Khichan, a small village near Jodhpur Rajasthan, comes alive every winter with the congregation of 12 to 20 thousand of Demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides virgo). The spectacle starts well before sunrise when tiny specks start appearing on the northern horizon on the pre-dawn deep blue sky.
The residents of Khichan have had a special affinity to these cranes called “Khurja” in the local language. The arrival of the birds is considered auspicious and several ballads celebrate the importance of these birds in the culture of Rajasthan. Central to the spectacle is the spreading of JOWAR ( millets, a form of grain ) in a protected enclosure called Chugga ghar ( or the feeding house ).
Soon several flocks of Demoiselle cranes start arriving from all sides in a typical V formation quite like a squadron of fighter planes. By the time dawn approaches and the sky rapidly changes hues from blue to a golden amber, the whole sky will be filled cranes. The calls of the cranes soon assume a crescendo as they start landing. The reason for interest of the cranes in this particular hamlet is the grain that is put out for the cranes as a daily ritual by the local jain community trust with financial support from across globe.
As time progresses, cranes who have already fed will keep flying out of Chuggaghar and a new group who has been patiently waiting outside on the fringes will keep coming inside for feed. After feeding they will fly off to water bodies around village for drink or an occasional bath. Just before noon the cranes are all gone and Chuggaghar presents a deserted look. In fact for somebody arriving in Chuggaghar in the afternoon, it's hard to imagine that such a nondescript place was the stage for something so spectacular earlier in the day.
This annual congregation of the migratory Demoiselle cranes has fascinated me ever since I made my first trip four year back. I make sure to spend at least 1-2 week every winter, trying various possibilities & perspective to truly represent this huge congregation.
Hope you enjoy photographs, please drop your comments.
First group arrives before Dawn
Horizon to Horizon, every side you see.
Marching cranes towards Chugga Ghar
Cranes Inside Chuggaghar
Some are waiting for there turn on nearby Dunes
After feeding, cranes arriving at waterhole
View from old Haveli
Portrait of Crane
World of Crane
Crane on Canvas, my creative impression of Cranes
Best time: Dec-Feb
Nearest place to stay: Phalodi
Nearest Airport: Jodhpur
Khichan is on Jaipur -Jaisalmer Route and also while driving from Jodhpur- Jaislamer you can take Phalodi road.
Contact: Seva Ram, Mobile:09982372596 . His house is next to Chuggaghar. He will share history with you, also offer you Tea & Biscuits
Tip: Reach early before sunrise, and settle yourself on roof of Sevaram house, wait for this amazing nature spectacle.
Some years back during one of my visits to Jaipur (my in-laws place) when I was getting introduced to the world of nature photography. I told my mother in law that I was going to Tal Chhapar for three days. As she belonged to a place near Tal chhapar, she wondered aloud how out of only a week’s holiday I would waste 3 days and told me “waha kaval herin hi to hai or kuch nahi, (there are only some deer nothing else)”. I said OK, I want to see Deer only and off I went to Tal Chhapar.
I was new to birding that time and was crazy about raptors. There could not be any better place for a Raptor crazy person than Tal chhapar. When I reach Tal chhapar I had the opportunity to meet Shri S.S.Puniya ji the ACF and the man incharge for Sanctuary. It is rare to find a wildlife official so much in love with his place. Even though it is not a part of his part of job, but whenever he sees some nature lover visiting his place, he makes it a point to take then on drive before his official time.
He welcomed me to join him in the morning drive, keep showing me lifers one after another. There would be a Lagger Falcon on one branch, and then Kestrel on another, on periphery of park the Sparrowhawk would keep flying in front of us, on the next turn a black shouldered kite would be seen hovering. Then near water hole, Imperial, Steppe and Tawny eagles.....the list goes on and on.
Since then I have made at least one trip each year to this small but amazing wildlife sanctuary. During this year's trip, I went to Tal Chhapar with the sole objective to document the blackbuck, the sanctuary main attraction. I spend every bit of good light watching these beautiful creatures for three days. The rutting Season was on, so was good time to watch male challenging each other as female approach male territories for possible mate. Enjoy photographs and do visit this place.
Sunrise at TalChhapar
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