Drive to the Sahyadris
9 Jan 2017: Day 9 (Lodai – Moti Virani, 79 km, 2 Hrs)
We departed Lodai at 0620 Hrs and drove further west to reach Moti Virani by 0830 Hrs. Jugal Sir was prepared for our arrival and after a quick cup of tea at his homestay, we all proceeded to the Banni grasslands.
En-route to Banni, a Golden Jackal was spotted curiously checking us out along with other birds like Grey-necked Bunting, Common Snipe, Temminck’s Stint, Sand Plover and a Great Thick-knee.
At Pakkhi Bheet (Bird Rock), a Red-tailed Wheatear, Desert Wheatear and a Blue Rock Thrush were spotted.
Driving deeper into Banni, we were fortunate enough to sight a couple of Steppe Grey Shrikes followed by five Sociable Lapwings.
While returning to the homestay, a Pond Terapin was spotted right in the middle of the road. We stopped immediately and Jugal Sir gently guided it to the grassy side of the road.
In the evening, we drove to Palanpur (near Nirona) and were soon greeted by multiple flocks of Grey Hypocolius in the roadside bushes. Within a few minutes of our arrival, the birds started to fly off to their roosting site. The whole sky was filled with birds, while the Grey Hypocolius were flying away to their roosting grounds, Rosy Starlings were performing their amazing aerial acrobats.
Jugal Sir explained that in 2016 he documented atleast 500 birds congregating at this site before their return migration. He went on to explain that while Fulay remains to be the most reliable wintering site, these birds can often be seen in other suitable habitats like we did in Lodai and in Palanpur where sightings are regular since 2016.
During the course of the evening, Rufous-fronted Prinia, Plain Prinia, Singing Bushlark and Marshall’s Iora were also sighted.
Apart from an excellent birding day, spending time with Jugal Sir was an enlightening experience for us. His knowledge on this region is probably as vast as the endless Kutch. While we had been reading his publications for a long time, spending time in person gave us an excellent opportunity to learn field skills and identification techniques from the master.
At Dinner, Jugal Sir introduced us to Veer Vaibhav, the chief naturalist at CEDO and we chalked out the plan for the next day prioritizing a visit to Fot Mahadeo in search of the White-naped Tit.
10 Jan 2017: Day 10 (Moti Virani and around)
We drove to Fot Mahadeo early morning and true to his reputation, it did not take long for Veer Vaibhav to pin point the location of the White-naped Tit.
Another interesting sighting was that of a Rock Bush Quail family. It was amazing to observe the mother quail take one baby at a time from one bush to another. The mother quail would then return and help the next baby crossover.
Other bird sightings while walking around the Fot Mahadeo area were Grey-necked Buntings, Rufous-tailed Lark, Sykes’s Warbler along with a Sykes’s Lark seen at Rampar.
In the evening we went towards Dhinodhar temple where a Painted Sandgrouse pair and a Desert Whitethroat were sighted.
We finished the evening having tea at the Lyari seasonal river and admiring the impressive rock formations carved out by the timeless efforts of water and wind.
CEDO: CEDO is run by wildlife researchers and this is what differentiates it from others. Coupled with historic data and ongoing field studies, they have an excellent understanding of the wildlife movement and migration routes. This not only applies to birds, but to mammals and reptiles too. If you are interested in specific species, then your best chance of getting more information lies at CEDO.
Phone: +91 98 252 481 35
Veer Vaibhav: Veer Vaibhav is an accomplished naturalist having indepth knowledge of the region’s wildlife and an instinctive understanding of wildlife behavior. While he created opportunities for us to view wildlife, he ensured that the wildlife was not disturbed in any manner. This was clearly evident when he not only pin-pointed the location of the White-naped Tit, but told us where the bird would perch in a few minutes. Another example was when we sighted the Rock Bush Quail family and he knew in advance that the bird would move from one bush to another.
Phone: +91 94 143 760 84 and +91 97 378 607 75
Please feel free to ask us any question about our time at Moti Virani. Also, stay tuned for details on the next leg of our road trip.