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Wednesday 6 February 2019

India - January 2019 (Part 5)

Gir National Park & Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary

Friday 25th January

Another morning of feeling rubbish, and with it being cold outside I was in two minds whether to join in on the morning safari into Gir National Park. I decided I should give it a go as being gripped off at this late stage in the trip didn’t seem a viable option. The incompetence of India once again revealed itself as our allotted time for the Park this morning was between 6am and 9am, but it doesn’t get fully light until 7.30am, and with that we didn’t have long to find some Lions. For the first hour of the drive I was starting to wonder why I was bothering with the safari as we hadn’t seen anything and it was absolutely freezing. At a pit stop we all jumped out and like meerkats, stood straight and bathed in the morning sun hoping to warm up. Then out of nowhere, all hell broke when the guides and drivers started sprinting towards the jeeps, as a family of Lions had appeared within 30 metres of where we were standing. This of course proved to be chaotic as jeeps wrestled for position and all the drivers yelling at each other, all this going on whilst an adult female and a young male were play fighting up a sandy creek not too far away. Two smaller cubs then joined in, but with all the commotion, it wasn’t surprising when the Lions found another area out of view to chill and play.

During this spell of activity, I had discretely removed my camera and took a series of photos illegally, this being because I didn’t want to pay yet again the expensive fee. I got away with it anyway and left the park with some decent enough photos. All too soon our time slot had run out and we returned to the accommodation.

We had a few hours to chill before travelling to Rajkot Airport to catch our Air India flight to Mumbai. We landed in the early evening and went to the airport hotel about ten minutes away. The evening was spent waiting for our dinner to come and looking forward to seeing our last remaining target of the trip.

A very poor species list today with very few highlights, therefore no list for today, although the Asiatic Lions were brilliant.

Asiatic Lions

Gir National Park

Our ride to Mumbai

Saturday 26th January

Our last full day and this was to be spent at Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, roughly two hours away from Mumbai centre. We left the hotel in two taxis at 4am and picked up our guide on route. Our main target for today was the extremely rare Forest Owlet, a species that had gone off the radar for over 80 years. Thankfully new sites (Tansa for example) are being found to hold Forest Owlet, but it’s still classed as globally threatened. Being a diurnal Owl and an Owlet species, we found three birds with relative ease and heard two of the birds calling fairly continuously. Good views were had and a pleasing end to our target hit list.

Upon arriving at the forest, we were hoping to get a glimpse of one of the three Mottled Wood Owls that were calling near to us, but they were mobile and very difficult to find, and sadly dipped out, though a Jungle Owlet was my first in a few years. A walk through the forest over many hills and crunchy leaves produced a nice array of species, with a couple of bird waves containing Indian Golden Orioles, Large Cuckooshrikes and White-bellied Drongos proving to be a highlight of the early morning, whilst some Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers were lovely to see, as were some Vigor’s Sunbirds, though I was disappointed to miss a Blue-capped Rock Thrush seen by Dan & Josh. Our guide was very pleased to see an Indian Vulture here, his first for his patch.

Quite a few hours were spent here before leaving early to beat the Mumbai traffic, and after lunch we headed back for the hotel where we went out for dinner, treating ourselves to a pizza (we had all had enough of curry) along the busy Mumbai streets. In the evening me and Josh said our farewells to everyone as they were catching an earlier flight then us back to London.

In the morning, Jet Airways were still in business and the nine hour flight went very quickly, helped by picking some very good seats, and with plenty of stuff to do. We landed more or less on time, and I got picked up by dad in Redhill after catching the tube and train, but refusing to catch a bus replacement service to Gatwick. I had told Paula I was back on the 30th, and so it was with some shock that I was home in time for her birthday on the 28th…….what a sweetheart I am!

It had been an excellent trip for the birds with all the key targets seen, and although we had some luck along the way, Asian Adventures were no doubt the main cause for our success. As always, the company was brilliant and kept my spirits high when I was feeling grim. I certainly won’t be rushing back to India anytime soon, and may never touch a garlic naan bread ever again!

Hope all who have read through this trip have enjoyed it or found it somehow of interest. If wanting to visit this region, I would suggest get there promptly, as most of the key birds will either be extremely difficult to find, or be extinct in the next few decades to come.

Highlights for the 26th are as follows:

Asian Openbill – 3
Indian Vulture – 1
Booted Eagle – 1
White-eyed Buzzard – 2
Jungle Owlet – 1
Alpine Swift – 20
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – 2
Alexandrine Parakeet – 2
Large Cuckooshrike – 2
Black-hooded Oriole – 1
White-bellied Drongo – 5
Cinereous Tit – 10
Eurasian Crag Martin – 5
Dusky Crag Martin – 20
Streak-throated Swallow – 1
Jungle Prinia – 2
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher – 2
Thick-billed Flowerpecker – 7
Pale-billed Flowerpecker – 3

Forest Owlet

White-eyed Buzzard

Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary