BLACK BUCK

Watching wildlife in their natural habitat is simply Magical.

The sheer joy of tracking and seeking Wildlife  in their habitat is difficult to express or reflect in pictures.

The Kala Hiran ( Hindi), Black Buck ( English) , Antilope cervicapra ( Scientific Name) is an Antelope which is fighting a  battle for survival .

It is also the only LIVING SPECIES of the Genus ANTILOPE.

Female Antelopes graze in the fields near the village of Bilaspur ,30 kms from Jodhpur .

female black bucks
Part of  the Harem

A herd is led by a dominant male which has a distinctive Black Fur as can be seen in the picture below.

A typical Harem can consist of  50 antelopes. The one we spotted was less than a dozen.

The Black Buck is an ungulate antelope native to the Indian Sub Continent.

behind the tree
Grazing behind the Kejri tree

The sun was setting and the light was fading fast.We were unfortunately accompanied by two young tourists from New Delhi who were more interested in  taking their own pictures  ( Selfies) rather than racing against the setting Sun.

However despite their efforts we were blessed as we spotted this herd  of about 9  including the Male Black Buck in the open fields moving away from a lake .

The Black Buck requires a large quantity of water unlike the Indian Gazelle ( do  read my blog THE ENCHANTING OASIS) which is an antelope as well.

black buck 1
Looks up as something is amiss

The Black Buck gives chase as it finds a juvenile male ( fur still fawn and horns not fully developed) near one of the female members of The Harem. ( see the feature image)

The Black Buck can notch up a phenomenal speed of  80Kmph.

the chase
On the run

The Black Back is protected in Rajasthan by the Bishnoi community which consider the Antelopes as Avatars of the Gods.

This inherent belief has ensured the survival of this species which requires large open grasslands and shuns dense forests.

Due to such beliefs the Black Buck numbers have improved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened.

GREEN SPICE

The beautiful pristine white flower in the featured  image is the flower of a spice which is a must have in Indian Cuisine.

Have a look at the complete cycle from a pretty white bud to a fiery spice ( the fruit)

the full cycle
Can you spot THE GREEN SPICE ? 

The flowers and the fruit look at the Earth and not the Sun.

To find even a single flower to face the camera in this vast field of Green Chilies was a task indeed. All were drooping downwards.

The flowers droop  like little white bells and the fruit, the green chilies, look downwards as well.

the plant
The plant 

Hari Mirch ( Hindi), Green Chilies ( English) , Capsicum frutescens ( Scientific Name) are now an inseparable part of Indian Cuisine.

Hard to imagine that this plant is not native to the Indian subcontinent but has come from far away lands of Mexico and Peru in the American continent.

green chillis
Green Chilies

The  desert wastelands  of Rajasthan are now green due to the introduction of water and have transformed  into Fruit orchards and vegetable Farms.( do read earlier blogs like  THE DESERT BLOOMS and THE GREEN DESERT).

Green Chilies are consumed in India as vegetables and are a great source of Vitamin C as well.

India is today the largest producer, exporter and consumer of this alien spice .

500 years and things sure have transformed for this GREEN SPICE.

GLORIOUS SUNRISE

 

A fabulous Daybreak in Kichan  in the heart of Demoiselle Crane country.

Clouds over the tents at Khurja Resorts, Khichan adorn new robes.

In the foreground is the resilient and  endemic  Neem ( Azadirachta Indica) tree .

day break over khurja resort
KHURJA RESORT KICHAN

The morning Sun attempts to leave the cover of the clouds that still hang in the sky.

sun and clouds
SHADOWS RECEDE AS THE MORNING SUN RISES 

The Demoiselle Cranes ( do read my blogs The Winter Guests and he feast)  can be seen forming patterns in the sky as  the caress of Morning  Sun makes the clouds blush .

in a line
Demoiselle Cranes on the Move

Dawn brings about a Glorious Golden hue to Crane Country at Kichan.

 

A break
Dawn casts a Golden Hue over Kichan

Watching Nature unfold in the mornings is a delightful experience.

The experience of Dawn is enhanced manifold in the peaceful solitude of the Deserts of Rajasthan.

 

TREES

 

This blog is a dynamic blog and I will keep adding ENCHANTING TREES as and when I see them.

There is no information, no write up,  only the BEAUTY OF NATURE  UNLEASHED.

trees
Leafless in a Cotton Field near Kichan
kejri in the desert
Kejri in the desert near Ranasir
rocky mountains
Backdrop of the Rocky mountains at Mandor

 

 

THE GREEN DESERT

Deserts are synonymous with harsh, brown  and arid .

A land full of thorns and sandy soil on which very few living organisms  can survive due to the paucity of water

The black and white Variable Wheatear( English),Oenanthe picata (Scientific Name) has chosen to migrate from Central Asia to bask on a bed of thorns in the Winter Sun of Rajasthan.

Variable Wheatear
Thorn Bird

This magnificent and large Ber tree is covered with  Red berries called BER in Hindi . They  grow wild all over the region from Jodhpur to Bikaner and Jaisalmer.

The  Ber ( Hindi)Tree , Indian Plum or Jujube (English) , Ziziphus mauritiana ( Scientific name) is perfectly adapted to the alkaline sandy soil of the desert . It has taproots which go deep into the soil and store water as well .

The Ber fruit  is a rich source of vitamin C  etc. and has numerous medicinal uses as well.

The tree also has innumerable sharp and tiny thorns.

Ber tree
Large Ber Tree laden with fruit

The typical landscape of the region near Kichan ( home to the Demoiselle Cranes) as of date can be observed in the picture below.

Do observe the sandy soil is now naturally covered with typical Shrubs and grasses native to the region.

The Indian Gazelle ( do read my blog THE ENCHANTING OASIS) is now beautifully camouflaged as the Desert mutates.

The photograph below  was taken from the car and you can see the shadow of the window on the left .

This change has come about over several years of bountiful rains.

A gazelle runs away
Can you spot the Gazelle ?

Wastelands are being converted into rich agricultural lands as man made Canals connect this parched lands to the rivers in the north.

Drip Irrigation and sprinklers  ( see picture below) are turning the Desert Green as water and electricity reaches even remote villages.

The picture below is of a vegetable farm in the heart of DESERT COUNTRY.

The Tittar( Hindi) , Grey Partridge  or Grey Francolin ( English) is now exposed against the large Radish leaves.

I always mention the local names as they always reveal a characteristic of the bird or animal. In this case the  name Tittar is a near replica of the call of this bird.

water in the desert
Water Sprinklers make the Desert Green

As the Desert Blooms and transforms from brown to Green many inhabitants which have adapted to the brown arid landscape find themselves in a quandary.

I draw your attention to the featured image of the Partridge, see how beautifully the terracotta, rust and brown plumage blends into the sandy soil of the desert but shows up against the Greens of Vegetables.

The preferred scrubby dry brown habitats of the Tittar are gradually turning into GREEN FRUIT and VEGETABLE FARMS as THE DESERT turns GREEN.

SPIDER FLOWERS

The Spider Flowers are so called because of their extraordinarily long stamens which one can see clearly in the featured image.

Resembling the legs of the Anthropoid they are named after, the Spider flowers however bear only 6 stamens.

This gorgeous  bunch of flowers are called Cleome hassleriana ( scientific name) and come all the way from South America.( South Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and North Argentina) 

If you see carefully there is only one flower which bears a distinctively different hue to the rest.

spider flowers
A bunch of Spider Flowers

The morning dew settles on the petals and the buds jostle to get their share of the Morning Sun.

A strict   discipline  or pattern is followed  by the buds. Those at the base of the bunch bloom first , gradually blooming sequentially till the top.

Can you guess why?

buds of the spider flower
An inbuilt order decides which BUD will bloom FIRST.

The stalk  carrying the inflorescence doubles over  under the weight of the large number of Spider flowers.

The exceptionally long pistils have an incredible outreach  so they succeed in the game of Survival planned by Nature.

Seven Leaflets form the structure of the compound leaf. Four Petals and Six Stamens make up the flower.

pistils
Game of 4,6 & 7

Humming Birds are attracted, in their native habitat of South America , to the Spider Flowers in droves.

In the Himalayas probably butterflies and Sunbirds take up the task of Pollinators accomplished by the Humming Birds in South America.

The flowers above were photographed near the house of Mr Prateek Swarup of the JW Marriot Hotel at the Brentwood Sanctuary, Mussoorie , Uttrakhand ,India. Coincidentally  spiders in hundreds had made the area their home as well.

Incredibly the Spider Flowers and Ker  Shrub/Tree ( do see my blog CHRISTMAS IN THE DESERT) belong to the same Family Capparaceae.

( the Caper Family).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TREES OF LIFE

Life in a Desert truly makes you realize that many creatures would  not survive without the assistance of Trees.

Trees in turn have adapted in an enchanting way to their habitat in the deserts where water is scarce and difficult to come by.

All the pictures below were around  a village called Ranasir located in Rajasthan near the town of  Phalodi.

The cool green  leaves of a tree provide the House Sparrow (English), Chirayia ( Hindi) , Passer domesticus ( Scientific Name) comfort against the blistering heat of the Desert.

House Sparrow
Snuggled amongst leaves

Do read my  article CHRISTMAS IN THE DESERT to know about the KER or Caper Berry Tree /shrub which provides shelter and food to the Gazelle ( do read the post AN ENCHANTING OASIS)  in the picture below.

The shrub near the hindlegs of the Chinkara or Gazelle belongs to the Pea family and the Genus Crotalaria of which I will write about later as well.

gazelle and caper berries
An Indian Gazelle spotted eating Ker berries.

Camels or the Ships of the Desert love the leaves and fruits of the Khejri ( Hindi) , Ghaf ( Arabic) , Prosopis cineraria ( Scientific name) trees which dot the desert landscape of the region.

I have been wanting to write a blog on this omnipresent Tree of Rajasthan but have not been able to do so till date.

trees and life
Camels love the leaves and fruits ( Sangri) of the Khejri Tree

The featured image is a hut made by the villagers of Ranasir  from dried  branches of the Milkweed and other shrubs/trees of the desert .

I chose it as the Featured Image as it perfectly symbolizes the Lifeline that Trees provide to all including Man (Scientific name  Homo Sapiens).

 

 

 

ECLIPSED

Am being presumptuous in assuming you have already read my write ups  WINTER GUESTS and THE FEAST before you read this post and are thus well acquainted with the graceful DEMOISELLE CRANES.

Thus while at the Khurja Resort at Kichan  attempting to photograph these lovely Cranes flying  near  a cluster of  Milkweed ( or Aak in Hindi) shrubs, I spot a movement from the corner of my eyes.

However, these dainty guests from lands as far away as Turkey totally ECLIPSE your vision  in Kichan .

cranes land a sunbird
The Demoiselle Cranes and the Milkweed Shrub in front

A flash of blue and a brief movement of the flowers again diverts me and  compels me to  zoom onto the Milkweed shrub.

I was in for a lovely surprise indeed, a tiny  Purple Sunbird was flirting with the flowers of the Milkweed.

The Male Purple Sunbird ( English) ,Cinnyris asiaticus asiaticus ( Scientific name) or Mor Nektarkuşu ( Turkish) is captured on camera in ECLIPSE PLUMMAGE.( i.e: when they are not breeding) . Do see the picture below.

The male Sunbird is a light  canary yellow on the underside speckled with a brilliant glossy Royal Blue  Plumage on the back.

flower and me
The alert Camera glimpses a breathtaking Sunbird

The Purple Sunbird is Native to large tracts of Asia including Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and SouthEast Asia.

During the breeding when it is not “eclipsed” the plummage is a formal ALL black except when the sun rays bounce of its back revealing a Spectacular Glossy Blue.

The Sunbird is like the Hummingbirds of the Americas and can hover over flowers.

However this gentleman preferred to select a perch  ( lucky for photographer me) on the flowerstalk before it took a sip.

Had I  taken only the picture below it would be  difficult to identify the sex of the  Sunbird .The females have only a Yellow – dull brown plumage with no trace of the Royal Glossy Blue feathers seen on the male.

upside down
Is the bouquet for me ?

The Sunbird is an extremely vital pollinator for many species as it ensures fertilization carrying millions of pollen on its body and head.

The long curved scimitar like beak helps it drink  the nectar from the flowers of the Milkweed (  Scientific name Calotropis procera ) which grow allover in the deserts of Rajasthan.

This is another example of a  naturally occurring Symbiotic relationship.

breathtaking
Thank you I do not need a straw

The large leaves of the hardy Aak ( Hindi)  or Milkweed ( English) eclipse this solitary, beautiful  MALE  PURPLE SUNBIRD. Do check out previous blogs on this lifesaving Plant of the Desert titled THE DESERT BLOOMS and ENCHANTED BY THE RAIKA.

the flash of blue
The Sunbird has a drink in Solitude under cover.

It was a first for me to photograph this enchanting Sunbird in non breeding plumage that was  nearly ECLIPSED by the much larger , more numerous and very vocal  DEMOISSELE CRANES ( Khurja) .

THE LITTLE ONES

In a previous blog titled AM I CHIFFCHAFF I spent hours trying to identify a similar little  brown and cute   bird .

The result was I was way off the mark. Fortunately a fellow blogger BADRI identified it as the BROWN ROCK CHAT .

Excited by the idea I am posting photographs of similar little birds seen and photographed in the area around Kichan, Rajasthan, India  during a Desert Safari.

Would the experts and Badri in particular like to Name these LITTLE ONES ?

This cutie  loved showed off its sexy back. Spotted on the wall of the Khurja Resort, Kichan.

my sexy back
This little one is the same  bird as in the Featured Image

Another little and brown bird  at ground level.

My blogger friends , Badri and Starrywazzoh seem to voting for this as the Graceful Prinia ( English) ,  Prinia gracilis ( Scientific Name) . 

It is so confusing, even the colour changes in different profiles, let alone breeding and juvenile plumage and difference between the sexes.

More views/comments are awaited.

let me hide behind the stone
Should I hide behind this BOULDER?

A side view reveals a striated back and long tail.

better view
Is my side profile better?

Spotted on a tree in the midst of a desert about 50 kms from Kichan.

Now identified during Christmas as the Southern Grey Shrike ( English)  , Lanius meridionalis ( Scientific Name) . It is a migrant bird from Southern Europe  and a now  a very rare sight.( lucky us) .

Starrywazzoh a birder from UK  , specializing in birds of Central Asia and  Western Europe correctly identified this bird. ( he has fantastic pictures and a lovely blog too)

Spotted in the desert

Let me zoom in to help my friends and experts  identify it better.

grey black and white
Sorry not the best of pictures

This one looks very similar to the one wanting to hide behind the “BOULDER”. However was spotted on the fence of an agricultural field near the Sand Dunes.

beeeater and unknown
The Green Bee Eater and another Mysterious Little One

Do observe the rust coloured plummage on the neck and sides.Sorry could not get the tail in totality.

Photographing small birds is not easy as they keep hopping around.

on a redsandstone perch
A closer view

I now await my friends to identify these sweet LITTLE ONES.

Thereafter will keep updating the post as and when they are identified, so you will need to check in repeatedly.

 

CHRISTMAS IN THE DESERT

The Joy of Christmas is definitely in the air as Carols and Christmas Trees can be heard and seen across the Globe.

Nature celebrates this lovely festival of Joy, Happiness and Giving in the far and desolate deserts of Rajasthan in the form of the Caper Berry ( English) Ker/Khair ( Hindi) or Cappari deciduas ( Scientific Name) Tree.

ker and windmills
Cappari deciduas amongst Windmills and Kejri Trees

The flush of  lovely red berries of this hardy Xmas Tree of the desert resemble  decorative Christmas Balls.

Tiny leaves appear only on new shoots and this adaptation of appearing leafless ensures the survival of the Ker tree in a region where water is extremely precious.

ker along the highway
Richly adorned with red berries

These edible red berries are dried, pickled when green and form an inseparable part of the famous Rajasthani dish Ker Sangri.

Beautifully adapted to the arid desert environment they can survive the harshest of droughts

decorations of ker
The Red berries of Ker

The Ker or Khair tree is also a Pharmacy of sorts and finds numerous medicinal uses in curing ailments like swollen joints, diabetes and asthma .

These spherical berries are also a symbol of fertility and consumed as  aphrodisiacs as well. ( Nature challenges Viagra)

The beautiful dainty red Christmas like like berries are a rich Natural source of Vitamin C, Calcium and Phosporous.

 

xmas decorations
Christmas Balls in The Desert

It is symbolic that the Christmas tree of the Desert   also bears thorns on its head. ( see the featured image) .

Wishing everyone  the Joy and Happiness  of Christmas.