Friday, 13 January 2017

West India Tour: Sultanpur - Tal Chappar

Left the hotel at 5.45am and the first thing we did was to call into a petrol station to fill the coach up with diesel. As a tour leader I hate it when this happens as it is totally unnecessary. Anyway, we then drove towards Sultanpur and walked alongside a drainage channel and out into some fields, which turned out to be a very good area. The first birds of note were Black Kites, Himalayan Buzzard, some flyover Red-naped Ibis, Painted Stork, and Comb Ducks, Shikra, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-winged Kite and Greater Coucal. After walking around a kilometre our main target here, Sind Sparrow, could be heard calling and we tracked it down to an Acacia where we scoped a fine male. 

Sind Sparrow

After a while we watched a pair of Sind Sparrows feeding in the grasses at head height and the views were excellent. Whilst watching the sparrows, our local guide Sanjay spotted a small crake in a marshy area next to us and after a short wait out popped a superb Baillon’s Crake

Baillon's Crake

An Eurasian Wryneck was also something of a surprise here. There was also a flock of Common Cranes feeding in the fields, a group of Striated Babblers passed by, Paddyfield Pipit flew over calling, both Ashy and Plain Prinias were seen in the grasses, a Steppe Eagle was perched on a pylon and a Jack Snipe flew out of a ditch next to us. This latter species was an India tick for yours truly. Also noteworthy here were the flocks of Red Avadavats flying around and feeding in the tall grasses, allowing us to approach quite closely. 

Red Avadavat

Other birds seen as we walked back to the coach included Long-tailed Shrike, Grey Francolin, Citrine Wagtail, Green Sandpiper and a pair of Brown Rock-Chats. Oh frost on the ground was a bit of a surprise this morning and having been expecting ‘desert’ temperatures I think I’ve underprepared a tad for the trip. It’s freezing here!

Brown Rock-Chat

 So we left around 8.30am and began the long 10+ drive to Tal Chhapar, making numerous stops en-route. Nothing much happened until we stopped at a great little roadside restaurant when a Short-toed Eagle flew over, and a Black-shouldered Kite hovered overhead and some Dusky Crag Martins flew by. Our first Nilgai was scoped on a hillside from the parking area of the restaurant as well. Then, with the weather still rather cool despite it being early afternoon we enjoyed wonderful clear visibility and saw Siberian Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, a close Bay-backed Shrike, Indian Robin, Variable Wheatear, Common Woodshrike, Southern Grey Shrike and a flyover Booted Eagle

Bay-backed Shrike

We made another stop to look at 3 Spotted Owlets sleeping in some roadside Acacias, and then an immature Egyptian Vulture flew over and a few Brahminy Starlings were spotted. 

Spotted Owlets

With just a couple of hours to go from here the only other interesting sighting was of Indian Gazelle (Chinkara) and we finally bowled up at the Forest Rest House of Tal Chappar at 6.45pm after a long day on the road.

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