With the rain gods having lavished it with attention in August, the Little Rann of Kutch was gleaming enticingly. What was in store for our group was about to be revealed.
With most of the participants coming into Kutch for the first time, I was very excited to show them the natural beauty of the land of migratory birds. The sunsets at LRK are always special and what better way to start our tour than to target making some iconic sunset silhouettes! And to add interesting foregrounds, we were lucky to find a group of wild asses out in the open just at the right time of the day.
We set up our cameras and lay down on the ground to get that separation from the background. Just about then, a couple of street dogs landed up on the scene and started chasing the wild asses. Fortunately, the dogs didn’t go in for a serious hunt, and the asses were left in peace, but it was a moment of realisation for the group. After sunset we left for our resort and had a fruitful discussion on various aspects of composition and exposure compensation.
The second day started with a long drive to an area where I had sighted a barbary falcon a few days earlier.
I was hoping that my friend hadn’t changed areas, because it would be nearly impossible to look for him in the vast Rann if he had indeed moved. So with a lot of hope and determination we started our search for the elusive and rare raptor. It took us a good two hours, but our perseverance was rewarded. A good half an hour with one of the rarest raptors in India is not a shabby way of spending time in Kutch!
With spectacular images of the said celebrity in the camera, we decided to head back for a well-earned luncheon, which, when we got to it, seemed tastier that day than ever before, and I thought the sighting had something to do with it. The sight of the Barbary Falcon is difficult to forget and I am sure all of the members of the group still remember it vividly.
After a quick nap it was time for the afternoon outing, and our target this time were the harriers of Kutch. LRK has always been very productive for the Montagu’s, pallid and marsh harriers, and it didn’t disappoint this time either. Another good day in the Rann came to a close with ground level shots of a beautiful male Montagu’s harrier.
The next day was reserved to look for the iconic species of Rann – the peregrine falcon. We saw around four individuals and at one point a male and female together! They proved slightly tougher than usual to click images of, but gave us enough opportunities to get the standard portraits.
As we went about searching for the peregrine, we were again welcomed by our friend, the barbary falcon who gave us a couple of minutes before disappearing on hunting business.
We resumed birding with a specific aim – the male marsh harrier. Over the past two days I had observed a few male marsh harriers that were roosting in a separate group and we went out in search of these beautiful raptors. It proved to be the right choice, as we came back with a lot of images of them. Some of the group also managed more images of wild asses at sunset.
A pre-dinner session on birds and their behaviour was followed by a scrumptious meal, and we were ready to hit the bed. One of beautiful things about being out in the wild is that you are virtually guaranteed a good night’s sleep (what with all the travelling and crawling), and this night was no exception.
The last sunrise of the tour was left to try out a different area called the Nawa Talao. It is known for its amazing waterfowl, but this year it was more known for the imperial eagles, and I had also shot a pair of red-necked falcons last week in this area, so we thought to give it a go.
Sure enough, the imperial eagle was the first raptor we saw, but all attempts to get within photographable distance proved futile. Not wanting to waste the early morning light I started to look for the tiny red-necked falcons, and no sooner had I depicted to the group the kind of area they prefer, than they were practically before us.
Imagine a pair of these beauties right in front of your vehicle at a distance not more than 15 feet! That imagination was now our reality!
And there couldn’t have been a more be-fitting end to this wonderful tour than that reality.