A birding and wildlife tour to Little Rann of Kutch 21


Little Rann of Kutch – LRK

One look at the vast expanse of mudflats stretching towards the horizon, basking in monotones of beige, with its parched flat terrain filled with salt, cracking like biscuits under my feet and I realized that the Little Rann of Kutch or LRK is not really Little.

LRK , Rann, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

Driving through the Rann

At 5000 sq kms it may occupy less area than the Great Rann of Kutch which extends for over 7500  sq kms but the never ending fabric of earth was mesmerizing. The salt marshes here were not pristine white but there was a certain beauty in the barrenness.

My journey to the Little Rann of Kutch, popularly known as LRK began in the wee hours of the morning as I left Bhuj and drove down from Kutch towards Surendranagar district in Gujarat. The roads turned into lanes and lanes into bylanes.

My destination was the dusty town of Zainabad, one of the gateways to LRK. Intercepting a group of avid bird watchers focusing on a pair of spotted owlets, with their binoculars and cameras pointing towards a tree,  I realized I was close to the resort. In a few minutes, I was on a jeep as well, heading on a wildlife safari on the LRK.

LRK, birds, Rann, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

i Spotted a black winged stilt first

LRK, birds, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

A pair of ruddy shelducks or brahminy ducks in the water

We passed by a few wetlands with a smattering of grass and stopped by a lake. A little movement in the grass got my attention. A flock of bar headed geese huddled together in the grass just raised their heads.

LRK birds, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

A lifer for me- barheaded geese in the Rann

LRK-goose, Little Rann of Kutch

Meet the greylag goose

The common cranes were doing a little jig, by the lake, their silhouettes standing out against the light. Dark dingy clouds blotted out of the rays of the sun for a moment, painting the entire landscape in a canvas of grey.

LRK, birds, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

Another lifer- common cranes which are seen in plenty here

LRK, birds, Kutch, Little Rann of Kutch

Up in the air

LRK , birds, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

Landing in the wetlands

In the dull waters of the lake the flamingos stood out in their pink and white coats.

LRK, kutch, birds, Little Rann of Kutch

Flamingos- a sea of pink everywhere

LRK, Birds, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

Floating around with the duck for company

We inched a little closer only to see the flamingos flying away, like colourful ribbons painted across the colourless sky as they parked themselves on the other banks of the lake. The big rosy pelicans were swimming in the waters close by.

LRK, birds, Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

Preening themselves – the rosy pelicans in LRK

The Little Rann of Kutch is a bird watcher’s paradise and the avian species added a dash of colour even to the most banal landscape around, The water birds turned up here in gargantuan numbers , while the waders stood by the fringe of the water bodies posing for us. And in this habitat, flamingos call it home as they breed naturally.

LRK , birds, Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

Showstoppers of the day – the black tailed godwits

We moved on from one lake to another and then we were thrown into this infinite world of sheer emptiness.  The earth was flat and boundless. The landscape was bleak and stark and there were no roads or detours to lead us anywhere.

LRK, Rann , Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

The Rann and us ..just no one around

As we traversed down the Rann, we had neither a sense of direction nor a destination in our mind –  it was just the Rann and us. We parked right in the centre and looked around. Standing there, I felt dwarfed by the colossal space around me.  It was a cloudless day and the sun was just a tiny blurb in the evening sky. In the distant horizon were patches of thorny bushes and shrubs lending a tinge of green to the otherwise bare terrain.

LRK, sunset, salt farms, Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

A small sign of habitation – a char pai with a view

The birds were the only signs of habitation. The Indian courser with a couple of sand grouse just rushed away from us as we went looking for the short eared owl.

LRK, birds, Kutch, Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

A very elusive bird- the Indian courser

Driving in circles we almost gave up on it when we spotted it crouching behind a rock. In a blink and miss moment it vanished and melted away with the landscape. For a moment, I wondered if I had seen the bird or if it was one of those mirages that flashed in front of me. The common cranes seemed to own the Little Rann of Kutch. Flying around in flocks, they teased us as we tried to capture them in our lens. And the desert wheatears appeared and disappeared as nature took the role of a magician here, flinging new species in and out of our eyes.

LRK, birding, Gujarat,Little Rann of Kutch

Woolly necked storks greeted us

LRK< birds, Kutch,Little Rann of Kutch

Black headed ibis gave us company

But it was not just the birds that called this bleak barren landscape home. As we entered the folds of the Rann, we found ourselves being barred entry by the rightful owners – the khur or the Indian wild ass.

LRK, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

The king of the Rann- the Wild Ass Sanctuary is in LRK

Almost the entire Little Rann of Kutch , with over 5000 sq kms is now the Indian Wild Ass sanctuary, protecting the last of the remaining herds in the country . As they bolted and rushed into the thin scanty woods – just one of them turned and gave us a parting look before vanishing in seconds.

LRK, wildlife, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

The nilgai is another resident of the LRK

The nilgai soon appeared almost standing as a statue, without any movement.  But darting ahead of us in their golden coat of fur was a pair of jackals as we followed them until they merged with the habitat as well.

LRK, wildlife, Gujarat, Little Rann of Kutch

A pair of jackals merged with the habitat as they ran away

Suddenly everything seemed silent around us. We stopped for a moment and saw a bit of dust in the horizon clothed in multiple hues , standing out amidst the monotones.  As the specks of dust emerged closer, we realized we were actually looking at people. A couple of women and a boy barely aged six were crossing the Rann on foot. The boy was overjoyed to see us , for it seemed unlikely that he had met too many people here.

People walking in the Rann - not a common sight, Little Rann of Kutch

People walking in the Rann – not a common sight

We followed their trail and reached a small salt farm, one of the few desolate ones scattered around in the Little Rann of Kutch. A family was eking out their livelihood by pumping ground water out and extracting salt out of it. The charpai was stretched out invitingly in front of a small hut as kids hovered around us. We sat in the open and sipped chai as they made us feel at home in this inhospitable terrain, where for miles and miles around, there was no human company.

The sun was now lying askance, its soft golden hues reflecting in the waters of the salt farm. As we began our journey back to Zainabad, darkness spread like a cloak around us. It was surreal driving on the flat earth with no path to lead us. Avoiding the glare from the headlights, was a small creature sprinting ahead of us. Standing ahead and observing us was the desert fox, its shadows merging with the darkness. And that is when the driver stopped the car and tossed his torch light on the ground. Seated below near the rear wheel and merged with the landscape was one of the most beautifully camouflaged bird I had ever seen – the nightjar.

LRK, birds, Little Rann of Kutch

Camoflaged in the ground are the noctural nightjars

All of a sudden we realized we were surrounded by them as they seemed to be almost everywhere , strewn around in the Rann. The night sky gave us company as we strode through the magical land towards civilization, even as our minds eagerly wished to return to the wilderness.

LRK, GUjarat, salt farms, Little Rann of Kutch

The sun setting on the salt farms

Fact file

Although we drove from Bhuj in Kutch to LRK, it is closer to reach here from Ahmedabad. It is recommended to have a taxi as public transport may not take you into the the heart of the LRK where some of the resorts are located. A personal holiday, as I celebrated my birthday here with the husband, it goes down as one of my favourite destinations. Given a chance I will go there again. The best time to go for birding and wildlife is from Novemeber to March and the Little Rann of Kutch is teeming with birds and wildlife.

LRK, birds, Gujarat

Ducks and geese  fill the sky

Watch this video on Five Places around Ahmedabad. Subscribe to my youtube travel channel, Travel With Lakshmi

More stories about Gujarat

My first impressions of Kutch

Five reasons why you must visit Kutch

The Gujrati Thali 

Rani Ki Vav – an ancient stepwell in Patan

Modhera – the Sun Temple 

Five places to visit around Ahmedabad

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

21 thoughts on “A birding and wildlife tour to Little Rann of Kutch