Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Velavadar Blackbuck National Park – a birdwatcher’s haven!!

Of days gone by...this January during my solo all India motorcycle journey

As the name goes, Velavadar Blackbuck National Park is known for its blackbucks, but what folks don’t know about this national park is that it is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

With Gujarat being a wintering ground and a crucial link in the migratory flyways of millions of waterfowl (including cranes, ducks, geese and numerous waders) that travel from Central Asia and Western Europe to Peninsular Asia, the Velavadar National Park is rich in bird life. It is well known as a destination for migrating harriers. In 1991, 1,500 harriers roosted here, making it the largest roost of harriers since a 19th century one recorded at a marsh in West France.

Once I was satisfied with my blackbuck, nilgai (blue bull) and wolf sightings, I made by way to the wetland, which is a slight detour (3 km left from the park gates) along the path. This is where I spotted a lot of the migratory waterfowl.

The sheer number of great white pelicans, common cranes, greater flamingos, black storks, grey herons, Northern Shovellers, Painted Storks, Eurasian spoonbills, Black-winged stilts, pied avocets, large and little egrets and purple herons made for a sumptuous visual experience.

There are these water ponds/tanks in the national park where one can spot more water fowl. When it comes to terrestrial birds, one can spot them almost everywhere. I was able to see grey francolins, white-breasted kingfishers, Pallid harriers, Montagu’s harriers, Rose-ringed parakeets (male and female), black drongos, blue-cheeked bee-eater, black shouldered kite, common stonechat, green sandpiper and paddy field pipits.

I met an interesting group here during my bird watching expedition. These guys were researching the community and roosting behaviour of harriers (Montagu’s, Marsh and Pallid). Led by a person with a double doctorate degree in harriers and with funding from a wildlife agency based in the United Kingdom, these guys were counting numbers, studying roosting patterns, community behaviour, flight patterns, feeding methods, etc. Harriers feed on locusts and thereby protect the surrounding agricultural lands from this insect’s destructive power. It is estimated that they save cotton worth Rs. 1.35 million annually in this region.

A supremely peaceful bird watching experience for me at the Velavadar Blackbuck National Park. If you are interesting in reading about the blackbuck side of my story at this national park, you can refer my other post here.

To see India through the eyes of a motorcyclist's lens, visit the album below.
my solo all-india motorcycle journey

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