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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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"Thol Bird Sanctuary"

On our two week journey in Gujarat, enjoying the wildlife at Jamnagar, Porbandar, Gir and Velavadar, we decided to spend a day in Ahmedabad and explore the “Thol Bird Sanctuary” before boarding our flight back to Bangalore. A very wise decision indeed!

Greater Flamingo
Greater Flamingo at "Thol Wildlife Sanctuary"

Once again, it was Yogendra Shah who put us in touch with Falguna Shah. Falguna along with her sister runs a small business making baby clothes in Ahmedabad. A great nature lover, Falguna has a fabulous collection of high quality bird images from the “Thol” area. She kindly agreed to accompany us and we (Kulashekara, Viswanath, Falguna and myself) spent the entire day watching and photographing a wide range of bird species. At the end of the day, I was indeed amazed to learn, that such a large verity of birds in such large numbers are found so close to Ahmedabad city! Thank you Falguna for all the help.



On the 25th January, 2010, we left Ahmedabad City at about 6 am. On the way we stopped at a “Dhaba” for some hot tea and polished of a wonderful homemade “Gujarathi Breakfast” that Falguna had packed for us. After breakfast, Falguna suggested that we stop at a “Cattle Shelter” at “Dabhla” on the way to Thol. After three decades of traveling in India, I am afraid I must confess that I was not prepared for what followed!

Dabhla
An area behind the "Cattle Shelter" at Dabhla.

At “Dabhla” we entered a large gate and immediately saw several areas filled with cattle. Many truck loads of cattle food had just arrived and hundreds of “Rose-ringed Parakeets" were stealing all the grains they could before the Cattle arrived for their breakfast.

And then Falguna lead us to an open area behind the cattle shelter. It was mind-boggling! A large verity of birds took flight on our approach. They included Egyptian Vultures, Tawny Eagles, Greater Spotted Eagles and Steppe Eagles! Then the stench hit us. Hundreds of dead cattle in various stages of decomposition lay scattered all over the place. Cattle Egrets in hundreds were feeding on the worms that were in turn feeding on the dead cattle! Whoever named them “Cattle Egret” was dead right!

That morning at “Dabhla”, I could not concentrate on photography. I was just gaping at the scene of so many birds feasting around the dead cattle. I noticed many other species in the area that included Black Kite, Black Drongo, Bank Myna, Common Hoopoe, Jungle Crow, Black-headed Ibis and Grey Wagtail. I am sure there were many more species around, but I just could not digest what I was witnessing! I had to leave the place or I would have started throwing up!

Greylag Goose
Greylag Goose rest at Thol

We then drove to “Thol Wildlife Sanctuary” more popularly known as the “Thol Bird Sanctuary”. Any birders paradise! Basically, the place is a large man-made water reservoir surrounded by agricultural habitat. A large number of waterfowls inhabit this protected area that is about 7 sq. km. and is less than 30 kms away from the bustling Ahmedabad City.

Ruddy Shellduck
Ruddy Shellduck at Thol

We spent the rest of the morning photographing the smaller birds like Sulpher-bellied Warbler, Purple Sunbird, Jungle Prinia, Red-throated Flycatcher, Black Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher at “Thol”.

Bar-headed Goose
Bar-headed Goose at Thol

After a superb lunch at a nearby hotel at 1 pm, we drove to the other side of the lake for some unbelievable birding! By sunset we were able to photograph the Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Wooly-necked Stork, Greater Flamingoe, Common Crane, Pied Kingfisher, Southern Grey Shrike, Great White Pelican (Rosy Pelican), White-tailed Lapwing, Sociable Lapwing! Ruddy Shellduck, Bar-headed Goose, Greylag Goose, Kentish Plover and a Greater-spotted Eagle.

Pied Avocet
Pied Avocets at Thol

Great White Pelican
Great White Pelicans at Thol

At sunset we watched the spectacular scene of thousands of birds in various formation flights land at “Thol”. A fitting end to our two weeks in wild Gujarat!

* Please visit www.indiabirds.com to view some of bird images I made at Thol...

Vijay Cavale
January, 2010