Hide No. 1, Desert National Park, Rajasthan

Rev.: 15 March 2014

Desert National Park, Rajasthan, India on 3rd Mar. 2009

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Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps

Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps.
Two female GIBs walk past the hide silently

After seeing the displaying male Great Indian Bustard strut about, we finished the round on the Camel cart and returned to the main entrance of the Desert National Park.

Hide Number 1...

The morning at nine was cool and odour of passing breeze, the insistent easterly winds, held a promise for more birds, and I decided next to try my luck at a hide nearest to the gate, a km or so away. The forest officer at the gate stated that there were many more hides.

Instead of walking we made it to the hide on the cart. The partly underground hide was well camouflaged with only one foot or so projecting above the ground and had two small rectangular windows facing a narrow water channel. A third window was facing the rising sun on the adjacent side. I crouched in through a small opening and could sit comfortably in the cramped area. I checked from the hide the line between the oblique window and water for clarity and shut the wired mesh of the hide entrance, waved off the driver, and told him to return at noon.

It became clear that the hide was not photographer friendly. The sun was to my right instead of my back, and the water channel edge was at a higher level compared to the hide openings. Nevertheless, I tried to make the most out of the situation. In natures' company, feeling like a solitary wanderer on a deserted street, I waited silently, trying not to make slightest of noise. Although I felt slightly anxious unnecessarily thinking of snakes and scorpions crawling in and my phone running out of power.

A few Sparrows and Silverbills chirping on a tree next to the water channel would occasionally come down to the water for a drink and then go back. Around 10 am, a big group of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse descended silently from the cloudless clear blue sky. Few of them warily looked around and slowly inched towards the water. The CBS were not making any sound except for a muted bwick-wick-wick at the time of a very rapid/ explosive take-off by all of them in unison. A few more groups arrived later but as the air became warmer, their numbers at the water point decreased.

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Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps

Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps.
Habitat at DNP
A Southern Grey Shrike crackled at the tree, and a few Greater Short-toed Larks came to drink and left. Soon I was all alone.

It became warmer as shadows shortened, and it felt as if summer was knocking at the window. I hoped to see the Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Houbara, etc., but as informed by the forest officer the homesick birds seemed to have left the DNP. Indeed, a wait at a hide can be frustrating, and to top it all a blocked perspective can make it less cheerful.

Time passed and then suddenly I saw two Indian Bustard females right in front of me; they had approached with such silent steps that it was almost bewildering. Unimaginable rarities just three meters away. I captured a few full-frame shots of the birds as they explored the area. No, they didn't touch the water.

Soon it was desolate again, and after a while I came out of the hide, no longer stymied by the thought of leaving the hide prematurely, to have a look at the water channel. The Bustards had disappeared. I looked back and saw the cart driver coming to me, he said, "I asked you to stay inside the hide to get the birds." I showed him the Bustard shots and said, "let's go and find the Cream-coloured Courser."

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Great Indian Bustard, Ardeotis nigriceps

Flight of the Great Indian Bustard
Later, even after the forest officer joining the search, the Cream-coloured Courser was not seen.

It became quite warm by now. The Spiny-tailed Lizards were now coming out of their burrows making an easy meal for the raptors. The Indian/Desert Foxes were not making rushed appearances any more, and a few Chinkaras rested by the shade of a tree. Reluctantly, I bid adieu to the DNP.

At about, 60 kms from Jaisalmer, the DNP represents a contrast from the regular Thar Desert by having a grassy area compared to the extremely arid zone in the nearby places. The Laggar Falcon, Kestrel, Wheatear, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark are easily seen, not to mention the innumerable Greater Short-toed Larks. I recommend a travel to this place around mid/end January (for many more birds) and tolerate the hassle of getting the necessary Govt. permit to enter the DNP; remember to visit on working days, and always carry lots of water.

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