14 Jan 2014

14 Jan 14 - Desert Coursers

Caught the flight from Cochin on the 13th & arrived close to dusk in the main Gujarat city of Ahmedabad. The hotel had arranged an airport pickup, so no need to play the 'does the taxi driver actually know where I want to go' game this time. Ahmedabad is a noisy, bustling city & not helped by it being a big celebration on the 14th for Eid-el-Maulud (the birth of the Prophet). Everywhere kids were flying kites around the town, but not sure if that was directly related to the celebrations or just normal for Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad: Entering the old city
Ahmedabad: Looks like a different subspecies of tuk-tuk to those seen earlier in the trip
The following morning, after a lot of time & money wasted by a useless travel agent in Mumbai posing as an agent for Desert Coursers (see Back From India), I finally managed to contact Desert Coursers directly. This proved to be the best place I stayed in my 6.5 weeks in India & I thoroughly enjoyed the 4 nights I ended up staying here. The easiest way of getting there was a taxi the hotel sorted for the 2 hour or so journey.
Celebrations for the Phophet's birthday: There is a large Muslim population in Gujarat. Somehow I can't see Pakistan being so tolerant of Indian flags being waved on the streets in their country
Long distance train:  Surprisingly, I saw very few trains given the number in India. This was a very long train with many different carriages each labelled with their particular class
Desert Coursers is owned & run by the very likeable & knowledgeable owner, Dhanraj Malik. It has a number of rooms available & provides very good Indian food three times a day. Anybody thinking of staying would be well advised to contact Desert Coursers directly, instead of trying to book on line via other companies. The contact details are Zainabad@hotmail.com, www.desertcoursers.net, 94263 72113 or 94270 66070).
The open plan guest area & restaurant
The open plan guest area: All made with traditional materials
Desert Coursers: My room with an attached bathroom at the back 
Desert Coursers: The hut from the inside (with the bathroom behind the red door)
The Desert Coursers's drivers run twice daily jeep rides into the Little Rann of Kutch & neighbouring areas. The drivers do seem to know a lot of stakeouts for the birds & are good at picking up birds & mammals. Be warned that as it's a dusty place & the jeeps are open backed, that a pair of sunglasses are a useful thing to have with you to protect your eyes.

After a welcoming cup of tea, Dhanraj introduced me to one of his most popular & long staying guests, Bruce. On my last day there were some guys from the nearby Rann Riders who popped in to meet Bruce.
Bruce's Scops Owl: Apparently, Desert Coursers is apparently the only reliable, regular site for Bruce's Scops Owl in India
I had arrived too late to head out on a jeep ride, but was happy to potter around the camp & neighbouring countryside with the camera in the last couple of hours of the day.
Collared Dove: Could easily have been taken by my house in Dorset, except for the clear skies
Rufous-fronted Prinia: The long white brow, white lores & underparts help to identify this Prinia. The rufous forecrown is worn on this individual (& a second photo shows the pale tail tips)
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Jungle Babbler
Black Drongo
Common House Gecko: Good to have 2 or 3 around the hut
Local village ladies doing the laundry by the nearby lake
At dusk, British Birder & semi ex-pat, Bill Martin, who had also just arrived at Desert Coursers, returned from a jeep ride around the area. I think we successfully managed to bore the other non birding guests that evening with a lot of birding talk over & after dinner. But that's life when 2 keen birders meet!!! We were only stopped at one point when a Spotted Owlet started calling in the camp area & was quickly lured into a bare tree in the camp by Bill. It's always a good day when you see an Owl & even better when you see more than 1 species.
Spotted Owlet: One of the resident pair