My days in this place were spent peacefully. I just bumped into two other people while I was there. Mohd Imran was visiting here from North-Eastern India. He was delighted with the variety of bird-life in the park. Also, on my last day, I bumped into Dr. Hegde who had come here all the way from B’lore for a break of 3 days I believe. I felt very lucky with the knowledge that I was going to spend a month in various parks.
The schedule followed was pretty much the same. We would enter the park asap and come back to the guest house as late as possible. While Hari was a good guide, he was fairly new to the birding side. He was quite upfront about it though and made no claims about being a bird expert. He did loan me his bird guide though. An experienced guide/naturalist in Tal Chappar would have been a great bonus. Hari did know the likely spots for birding and was a great help in getting to the right spots. Apart from the superstar raptors and Zitting Cisticolas , we found some of the common birds too.
One of the morning we encountered the very shy but beautiful Black Francolin. This bird is often heard than seen. While we were waiting near a pond to let a Chinkara finish his fill and move on, I saw a movement from the corner of my eye. Hari and I decided to take a round of the pond. I thought it might have been a Grey Francolin and Hari kind of agreed with me. All of a sudden out pops a black one instead. This was the fist time I saw one in real life. With some painstakingly quiet moments, I was able to grab a few record images of this beautiful bird. I wish to encounter her under better circumstances one day.
Our trips to Goshala did not go waste either. One of the noons, we were able to encounter 2 hyperactive Spotted Creepers. Trying to make some images of these lovely birds was one of the most challenging task. It took a lot of will power to hold on to the camera at odd angles, when this guys was hopping from tree to tree. Also a Flameback made a quick guest appearance but did not care to hangout with us for a little longer. The same area also gave us a White Eyed Buzzard (juv), White Bellied Minivet.
We also took a round of the village pond nearby. Amazingly, despite having a cricket match in progress, a small group of Demoiselle cranes were going about their business in the pond. Also I noticed that people around the sanctuary had a protective attitude towards the birds. In a couple of cases when we noticed some ill informed tourists approaching wildlife too close or walking on the grass, Hari was quick to pull them away. This is really interesting considering how close the sanctuary is to the village.
From what I experienced, this is a great place for raptors. Harriers and bucks will keep you busy the whole day. I got so busy that I decided not to go looking for other attractions of the park i.e. fox and cats. While we did see a wild cat crossing the road one early morning, there was no photo. Just take my word for it.
At the end of 5 days, I was still getting excited with what is in store for me at the sanctuary. Unfortunately for me my time at this raptor paradise was coming to an end. While I did not see or try to see a lot of mammal activity, this place was a really great place for raptor watching. I am quite sure that I will be coming here sometime soon.
Best way to reach Tal Chappar is via train. Delhi to Ratangarh is a convenient (DEE BKN S F EX) train that leaves Delhi at night and reaches Ratangarh early in the morning. On the way back, (BKN DEE S F EXP) is also a convenient train that leaves Ratangarh @ 9:30 and reaches Delhi early in the morning.
Do not look too far for stay options. Tal Chappar offers a decent guest house with really good food and modest but clean amenities. Write to [email protected] for booking and inquiries.
Carry a good pair of shoes around. The sanctuary offers great option for you to walk. Make use of that option. Stay on the designated paths though. It is a fragile ecosystem and you do not want to disturb it by accidently knocking out a nest or flushing a bird and exposing it to threats.
Make a day trip to Bikaner (more on that in the next blog)
I have omitted a small day trip I made to Jorbeed. I would be writing about that next.
To be continued…