely.
    xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. Kutch is made up of miles and miles of unpopulated desert, so very strange for townies like us!
      I'm not sure why all the camels don't wear bells - apparently the noise the bells make is individual to each herder. Maybe it's just the naughty ones who need to be identified from a distance.
      You're so lucky to see pelicans at home, I'd never seen them in real life before. xxx

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  33. The Mongoose! Makes me think of Riki Tiki Tavvi!
    I cannot believe the complete ethereal otherworldly quality of that place you visited! SOOO like an alien landscape. The sheer number of birds you saw (and snapped!) was astounding.
    I CANNOT BELIEVE aalllllllllllllllll the camels! Soooooo many camels. The sound effect of their bells was so calming. It reminds me of our honeymoon when we saw all the alpine cows with their bells -it created a similar hypnotic effect!

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    1. Isn't he a sweetheart? Have you heard their cry? It's called a "giggle" and it's very sweet.
      I bet the alpine cows sounded wonderful. xxx

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  34. The camel procession to the sound of the bell is just hypnotic. It's so great to follow along with you and John because you approach travel with such open hearts.

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    1. That's such a sweet thing to say, Brikka, thank you! xxx

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  35. seems like you had such a lovely time! I love bird-watching but I'm not very knowledgeable about all of them, I certainly don't know all the names like some bird enthusiasts....but I'm fascinated by them.

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    1. Yes, I love birds but know very little about them. I loved this trip as it was educational without being highbrow! xxx

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  36. I really never knew India was so beautiful-you've really opened my eyes & mind to it-thankyou x

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    1. Thanks, Flis. I think many people think India is dry and dusty and racked with poverty. It really does have some beautiful places. xxx

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  37. That is a curious and beautiful landscape. And if you didn't know many birds before, now you do!

    That's a good photo of the mongoose - we tried to snap one at Aurangabad caves but it was much further off. Your shot shows off its cute little nose.

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