15 Jan 2014

15 Jan 14 - Wetland Birds Overload

After a dawn coffee, we were out on an early morning ride on the jeep. The plan was Bill, Shiva (Bill's driver) & myself were sharing the jeep for the day with 3 young Indian professionals who wanted to see some birds & mammals. I'm always wary about having to share transport with non birders as there is usually the likelyhood that at least one of the groups will get frustrated about not being able to stop or having to stop for every bird. But we had really good jeep companions for the day, as they were just as enthusiastic as Bill & myself at wanting to see & photograph the birds & mammals. They were also quiet & showed a lot of patience & fieldcraft when trying to get close with the camera, given they didn't have a strong wildlife background.
Breakfast appeared after a few hours of birding: Not that was going to stop Bill from birding
Desert Coursers is near the Little Rann of Kutch which a large, flat, arid area of bushes, grassland & wetlands. In the monsoon season, the Little Rann floods over a large area with a combination of rain assisted with high tides, causing sea water to also flood into the area. As the autumn & winter progresses this dries out to leave a lot of lakes & baked lake foreshores surrounded by arid Mesquite thorn bush, grassland & farmland. Nearly, all the sites are visited by driving over rough tracks & the lake foreshores, but fortunately, the drivers have a good sense of navigation as they visit these areas daily in the dry season. Access is much harder in the wet season & I believe Desert Coursers closes during this period. It took about 30 minutes of driving over dirt tracks from Desert Coursers to get to our birding location for the morning which was a local lake, not helped by a number of short stops as we saw birds on the way.
 Black-winged Kite: This is the vociferus subspecies which occurs from Pakistan to China & the Malay Peninsula
Black-winged Kite: A flight shot of a different individual
Oriental White Ibis: Also known as Black-headed Ibis along with 2 Great White Egrets
Red-naped Ibis: Also known as Indian Black Ibis
Indian Stone-curlew: Another split for the Subcontinent, this time from Stone-curlew
Indian Roller
Rose-coloured Starling: There was a flock of about 50 adults close to Desert Coursers which we saw each trip. They looked a lot nicer than the brown immature birds we normally see in the UK
As we reached the lake, it became clear that the number of species to photograph was going to rise steeply, so I'll let the photos tell the story for the rest of the morning, before we headed back to a great lunchtime curry at Desert Coursers.
White Pelican: In flight, they are straight-forward as White Pelicans have all black flight feathers on the underwing compared to pale flight feathers of Dalmatian Pelicans
White Pelican: When not in flight, they are harder to separate from Dalmatians, but the lack of a shaggy crest is one of the features
Dalmatian Pelican: A breeding bird with the bright breeding bill & shaggy crest
Painted Stork
Greater Flamingo: The bicoloured bills help identify these as Greater Flamingos (rather than the smaller Lesser Flamingos which were also present in good numbers)
Greylag Goose: A pair of the rubrirostris subspecies, rather than the anser subspecies we see in the UK
Spotted Eagle: The dark colouration, strong bill & yellow gape only just reaching the centre of the eye supports this identification
Spotted Eagle: A different individual in flight. The darker underwing coverts and broad wings help separate it from Indian Spotted Eagle
Spotted Eagle: The upperside of the same individual
Crane: Adult & juvenile
Crane: Adult
Spoonbill: Adult (on left) & juvenile
Black-winged Stilt
Avocet: A species that I guess everybody will recognise
Wood Sandpiper
Slender-billed Gull: The yellow eye, long bill & faint head spot separate this from other similar species
Short-toed Lark: This is the longipennis subspecies which is greyer & paler breasted than the dukhenensis race which winters further South & West in India
Crested Lark: There are many subspecies of Crested Lark. This is the chendoola subspecies
Citrine Wagtail
White-eared Bulbul: This is a common arid country Bulbul
Eastern Orphean Warbler: Male
Pied Bushchat: Female
Eastern Pied Wheatear: Also known as Variable Wheatear. This is the nominate picata subspecies
Desert Wheatear: This is the deserti subspecies
Common Babbler: A very slim Babbler to the other similar sized Turdoides
Daurian Shrike: Clements now splits this from Turkestan Shrike
Wild Boar