21 Jan 2014

21 Jan 14 - Goodbye Gujarat, Hello Rajasthan

A dawn start as we had a 490 km drive from CEDO to Mount Abu. We would also be crossing an Indian state line. Vehicle registration is often on a state by state basis & therefore vehicles travelling into a different state need to sort out extra paperwork & of course pay some money. Armed with all the papers, it wasn't more than a few minutes for Shiva to sort this out & to get the car legal for the rest of the month in Rajasthan. This is partially a road tax payment & was a relatively modest cost, but failure to sort this out, could lead to a bigger fine if you were checked by the police. The office was just a voluntary pull in at the state boundary & it wasn't that obvious, but Shiva was well aware he needed to sort this out. Armed with the extra papers we were quickly on our way. The roads for the journey were good most of the way, with fairly empty toll dual carriageways (often costing about 1 Rupee per km). Despite looking like empty motorways, there seemed to be nothing to stop who used them, so often local farm traffic appeared on them for local journeys.
Overladen tractor
Mount Abu is an interesting place in India as it's one of the most Northerly places for birds & mammals with a predominantly South Western distribution. It is also one of the best sites for the Indian endemic Green Avadavat. This is a really good looking uncommon Estrilid, which has a wide range (on paper) in Central India, but generally in areas that are off the beaten track for birders. Mount Abu is one of the few sites that can be fitted into a Gujarat/Rajasthan trip, albeit with a lot of driving.
Mount Abu: Looks interesting forest, but was fairly quiet for birds
Finally in mid afternoon after 6 hours of dull driving, we had reached the base of Mount Abu. The road winds steadily upwards onto a hillside of dry forest, which was a nice change after the agricultural fields & arid scrub of the plains. We tried a couple of short stops, but didn't see a lot of birds.
White-eyed Buzzard: Immature
Indian White-eye 
White-bellied Drongo
Southern Plains Grey Langur: This was the commonest wildlife on the road up Mount Abu
Southern Plains Grey Langur: Whilst looking cute & innocent, like all habituated Monkeys you need to keep an eye on them to avoid them getting into the car or trying to grab something
Shiva was concerned about the extra passengers 
Map of Mount Abu: A confusing maze of roads & not to scale. We wanted the Peace Park in the top right. Turns out the distance from the Peace Park to Trevor's Tank, the next point on the map, is further than the distance to our hotel in town (at the bottom right corner)
After finding a reasonably priced, but unremarkable, hotel we headed out for the last couple of hours of light. The main birding site is next to the Peace Park. We headed off in that direction, but stopped to bird around a scrubby & wooded hill side above a lake. I wasn't surprised, when we later visited the lake to find the edge covered in broken glass bottles. Gujarat is a largely Muslim & dry state. In comparison, alcohol is commonly available in Rajasthan & it seems that it is expected to throw the empty beer & whisky bottles so it smashes.
Ashy Prinia: Well marked adult
Ashy Prinia: Immature with well marked barring on the undertail tips
Taiga Flycatcher: Male. Also known as Red-throated Flycatcher. This is a colder grey bird than a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Photos of an subadult male RBF can be found in an earlier blog (A Cracking Woodpecker at Jungle Hut)
Taiga Flycatcher: Male. The extent of the red seems to vary on Taiga Flycatchers & this is about the maximum seen. The red would extend further onto the breast if it was an RBF
Taiga Flycatcher: Male. The tail & upper tail coverts are blacker than on an RBF & again the colder grey upperparts are obvious
Taiga Flycatcher: Male. The all black bill is another good feature (it would be pale based on an RBF)
Indian Black-lored Tit: Also known as Indian Yellow Tit
Indian Black-lored Tit
Rufous Treepie
Yellow-throated Sparrow
Five-striped Palm Squirrel
In the late afternoon, we carried on along the road & found the Peace Park. There was a chance for a quick exploration of the small arable village behind the Peace Park which is one of the best areas to see the Green Avadavat, but no joy with the Green Avadavat.
The small village by the Peace Park
The small village: It's very traditional
The small village overlooked a set of small fields