India - Gujarat - 30th March to 9th April 2015

Published by Julian Thomas (julianthomas AT talktalk.net)

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A selection of images from the trip can be seen at
https://www.flickr.com/photos/neiljulianthomas/sets/72157652015597101

Leaders: Nick Acheson and Manisha Rajput.

Participants: Jane Clayton, Julian Thomas, Daphne Hills, Malcolm and Stephanie Peaker, Siegfried and Wendy Schmitt, Caroline Tero, Lance Tuckett, Marion Dale, Paul Marchant, Ian and Freda Rickwood.

This was a Naturetrek tour led by Nick Acheson and Manisha Rajput. Nick has phenomenal field skills and an encyclopedic knowledge of wildlife provided he is given sufficient time to access the correct database in his cerebrum for the relevant country or continent, and Manisha had an impressive knowledge of Indian wildlife as well as an invaluable ability to smooth dealings with bureaucracy and solve problems. The cost was £2995 per person, although a trip to India is like a Ryanair flight, in that several extra costs need to be considered, such as applying for an Indian visa, and camera fees in the parks. To visit the various sites did involve a lot of travelling, but the overall verdict would be a thoroughly enjoyable and well organized tour. We saw almost all the mammals we could have reasonably expected to see, although the time of year was probably not the best for birding.

30th March – 1st April Velavadar Wildlife Reserve
1st April – 4th April Gir Forest
5th April – 7th April Kachchh
7th April – 9th April Dhrangadhra Sanctuary (Dasada)

30th March 2015

Arrival in the early hours at Ahmenabad allowed 3 hours recovery time before we were summoned by a wakeup call for breakfast and departure to Velavadar, a journey of three hours. Like most Indian cities it took forever to clear the ill-defined boundaries, but even within this area there was much to see amongst the intense human activity. When we last visited India (in 2003) there had been a total drought in Gujarat, but this was not the case this year, and we passed many jheels with a variety of water birds which included few Indian and many Little Cormorants, Purple, Indian Pond, and Grey Herons, Little, Great and Cattle Egrets, Painted Storks, Black-headed and Red-naped Ibis, Comb Duck, and the always impressive Sarus Cranes, with 2 family groups, totaling 6 birds. Raptors were represented by Black Kites in the city and Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites in open country. Other expected species included Red-wattled Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts, Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, White-throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eaters, Yellow Wagtail, White-eared and Red-vented Bulbuls, Long-tailed Shrikes, Black Drongo and House Crows. However, to my everlasting shame I hesitated too long before calling a Rock Python that I saw stretched out at the edge of a jheel. As we traveled down the approach road to Velavadar the first mammals in the shape of Blackbuck and Nilgai were seen.

Blackbuck Lodge was an extremely luxurious establishment set around some reed fringed pools and once refreshed I ventured out into the blistering heat to watch Blackbuck. One mature male was very closely following a female, angling back his horns and flattening his ears as he approached. Another male who had the temerity to approach was chased off at speed. There were several other Blackbuck and Nilgai around, and a large Wild Boar hauled his mud-plastered bulk out of a wallow. Several additional bird species were seen around the lodge, the best being a superb adult male Montagu’s Harrier, with a supporting cast of Shikra, Hoopoe, Greater Coucal, Grey Francolin, Silverbill, Purple Sunbird, Common Kingfisher, Moorhen, Grey-crowned Sparrow larks and Rufous-tailed Larks, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Tailorbird, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Spotted Owlet, Indian Robin and Rosy Starlings.

As the heat of the day began to recede somewhat we headed into the park, biting the bullet of paying the somewhat extortionate camera fees, which at least do go to help park management. The extensive grasslands with scattered trees vaguely resembled African savannahs and in many areas were carpeted with spectacular herds of Blackbuck, which must vie for the title of the most stylish and handsome antelope in the world (if such anthropocentric judgements have any validity). Unfortunately the largest lek, with 50+ stunning males strutting their stuff was well away from the track. Mingling with the Blackbuck were numbers of Nilgai, the fawn coloured females slightly resembling Kudu, and strongly contrasting with the lumbering slate grey males with their disproportionally short horns. We were fortunate to locate some of the areas elusive predators, although as we were in the hindmost of three vehicles our views of the Striped Hyaena were fleeting. I had assumed it must have lain down in long grass, but realised later that as this was a den site it must have gone to ground. We also saw the Indian Fox here, initially running off showing the key feature of the distinctive black tipped tail, although it paused to view us. Almost at the other end of the canid size spectrum Indian Wolves were seen at a known den site. There had been two adults seen, but by the time we arrived one adult was in view, resting on an earth bank with a half grown cub showing intermittently. Fortunately I had brought my scope so we could enjoy reasonable views of this impressive animal. A variety of birds were seen including several harriers, but all those positively identified from photos were Montagu's. Around drying jheels were various waders - Temminck's and Little Stints, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Green and Wood Sandpipers, with Greater Flamingoes wading in the shallows and ducks including Spotbill, Teal, Wigeon and Pintail. Birds coming to drink at these pools included Grey-necked Bunting, Crested Lark and Long-billed Pipit. Other additional species were Rufous Treepie and small parties of overflying Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse.

The day concluded with a splendid al fresco meal, with company from Indian Hares, but the only venomous creature I could find was a scorpion rather than the Saw-scaled Viper.

31st March 2015

A cool clear morning presaged another blisteringly hot day. We left for the park at 6.45, but not before Purple Heron, Brown Shrike, Baya Weaver and Clamorous reed warbler were seen around the lodge. At the park entrance numbers of Rosy Starlings were feeding on fruiting bushes and the rather deplorable pursuit of large numbers of Blackbuck by feral dogs did at least allow some impressive action shots. On entry to the park we made straight to the Hyaena dens, and were fortunate enough to be viewing an adult Striped Hyaena moving around in the long grass, and then making a brief appearance with a cub before they went underground. A little further on a Wolf was seen at the edge of a thicket which it then entered. There was a kill here that was also being scavenged by Wild Boar, and the inevitable feral dogs, with Greater Spotted Eagles in attendance. This was far from the end of our encounters with Wolves, as from the top of a viewing platform two more were seen moving through the grassland for considerable distances, as well as visiting a watering hole. We had great views with the scope although the photos would only really be record shots. Other mammals seen were Nilgai, Boar and Blackbuck, although we missed a Jungle Cat sneaking behind us. New additions to the bird list were Common Quail, Red Collared Dove, and Siberian Stonechat. During siesta time a Purple Heron emerged from the typha by the pond, and 30 female and one male Blackbuck were grazing within yards of the back of our chalet. On our return to the park in the afternoon a herd of 150-200 males was an impressive sight. The hyaenas again performed around 6.00 pm, with eventually three emerging, and lying side by side on the earth mound at the burrows entrance, but also sitting up and briefly wandering around. The dip of the mornings Jungle cat was avenged when eagle eyed Daphne located one lurking under a bush by a pool, presumably it was lying in wait for birds coming to drink but unfortunately it duly sneaked off. A majestic Dalmatian Pelican came sailing past to complete my world set of pelicans. Other new birds were an elegant Marsh Sandpiper, Reef Heron, and Zitting Cisticola.

In the evening Manesha took up my bizarre enthusiasm to find a Saw-scaled Viper and took us out on a reptile hunt but the only venomous creature this time was a Black Widow type spider, as well as an impressive Indian bullfrog, and a Gecko.

1st April 2015

We left early for the Gir Forest, but not before I got some nice flight shots of the Purple Heron. It was then a 6 hour drive through intensively cultivated plains, chaotic bustling towns and villages before we entered the low undulating hills covered with dry deciduous woodland that characterised the Gir Forest. As we left Velavadar sightings of mammals became few and far between, but a few Nilgai and Blackbuck were eking out a living amongst the agriculture. New birds along the route were Indian Roller, Koel, Dusky Crag Martin, and Oriental White-eye. Lion Safari Camp overlooked a typha fringed reservoir which held various water-birds that began to reveal themselves, such as Yellow Bittern, Little Grebe, Purple Swamp-hen, and Pied Kingfisher, while overhead sailed elegant Crested Tree-swifts and a Booted Eagle. I offered Nick the chance of using a photo of this bird to give credibility to his claim of Booted Eagle over Norwich, but he would have none of it. In the evening there was a spectacular roosting flight of Great, Little, Intermediate and Cattle Egrets, Purple Herons, Indian Cormorants and Ibises to this reservoir, with an outward flight of Black-crowned Night Herons. In the grounds of Lion Camp flocks of Yellow Wagtails were present, as well as Large Grey Babblers, Magpie Robin, and Common Iora.

We drove into the forest just before 4.00 and the bureaucracy needed to achieve this was soon forgotten. Herds of Chital, fewer Sambhar and Grey Langurs epitomised dry deciduous forest, but it was not until late in the day that we reached a stakeout for a male Lion, who roused himself and set off on a patrol of the woodlands, stopping regularly to urinate. The Asiatic Lion is said to be slightly smaller than the African Lion, with a less full mane but he was undeniably an awesome animal. We also had great views of Asiatic Jackal.

Our guide seemed delighted we wished to stop to look at birds, and we were equally delighted with his knowledge of stakeouts for night-birds, and besides the inevitable Spotted Owlet he soon had us viewing Grey Nightjar, a gorgeous Mottled Wood Owl, a severe looking Brown Fish-owl, and a Collared Scops Owl viewing the world from a hole in a hollow tree. We also saw Changeable Hawk Eagle both at the nest and soaring overhead. Oriental Honey Buzzards, White-eyed Buzzards, Tickell's Blue. Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Small Minivet, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia and Blue Peafowl were all additions to the list.

2nd April 2015

Weather followed the same pattern as previous days, with a reasonably cool early morning being followed by ferocious heat and cloudless skies. Two Black-naped Hares were spotlighted as we drove towards the park, but the only mammals encountered in the park were Sambhar, Chital, and 2 Grey Mongeese that seemed to flow rather than run over the ground. Avian highlights included Blossom-headed Parakeets courtship feeding, and exceptional views of a Crested Hawk Eagle that was totally preoccupied with viewing something, presumably prey that had gone to ground, beneath it. Other species seen were Large Cuckoo-shrike, Wooly-necked Stork, Glossy Ibis, Ashy Prinia, Black-backed Flameback, Barred Buttonquail Yellow-eyed Babbler, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, and Crested Serpent-eagle.

Returning to Lion Safari Camp I went down to the shores of the lake where the rest of the morning was spent in relaxed birding and photography. An Oriental Honey Buzzard gave the most fantastic views as it soared overhead and gave wing clapping displays. Purple Heron, Yellow Bittern and Purple Swamp-hen were seen at the edge of the typha, and River Terns flew downstream. Green Bee-eaters were nesting in what seemed a rather vulnerable site in a bank just 1m high. Two additional species, that one might have expected earlier flew over - Little Swift and Brahminy Kite.

The afternoon excursion into the park gave three sightings of five Lions. The first was at a kill, where one male Lion was in view, ignoring Jungle Crows that were scavenging the kill right by it, a very different response to that shown to vultures. A second male Lion roused himself and strolled to a conveniently close water hole to slake his thirst. A further two male Lions were found by a waterhole by our driver. This was a phenomenal spot, with just the top of the lions head visible 100m away as we drove past at a fair speed, which made it rather inexplicable that he then drove past a lioness lying in full view some 10m from the road. Mistake rectified with a quick reverse we were then able to watch this rather magnificent specimen give vent to a series of roars, dispelling the idea I had held in ignorance that roaring was the sole preserve of male Lions. As we left the park we encountered 2 examples of the exquisite Yellow Wattled Lapwing.

3rd April 2015

Once again a cool morning followed by a clear hot but quite breezy day. It seemed to take an age to enter the park today with only one man available to complete the endless form filling but eventually we slipped our leashes and were soon admiring the same two Asiatic lions that we had seen at the kill yesterday, stretched out and backlit by the early morning sun.

We had stopped to view a Red-breasted Flycatcher with the sound of screeching Ring-necked Parakeets not really registering until our guide pointed out a Rat Snake that had climbed up into the canopy around what was an obviously a nest site and was been given a hard time by the parrots, at least one of which tweaked its tail, before the snake slithered to the ground and disappeared. Around the large Kamaleshwar Dam we saw a handful of Mugger Crocodiles and an Oriental Darter, while overhead soared two Spotted Eagles, which gave fantastic photo opportunities.

In the late morning an excursion was made to view a roost of c300 Indian Flying Foxes. Although the bats are resting there was plenty of activity to view with mothers nursing young, and bats on the sun facing side leaving the roost and flying round to the other side.

In the afternoon the same two male lions were seen, somnolent under an evergreen tree, but later on a better Lion experience was provided by a group of 3 females and one male, and two females engaged in half-hearted play. They may be inbred survivors on a forest life-raft in a sea of humanity, but I thought the condition of these Asiatic Lions was superb. A new mammal for the trip, the Ruddy Mongoose ran across the track here, but we dipped on the next potential new mammal just a few hundred metres further on as the leopard seen by the passengers of the jeep in front of us was doing what Leopards do best, ie being invisible. Bird sightings included Honey Buzzard, Shikra, and Crested Hawk Eagle.

4th April 2015

Once again we went into the Gir Forest, on the way seeing 2 Indian Hares, and Stone Curlew with the spotlight. The trip into the park was somewhat anti-climatic, and after the excellent Dinesh had spoilt us on our first trip we had a pair of duffers for our guide and driver. We said goodbye to the pair of male lions, as well as Nilgai, Wild Boar, Chital, Sambhar, Grey Mongoose,
I then spent a very pleasant few hours by the lake, getting excellent pictures of Yellow Bittern, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Ashy Prinia, Purple Sunbird, and a White-breasted kingfisher tackling a bullfrog. An Indian Monitor explored some refuse by the lakeshore, and two Mugger Crocodiles surfaced amongst the floating vegetation.

5th April 2015

Most of the day was taken up with a long drive to Katchh, from an overnight stay in Rajkot. It was a pity there was no safe pull in for the coach along the fast road across the salt pans and saline lagoons of the Gulf of Kachchh as they held many birds including Whiskered and Sandwich terns, Greater Flamingoes, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Slender-billed Gull, Dalmatian Pelican, and before here a flock of Common Cranes were seen in flight. After a splendid Gujarati thali lunch we arrived at Infinity Resorts, our destination at 3.00 pm, so I then spent some time exploring the area around the resort, finding a few arid country birds such as two fly over Indian Coursers, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Common Babbler.

At night we ventured out in two vehicles to a flat scrub fringed pan to see what we could find with a spotlight, and located 2 Indian Hares, 5 Jackals, and an Indian (pale) hedgehog trundling next to the road. Nocturnal birds were represented by Indian Nightjars, and 2 splendid but rather unexpected Indian Eagle Owls.

6th April 2015

Once again hot and sunny after a reasonably cool morning. At sunrise at the resort saw Nilgai, Shikra and Blyth's Reed Warbler. A tiny polluted pool in a village held Little Ringed Plover, Temminck's Stint, Common Sandpiper and Stilts, that could all be photographed at a range of a few yards. We headed through low scrub covered hills to the same pan that we visited last night. This should have been a seasonal wetland, but with a failure of the monsoon last year drought had turned it into an almost lifeless expanse of dust. There were some Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Crested Larks and Tawny Pipit, and a varied smattering of raptors, which comprised Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, 2 Short-toed Eagles, and Black-shouldered Kites.

In the afternoon we went to an area of dry thorn scrub forest covering low rocky hills. On the way we stopped to view a remarkably tame Syke's Lark by the roadside, which bore almost no relation to the illustration in my Inskipp guide. We were searching here for a number of localised species, and one of them, the White-naped Tit was found with relative ease by our local expert Bikram. Eye-catching in flight it was also viewed singing. We had fleeting views of rather shy Chinkara here, and other birds included Wryneck, Red-collared dove (bizarrely courting a Eurasian Collared Dove), Indian Bushlark, and I photographed the Bay-backed Shrike, which could just get my vote as the smartest of the genus.

7th April 2015

Before breakfast at Infinity resorts I saw Indian Courser in flight, and was able to get some flight shots of Black-shouldered Kite. Most of the day was spent in a long drive to Dasada, with a brief stop in Bhuj to visit the Rann of Kutch museum, well worth the 50p admission, but it also gave a convenient opportunity to aim the scope at a tank (reservoir) in the town, which held a stunning concentration of water-birds, including White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Little and Indian Cormorants, Oriental Darters, three Egret Species, Painted and Asian Openbill Storks, Spoonbills, Greater Flamingoes, Comb and Spotbill Ducks, Stilts, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Temminck's and Little Stints, Gull-billed, Whiskered, and River Terns.

A similar selection of shorebirds , terns and reef egrets was seen on the return journey across the salt pans at the Gulf of Kachchh. Crossing one the few areas not given over to agriculture we had our first views of the fabulous Wild Asses. We arrived at Dasada at 5.00 and pottering around the grounds saw Striated Heron, Spotted Little Owl and various other Egrets and Herons in a pond adjacent to the grounds.

8th April 2015

We were out at first light for an excursion into the Wild Ass sanctuary. Much of the area consisted of desiccated salt pan, interspersed with low islands of sparse grasses and scrub. On the drive out we saw Harriers, Common Cranes, Nilgai and Wild Boar, but the first stop was to view impossibly cute Desert Fox cubs around the entrance to their earth. Their parents were also seen slinking over the plains, and we also had several views of the larger Indian Foxes with their distinctively black tipped tail. Two single Wild Asses were seen before we found an unapproachable group of 11, which bolted when we were 400m away. Fortunately a second herd of some 20 animals was far more confiding, and we viewed them from 50 m. They were really beautiful animals, and so perfectly adapted to this harsh environment. Somewhat to my surprise a Short-eared Owl was flushed here, but birds were scarce, with Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Crested and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks just about all that was seen. On the drive back we stopped by a shallow lily covered lagoon, where we could view the striking Pheasant-tailed jacanas in breeding plumage, Cotton pygmy geese, Lesser Whistling Ducks, Garganey, and Coots.

There was a significant wetland across the road from the lodge with dozens of egrets, large numbers of Glossy Ibis, and many waders.

In the afternoon a decision was made to try for something different outside the Ass Sanctuary. Apart from photographing an unbelievably tame Purple Heron the first stop was at a quarry, where two superb Indian Eagle Owls were on view, one flying up to the lip of the quarry, the other skulking under a bush. We then headed out to a wide grassy floodplain, dotted with Nilgai, and the odd Wild Boar, and with a little searching four Indian Coursers were located and viewed at close range from the canter. It seems amazing sometimes that one can approach wildlife closer in a massive clanking lorry than on foot. Montagu’s Harriers and many Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse were seen towards evening, and J found a cast skin of the world's most dangerous snake (in terms of fatalities), the Saw-scaled Viper. We had intended to spotlight back from here, but the canters lighting system failed and necessitated some versatile bodged repairs involving scavenged wire and a hammer before we were on our way, but our efforts were only rewarded with Indian Nightjars.

9th April 2015

On our final day in Gujarat we drove to an impressive and extensive wetland, that held a fantastic diversity and abundance of water-birds. The shallow reed-fringed lagoons were filled with Greater and fewer intense pink Lesser Flamingoes. In between them swam Garganey, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, and Spotbills, while lines of Glossy Ibis, Great, Little and Indian Cormorants, and Spoonbills flew to and fro. There were a few circling terns and Gulls, including Pallas’s Gull, although sadly none were the rather magnificent adults. Around the edges of the lagoons were dozens of Egrets, Grey and Purple Herons, with ungainly Purple Swamp-hens flopping around the reed-beds. There were a variety of waders, mainly Black-tailed Godwits, Temminck's Stints and Ruff, with fewer Spotted Redshanks, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Collared Pratincole, and Greater Painted Snipe. Such a collection of birds would obviously attract raptors, and a few Marsh Harriers and two Spotted Eagles were seen. On the grassy meadows there were flocks of Yellow Wagtails, Paddyfield Pipits, Eastern Stonechat and loafing Sandgrouse.

Later in the morning I paid a last visit to the lagoons next to the lodge, seeing both Common and Painted Snipe here, with the last mammal of the trip, and indeed the only one of the day, a slinking Grey Mongoose.

Species Lists

Mammals

The list follows ‘Mammals of the world, a checklist’, by Duff and Lawson.

Indian Hare Lepus nigricollis. Two were seen with the aid of the spotlight at Blackbuck Lodge, and again on the approach road to the Gir Forest, and spotlighting in Kachchh.

Five-striped Palm Squirrel Funambulus pennanti. This adaptable species was seen on all but the last day, and was common in gardens, villages, and in the Gir Forest. A mating pair was the object of attention of another squirrel who made repeated unsuccessful attempts to disrupt proceedings.

Jungle Cat Felis chaus. We had excellent views in the evening of 31/3 of one lurking under a bush by a pool, presumably it was lying in wait for birds coming to drink but unfortunately it duly sneaked off. Earlier in the day we had missed one that ran behind the jeep – the species seems to be no means exclusively nocturnal or crepuscular.

Asiatic Lion Panthera leo persica. In the evening of 1/4 we reached a stakeout for a male Lion, who roused himself and set off on a patrol of the woodlands, stopping regularly to urinate. The Asiatic Lion is said to be slightly smaller than the African Lion, with a less full mane but he was undeniably an awesome animal. On the 2/4 the afternoon excursion into the park gave three sightings of five Lions. The first was at a kill, where one male Lion was in view, ignoring Jungle Crows that were scavenging the kill right by it, a very different response to that shown to vultures. A second male Lion roused himself and strolled to a conveniently close water hole to slake his thirst. A further two male Lions were found by a waterhole by our driver. This was a phenomenal spot, with just the top of the lions head visible 100m away as we drove past at a fair speed, which made it rather inexplicable that we then drove past a lioness lying in full view some 10m from the road. The mistake was rectified with a quick reverse and we were then able to watch this rather magnificent specimen give vent to a series of roars, dispelling the idea I had held in ignorance that roaring was the sole preserve of male Lions. On the 3/4 we were able to view the same two Asiatic lions that we had seen at the kill yesterday, stretched out and backlit by the early morning sun. In the afternoon the same two male lions were seen, somnolent under an evergreen tree, but later on a better Lion experience was provided by a group of 3 females and one male, and two females engaged in half-hearted play. They may be inbred survivors on a forest life-raft in a sea of humanity, but I thought the condition of these Asiatic Lions was superb.

Indian Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii. This terrestrial and diurnal predator was seen daily in the Gir Forest, with four individuals seen, and another two at Dasada. One in the Gir Forest was watched digging for termites in soft soil.

Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithii. Just one example of this species, with its distinctively black tipped tail was seen running across the track in the Gir Forest.

Striped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena. There was a den site fairly close to the road in flat grassland at Velavadar, which simplified our search for this animal. There were three cubs, but on the 30/3 we just had fleeting views of an adult. On entry to the park the following morning we made straight to the Hyaena dens, and were fortunate enough to be viewing an adult Striped Hyaena moving around in the long grass, and then making a brief appearance with a cub before they went underground. The hyaenas again performed around 6.00 pm, with eventually three emerging, and lying side by side on the earth mound at the burrows entrance, but also sitting up and briefly wandering around.

Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis. One was seen at Velavadar, running off at speed in the evening, but the best views were reserved for the Wild Ass Sanctuary at Dasada, where 3 were seen trotting between patches of scrub, or loafing under bushes. The tail of this species is distinctively black tipped.

Desert Red Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla. Given the propensity to split bird species on the slightest provocation it seems astonishing this form of fox is still lumped with Vulpes vulpes, as it differs spectacularly in structure, colouration and size, almost tending towards Fennec with its large ears and pale sandy colouration. Presumably there is a cline between these desert forms and northern populations. Some 4 examples (2 adults and 2 cubs) were seen in the Wild Ass Sanctuary.

Indian Wolf Canis lupus pallipes. We had a number of sightings of this impressive animal at Velavadar, where although the population is very small (12-16) the open terrain made it easy to locate them at a distance. On the 30/3 they were seen at a known den site. There had been two adults seen, but by the time we arrived one adult was in view, resting on an earth bank with a half grown cub showing intermittently. Fortunately I had brought my scope so we could enjoy reasonable views. The following morning a Wolf was seen at the edge of a thicket which it then entered. There was a kill here that was also being scavenged by Wild Boar, and the inevitable feral dogs, with Greater Spotted Eagles in attendance. Perhaps the best views were from the top of a viewing platform where two more were seen moving through the grassland for considerable distances, as well as visiting a watering hole. We had great views with the scope although the photos were only record shots.

Golden Jackal Canis aureus. Two individuals were seen in the Gir Forest, one giving really good views as it came to drink at a waterhole. In our spotlighting trip at Kachchh five different Jackals were located.

Indian Hedgehog Hemiechinus micropus. One was found in arid scrub as we set out spot-lighting in Kachchh. Photographs show the pale based spines of this species that distinguish it from the Indian Long-eared Hedgehog – couldn’t see the ears as it had rolled up!

Indian Flying Fox Pteropus giganteus. On the morning of 3/4 we visited a roost of this species in a Banyan Tree. There were several hundred within the canopy, and many females could be seen carrying or nursing young. As the heat of the day intensified bats on the sunward side were leaving the roost in numbers and flying round to the shaded side of the grove.

Northern Plains Grey Langur Semnopithecus entellus. This species was common in the woodlands of the Gir Forest, with several troops encountered on each visit.

Indian Wild Boar Sus scrofa. This species was fairly common in the grasslands of Velavadar, where up to 20 were seen each visit. Some large boars were seen scavenging a dead Nilgai. Just three individuals were seen in the Gir Forest, and a few others rooting on flood plains at Dasada.

Chital Cervus axis. Perhaps the most beautiful of all deer, this species was common in the woodlands of the Gir Forest, with c200 seen daily.

Sambar Cervus unicolor. This large deer was less numerous than the Chital in the Gir Forest, but still fairly common with up to 50 seen daily in the woodlands.

Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus. This large antelope was seen virtually daily, with the largest numbers at Velavadar, and around Dasada, where a herd of 40 were seen. The peculiarly proportioned and distinctive blue grey bulls were usually separate from the cows. Interactions were seen where a clearly dominant bull would intimidate another with a parallel walk to show his bulk and perhaps the blackness of his legs.

Blackbuck Antelope cervicapra. This most stunning of ungulates was seen in good numbers in its stronghold of Velavadar NP. The vicinity of the lodge actually offered the best and most leisured viewing of behavior, with males approaching females with their horns angled backwards and their head pointing skywards. There appeared to be a division of reproductive strategies with some males guarding a herd of females, which they followed, and from which all other males were repulsed, while other males congregated in leks, with dominant males apparently occupying the most favoured areas. Several hundred were seen each day at Velavadar, with a very few in surrounding agricultural land. One herd was chased by feral dogs, this otherwise deplorable event gave a great photo opportunity with leaping antelopes.

Chinkara Gazella bennettii. This species was much harder to locate than in Rajasthan and we only had rather fleeting views of two animals in open woodland in Kachchh.

Asiatic Wild Ass Equus hermionus. The first examples of this much desired species were seen from the main road on the journey to Dasada, with five individuals in an area of savannah. On our excursion into the Sanctuary the following day we first found single Stallions before we found an unapproachable group of 11, which bolted when we were 400m away. Fortunately a second herd of some 20 animals was far more confiding, and we viewed them from 50 m. They were really beautiful animals, and so perfectly adapted to this harsh environment.

Birds

This list follows that in ‘Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent’ by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, which generally follows that of ‘An annotated checklist to the birds of the Oriental region’, by Inskipp, Lindsay and Duckworth, except where species are grouped out of taxonomic order for ease of comparison.

Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus. This gamebird was quite widespread, and seen daily during the trip, with up to five seen daily.

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix. One was seen sneaking into long grass in Velavadar.

Andalusian Hemipode Turnix sylvatica. I know it is more properly called Small Buttonquail, but who could resist entering the evocative old name into a trip log? One was seen crossing the road as we headed for the Eagle Owl site in the Dasada area.

Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator. Two birds were seen from the jeep in the Gir Forest, initially on the ground, but they took flight, to depart in rather fluttering flight.

Blue Peafowl Pavo cristatus. This species was common in Gir Forest, with up to 30 seen daily, and was also seen at Kachchh and Dasada. So familiar, it is easy to forget this is one of the most spectacular birds in the world.

Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica. About 12 birds were seen with other ducks on a well vegetated roadside lagoon near Dasada on the 8th April.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. About 20 birds were seen on the jheels at Dasada

Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos. This species was one of the more regularly seen ducks, with 5-50 seen at various locations - Velavadar, Gir, with the largest numbers on the jheel at Dasada.

Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus. This is a very smart little duck, even if not quite as stylish as the African Pygmy Goose. Five were seen on the well vegetated jheel we stopped to view on 8th April at Dasada, with 6 seen on another roadside pond on the 9th April.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. A few birds were seen on lagoons at Velavadar on 30th March.

Pintail Anas acuta. Some 10 birds were seenon lagoons at Velavadar on 30th March, and another 30 on the jkeels at Dasada on the 9th April.

Common Teal Anas crecca. Two birds seen on lagoons in Velavadar, and c30 birds in the wetlands at Dasada.

Garganey Anas querquedula. A few examples ofthis very smart duck were viewed on the lake at Dasada on 8thApril, with any more, c50 on the jheel on the 9th April, and the also substantial numbers on the wetland across the road from our lodge.

Teal Anas crecca. Just one seen at Velavadar, with larger numbers, c30 seen on the jheels at Dasada on the 9th April.

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata. Some 30 birds were seen on lagoons at Velavadar, on the tank at Bhuj and on the jheels at Dasada.

Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha. This resident species was fairly widespread, with 3-50 birds seen on 5 days.

Tufted Duck. Just two birds seen on the jheels at Dasada on the 9th April.

Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla. One bird was seen in open woodland at Kachchh as we searched for the White-naped Tit.

Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopus mahrattensis. Three birds were seen in the woodlands of the Gir Forest.

Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense. Two examples of this handsome woodpecker were seen in the Gir Forest.

Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala. This bird was seen daily in the Gir Forest, with congregations of up to 10 in fruiting fig trees.

Indian Roller. Coracias benghalensis. Not a particularly common species in Gujarat, with just 3 birds seen on wires in scattered locations during long drives.

Hoopoe Upupa epops. Single birds were seen at Blackbuck Lodge, and at our resort in the Rann of Kutch.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. One bird was seen each day fishing around the pond in the grounds on Blackbuck Lodge, and another in Gir Forest gave very close views. This species always seems far more approachable in South Asia than in the UK.

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis. This common and spectacular species was seen daily, usually, but not always in the vicinity of water. There were a number of photogenic birds around Lion Safari Camp in the Gir Forest, one of which seized an Indian Bull-Frog, which seemed to be a very large prey item, although it managed to fly with this burden.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis. One to five birds were seen daily over rivers and lakes in the Gir Forest, with another 5 birds over the wetland near Dasada we visited on our last day.

Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis. A common roadside bird throughput Gujarat, and seen daily in all areas visited. Birds were nesting in an earth bank at Lion Safari Camp; the holes only 1m or so above the road, which surprised me as I would have thought they would have chosen a more inaccessible site.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis. A fairly common and widespread species wherever there was tree cover, but more often located by its ‘poop,poop’ calls. It was seen daily at Velavadar and in the Gir Forest.

Common Koel Eudynamys scolopacea. This noisy but secretive species was seen daily in the Gir Forest and at Dasada. All birds seen were the jet black males.

Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri. A common species throughout Gujarat, particularly in Gir Forest. Nesting birds were seen mobbing a Rat Snake that had climbed up into the canopy towards their nest sites.

Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala. This attractive species was seen daily in Gir Forest. Courtship feeding was seen, and birds were also seen feeding on the large seeds of Dhak (flame of the forest).

Little Swift Apus affinis. Small numbers (4-5 birds) were regularly seen over the lake below Lion safari Camp in Gir Forest.

Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata. Up to 10 birds were sailing over the lakes at Lion Safari Camp, as always an elegant and graceful flier.

Spotted Owlet Athene brama. As expected this was the most commonly observed owl, birds seen both by spotlighting and also around roost sites in ruins and old trees by day. 1-4 birds were seen daily at Velavadar and in the Gir Forest, with others around our lodge in Dasada.

Brown Fish Owl. Ketupa zeylonensis. One roosting bird gave terrific views in Gir Forest, staring at us with yellow eyes and what could anthropomorphically be described as an outraged expression.

Mottled Wood Owl. Strix ocellata. Roosting birds were found in two locations in Gir Forest, both birds resting in relatively exposed positions. A beautifully marked owl, with large liquid black eyes.

Collared Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena. One was seen viewing the world from a roost/nest site in a hollow tree, the bird itself an object lesson in the art of camouflage.

Indian Eagle Owl Bubo benghalensis. Two birds were found in an open barren plain while we were spotlighting at Kachchh on the 5th April, and another two, that may have been fairly recently fledged juveniles, as opposed to a breeding pair were seen in a quarry near Dasada in the Little Rann. As with Eurasian Eagle Owl a most impressive nocturnal predator.

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus. We flushed one bird from a ‘bet’ in the Dhangadhra Sanctuary as we viewed the Wild Asses.

Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus. Roosting birds were seen on two occasions in the Gir Forest. They may have been the same bird as the sites were close together, with the birds resting along a horizontal branch, about 3m above the ground.

Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus. This species was seen at night while spot-lighting at Kachchh and at Dasada, with arid plains with scattered acacia bushes seeming to be the preferred habitat.

Rock Dove Columba livia. Nearly ubiquitous around towns.

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. A common species throughout Gujarat, and seen daily in farmland, villages and arid country.

Red Collared Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica. A few birds were seen at Velavadar, and in Gir Forest. At Kachchh one bird was perched next to a Collared Dove and they appeared to be engaged in courtship behavior.

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis. A common and widespread species which was seen daily throughout the trip in fairly large numbers.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis. Perhaps five birds were seen trundling over the ground in villages in the Gir Forest.

Yellow-footed Pigeon Treron phoenicoptera. Some 40 examples of this subtly gorgeous bird arrived in trees around Lion Safari Camp in the late afternoon.

Common Crane Grus grus. The Demoiselle Cranes that winter in Gujarat had already departed, but a group of c100 examples of this species were seen on flight on the 5th April, and another two over the Dhangadhra Sanctuary on 8th April.

White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus. One or two birds were seen around the lake at Lion Safari Camp, with others in the lakes at Dasada.

Brown Crake Amaurornis akool. Pairs of birds were seen wandering around reedbeds at the lake below Lion safari camp. They were seen to catch and eat prawns.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyria. A few birds were seen daily around the lake at Lion Safari Camp, and c30 birds were seen at the wetland at Dasada. These Swamphens had greyish heads.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. A common species, with small numbers seen on most days on small well vegetated ponds across Gujarat.

Common Coot Fulica atra. Only seen on lakes and jheels in the Little Rann of Kutch, where it was quite numerous, with c500 seen on the morning of the 9th April.

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus. The only sandgrouse species seen, this bird was quite common at Velavadar, and in the arid areas of Kachchh and around Dasada. They were typically seen in pairs, either poddling about in dusty plains, or flying to drink, this species being a diurnal drinker.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus. A single non-breeding bird was seen on the lake at Lion Safari Camp in Gir, but I was very pleased to get close views and photos of two fabulous breeding birds on a well vegetated lake at Dasada.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. A widespread and quite common bird throughout Gujarat, with 2-40 seen daily in habitats ranging from large saline lagoons to tiny polluted puddles in villages.

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta. Some 30 birds on drying lagoons at Velavadar were the only ones seen.

Greater Painted-Snipe Rostratula benghalensis. One of this unusual and beautifully marked species was seen skulking in cover at the wetland we visited in the morning at Dasada, and another was flushed from the wetland across the road from our lodge on the last afternoon.

Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus. Three birds were seen in flight close to the lodge in Kachchh, but the best views were reserved for Dasada, where four birds were found in a large grassy floodplain, and allowed a close approach in a lorry! to admire their exquisite plumage.

Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus. Pairs were seen daily at Velavadar, and in open woodland in Gir Forest, where incubating birds were seen, often giving fantastic views at very close range. These smaller and shorter winged Indian birds may be split as Indian Thick-knee.

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola. Probably one of this species seen at the wetland in the Little Rann of Kutch on the 9th April, although the view was too distant to rule out Oriental.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus. Two examples of this most elegant dryland lapwing were seen in Gir Forest on 2nd April.

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus. One species that seems capable of co-existing alongside humans, and therefore common and widespread throughout Gujarat, and seen daily in Gujarat.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius. Two examples were seen on a small pool in a village at Kachchh, actually allowing me to take my best ever photos of this species.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Two snipe species were seen on the 9th April, one flushed from the wetland across the road at our Dasada resort was definitely Common Snipe.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica. One seen from the bus as we passed through the saltpans of the Gulf of Kachchh.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. This species was fairly numerous in wetlands in the Dasada area, with c50 birds seen between the 7-9th April.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata. Single birds seen on three dates in the Little Rann of Kutch.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus. This elegant wader was seen at Velavadar, and in the wetland at Dasada, with some very tame birds allowing a close approach on foot.

Common Redshank Tringa tetanus. As with the previous species small numbers were seen at Velavadar and around Dasada.

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis. Single birds were seen on pools at Velavadar and at Dasada.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia. Single birds were seen on pools at Velavadar and at Dasada.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola. One of the more widely distributed passage waders, with small numbers seen most days across Gujarat.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. Another widely distributed passage wader, with small numbers seen most days.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. A few birds seen around pools in the Dasada area.
Little Stint Calidris minuta. Small flocks were seen on drying pools in Velavadar, and around Dasada, with up to 20 birds seen around pools and lagoons in these areas.

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii. This was a fairly common passage wader in Gujarat, with birds seen at Velavadar, and around with Dasada, where a flock of around 80 was seen on the wetland on the 9th April.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax. About 30 birds were seen around the tank in the town of Bhuj on the 7th April, and another 40 on the wetland at Dasada on the 9th April.

Pallas’s Gull Larus ichthyaetus. Three examples of this large and impressive species were seen flying over the wetland at Dasada on the 9th April. All were 1st or 2nd winter birds.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei. Just one bird seen from the coach as we traversed the saltpans of the Gulf of Kachchh.

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica. About 20 birds were seen around the tank in the town of Bhuj on the 7th April, and another 3 hawked over the wetlands at Dasada on the 9th April.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis. A few birds seen over salt pans in the Gulf of Kachchh.

River Tern Sterna aurantia. Two birds were seen on the drive to Velavadar on the 30th March, while several birds were seen along the river at Lion Safari camp. Perhaps 10 birds were fishing over Indian Cormorants at the Kamaleshwar Dam in the Gir Forest. There were 30 birds around the tank in Bhuj

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus. A few examples were seen at Velavadar, with others over the salt pans in the Gulf of Kachchh, and around the tank in the town of Bhuj, perhaps 23 in all.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus. Always a beautiful small raptor, this was probably the most numerous and widespread raptor in Gujarat, with 2-5 seen on 8 days, typically perched on wires or hovering over grassland.

Black-eared Kite Milvus migrans lineatus. A species with a patchy distribution, with numbers seen in Ahmedabad and Bhuj, but rarely seen away from towns.

Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Perhaps the same bird seen on a number of occasions as it cruised up and down the lake as Lion Safari Camp, Gir.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus. Two were seen, one sitting rather forlornly on the desiccated wetland at Kaatch, and another over rocky hills in this area.

Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela. Two birds were seen perched in the forest canopy in the Gir Forest.

Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. A few birds, all immatures were seen over flood plains and jheels at Dasada.

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus. Several examples of this elegant bird were seen over the grasslands of Dasada, with its tern like flight. I did not see any definite Pallids myself, and all ringtails photographed were all confirmed as Montagu's. Was able to take my best ever flight shots of a male at Blackbuck Lodge.

Shikra Accipiter badius. Quite a common raptor, particularly at Velvadar and Gir, with 1-10 birds seen on 8 days. Birds in Gir were seen hunting the abundant cicadas, and also predating a lizard.

Oriental Honey Buzzard. This species was commonly seen soaring over the woodlands of Gir, with 2-8 birds seen daily. Many were seen giving the wing clapping display and birds drifting low over Lion Safari camp gave terrific photo opportunities.

White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa. Single birds were seen in the Gir Forest on two occasions, both perched within the canopy. One of these birds allowed a really close approach and opportunity for photography.

Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga. Two were seen perched above a wolf kill of Nilgai at Velavadar. (when I first visited India in 1993 the bushes would have been festooned with Gyps vultures, but I personally saw none on this trip, apart from the sad sight of a dead bird in a thorn bush. Possibly it had collided with power lines.). At the Kamaleshwar Dam in Gir two birds gave fantastic close views, and given the numbers of waterbirds at the jheel on the 9th April it was no surprise to see two birds perched here, one of which was a fulvescens form.

Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax. Although the pan at Kaatch was devoid of waterbirds one was seen perched and in flight around its edge.

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis. A first winter bird with its diagnostic pale underwing bar was soaring over the dried out wetlands at Kactchh.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus. A dark phase bird was seen soaring over Lion Safari camp in the Gir Forest. One other bird was seen, although I missed this one.

Changeable (crested) Hawk-eagle Spizaetus cirratus. There was a pair nesting in Gir, and presumably one of these birds gave fantastic views as it clearly searched for some prey item on the ground, presumably the intended quarry was hiding under a hollow log, as the eagle then flew down to peer at the log from various angles.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. A few birds were seen daily at Velavadar, with others in the Little Rann of Kutch.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis. Up to 5 birds seen on 5 days, on village tanks.

Great-white Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus. One floating on the tank in the town of?

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus. I was very keen to see this bird, but did wonder if my chance had gone with the drying of the jheels at Velavadar, but one flew over in majestic style here, 3 and 10 birds seen from the bus at the Gulf of Kachchh and the chance to scope a bird on the tank at Bhuj. The world set of pelicans is now complete!

Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis. A few birds seen most days, with the largest numbers, probably 100s on the lagoons at the Dasada wetland.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Just 10 birds seen in flight over the ? wetland.

Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger. A versatile species, seemingly at home on extensive lakes and tiny polluted pools, with the largest numbers seen at the wetland near Dasada in the Little Rann.

Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster. One at the Kamaleshwar Dam in Gir, and 10 in classic darter pose around the tank at Bhuj.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Fairly common around wetlands, with 1-10 seen on 6 days.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. I always consider this a really smart bird and a few birds were seen virtually daily, with really good photo opportunities of both fishing and flying birds.

Great Egret Ardea alba. This most cosmopolitan of species was seen virtually daily, with the largest numbers of 40+ at the wetland near Dasada.

Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia. Probably less numerous than Great Egret, but still fairly common and widespread with 1-20 seen on 8 days.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta. As with the other two egret species, fairly common.and widespread with 1-20 seen on 9 days.

Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis. One was seen at Velavadar, with another 8 on the salt pans at the Gulf of Kachchh. All were of the rather elegant slaty morph.

Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii. Seemingly at home on polluted puddles as on more extensive wetlands, this unobtrusive bird was seen in some numbers on all but one day. All were in non-breeding plumage.

Striated Heron Butorides striatus.Probably just one bird was seen on two occasions around the pond in the grounds of our lodge in Dasada.

Black-crowned Night Heron. Birds were roosting in trees around the lake at Lion Safari camp, Gir, and could be seen flying out at dusk.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis. A successful species in India, with flocks seen throughout areas visited. Several hundred birds flying in to roost each evening at Lion Safari Camp, Gir, made quite an impressive spectacle.

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis. I had only seen this species once previously, in Hongkong in 1992, so it was nice to see several clambering around the Typha stems at Lion Safari camp lake, and to take photos of obliging birds that ventured out into the open amongst emergent vegetation.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala. Small numbers were seen on the lagoons at Velavadar, with up to 20 daily, and 15 birds on the tank in Bhuj.

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans. Just 5 of these snail specialists were seen at the tank in Bhuj on 7thApril.

Wooly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus. Four were seen stalking grasslands, or soaring overhead.

Black-headed Ibis Threshkiornis melanocephalus. A common species with up to 50 seen on all but two days around wetlands, or even foraging amongst refuse.

Red-naped Ibis Pseudoibis papillosa. This was again a fairly common species, by no means exclusively tied to water. Up to 50 were seen daily on all but 2 days.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia. Some 30 birds were seen on the remining lagoons at Velavadar, with similar numbers scything the waters of the tank at Bhuj and the jheels at Dasada.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus. 50 were seen on the lagoons at Velavadar, with similar numbers at the salt pans at the Gulf of Kachchh and the tank at Bhuj, but the most spectacular numbers, with 300+ were seen on the jheels at Dasada, with large flocks of birds also seen in flight.

Lesser Flamingo. Several examples of this intensely plumaged birds were seen amongst the Greater Flamingoes at the wetland near Dasada, perhaps 50 birds in total.

Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus. Just one bird was seen by the pond in the grounds of Blackbuck Lodge at Velavadar.

Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus. One bird was seen in the Gir Forest, and another in open woodland in Kachchh. I would be inclined to agree that this bird could be the smartest shrike of them all.

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach. A few birds were seen along roadsides, and also in Velavadar and in the Gir Forest.

Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda. One bird was seen at Velavadar, which must be very marginal habitat, while small numbers were seen daily in the Gir Forest.

House Crow Corvus splendens. Ubiquitous in and around towns and villages throughout Gujarat – seen daily in some numbers.

Jungle Crow Corvus macrorhynchos. This species was common in the Gir Forest, where birds were seen scavenging the remains of a Lion kill. The Lions ignored crows around them, in sharp contrast to their attitude to vultures.

Large Cuckooshrike Coracina macei. Two birds seen in flight over the Gir Forest.

Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus. Pairs of this smart bird were seen in the Gir Forest, and in open woodland at Kachchh as we searched for the White-naped Tit.

White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola. A few birds seen daily in the woodlands of Gir Forest.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus. A common species of scrub and woodland, and several seen daily throughout the trip.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradise. Two female type birds were seen in the Gir Forest.

Common Iora Aegithinia tiphia. A number of tame and photogenic birds were seen around the grounds of Lion Safari Camp in the Gir Forest.

Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus. This was a fairly common species in the woodlands of the Gir Forest, with c10 seen daily.

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae. Pairs of this beautiful bird were seen daily in the Gir Forest woodlands.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. Singles were seen on two occasions in the Gir Forest.

Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva. One bird seen in the Gir Forest.

Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis. A common and often very confiding bird in the woodlands of the Gir Forest.

Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata. This subtly handsome bird was a characteristic species of arid scrub throughout Gujarat, and was seen daily during the trip.

Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura. Single males seen at Velavadar and around the wetland at Dasada.

Common Myna Acridothreres tristis. A common bird in villages, towns and degraded habitats throughout most of Gujarat.

Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus. Several birds were seen as we drove to Velavadar.

Brahminy Starling Temenuchus pagodorum. Small numbers of this attractive species were seen daily in the Gir Forest, and around Dasada.

Rosy Starling Pastor roseus. This species was common at Velavdar, with 50-200 seen each day, often feeding on fruiting bushes. Large flocks were also seen flying past in the evenings at Kachchh and at Dasada, with up to 400 seen in some flocks.

Great Tit Parus major stupae. Two birds seen in the Gir Forest.

White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis. On 7th April one example of this regional endemic was found singing and seen in flight in open woodland at Kachchh.

Plain Martin Riparia paludicola. There were definitely some birds amongst other hirundines flying out of a reed-bed at dawn at Velavadar.

Dusky Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne concolor. Small numbers seen daily in the Gir Forest and in the Kachchh area.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Small numbers were seen most days in widely scattered areas, with 100+ roosting in a reed bed at Velavadar.

Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii. This crisply marked bird was seen daily at Velavadar, and in the arid areas of Kachchh and in Dasada.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica. Often seen consorting with other hirundines on wires, small numbers seen in the Gir Forest, in Kachchh, and larger numbers over wetlands in the Dasada area.

White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis. A characteristic species of scrub and bushes in arid areas, so seen daily in some numbers at Velavadar, Kachchh and around Dasada.

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer. This was another common and widespread species, and seen daily throughout the trip. It was common in the woodlands of Gir, where the White-eared was generally absent.

Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis. This crisply marked and smart Prinia was seen in the Gir Forest, with six birds seen.

Plain Prinia Prinia inornata. Small numbers were seen daily in scrub in Velavadar.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis. One bird seen in grassland at Velavadar.

Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus. Foraging flocks of this species were a common sight (and sound) in the woodlands of the Gir Forest.

Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius. Its characteristic calls gave evidence of this species’ near ubiquitous occurrence. This was a common bird around all the lodges we stayed at.

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca. A few birds were seen at Velavadar, and in scrub At Kachchh.

Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus. The strangled frog like ‘gurks’ and ‘chacks’ were heard emanating from typha beds at Blackbuck Lodge, and the lake at Lion Safari Camp, with the birds occasionally showing well.

Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum. A few birds seen in typical habitat of scrub, rather than reeds at Velavadar, and in Kachchh.

Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus. Parties of this largely terrestrial bird were seen in arid scrub at Velavadar, and in Kachchh and around Dasada on a daily basis, but not seen in the Gir Forest.

Yellow-eyed Babbler chrysomma sinense. Five birds were seen in scrubby grassland in the Gir Forest.

Large Grey Babbler Turdoides malcolmi. One party seen in degraded scrub near Lion Safari camp in the Gir Forest.

Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus. Parties of this social species were commonly encountered in the woodlands of the Gir Forest. Not seen at any other location.

Indian Bushlark Mirafra erythroptera. One bird was seen, in open woodland at Kachchh, as we searched for the White-naped Tit.

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix grisea. A common species of arid areas and seen daily, often in flocks at Velavadar, and in Kachchh. Curiously the only one seen in the Gir Forest was a bird on a nest which was shown to us by our guide.

Rufous-tailed Lark Ammomanes phoenicurus. This large and confiding lark of sandy arid areas was quite common at Velavadar and at Kachchh and around Dasada, with up to 10 seen daily in these locations.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata. A typical species of dry sandy areas, and up to 20 birds were seen daily at Velavadar, and it was also characteristic of similar habitats in the Little Rann.

Syke’s Lark Galerida deva. One was seen on a rocky hillside near to Dasada. It is fair to say the bird bore only a faint resemblance to the illustration in the Inskipp guide, and would have remained un-identified if I had not been assured that the bird was of this species.

Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus. A common and very widespread species in Gujarat, and numbers were seen daily in habitats ranging from desert scrub to reedbeds. Nesting birds were seen in the gardens of our lodge in Dasada.

Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile. One example this somewhat nondescript species seen in the Gir Forest.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus. A common bird around towns and villages.

Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Petronia xanthocollis. A common bird in the woodlands of the Gir forest, but not seen at any other location.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. There were flocks of 30 or so birds around the grounds of Lion Safari Camp in Gir, and several other birds were seen trotting around the pastures around wetlands at Dasada. The birds identified were all beema.

White-browed Wagtail Small numbers were seen most days along rivers and pools in the Gir Forest.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Just one bird was seen, on a woodland stream in the Gir Forest.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris. Three birds were seen in arid sandy areas at Kachchh and at Dasada.

Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis. Three were seen in the grasslands of Velavadar.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta. One bird was seen by a pool at Velavadar.

Paddyfield Pipit A few birds seen in grasslands around wetlands at Dasada.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta. Just one bird seen by a waterhole at Velavadar.

Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus. Rather surprisingly I had either overlooked or missed this species on earlier visits to India, but c50 birds were seen in and around the typha beds of the lake at Blackbird Lodge.

Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani. Three birds were seen around water holes at Velavadar on the 30th March.