We had 2 jeep safaris into Gir National Park, with the high hopes of seeing Asiatic Lion. This proved to be a very frustrating affair as we weren’t assigned either of the routes where the Lions had been seen the previously day. Needless to say, Lions were conspicuous by their absence during our safari along Route No 6 but we did enjoy seeing several White-eyed Buzzards, Oriental Honey Buzzard, a small group of Barred Buttonquail, Asian Openbill, Indian Thick-Knee, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Plum-headed Parakeet and Indian Paradise-Flycatcher amongst others.
|White-eyed Buzzard showed well today.|
The crazy thing was that we began the safari at 6.30am and spent the first 40 minutes driving in the dark – how pointless is that?
Anyway, we returned to the lodge for a 9.45am breakfast and then hopped in the coach and drove to a nearby scrubby area where we looked in vain for White-bellied Minivet. We had a mystery quail sp. that defied i.d as it initially skulked inside a bush before flying off. Intial id’s ranged from Jungle Bush-Quail to Yellow-legged Buttonquail…! We did see Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Jungle Prinia and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.
The afternoon safari along Route No 1 was a bit flat and I was suspicious as we were the only jeeps on this route. Where was everyone else? Bird activity was low and it seemed like a waste of time. The attitude of the driver and the compulsory park guide wasn’t too inspiring and they made no effort to look for pug marks and I even had to tell them about the Chital alarm calls we heard at one stage.
|This pair of Oriental Honey Buzzards were near the entrance to the park|
We did see Spotted Deer (Chital), Sambar, Wild Boar, Northern Plains Grey Langur and a few more Oriental Honey Buzzards.
At 5.20pm we returned along Route No 3 feeling deflated but the following half an hour was pure magic! As we rounded a corner we were beckoned by some Park Rangers and taken to where a Lioness and her two mature cubs were feeding! And they were only 25 yards away and way too close for me to photograph the whole body of the female. The two cubs were obscured behind a tree but that didn’t matter.
The feeling of pure relief at finally seeing Asiatic Lion was intense. It would have been a disaster coming all this way and to dip on it. So after a few minutes we left and drove to a large lake where a pair of Painted Sandgrouse were spotted right beside the track, much to Keith’s delight.
What a stunning bird and this was definitely the views we all craved for. If that wasn’t enough, Chris spotted a Great Thick-Knee at the water’s edge to round off a typically crazy day in India!