Bird-watching trip to Solapur grasslands

After a splendid trip to Dandeli, I had another trip scheduled; this time to Solapur with Wild India Eco Tours. This was my 1st birding trip with a group that is into arranging wildlife trips across India. I was not really sure what to expect as I had never been on such a trip before. My journey started with boarding the Siddheshwar express at 2:30 AM from Pune station. Everyone else had boarded the train from Mumbai and fortunately we all were in the same boogie. We arrived in Solapur at around 7:00 AM and were picked up by Kumar; who was our guide for the next two days. He also drove the jeep himself, which is always preferred for birding. After doing a quick check-in and dumping our luggage at the hotel, we started our 1st session of birding.

We started our birding at a lake near Hipparge. We accessed the lake from two different points and did manage to see quite a no. of birds; some of the key ones included the yellow-wattled lapwing, Indian Roller, European Roller, Green Sandpiper, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Black-eared Kite, Grey-bellied Cuckoo and the Gull-billed tern. After spending a good 2-3 hours, we moved to a small lake in Solapur city were we sighted the Common Moorhen and Purple Swamphen; post which we headed for lunch.

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After a good lunch, we left for birding in grasslands in Solapur outskirts. As soon as we entered the area near Hiraj,  we were greeted by a quite a no. of larks and shrikes; the long-tailed and bay-backed shrikes, ashy-crowned sparrrow lark, Sykee’s lark, Rufous tailed lark and yes, even the Blue-rock thrush. We also saw a Blackbuck pretty up-close. However, highlight of this place was the Indian Eagle Owl. Its huge and its deadly!. We surely had to walk quite a lot in the hot sun but it was completely worth it. We also say small minivets, rose ringed parakeets, spotted owlets and the tri-coloured Munia.

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We started back at around 4, and after having a quick tea we drove further into the grasslands of Solapur outskirts. Again we saw quite a no. of larks and shrikes. As time passed by, we also got to see the harriers, Montagu’s as well as the Pallied Harrier. It was around 5:15 PM and most of us were already tired; but then came the moment where-in we felt afresh all over again. We spotted the Great Indian Bustard. Its such a pleasure to watch this beauty move through the grass. Pure elegance. Here is some bit of information about the species:

– As the name suggests, the Great Indian Bustard is very much endemic to India and not found anywhere else in world.
– During breeding times, the male develops more feathers as well as a pouch and makes a booming sound to attract the female. The sound is so strong that it can be heard almost 1 KM away.
– After breeding,  the female GIB will lay only 1 egg; hence the rate at which the population of GIBs increase is very low. Also, a lot of times that 1 egg may end up as a meal for foxes, Jackals, eagles and other predators.
– The GIB count is pretty low right now, probably in few hundreds; and is identified as a critically endangered species

The day couldn’t have ended on a better note. But wait, the night had its own surprises!. We waited till it was dark and then it was time for the Nightjar! Kumar helped us in spotting an Indian Nightjar which was another superb sighting for all of us. Note that the pic of Nightjar was taken with due care with help of experts without causing any harm or blinding the Nightjar. No flash was used.

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After getting a good sleep, Day 2 begin pretty early; sharp at 6:00 AM to be specific. When you are with folks who are into birding, you can be dead sure that no-one will ever be late. The guide drove us to yet another grassland in Solapur outskirts, where we were 1st greeted by a Grey Francolin. We again saw larks and shrikes and this time they were pretty close. We also saw quite a number of Hoopoes, silverbills and common stonechats at this place. After spending a couple of hours, we halted for Tea and breakfast. Post that we went to an open area in the grasslands where Kumar helped us in spotting the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse!.. the highlight of this session! He also informed us that we should crawl quietly and we will be able to get pretty upclose to the bird. We all did managed to get some good shots. It was lunch time already and we headed for lunch.

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Post lunch session Kumar took us to the same area as yesterday, especially for Indian coursers; and this time again we saw the Indian eagle Owl (caught it taking a nap this time :D). Surprisingly, we saw quite a no. of Southern Grey shrikes on Day 2. After spending few hours, we headed for tea and snacks. The day was almost coming to an end when we again spotted the Great Indian Bustard in Solapur outskirts. We also saw Common Kestrel and Short-toed Snake Eagle this time, in-addition to the Pallied Harriers.

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No prizes for guessing; this was yet another superb birding experience for me. Yes, I got to see the Great Indian Bustard but for me the highlight was the friends I made during the trip. Bhavesh, Sunil, Rupali, Suru, Mangesh, Saumitra and Kumar.. everyone of them was completely down to earth and very open to share their knowledge and experiences. I couldn’t have asked for better company.

A very special thanks to the Wild India Eco Tours team for taking due care wherever required and ensuring that we all had a lovely experience. Bhavesh, Sunil, Rupali… I am sure you all will go a long way. If anyone has recently stepped into birding and wants guidance, do join them in one of their trips; the knowledge, the tips, the guidance you will get is what you will cherish forever.

From a birding perspective, this trip gave me a total of 18 lifers..! and the sighting of the rare Great Indian Bustard. I felt that birding in Solapur grasslands is probably one of the toughest and very tricky… primarily because you cannot pin-point a spot like in Dandeli or Goa where you will surely see birds. You need to just drive along the grasslands, explore and keep an eye for any movement in the grass; and the tall grass makes it even more difficult to spot birds. Also, it is important that you have some local guide who will know places which are relatively less crowded; where there is a better chance of spotting birds.


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– Rudraksha & Shraddha


We saw a total of close to 90 different species of birds, here is list of some of the key sightings:

– Great Indian Bustard

– Indian Eagle Owl

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

– European Roller

– Indian Roller

– Pallied Harrier

– Marsh Harrier

– Montagu’s Harrier

– Indian Nightjar

– Brain-fever bird (Only call heard, no sighting)

– Indian Plaintive Cuckoo

– Blue Rock Thrush

– Southern Grey Shrike

– Bay-backed Shrike

– Green Sandpiper

– Gull-billed Tern

– Osprey

– Tricoloured Munia

– Indian Silverbill

– Grey-necked Bunting

– Indian Bushlark

– Singing Bushlark

– Sykee’s Lark

– Rufous-tailed Lark

– Ashy crowned Sparrow Lark

– Eurasian Hoopoe

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