12/22/13

Tal Chapar

Tal Chappar, Churu District, Rajasthan, India – Dec 2013

Last month KP called me and had asked if I was interested in a trip to Tal Chapar. Frankly I wasn’t sure but I said yes anyway.  Work was keeping me desk bound for the larger part of the last two years and I was sorely missing my  photo trips.  Definitely was itching to get back into the groove !

Tal Chapar is a quaint grassland sanctuary located in the Churu district of Rajasthan. Best way to reach is to take a train from Delhi. The train leaves late night from Delhi and reaches Ratangarh early morning.  The Delhi – Bikaner  line stops by at Ratangarh. Ratangarh is some 40 Kms from Tal Chapar.

KP, Ravi Ganesh & I reached Ratangarh and were received by the stalwart driver Hari. After an early morning tea outside the station, we started for Chapar. The accommodation at Chapar is the forest resthouse. It has a few spacious rooms and you are advised to book well in advance.

The 4 AM tea stall, just outside the station at Ratangarh

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Tal Chapar Resthouse.

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After dumping our luggage we kitted up immediately for our first safari. The vehicle was  a closed top “Mahindra Bolero“. Not the most comfortable vehicle to shoot from surely. Handling the long lens one is kind of restricted as regards the range of movements, that one can make to sight the target for a shot. Though I had resolved not to shoot the regular “crap” , I found my resolve faltering and did end up with quite a few “regular shots”.  I thought I needed some time to settle in and then go for the “not so regular shots”.  Definitely was not in my “zone” as yet.

Moving into the park we encountered a few Grey Francolins. Further up we took a turn to the north. Black bucks were grazing in the distance and the sun was just beginning to come up. Ahead, we  spotted a few Laggar falcons on the dry branches. One of the them flew down and gave us some great opportunity for some ground level shots. Further up towards the waterhole there were some larks and a favourite of mine a “Black Shouldered Kite” on a dry branch. We noticed this guy again on the same perch, so probably this is a favourite of the bird.

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While one can get down in the park and walk, we mostly shot with the help of a bean bag out of the Bolero’s windows. For most parts I found my 600mm to be a bit too much of a focal length especially, when it came to including extended wings into the frame. Soon it was time to get back to the resthouse for breakfast.

The regular shots

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The not so regular shot

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After breakfast we headed out towards “The salt Pan area” to spot the desert jird. The jird is a rodent that lives in a colony of interconnected burrows. More about the Desert Jird at Karthick’s excellent blog.

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Lunch and a bit of rest , we then went to the lake at Chadwas. We spotted bar headed geese. There were also Demoiselle cranes but, they flew off  probably flushed / spooked by someone. The geese also took off as well but, circled and landed back at the lake. We climbed on to the embankment to take a few shots. This was the only place I used my tripod.

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After Chadwas, we  moved to “Gaushala” where we spotted a rather co-operative Tawny eagle. The light was superb and we were able to maneuver to a good spot to get great angles on this majestic bird. The moon was also visible and I experimented with a 50mm “scape shot” with the Tawny and the moon in the same frame. One of my favourite pics from the trip surely 🙂

The regular shot

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The not so regular shot

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We then dipped back into the park to catch the sunset. The back bucks were jumping the tracks but, my 600mm was way too much focal length to fit them in the frame. At sundown, the harriers were also quite active and were coming in to roost inside the park.

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All in all a wonderful day of birding & photography. I thought I was not as “photographically sharp” but,  the practice was definitely helping. Overall this trip, not as many “Not so regular shots” as I would have liked. But, thats ok . This  was more of a practice trip 🙂

The next day we had an early start to the carcass dump at Jor Beed, on the outskirts of Bikaner. The Jor Beed, Bikaner blog follows.

Tal Chapar photography Tips

* Need a bean bag
* You can do well with a 300- 400mm lens
* Definitely need a 70-200 and a wide 17-37 or similar. I was using the 50mm on this trip.
* Tripod not needed

For the entire album of Tal Chapar pics, please look at the album below