When you think of Indian wildlife and birdwatching, the first destinations that come to mind are probably verdant forests, Himalayan mountain passes, or bird-filled wetlands. The western deserts, however, provide some truly spectacular birding in one of India’s richest cultural regions, and are
home to some of the rarest birds in India.
Our tour begins in Delhi, the capital of India, from where we go to the erstwhile royal stronghold of Jaipur. From the beautiful leopards, to the sheer variety of bird life, including Indian Pitta, Jacobin Cuckoo, Jungle Nightjar and many more, Jhalana Leopard Reserve, on the outskirts of Jaipur, is wild in the true sense of the word. Peacocks strut their stuff for their lady loves while Spotted Deer and Sambar lazily graze, likely under the watchful gaze of the reserve’s true king: the Leopard.
We then head out to the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, the last remaining stronghold of the Great Indian Bustard, a species that sadly could well be extinct in our lifetimes. En route we will enjoy one of Indian’s avian spectacles at close quarters, the wintering flock of thousands of Demoiselle Cranes at Kheechan. Other key birds include Spotted and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, and a fine assortment of cranes, raptors, larks, wheatears and buntings.
A break from desert landscapes awaits us at the charming hill station of Mount Abu, the only regular site for the endemic Green Avadavat.
Moving on to the state of Gujarat, we spend some quality birding time in the Rann of Kutch. The Rann of Kutch is a seasonally marshy region located in the Thar Desert geographic region. As it dries in the winter sun, it becomes a desert like expanse of dry silt, interspersed by lagoons and small
islands of vegetation called ‘bets’.
The Great Rann of Kutch, near Bhuj, is home to more than 200 bird species, such as the Grey Hypocolius, Marshall’s Iora, White-naped Tit, as well as other grassland and wetland birds. The South East portion of the Rann called the Little Rann, has been designated as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, as it is home to the rare and endangered Indian Wild Ass or “Khur”. The Little Rann of Kutch is also a birding paradise. During the safaris, one can expect numerous dryland bird species like sandgrouse, larks, coursers, plovers, chats, warblers, babblers, and shrikes. Among the many winter visitors is the highly endangered Macqueen’s Bustard. The saline desert is also a perfect hunting ground for many species of raptors, like eagles, falcons, buzzards, and harriers.
This is a tour of quality and quantity with some of best winter birding that India has to offer. Continue on with our Coastal Gujarat, Gir and Velavadar extension to add more spectacular birding and some rarely seen large mammals!
Day 01: Arrive Delhi
Day 02: Delhi to Jaipur
Day 03: Jaipur to Tal Chhapar
Day 04: Tal Chhapar
Day 05: Tal Chhapar to Kheechan via Bikaner
Day 06: Kheechan to Desert National Park
Day 07: Desert National Park
Day 08: Jaisalmer to Siana
Day 09: Siana
Day 10: Siana to Mount Abu
Day 11: Abu to Little Rann of Kutch
Day 12: Little Rann of Kutch
Day 13: Little Rann of Kutch to Bhuj
Day 14: Great Rann of Kutch
Day 15: Great Rann of Kutch
Day 16: Bhuj to Ahmedabad -Onward