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A Herd of Wild Asses couldn't keep me away from the Lions, Tigers and Wolves


kittykat23uk

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We carried on to Tadoba Lake where we saw fresh tiger pugmarks. We soon got word of a Tigress and we were quick to give chase. We initially saw her walking in dense cover at the top of an incline. The

The lake has a one way system, so unless you are lucky and are only one of a very few vehicles at the time, you have to drive the circuit again to get to a sighting if it happens behind you. This is e

In the afternoon we went to Telia Lake and were one of the first jeeps to arrive. The film crew were right behind us. We heard a Chital barking close by, and so reversed up the road, believing that a

kittykat23uk

Having such nice surroundings to rest in and explore between game drive is very useful, considering the absurdly short amount of time that the authorities allow you to be in the actual park for! Blackbuck Lodge’s grounds are surrounded by the park, so you can view some of the park when driving to the lodge. It is a pity that the park authorities don’t allow guests to just go for a drive along the main road, during the time that the park is closed, but the rules are that the road may only be used to access the lodge and we were told vehicles would be stopped and interrogated by park authorities if they dawdled. It also didn’t seem possible to go for a walk along the road, although we did walk around the back of the lodge grounds, which seemed quite extensive.

 

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P3200187 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3200201 spot-billed ducks by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We arrived in time for an afternoon drive. The vehicles used here for safaris are small gypsies with sideways oriented bench seats, so you are sitting facing each other in the back. This arrangement really is not good for photography. Add to that, a driver, park guide and our naturalist guide, plus the two of us, and you can see that these little vehicles become crowded. How they manage with four guests plus guides I do not know!

The ticket office didn’t open until 4pm, and then we had to go through the whole process of sorting out camera permits. These have recently increased from 500Rs per day, to 550Rs per camera, per drive for foreigners, a price hike that we were not aware of until we arrived. This could hit photographers hard, since many people these days take a couple of bodies to save changing lenses in the field, I also had a camcorder which is again, charged at the same price. The fee for Indians is 100Rs per camera per drive. The fees have to be sorted out on arrival for each drive. A passport is required for identification.

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kittykat23uk

Blackbuck and Nilgai abound in the park, which is divided by the main road running through it. We first entered the side of the park known for good sightings of striped hyena and drove along the track to the hyena den, which was usefully positioned right next to the track. A vehicle in front of us was stopped next to the den and one of the drivers was on foot peering down the hole. With a shake of his head he confirmed that, sadly, the hyena didn’t seem to be at home. We covered that side of the park, searching everywhere for a glimpse of a hyena, but no sign, it might have still been too hot. We did see several wild boar though.

 

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P3200215 Nilgai by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3200222 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3200227 Nilgai by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3200240 Nilgai by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

It might have been the heat, but our park guide seemed to doze off on more than one occasion, so it was just as well that we had Ghansyam, who pointed out any good birds that he could find, including Rufus-tailed Lark, Crested Lark and Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark. Then we crossed into the “wolf zone” of the park on the other side of the road, again seeing many Blackbuck and Nilgai. On this side of the park, it was dry and dusty in places, unlike the meadows on the other side. The Blackbuck seemed to be using it for their leks, where each male has picked out a small area of territory in which to court for females.

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Panthera Pardus

@@kittykat23uk - just caught up with this amazing trip report. Wonderful sightings.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks @@Panthera Pardus Tadoba definitely delivered for us :)

 

 

As the sun got low, Ghansyam spotted an Indian Jungle Cat sitting in some long grass having a nap. We were busy photographing this feline when our park guide finally woke up and pointed out a pack of seven Indian Grey Wolves, including several pups crossing the road a few hundred yards behind us. With hasty apologies to the Jungle Cat, we reversed up the track to try and catch up with the wolves. Unfortunately they’d already disappeared out of sight. Ghansyam had managed to snap off a couple of record shots with Hari’s second camera, which I hope to be able to show at some point, providing Hari gets around to sending me the pictures. I was holding my video camera at the time and was too slow to grab any footage of them.

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P3200315 Jungle Cat by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3200328 Jungle Cat by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

As we drove back, blackbuck leapt across the road in front of us. These antelope are impressive jumpers, clearing the ground by several feet! We continued on to the park entrance as it was now time to leave, the park closes at 6.30pm. Since Blackbuck Lodge is right next to the park entrance, we arrived back with plenty of light left as it didn’t get properly dark until 19.30. We watched as bats started to come out and hawk for insects over the pond, along with Indian Nightjars which appeared a little later. We also went for a spotlight walk but saw nothing of note.

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Safari Cal

Fantastic trip report, your photographs and videos are really great.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks Cal! :) You should read Lynn's report, she did much better than me in Gujarat. Especially at Velavadar..

 

Anyway, onwards:

 

21st March (Black)bucking the trend

We decided to have breakfast before going to the park, so that we would be able to go for a walk when we got back before the heat killed off the bird activity. While we were watching the sun come up a flock of common cranes flew overhead. The park opens at 7 am in the morning, so once we had sorted out the requisite camera permits we were in the park probably around 7.20. We had a fairly quiet morning enjoying the Nilgai and Blackbuck, which are rather photogenic in their own right, although we were ever hopeful of spying the predators! A Wild Boar crossed in front of us. But we still scored a blank on the Striped Hyena front. We did, however, see a magnificent Indian Eagle Owl fly into a tree, but sadly not photographable owing to the distances involved. A Greater Spotted Eagle was another of the avian highlights. Crested Lark, Indian Stone Curlew, were also seen.

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P3210334 Black Drongo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210343 Cranes at sunrise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210363 Common Cranes by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210385 Wild Boar by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210395 Wild Boar by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

We had hoped to see the flocks of roosting harriers that the park is also famous for. Sadly, owing to an unusually dry monsoon during the previous year, the birds seemed to have moved on early and only the occasional harrier was seen during our stay. We crossed into the wolf zone and spied one very distant wolf, but it was soon time to return to the entrance as exit time is 9.30 am.

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P3210408 Crested Lark by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210426 Indian Stone Curlew by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210467 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210478 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210519 Indian Grey Wolf by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210526 Painted Francolin by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210568 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210574 Booted Eagle by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

We then went for a walk around the lodge. We spotted our only Golden Jackal of the trip, but it ran away before we could get close enough to photograph. Painted Bush-Quail and a Montagu’s Harrier were also seen, along with more of the larks mentioned before. Both Pied Bush Chat and Common Stonechat were seen perched on the tall grass.

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P3210609 Lizard sp by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210614 Lizard sp by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3214806 Stonechat by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3210678 Rufous-tailed Lark by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

We rested in our rooms during the heat of the day, emerging for lunch and then I sat out on my veranda watching the comings and goings of blackbuck and nilgai at the waterhole. It really was too hot to be out in the sun, even in the relative shade of my veranda the heat was quite oppressive.

 

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P3214818 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3214821 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3214822 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3214836 Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3210685 Butterfly by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

At 4pm we were back at the entrance and the park office had not yet opened, so we were further delayed getting into the park. I became increasingly frustrated as time ticked on. Eventually a young guide came along, dragging his heels in the dirt and the ticket office finally opened. Another 10 minutes was spent sorting out our permits and then we were on our way. A pair of Indian Eagle Owls were seen in the same tree as we headed once again towards the hyena den, who again was not there and after searching high and low for any sign in the meadows we still came up empty. All was not lost as we did briefly see two separate Jungle Cats, and whilst they didn’t stick around for photos, they were still a delight to see (there was a third one, which only our park guide saw). Painted and Grey Francolins were seen skulking in the grass.



We crossed once again into the wolf zone and passed the spot where the lone wolf had been seen in the morning. After getting out and scanning the area with scopes we moved on. We checked a waterhole and on the way back stopped to watch some sparring Blackbucks. We stopped to scan the area again and this time I picked up a different wolf in the scope. This one was again distant but seemed to have lost all the fur on its tail, a worrying sign that it might have mange. The wolf walked left along the tree-line before being lost from view. At this point we had to leave the park as it was getting on for closing time.



As there was still some light left, we agreed to meet for dinner at 19.30, which meant that I could sit on my veranda and watch the evening activity at the waterhole. Four Black-naped Hares appeared and started to graze at the back of the water hole. These seemed much more delicate than our native European hare and one was chased away by a Red-wattled Lapwing. Two of them got a little frisky! Indian Stone Curlews were also resident in the same area.




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kittykat23uk

22nd March “You should have been here last week!”

We had allowed two full days in the park, plus one afternoon thinking this would give us plenty of time to see the wolves and hyenas. A couple that had been here only a few weeks before us had seen hyena on every drive and one of the other guides had seen three hyenas on one drive only three days before we arrived. But sadly we didn’t have so much luck. There was a BBC film crew who had special access to the park, as they were filming for a new documentary called “Monsoon”. It was alleged that they might have disturbed the hyenas. We did speak to the crew on occasion and they also felt that the hyenas had been disturbed, but not by them of course!

Given how closely the hyena had chosen to den to the road, I found it rather surprising that it would be affected by disturbance, however, we did see people getting out and walking right up to check the inside of the den, so I suppose it is possible that he’d had enough and just gone somewhere more private. Even so, it seemed very odd that we didn’t catch one out wandering. Perhaps with it being quite late in the season, they simply spend more time underground. With the short opening hours of the park we may just not have been out early or late enough to have seen them.

The morning drive did not produce any new mammal sightings and was very quiet on the predator front. The best bird of the morning was a Black-headed Bunting. A Common Kestrel perched on the top of a bush, as did Long-tailed Shrike and Common Babbler. Greater Short-toed Lark was one of several lark species that we saw as we drove around.

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P3224852 Common Kestrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3224867 Long-tailed Shrike by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3224900 Common Babbler by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220762 Greater Short-toed Lark by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220765 Greater Short-toed Lark by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220781 Wild Boar by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

We had another walk after breakfast and spotted fresh hyena tracks around the lodge. Hopeful that it might still be around, I spent as much time as possible watching the waterhole. But as before, only Nilgai and Blackbuck were seen.

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P3220797 The closest we got to a Striped Hyena- just tracks in the dirt :( by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220804 Little Green Bee-eater by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220809 Litte Cormorant by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220828 Little Green Bee-eater by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220849 Red-vented Bulbul by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220869 Red-wattled Lapwing by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3220894 Garden Lizard by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

The afternoon drive was better, as a Lesser Florican caused some excitement. We were over on the hyena side again, heading towards the exit to cross into the wolf zone. But before we got there we spotted a wolf! This one was trotting along in the tall grass, barely visible until he made his way to a less vegetated spot and crossed the road behind us. He seemed to be limping a bit, and after stopping briefly on the road, crossed and was soon lost in the long grass.

 

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P3220936 Indian Grey Wolf by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3220937 Indian Grey Wolf by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3220963 Male Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3221006 Male Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3221011 Male Blackbuck by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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wolf by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

About 11 mins into the video is the wolf:

 

 

In contrast to Lynn's visit of last year, the wolves were very wary of anyone getting too close. The BBC film crew told us that they were having a hard time trying to film them. They were seeing them quite regularly coming across to the hyena side, but as soon as they saw people or a vehicle they would move away. On the other side they seemed to be sticking to a distant tree-line.

 

Back at the lodge I watched the Black-naped Hares and a Grey Mongoose at the waterhole before dinner.

Edited by kittykat23uk
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twaffle

What a wonderful report and great tiger photos. I find the thought of all the restrictions quite frustrating and am not sure I could remain calm.

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kittykat23uk

Believe me @@twaffle it certainly tried my patience as well! We just weren't very lucky with our sightings and even though I was well aware that the drives were short, when you then see your precious time slipping away because the park staff can't even be bothered to open on time, it really begins to grate! Add to that the increased camera fees, and in stark contrast to Tadoba, I was left feeling that Velavadar did not deliver enough for the price we paid to be there.

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kittykat23uk

23rd March A bit of a Rum Deal!

I woke up at 5am and it was still dark, so I tried to photograph the night sky from my veranda and watched the comings and goings at the waterhole as the dawn began to arrive. I was thinking that it was my final chance to see something good as we were leaving this morning for the Little Rann of Kutch. As it got lighter, two warthogs came to feed, and then a Black-naped Hare hopped into view. This was followed by a few Nilgai and Blackbuck. A male Pallid Harrier flew overhead, causing a commotion amongst the Red-wattled Lapwings.

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P3221032 Gecko by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234916 Before dawn, view from my room, Blackbuck Lodge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234917 Before dawn, view from my room, Blackbuck Lodge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

I went to get breakfast and a Nilgai fawn was grazing right in front of the restaurant. A flock of Brahminy Starlings flew in to feed on the flowers in a tree nearby.

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P3234937 Young Nilgai @ Blackbuck Lodge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234955 Young Nilgai @ Blackbuck Lodge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234965 Young Nilgai @ Blackbuck Lodge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234982 Brahminy Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3234984 Brahminy Starling by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We went to settle up and I was shocked at the price of the rum! Gujarat is a dry state, but 450Rs for a shot seemed rather excessive, being over double the price in Tadoba. That’s as bad as London prices! :o

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kittykat23uk

We then left for our drive to the Little Rann of Kutch, stopping to bird en route. We picked up Greater Painted Snipe (after about ten minutes of me not being able to see it and Ghany getting increasingly frustrated as he kept trying to get me onto the birds), Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, and Pied Avocet, as well as Red Avadavat, Wire-tailed and Red-rumped Swallows and later on we stopped to watch the awesome sight of kettles of over 5000 Demoiselle Cranes riding the thermals. In their midst was a single Great White Pelican.

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P3235006 Short-toed Snake Eagle by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235077 Demoiselle Cranes by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235100 Demoiselle Cranes by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235032 Western Marsh Harrier by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235143 Black-winged Stilt by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

We arrived at Rann Riders in time for lunch and met up with Peter and Toril, who would be with us for the remainder of our tour. They had just come from Ladakh, where they had seen seven snow leopards on their first day and none for the rest of the time they were there. They saw a good range of other specialties of that region as well.

Rann Riders, lived up to its name as it had been inundated with bikers, as Honda was having some sort of promotional event there. We had to move rooms twice here, once due to needing twin, rather than double, rooms and secondly, because our toilet was leaking everywhere. Otherwise, the lodge was quite comfortable, with individual chalets/rondovels set in some lovely gardens. There was a pool, but it didn’t look to be particularly clean so we didn’t use it. The food here was some of the nicest of the whole trip, with things like chicken tikka, and delicious naan bread on offer.

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kittykat23uk

In the afternoon we were supposed to be going to Nava Talav, which is a well-known wetland. But, due to the unusually dry monsoon, that one was dry. So Ghansyam found us an alternative wetland on the edge of a town (I didn’t catch the name). We saw a good variety of birds through the scopes including Greater Flamingos, Citrine Wagtails, a pair of Sarus Cranes, Black Kite, Common Kestrel, Slender-billed Gull, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, a variety of egrets, Grey and Purple Herons, Painted Stork, Glossy, Black-headed and Indian Black Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Coots and Purple Swamphen. We saw many ducks too, including Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Comb Duck, Wigeon, Mallard, Indian Spotbilled, Shoveler, Teal and Garganey. We also noted Pied and White-throated Kingfisher, White-eared Bulbul and Trumpeter Finch.

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P3235229 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235231 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3235244 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

After birding the lake for a while, we then drove on to another spot where we saw some now sadly critically endangered White-rumped Vultures. Apparently there is a small feeding station, but the ones we saw were all perched in a tree. We also picked up our first Chestnut-bellied Sand grouse (a pair).

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P3231035 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3231068 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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P3231069 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Back at the lodge and the party was in full swing with music blaring near the swimming pool! Thankfully things quietened down by about 22.00 as we had another early start in the morning.

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kittykat23uk

And of course the video from this afternoon excursion:

 

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ovenbird

@@kittykat23uk, loved your video of the Demoiselle Cranes. It took me right back to the roadside on the way back to Rann Riders where we stopped to watch thousands of cranes doing their best imitation of a mumuration of starlings! The sight of the huge group splitting and reforming was spectacular, but the cacophony was just amazing! I'm so enjoying your trip report with your wonderful photos and videos. Thanks!

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