Bird of passage

A trip to the Little Rann of Kutch with a long lens camera reveals nature’s marvels

By Shiladitya Chaudhury
  • Published 1.04.18
  •  
A flock of Greater Flamingos in flight over the Little Rann of Kutch, where they roost and breed.
The Little Rann is the only place in the world one can see the khur, or Asiatic wild ass. 
The Rufous-tailed Lark was present around the wetlands near the eastern part of the sanctuary.
The Great White Pelicans were out in force at a shallow water reservoir in the eastern part of the Rann.
The Short-eared Owl is one of the visiting species at the Little Rann and they fly in from Afghanistan every year. 
We also came across birds like the Rusty-bellied Sandgrouse.
 Lesser Kestrel is a migrant bird that breaks its journey in Gujarat and its sightings are fewer than that of the Common Kestrel.

The Little Rann of Kutch, a vast and spectacular unbroken expanse of 5,000sq km, is a Unesco Heritage Site and holds pride of place among Gujarat’s tourist spots. Once the water dries out after the monsoons, the land transforms into a salt pan where salt is harvested by the Agariya tribesmen, agar meaning salt in the local language.

The region is home to the world’s only remaining population of khur, the Asiatic wild ass. This species genetically hails from the horse family and looks like a cross between a horse and a donkey. They are as graceful and strong as horses and can run at about 50kmph.

But the Little Rann is also a breeding place for Indian flamingos. Also, being at the crossroads of the Palearctic migration streams, it attracts masses of migratory birds during winter. And being close to the Gulf of Kutch, it is an important feeding, breeding and roosting place.

An estimate by the Gujarat forest department puts the number of nests there between 70,000 and 75,000 over 250 acres, which makes it a great place to spot and photograph birds in their natural habitat. We managed to spot more than 30 species in just four days.

HOW TO REACH

The Little Rann of Kutch is a 130km drive from Ahmedabad which will take about three hours. Dhrangadhra town on the Ahmedabad-Kutch national highway is the gateway to the Little Rann. The nearest airports are in Ahmedabad, Rajkot (175km) and Bhuj (about 265 km). 

SPOTTED IN WINTER

Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Pallas’s Gull, Steppe Eagle, Common Kestrel, Montagu’s Booted Eagle, Bank Myna, Jungle Babbler, Indian Roller, Cormorants, Knob-billed Duck, Rufous-tailed Lark, Great Egyptian Vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle, River Tern, Wagtail, Short-eared Owl, Lesser Krestel, Rusty-bellied Sandgrouse 

(A communication consultant and a restaurateur who owns brands like Oudh 1590 and Chapter 2. His passion for wildlife photography takes him to the remotest of jungles)