White-naped Tit (Parus nuchalis) is a rare catch one would envisage to sight on the trip to Kutch.  As for as I was concerned, it was a ‘do or die’ situation. This was one of the rarities, without which I was not willing to go back. Fortunately, we were based in the village of Motivirani, adjoining the town of Nakhatrana in Kutch. Many sightings in Gujarat have come from this specific area. This is because, this bird is a dweller of a very singular and typical habitat. The typical terrain is a dense, scrub like vegetation and consists primarily of small, thorny trees. Main species are, Acacia catechu and Acacia nilotica, that shed their leaves seasonally. These trees typically do not exceed 10 metres in height.

A typical thorny habitat      

      Endemic to the India subcontinent,the White-naped Tit occurs in two distinct and small populations. One in the northwest areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and other in the eastern ghats in the  Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu  states. Even in the strong hold of Gujarat states it is very sparsely distributed and it is even rarer in the south. It presently qualifies as “”Vulnerable”” under IUCN red list. This tit favors acacia plants and in kutch Acacia trees are being cut at a rate of 100 per day to meet the local demand of homemade toothbrushes!!!

   For me, even a small glimpse of the bird would have been a blessing and my yearning was growing more and more with each passing moment. As I was hell bent to observe the prince of the thorny  forest,  we decided to give it an honest try and ventured out on the second day of our stay. There are many patches of thorn forests neighbhouring this place.  Though we explored these forests for three arduous hours, we just weren’t fortunate that day. We couldn’t see any activity and there was no calls of the species either. Then we decided to devote some serious time to this Globally threatened beauty and as such returned the next day with energy doubly recharged. The whole day was spent in the endless sequence of driving, locating a patch of scrub forest, getting down for a thorny trek and trying to perceive even a faint call of the bird. The call of this bird is very melodious, comprising of short series of thin whistles preceded by a higher pitched note. It typically moves in a small foraging group consisting of 3 to 4 individuals.

        Jugal Tiwariji who was guiding us that day, has done a monumental work on this species. He is also a joyful bundle of grit and enthusiasm. While we searched for this endemic beauty, we were being constantly regaled by his endless escapades of birding in Kutch. Finally, at around 3 PM, Jugal bhai became animated and gestured us to maintain silence. As we stationed ,we could hear a distinct call of this rare beauty and very soon three individuals flew into our vicinity.  They were expeditious in their movement from tree to tree and were exceedingly strenuous to capture in the frame. But it was a sensual bliss to observe these small wonders to my heart’s extent.

However, the situation became tougher as we tried to take some shots. It was then that I realized why there weren’t a lot of clean images of this bird. It is a very shy, agile and a rapidly moving bird and hardly accords any decent chance of shooting it. The thorny vegetation also compounds the problem of getting a clean shot. Our movements were also seriously hampered due to an omnipresent danger of getting injured by the thorns. We had to labour through a better part of four hours to record few pleasing images. I was a happy soul. At the end of the day, all the efforts, troubles and tiredness were blotted out from our memory, not to forget  a good number of thorn pricks!!!!!!!.

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