A few days ago I was talking on the phone with my sister and in the middle of our conversation I mentioned that I needed to pack. “Pack for what?” she says and I reply “India.” Immediately she starts saying “WHAT? You’re going to India?! You didn’t tell me that!” Surely I did. Didn’t I? My sister claims I never told her I was going to India, and proceeds to tell me that it would be nice for people to hear about something BEFORE we do it instead of always reading about it after the fact.
Because we love to travel, Ross and I prioritize it. Right now we both work full time jobs so we can’t just pick up and travel for extended periods of time, but Ross was given the week of Christmas off and opted to take a week of vacation along with it. So we settled to leave December 26th and be in India for as long as we could, a total of 18 days.
Joining us for this trip is Stephan Lorenz, a bird guide for Rockjumper and High Lonesome Bird Tours, his wife Claudia Cavazos, and two Swiss birders, Julien Mazenauer, a bird guide for BirdQuest and his friend Killian Vaucher.
Why India you might ask? Well, this whole India trip was Ross’s idea. He wanted to go see Great Indian Bustard before it goes extinct. Because going extinct it will. There’s not really a good program in place that could save this species before it disappears, especially because habitat loss, power line collisions, and hunting continues to be a huge problem and the population is already estimated to be no more than 100. One hundred. That’s it. It’s a sobering thought, but it’s also motivation to get over to India before this one is gone for good. Certainly there are other species out there that number less and will go extinct soon as well, and believe me they are on the list to see ASAP too, but this one is in a critical situation and took priority. Future birders won’t be able to ‘tick’ this large, grassland dweller and we wanted to be sure we do while it is still an option. It’s one of the heaviest flying birds by the way. So with Great Indian Bustard in mind Ross decided that we needed to get over to India and from there birthed a rough itinerary that has since become more refined as Stephan, Julien and Ross acquired more data. In case you are extra curious, right now that itinerary looks like this:
The six of us are renting a vehicle in New Delhi, specifically a van large enough to accommodate us all, driving northwest towards Hairke, before driving south along India’s western, Pakistan border. We will fly to Mumbai for two days to see Forest Owlet, a bird that was not seen after 1884 and thought extinct until it was rediscovered 113 years later. It is endangered and endemic. And it’s an owl. So naturally the $25 plane ticket from Ahmedabad to Mumbai was worth it to tick this one. (Yes, flights are inexpensive within the country.) Along our route, we are hoping for several other endangered targets.
This is a quick trip for us, focused on quality over quantity. But while I’m on the topic of numbers, both Ross and Stephan are slated to tick their 6,000th birds on this trip! Who will get there first? What species will be number 6,000? I’ll keep you updated! Stay tuned for more!