Drive to the Sahyadris
9 Jan 2017: Day 9 (Lodai – Moti Virani, 79 km, 2 Hrs)
We started our drive at 0620 Hrs and drove further west reaching Moti Virani by 0830 Hrs. Jugal Sir was waiting for us at his homestay where we quickly unloaded our luggage and proceeded for birding in 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 it was here in 2016 that he had documented atleast 500 birds congregating 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, we had an enlightening experience in the company of Jugal Sir. His knowledge on this region is probably more vast than Kutch itself. 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 man himself.
At Dinner, we met Veer Vaibhav and he accepted our request to take us to Fot Mahadeo the next day.
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; while we finally got an opportunity to document the bird.
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.
A Sykes’s Lark was also seen at Rampar while returning to CEDO.
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 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 after a specific species, then your best chance lies at CEDO.
Phone: +91 98 252 481 35
Veer Vaibhav: Veer Vaibhav is a fully accomplished naturalist having an indepth knowledge of the region’s wildlife and an instinctive understanding of wildlife behavior. While he creates opportunities for us to view wildlife, he ensures that the wildlife is 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 that you may have on Moti Virani. Also, do stay tuned for the next leg of the road trip.