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Gujarat: Birdwatchers Mecca

Listed under Birdwatching in India.

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I was here to attend the Global Birdwatching Conference 2010, organised by the Gujarat Government. Bringing together 500 or so world birdwatchers, travel writers, photographers and various members of birding and other, NGO's from around the world, this event was going to be big! Featuring an outstanding array of speakers and the logistical organisation involved in this three day event, the travel organiser, Uttej Rao of JN Rao Travel had done a first rate job

We were to leave Ahmedabad by nine this morning for the conference home town of Jamnagar. Jamnagar is a wonderful place for birds with extensive wetlands and marine parks surrounding the extremely busy town. Our hotel base at the Express Regency, Jamnagar was some way outside of town but for the most part, this worked very well with an efficient transfer service. Well, as efficient as you can get with delegates wandering off with binoculars at every opportunity!

Some birding around the hotel to introduce us to the local birds after check-in, Gujarat is primarily a dry state (that means no alcohol, rather than no rain) and a vegetarian region, the food here was splendid.

Birding highlights were many for the 500 delegates spread across the 44 coaches which descended on Khijadiya. With resident and migratory species here for the winter the birding was excellent, even with the organised chaos of 44 coaches arriving!

Shallow freshwater wetlands border the extensive salt marshes of the southern shore of the Gulf of Kutch. Throughout this vast complex there are a number of tracks and towers which allow a close approach to the bird and indeed other life of the marshes such as the massive male Nilgai seen over the back of one pond. The salt marshes of the Marine National Park was to be another days excursion which, with the promise of the monotypic Crab Plover was drawing us ever closer.

Numerous pelican, gulls, wading birds were found as well as a splendid variety of the birds that most birders just love; the affectionately named LBJ's or Little Brown Jobs that frequent the Acacia hedgerows around some of the ponds.

If you're a birder, you'll no doubt be Googling and checking out the check lists of birds here and will be going with something particular in mind. If you're a visitor with an interest in birds then you'll have a ball at both these sanctuaries. Here's a good place to start:

Another visit to a different part of the Khijadiya wetlands on Friday before a highlight of the trip on Saturday with the visit to the Marine National Park segment. Tentative walking across the shallow mud flats over a kilometre or so, looking at some sparkling examples of Palearctic waders, terns, gulls and many reef egrets of two colour phases we were soon looking at the spectacular vista of over 150 stunning adult and juvenile Crab Plovers.

Several enjoyable hours later we were heading back for our final night together. On Sunday around 40 of us were heading off to Gir National Park with a stop for lunch and tour of Gandhi's birth place at Porbandar before arriving late in the day at Sasan township and a short stay here.

Thanks to the Global Birdwatches Conference 2010, Gujarat Tourism, Gujarat State Government and Uttej Rao of J N Rao Travel for a wonderful experience.

The Global Birdwatchers Conference is on again in January 2012, details from J N Rao Travel.

Written by  Alan McBride.

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