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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
The Chambal River Sanctuary in Rajasthan India
Munir Virani — in Asian Vulture Crisis    Share
Counting vultures on the Chambal River can be quite an ambivalent experience. We are on the boat from dawn to dusk with an opportunity to see some of the most fascinating wildlife in India. However, it is usually hot and one does end up with a sore behind at the end of the day. The Chambal is one of the only rivers in India that flows from south to north. I was accompanied by Dr Patrick Benson, who has been studying Cape Vultures in South Africa for nearly 30 years and Shiv Kapila, one of my students supported by The Peregrine Fund, who successfully completed a Masters degree at the University College of London. I have been very fortunate to have Pat regularly help me over the last seven years that we have been observing vultures in India. He has a wealth of knowledge and I have benefited tremendously from his vast experience.

We left our hotel at 5.30 am mainly to beat the heat which was clocked at 125 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. The 400 km Chambal River originates from the Vindhayan ranges of Central India and passes through Kota in Rajasthan and ends up flowing into the Yamuna River. Near Kota, the Chambal is surrounded on both sides of its banks by large cliffs making it a haven for birds. We got to Kota the night before from Delhi and this morning were on the boat at 5.45 am to conduct vulture nest counts to ascertain whether populations of the critically endangered Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus are still on the decline. The river meanders through steep sided cliffs where we have seen Peregrine Falcons, Changeable Hawk Eagles and Bonnelli’s Eagles amongst other spectacular bird species. The walk towards the boat jetty runs through a children’s park and a very colorful temple. Gopal, our boatman started the engine, and off we went to count our vultures. Fortunately, today was not as hot as the previous day and a cool breeze helped to keep us sane but kept swirling the boat making it rather frustrating to keep a steady eye on the scope. This morning we saw a Sloth Bear and two cubs foraging behind some rocks. Birds were bountiful and one of the main highlights was watching a pair of Osprey hunting over the river, a fantastic array of displaying Dragonflies, a Brown Fishing Owl, a Crested Serpent Eagle and a large flock of Egyptian Vultures and Black Kites. We were disappointed not to have seen a Peregrine Falcon, but it is still early and we may get the chance at Bandhavgarh National Park, later on during this expedition. Our next stop will be at Ranthambhore National Park and the surrounding areas.


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