Ranthambhore – the alternative safari

To give ourselves the best chance of seeing Bengal Tiger we had dedicated four days to visiting Ranthambhore National Park, staying at the Kothi Hotel, ten minutes from the main gate. In the event we struck gold on our first game drive – enjoying close and prolonged views of a young pregnant female – see Tiger Tales for the full story. With six more game drives booked and the group split over three vehicles this left us in a tricky situation. It also rapidly became clear that very few of the park rangers – in charge of each vehicle – had more than the most basic knowledge of the birdlife and, with pre-booked routes for each drive, this generally resulted in ‘hit and miss’ encounters with suitable habitat, vantage points and hence birds! Pre-programmed for tracking down the ‘striped beast’ it was also difficult to get the guide & driver to drive slowly, stop for a ‘little brown job’ or manoeuvre vehicles to get the best photos. Despite these obvious drawbacks we did get to see some great birds which, in the end, most of the group managed to catch up with. Here is the evidence..

Grey Francolin had been encountered earlier in the trip but gave themselves up easily in Ranthambhore
In contrast, these Painted Spurfowl were rarely seen other than darting across the road in front of the jeeps
It was easier to get the guide & driver to stop for large road-side raptors like this Crested Serpent Eagle
..or this Shikra
One pull-off, overlooking a lake, consistently produced the goods including close views of Great Thick-knee
..and these superb River Tern
A regular ‘car-park’ bird was a group of Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, this is the striking male
On the lake itself more wildfowl interest – the only whistling-duck species we encountered – these are Lesser
and Ruddy Shelduck
Along the various watercourses connecting the lakes we found White-browed Wagtail – Pied Wagtail on steroids!
Initially we had difficulty separating young waterhen from Brown Crake – the key was the dark under-tail coverts of the crake
No identification issues however with this diminutive heron – this is Striated
Bush birds were seldom evident – this rare ‘mixed flock’ contained several Common Woodshrike
Common Iora
..and the ubiquitous Indian Robin
Sometimes we just let the birds come to us – see the Jungle Babbler on the drivers seat!
.. and sometimes they were too busy to notice us at all! – Alexandrine Parakeet

You’d think sitting in the back of a jeep all day was a relatively relaxing affair but nothing could be further from the truth. The relentless bouncing and bumping, the dust, and constant attention demanded to see birds whizzing by at 40kph left us at the end of the day wrung-out – but generally content. As the sun goes down over Ranthambhore and the Bengal Tigers commence their twilight pursuit of ‘tiger chocolate’ – as the guides nonchalantly referred to the Spotted Deer fawns as – it’s back to the hotel for a swim and a welcome beer!

This entry was posted in Birding.

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