Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corbett National Park, Batch-1 (07th to 13th March 2011)

My favorite forest is Corbett National Park, so any trip to Corbett is always eagerly awaited. Both batches were full immediately after announcing. Thats the majic of Corbett. I have been to Corbett many times, but every time I'm equaly curious about the park. Each time Nature offers you something different.

Adesh & I started from Mumbai on 6th March 2011 in Garibrath Express, to reach Delhi at 12.15 hours on 7th March 2011. Our trip will start on 7th March at 22.40 hours from Old Delhi Station, where we all will board in Ranikhet Express for Ramanagar, the base town for Corbett. But...but...due to "Chakka jam" by Jat community, Ranikhet Express was cancelled. But we were prepared for this as we did got the news about the agitation before reaching Delhi. We had already figured out other options. Of which going together in minibus was best. So we hired a minibus from Delhi for Ramnagar & started the travel by 23.00 hours. We decided to bare some charges for the bus travel and take the rest from participants. The normal road was blocked, hence we had to go by long route, making us at about 09.00 in the morning to reach Ramanagar. But at least we reached the place.:-))

We checked in Corbett Nature Camp and instructed all to meet for breakfast and the first session will start after breakfast. Mr.Manoj Sharma a reknowed bird-watcher, one of the best bird guides for North India and our wonderful host, joined us, we had a small round of introduction before starting the trail. We will be spending 2 days around Mohan, Kumeria and adjoining areas. Birds seen were Plum-headed & Red-breasted Parakeets, Black-rumped & Himlayan Flameback, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Dark-throated Thrush, Crested Tree Swift, Crimson & Purple Sunbird, Scarlet & Long-tailed Minivets, White-crested Laughingthrush, Mountain & Changeable Hawk Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, etc...

Its time now to go inside the park. We had 4 open Gypsies for the safari. At the entry gate (Dhangadhi Gate), we all stop at the Forest Dept. Sovenior shop for T-shirts, Caps, Jackets etc. We will be staying inside the park for 2 nights, 3 days in Dhikala Resort, which is about 32kms from the Dhangadhi gate. Dhikala is exactly in centre of the Corbett National Park. One can hear Tiger growling from the rooms in the night. Dont worry...the resort is safeguarded by electric wire fencing. The fence wires do not carry live current, which is capable of causing permanent damage to the intruder. The electric fence has only pulsating direct current flowing in the fence grid. On the way to Dhikala we saw Black, Black Crested & Ashy Bulbuls, Tickell's Blue & Paradise Flycatcher, Corbett special "Collared Falconet", Small Blue & Himalayan Kingfisher, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Long-tailed Minivets, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Green Magpie etc...

After checking-in Dhikala resort and food, we started for our evening safari. Around Dhikala there are about 4/5 areas, which we will be covering during 5 safaries namely, Sambar Road, Nimbu Bhauji, Ramsing Road, Thandi Sadak, Bada Sal etc... During safaris Manojji, Me & Adesh were shuffuling from one jeep to other each of us can spend some safari time with all participants. Safari in any forest is always exciting, but in Corbett its always something special. The Elephants, Spotted Deers, Sambar Deers, Barking Deers, Hog Deers are always there, but seeing a Tiger in Corbett is super duper exciting.

While on Dhikala main road we saw lot of gypsy standing near Ramsing road, obviously there has to be a Tiger somewhere. There it was, sitting beside the road but inside the thick foliage,one some part of the Tiger was seen. It was 'Bhola' the male. Soon 'Bhola' got up and started walking towards Ramsing Road. Now everyone knows he will be crossing the Ramsing road (on Dhikala main road, if you are coming from Dhikal to Dhangadhi gate, Ramsing road is on your left side), so all vehicles were trying to take best position so that respective tourists will get the clear view. My jeep was the last to reach the spot. So we could not get the better place, infact we were blocking view of some of the jeeps, so everybody started telling us to move inside towards Ramsing road. And I tell you, just when we turned left on Ramsing road, Bhola, the male Tiger came our from the bushes, he was just 10 feets away from my jeep and I was stading in front!!! Wow...what a moment, such a huge Tiger!!! The moment is framed, in fact Full Framed, in my heart, mind forevere....

Along with mammals, we saw lot of birds during safari, like, Cinereous Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Red-headed vulture, Maroon Oriole, Green-billed Malkoha, Fulvous-breasted, Streak-throated, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, Bright-headed Cisticola, Black & black-necked Storks, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lesser Fish Eagle, River Lapwing, Himalayan Kingfisher and many more...

On last day, we checked out from Dhikala and started our way back to Dhangadhi gate. We must reach the gate before six as per the forest dept. rules. We started from Dhikala at about 2pm. All 4 jeeps were together till Champion road. At the end of Champion road we all spent some time near Kosi river. Then my jeep was first to move out from there, and on our way back on Champion road we saw a Tigress walking towards us. She sat on the road for good 2 mins. and then moved out of the way. We couldn't believe our luck!! On the way back, we spent some time at Crocodile point, infact we were waiting for others to come, and tell them about the Tigress sighting :-)). But they all skipped the crocodile point and moved straight away. We are now getting late, its 5.45 pm now and still we had to cover good 10kms to reach the gate. Obviously our driver was little worried and requesting us not to stop anywhere. But...but....something more was installed for us. On the way, when we were going in good speed, suddenly Amey & Rujuta almost shouted, "Tiger....tiger" and yes a young male tiger was about to cross the road, but probably stopped after seeing us. We were on the road and tiger was on the slope trying to cross. Imagine, Tiger is in front of you and you have to leave the place!!! But that was something very very unusual..... 2 tigers in a day (infact within 2 hours) that too in Corbett...that too while coming out of the park....something very very special!!!!

Someone from our jeep must be very very lucky with the Tiger:-))

Finally we met other 3 jeeps at the gate and told them the reason for delay..:-)) One of the most memorable Corbett trip for me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jamnagar, Gujarat Batch-3 (19th to 24th Feb.2011)

If you ask me, which are the best destination for birding in India, I will certainly include Jamnagar, Gujarat in the list. That's why this is 3rd Trip for Nature India and 4th Trip for me this season to Jamnagar. Birds are all around Jamnagar, in Sancturies, Coastal areas, Salt-pans, Rivers, Water reservoirs, making it a perfect habitat for migratory as well as resident water birds and raptors.

We started on 19th Feb.2011 (Saturday) by Saurashtra Janata Express. As usual we gave the printouts (Jamnagar Information, Bird-checklist, Itinerary etc.) to all the participants, so that they all can go through it during the travel time. Next day on 20th feb. (Sunday) we reached Jamnagar on time, at 9.30am. Just before Jamnagar station we saw, no. of Lesser Flamingos and waders in the water body nearby station. This was an indicator that Jamnagar is full of birds! We checked-in hotel President, after freshening up, we went for lunch to Hotel Brahmanya, where you get typical delicious Gujarati thali. Post lunch we went to a seashore in Balachhadi area. By the time we reached the place, high tide was approching and we could see lots of Crab Plovers along the shore, along with Oyestercatchers and other waders. We spent about 3 hours at the place. Photographers got some wonderful images of Crab Plovers, Pallas's (Great Black-headed)Gull and other waders. The birders were busy watching lots of other variety through scope, which include, Desert Wheatear, Lesser, Greater Sand & Kentish Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruffs, March Harrier etc... We ended the day with diner in hotel Swati and yes, Jamnagar special Ram Dairy Ice-cream.

Next day early morning, we started for Khijadia Bird Sanctury. Its very important to reach the sanctuary, by sunrise to watch Common Cranes going to fields from the roosting place. Its always a memorable experience to watch Cranes, Pelicans, Storks going above you from watch tower. Khijadia Bird Sanctuary has salt water on one side and fresh water on other, which makes it ideal habitat for variety of water birds. We saw Northern Shovellers, Northern Pintails, Eurasian Wigeons, Common Teals, Common Pochards, Gargeney, Gadwalls, Spot-billed Ducks from duck family, Rosy and Dalmatian Pelicans, Painted & Openbill storks, Darters, Great-crested Grebe, Steppe Eagle, March Harrier, Ospray and usual waders. That was an awesome morning session!! After stupendous lunch at hotel Aram, we went to another area, INS Valsura and Dhichada wetland. Area around INS was full of Lesser Flamiongos, wonderful to see the pink carpet along side water body. Dhichada was also full of birds. We saw Sand Lark, Desert Wheatear, Shikra, Common Kestrel, Common Ring Plover with other water birds. In Jamnagar you can not end the day without Ram Dairy Ice-cream :-)

Day 3, 22nd Feb, Tuesday, was a going to be a very hectic day as we will not be coming back to hotel for lunch & rest. We will be going to Narara first and then to Charakla Salt-pans. Narara is part of Marine National Park. We reached during low tide and here water goes deep inside during low tide. We walked about 2kms inside, to check for live corals and other marine life. Along with corals we saw Octopus, Lobster, Puffer Fish etc. On the way to Charakla we stopped at a famous Kathiawadi Hotel for lunch. Charakla was special for 2/3 birds, Demoiselle Cranes, Black-necked Grebe and Dalmatian Pelicans. We all could see all these from close distance. It was hectic (long travel) but wonderful day for bird-watching.

Last day was for finale, a special treat for bird-watchers at special place called as Lakhota Lake. The lake inside Jamnagar City is full of birds in winter. The best place to see Black-headed, Brown-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, so close that you don't need binocs. You can see and compare all the the features like iris, bill, size etc..For photographers, this place is heaven!! Full frame shots of Tufted Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks, Dalmatian Pelicans, Norther Shovellers and what not?? Amazing place!!! For new birders, it was like a schools to learn the minute differences between various Gulls, Ducks, Waders etc.. A perfect place to end the trip.

Next one is Corbett, my favorite jungle!! Do visit this blog again for Corbett experience!! Till then... Adios :-))