A gypsy bisected the track of Black Bucks, which made the dust to rise and leave nothing but a stunning golden light behind and when the Black Bucks appeared back on track, I got a moment to capture some stunning shots. I saw all this during my last day of safari in Tal Chhapar. It was a 1N2D trip coming to an end.
My journey started on Christmas's weekend when we, a group of four photographers, chose to visit Tal Chhapar and Jorbeed which were new places for us.
We took an overnight train from Delhi and reached Ratangarh Junction, which is 33 km from the sanctuary, at around 5 in the morning. Since we booked a homestay, the host picked us from the station. From the station, it took us merely an hour to reach his place.
After taking a shower (though the temperature was close to 2-4°C, still we showed some bravery) and having a quick breakfast, we started our journey for the sanctuary. The journey towards the sanctuary was beautiful in itself. Rising sun among green and brown open fields... It was an amazing experience.
Tal Chapar is a home of over 1000 blackbucks. Several other species of mammals, like Nilgai, Chinkara, Desert Fox, Indian Fox, Desert Cat, Jungle Cat, and Black-naped Hare, can also be seen here.
Since the gate of the sanctuary were not far from the homestay so we were on time (keeping in mind that it was foggy and very chilly). We welcomed by Maneka, the famous female Black Buck. By this time the fog disappeared and we could see hundreds of blackbucks and plenty of birds. Desert and Isabelline wheatears were the first birds which we saw on this trip and that was a good start as both of them were lifers for me. While roaming through the border area of the sanctuary, we saw long-legged and white-eyed buzzards sitting on the poles. As soon as we stopped our car, they flew away and there was no place to go and follow them.
Since we were not getting many birds, we went near a pond and decided to wait for a while to see if any bird come. This plan failed, no bird turned up. Just a couple of Black-bucks to quench the thirst. Soon we saw a Desert wheatear sitting on a perch and started to move our gypsy in that direction. Thankfully, he gave us some good close up as well as flying shots. We came out of the sanctuary and went near another water body. This place had some life. We saw plenty of Bar-headed goose, Pied Avocets, Northern Shovelers, Spot-billed duck, and various other waders. After spending a good 1-1.5 hours, we moved again and this time, towards Goshala.
Goshala is an amazing place during September and October as hundreds of Spiny-tailed lizards along with Hare, and Desert jirds, etc come out after rain which attracts many raptors. But maybe we were not that lucky here as it was barren like a desert. We came back to the sanctuary.
Till now, we were not enjoying. We skipped our lunch, tired and frustrated with the sightings. We parked our gypsy in the sanctuary and came out in the open. It was 14:00 on the clock. Sun was over our heads giving us the required warmth during a cold day. We decided to wait and relax for the next 30 minutes.
Maybe someone was listening to our prayers as what happened after 14:30, was enough to keep our camera's shutter busy for the next 3 hours. First, we saw a Lagger falcon was chasing a Greater spotted eagle as the eagle had a small catch in claws. Lagger falcon crossed us from a very close distance while the Spotted eagle took a U-turn and went away.
Capturing Common Cranes with Black Buck and a Sandgrouse was like cherry on the cake.
We saw a Common Kestral sitting on a perch. We moved close, very close to the Kestral and he was bold enough to give us enough time. We captured some good shots before he flew away. When we were busy capturing the Kestral, a Black-winged Kite flew above our head. Most of us missed capturing him as we were already busy.
Till now it was ticking 16:45 on the clock and we were well conscious that now, we have just 60 minutes to do photography. We chose to look for Black-bucks since we all wanted to capture them during the dusk. We could see them jumping and roaming everywhere in the sanctuary but we were not happy with the results we were getting. Soon, a gypsy bisected the track of Black Bucks, which caused the dust to rise and leave nothing but a stunning golden light behind and when the Black Bucks appeared back on track, I got a moment to capture some stunning shots.
The first day in the sanctuary ended on a good note. We reached back to the homestay by 19:00, had our dinners, obviously saw what we all have captured and slept by 22:00. Unaware that the next day, our camera batteries will discharge, memory cards will become full, there will be no space for any more image but there'll be moments to capture.
JORBEER- Our next destination.
We slept early as we had to wake up at 4:00. We planned to reach Jorbeed before sunrise and we were on time. Jorbeed is a carcass dumping yard where the carcass is dumped and you get to see a huge variety of birds.
Before I write anything about the day, Steppe Eagles deserve a special mention here. I can say with confidence that almost every bird that looks like a Steppe Eagle, IS a Steppe Eagle here. They are everywhere, in hundreds, on the ground, on trees, fighting with dogs, Vultures, other raptors, they are the KING of Jorbeed.
Along with many other birds like Eurasian Griffon, Cinereous Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Tawny, Steppe, Imperial Eagles, Red-Necked Falcon, Saker Falcon, etc, Jorbeed is a temporary home of the rare Yellow Eyed Pigeons as well. Most of these birds visit here during November and stay till February.
If you try and capture eye-level shots of these raptors, beware about the two things which are thrones and dogs. Both can give you sharp pain.
While roaming in our car outside the dump yard, we saw a Desert fox running towards her den. We reached that area and decided to wait for a while but in vain as she didn't come out again and we had to satisfy with a Chinkara.
We tried looking for Sociable Lapwings as well but that too didn't work-out. Anyways, we ended our day with a Steppe eagle (obvious by now)
After sunset, we reached back to our homestay by 9 pm, had a super tasty traditional Rajasthani home-made food, specially prepared by our host's family.
In the morning, our host dropped us back to the railway station and we reached Delhi with happy faces, full memory cards, and drained batteries.
Have you packed your bags? Is your camera ready??? Oh!! don't forget that extra pair of memory card, battery, hand gloves, bottles of water, and warm clothes as you going to need them BADLY. And after you do all these things, you are ready to WELCOME WINTERS which the best time of the year to do wildlife photography.