Monday, 23 January 2017

Desert National Park

We thoroughly enjoyed a full day in and around Desert National Park targeting several species we knew we wouldn’t see elsewhere on this tour. Of course, the biggie is Great Indian Bustard and with a world population of xx it is a Critically Endangered species. We set off from the hotel at 5.45 and were on site by 7.15 enjoying a really decent packed breakfast. Then we were off, walking a few kilometres to one of the few areas left in this alleged national park that has been preserved for grasses to grow and, in turn, provide in my opinion minimal habitat for the bustards. You may be able to tell from the ‘tone’ of my words that I’m not impressed with the habitat management – especially when you see big herds of goats foraging within the confines on the National Park. It really is a joke. Nevertheless, after a reasonable walk along the sandy tracks we located the first of seven Great Indian Bustard to be seen today. 

Great Indian Bustard
What a bird this is and over the course of the next hour we enjoyed sublime scope views of these almost-prehistoric creatures. Also here were a pair of Laggar Falcons hunting overhead, against a dark grey sky that at first threatened and then produced rain. I mean, rain in the desert….. Then, as we walked back towards the coach we came across a flock of Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks feeding along the track in front of us – another key species here. 

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark

As we watched them , our first Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse of the day flew over calling. And we kept on walking, this time along the tarmac road and found 5 Cream-coloured Coursers ‘doing their thing’ about 200 yards away, and we spent some time scoping them. They are such cool birds. A Tawny Eagle gave incredible close views as it didn’t mind us walking underneath it, as it remained perched t the top of a roadside tree.

Tawny Eagle

We then drove back along the road and walked into a surprisingly well vegetated section of the park with the hope of finding White-browed Bushchat. After a lengthy search we eventually found one and it showed rather nicely. It spent most of the time out of sight on the floor amidst the knee high vegetation, occasionally flying up onto a tall bush to gauge its surroundings. 

White-browed Bushchat

What a cracker and almost as rare as the bustards! Other goodies here was a surprise Graceful Prinia, Pallid Harrier, Desert Whitethroat, and Isabelline (Xinjiang) Shrike. We then walked up onto a small hill to scope the gathering of vultures we had seen earlier. In pretty short time we had nailed a couple of Cinereous Vultures and then a Red-headed Vulture amongst the hordes of Eurasian Griffons and were much-wanted lifers for some of the group. A Long-billed Pipit was also found here.

By now it was midday and we decided to drive to the tented camp where we were to spend the night. It’s not as bad as it sounds as the tents are very large with double beds and en-suite bathrooms. A pair of Desert Larks greeted our arrival in the car park, which was a good omen. And we followed that with the first of several Red-tailed Wheatears to be seen this afternoon. After lunch, a short drive to a rocky area was enlivened by more rain but we soldiered through and finally everyone had a brilliant Indian (Rock) Eagle Owl teed up in the scope as it sat silhouetted against the clearing sky. 

Indian Eagle Owl

An Asian Desert Warbler, Desert Wheatear and a group of Trumpeter Finches completed the avian spectacle. But our exciting day concluded with Kevin and Keith rescuing a trapped Desert Fox from a snare, which needed the remains of one leg amputated before it could be released. Well done boys! And that was our action-packed day.

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