Rajasthan through eyes of Arijit
ARIJIT | October 6th, 2017
Tal Chappar: Raptor Paradise
At the edge of the Great Indian Desert, in the district of Churu in Rajasthan, is a Wildlife Sanctuary - Tal Chappar - home to the Black Buck, unarguably the best looking of antelopes. Folklore from the desert celebrates the Blackbuck as a beautiful, righteous and sensitive animal; Everyone today knows of the Black Buck and a lot of people head over to Tal Chappar to gaze at the beautiful creatures. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that Tal Chappar is also Raptor paradise - no not the Raptors from Jurassic Park - but predatory birds. With a bird count of over 300 species, 40 of which are Raptor, TalChappar is a destination that has to be a ‘must visit’ for every birder. If you are even a little into birds, it’s not hard to see why and anyways, the rolling grasslands offer some of the finest landscapes in Asia.
The Journey to Tal Chappar
September to March is considered as the best time to visit the area, because it is migration time and you can see so many species of birds that are either passing through the area or are wintering there. Late September, 1000s of Harriers fly in from Europe and Central Asia and that in itself is a sight to behold. We chose to travel in November, and fair warning at this point- the place gets pretty chilly – in the evening and early mornings. Chappar is a small town, so you would do well to book your taxi and stay in advance. We stayed at the Forest Rest House, which has only 4 + 2 rooms, but plenty of open areas. Everywhere in the Rest House, you can see the photos of so many birds that had been clicked in the sanctuary itself. This really piquesyour interest even before youbegin birding yourself.
Golden waist-high grass and a number of Kejri trees interspersed amongst it form abeautiful backdrop for several water holes with enough shade that offerkeen-eyed spots for birding.When you enter, you can expect a handsome Black Buck or two to come over and greet you. These are demonstrative animals thathave been raised by the forest guards, and they do love to snuggle up to you.
Indian Rollers deserve a special mention here. Every bird you see and wonder if it’s a roller, IS in fact a roller here! And if not Indian then surely European. Then there were the Drongos, easily recognizable because of their forked tails. And in all this, you will still be able to see Black Bucks gamboling around. Move ahead and expect to see a White-eyed Buzzard perched atop a lonely snag. Such is the diversity of species of this place that you can expect to see the likes of the Egyptian Vultures – yes 2 sub-species,the Massive White-tailed and Imperial eagles, the Giant Indian Eagle Owl loads of Falcons- The Laggar, The Kestrels,the Red-necked and if you are lucky the Shaheen. You’ll be at the edge of your feetas you never know which bird of prey will grace you with its presence. And not just raptors.Common and Demoiselle Cranes, River Terns, Bar-headed Geese, the Red-tailed Wheatear, Stolickza’sBushchat, the Yellow-eyed Pigeon and White-tailed Lapwings, there is no dearth of beautiful birds to satisfy the demands of any birder.On any 1-2 daylong trip to Tal Chappar, you can easily spot over 100 avian species, and that is truly saying something. Add to that the Fox, the Monitor Lizards, the Spiny-tailed Lizards and the Desert Jird. The only downside of visiting Tal Chappar is that you wouldn’t want to go back ? When you do head back to the grind of your city life, you are left with the lasting memories of the winged beauties you saw.This is a place where once is never enough!