My visits to Tal Chapar Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan are always filled with exciting moments. From getting many many exciting lifers (seeing a bird for the first time – in birders’-tongue) to witnessing some breathtaking action and life’s wonders, it has been a dream destination for me. This time too, it was no different.
When I arrived at Tal Chapar in late September this year, it was a grassland transformed into a green carpet by the delayed monsoons. Tall green grass grew everywhere, except a few areas in the park. When I set out on my first morning safari into the park, I was full of excitement and anticipation. The golden glow of the morning light added that magical touch to the grasslands.
As I was driving on the assigned path, I came across a raptor sitting on one of the dry trees next to the path. The shape and size of the bird seemed to match that of a falcon…and surely it was. A juvenile Laggar Falcon. One of the birds that I’ve not had the best luck with photographing on my previous trips. And here it was – bathed in golden light and posing for the camera.
Laggar Falcons (Falco jugger) are mid-sized birds of prey that were considered the most commonly found falcons in India at one point of time. Their populations have since been on a declining trend and the bird is now classified as Near Threatened by IUCN for the following reasons:
[box] Trends in this species’s population are poorly documented; however, it probably has a moderately small population that is suspected to be undergoing a moderately rapid population reduction, both owing to pesticide use and incidental capture by trappers targeting Saker Falcon Falco cherrug. – Source IUCN[/box]
After a few clicks, I left the falcon to bask in the sun and moved on. As luck would have it, a few minutes later I came across 2 juvenile Laggar Falcons playfully jousting on the ground.
The female bird (presumed because she was much larger than the other bird) was chasing around the male bird with charges on the ground and short hops of flight. This was usually followed by short periods of relative inactivity.
Too much of excitement to handle over a morning? There was more in the offing…
As the sun came up, so did the Spiny-tailed Lizards (Uromastyx hardwickii) in another area of the park. These vegetarian lizards live in colonies of thousands and are a source of food for raptors and mammals.
As I was observing the Spiny-tailed Lizards, a Laggar Falcon swooped down on the colony at full speed and picked up one of the lizards. It then flew to a nearby perch and finished off the lizard – head to tail – in a few minutes.
In another instance, a Laggar Falcon (again a juvenile) had hunted a lizard and found a nice spot in the shade to finish off his meal. In an instant, it was mobbed by 2 Tawny Eagles trying to steal the trophy. The Falcon won that round of the battle due to its sheer speed.
Truly, a morning that would remain etched in my mind and heart forever…