Situated approximately 225 K.m. north-west of Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, Tal chapar is reputed to be India’s one of the best bird-watching as well as bird-photography destinations. It is well-known among birders worldwide for a rich diversity of birds of prey of the region as well as rarities like spotted creeper, Stoliczka’s bushchat, yellow-eyed pigeon, white-tailed eagle and rufous-tailed scrub-robin. More than two hundred and fifty bird species can be recorded in one calendar year by a handful of birders. From bird diversity point-of-view, this small region covering around 30 sq. km. is home to almost half of the bird families from the mainland India (a little more than hundred in number) to name a few, cranes, flamingos, coursers, thick-knees, sandgrouse, storks, ibises, avocets, plovers, eagles-buzzards-vultures-harriers, falcons, buttonquails, hoopoes, bee-eaters, rollers, larks, pipits-wagtails, warblers, flycatchers and (quite surprisingly) nuthatches. This is mainly because within such a small semi-arid region we have diversity of habitats like grassland, saltpans, lakes and ponds and woodlands.
Tal chapar is a birding destination year-around. During summer months, resident raptors like white-eyed buzzard, laggar falcon, tawny eagle and Egyptian vulture are common while during winter months, steppe and imperial eagles, long-legged and common buzzards, cinereous vulture grace the locale with their presence. In the month of October, say on a three day trip, one may sight more than fifteen hawk, eagle, kite and vulture species (one-third of the count from mainland India) over an area covering merely thirty sq. km. Sightings are almost guaranteed. Rare species like White-tailed eagle, merlin, eurasian hobby, lesser kestrel, spanish and sind sparrows, buff-bellied pipit, white-bellied minivet have been sighted here.
Excellent opportunities exist to sight blackbuck, chinkara, Indian and desert fox, desert jird, spiny-tailed lizard, monitor lizard, the list goes on.
Birding hotspots in and around Chapar
- Blackbuck wildlife sanctuary – A small area of approximately eight sq. km, with primary grassland type habitat dispersed with native acacia trees. A large population of blackbucks has made this a home (not to mention, a great opportunity to photograph these endemic antelopes closely). It is the biggest breeding grounds for singing bushlark in the entire India as well as the best roosting place for Montagu’s, western marsh and pallid harriers in the northern India. Rare passage visitors like lesser kestrel, European roller, merlin and Eurasian hobby use this patch as a stopover site during their onward journey to peninsular India. This patch of grassland also welcomes Demoiselle and common cranes every winter. Cream-colored and Indian coursers visit the sanctuary annually. Common kestrel and common stonechat are bountiful during winter months. During winter months of a good monsoon year, large mixed-species flocks of larks and pipits are not uncommon here. Grey francolins, southern grey shrike are quite common throughout the year while black francolin is most frequently sighted during monsoon in good numbers. Rare vagrant white-tailed eagle occasionally visits the sanctuary. An endemic speciality of the sanctuary is Stoliczka’s bushchat. The sanctuary is home to small and barred button-quails. It is also home to different prinia species such as graceful, rufous-fronted and plain. Summer visitors like blue-cheeked bee-eater may also be seen consistently during the months of July to October. During mid-May when temperatures are around 45 deg. C, the sanctuary offers an excellent opportunity to observe behaviour of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse arriving in a flock at the water-hole. Occasional attack by laggar falcon is simply spectacular to watch.
- Gaushala region – A complex of prosopis cineraria trees here is a nesting site for an endemic Indian spotted creeper. Unlike the sanctuary area, one may walk in and around the area, sit for hours near a tree to photograph a creeper or lie on the ground to capture spiny-tailed lizard behaviour. Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse flocks are seen quite regularly after the recent removal of invasive species prosopis juliflora. A small population of Egyptian vultures is permanent resident here. During monsoon months, crested, rufous-tailed larks and ashy-crowned sparrow-larks while during winter months, bimaculated and greater short-toed larks are abundant. The region hosts a large colony of purely herbivorous spiny-tailed lizards, a delicacy for resident as well as migratory raptors. During mating season (most of the March and part of April) bouts for making pairs are a common site. Near-threatened and endemic to the subcontinent laggar falcon feeds on the lizard throughout the year except during harshest winter months when it migrates locally. Common and long-legged buzzards and eagles of type imperial and steppe spend entire winter here. A pair of tawny eagles currently breeds here. Short-toed snake and Bonelli’s eagles are occasional visitors while booted eagles are typical passage migrants. Wheatears and redstarts are to be commonly seen during winter months. Apart from underground spiny-tailed lizard colonies, there are plenty of desert jird colonies as well. Desert and Indian fox look for their main prey, especially during the dusk time here. It is also home to monitor lizards and Indian sand boa which might get attacked by tawny eagles occasionally.
- Charwas and Gopalpura village ponds and adjoining areas – Host to a large population of bar-headed geese during winter months apart from various heron, egret, sandpiper, duck and goose species can be spotted at different times of the year. Just behind the pond, a flat land is full of larks, pipits, wheatears and stonechats during the winter months. Yellow footed green pigeons roost in large numbers on the huge ficus trees near the Gopalpura pond.
- Salt pans – A breeding pair of Indian eagle owl is a star attraction here apart from many waders such as avocet, ruff, redshank, various sandpipers, plovers and stints during the winter season. In the juliflora infested thickets, indian hares and grey francolins are plentiful. Black-winged stilts, crested larks are present throughout the year in good numbers. Around ten species of lark are to be found here at different times of the year. During monsoon months, a small group of greater flamingos visit the area. Intermediate egrets often visit this place.
Key avian species
Yellow-footed green pigeon
Greater short-toed lark
For the complete checklist of Chapar and around birds, click ebird-India page below:
Key mammal species-
Blackbuck (Indian antelope)
Chinkara (Indian Gazelle)
Key reptile species-
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Special Thanks to Dr. Amol Marathe Ph.D. (IISc)