Raptors of several species are numerous in Kutch and we were not disappointed. From early on we started seeing Pallid Harriers and Long-legged Buzzards. An excellent monsoon had produced a fine crop of grass which in turn nurtured a huge population of Lesser Bandicoot Rats Bandicoota bengalensis. These are apparently the main prey of the harriers, buzzards and eagles. Other mammals included Golden Jackals, Indian Hares, Jungle Cat, Nilgai and Chinkara but none were numerous. Near Chhari Dhand up to 12 Marsh, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers and a similar number of Steppe Eagles could be seen at any one time. In the evening over 40 Steppe Eagles scuffled over the favoured roosts on top of the scattered bushes with the majority forced to perch on the ground. On two evenings we watched the fly-past of around 200 harriers of three species going to roost, an excellent way to hone id skills on the ringtails. Some seemed to deliberately change direction to fly over us and have a closer look!
In smaller numbers we saw in this area a couple of very pale immature Imperial Eagles, Short-toed Eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Osprey, a single Greater Spotted and Tawny Eagles together with good numbers of Black-shouldered Kites and Common Kestrels. What were missing were any vultures, only on the 3rd did we have very distant views of four Eurasian Griffons even though we visited a carcass dump.
In terms of numbers probably the most impressive species was the Common Crane. Groups of birds were frequently encountered in the grasslands and on the dry flats, many including juveniles which spoke of a good breeding season. On our two evening watches we were treated to the remarkable sight of at least 25000 streaming in from all quarters over a couple of hours to roost on mud banks in the lake. The well-disciplined chevrons and lines were constantly bugling their contact calls. This must be one of the largest wintering concentrations in India and contributes to Kutch’s status as the host of the largest numbers. What was interesting during the day was the number feeding (apparently on roots and tubers) on dry flats and in the thorn scrub. Certainly they were not restricted to wet or even damp areas.