Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary

Published: 6th January 2021 at 7:39 am. Posted in Blog.

Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary

Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Northwestern Rajasthan on the fringe of the Great Indian Desert; The Thar. This small grassland habitat is surrounded by sparse scrub and dry dusty plains. Originally a hunting ground for the Maharaja of Bikaner, it was declared a sanctuary in the 1960s.

Due to the salinity of the soil at Chhapar, one of the regions primary exports is salt. The underground water in the area is so salty that it is simply brought up to the surface with help of bore wells, spread in salt pans and left to evaporate in the relentless blazing sun. Afterwards the salt crystals are collected and sent off for refinement. 

Thanks to its strategic position on a key migratory route, Tal Chhapar is one of the best places to see an amazing variety of raptors such as harriers, falcons, eagles and vultures. Birds begin to appear in September with many staying through until March, sustained by two key prey species; the desert jird and the spiny-tailed lizard.

Laggar falcon eating a spiny tailed lizard.

Adult Spiny tailed lizard basking outside burrow. Rajsthan.

Adult spiny tailed lizard basking outside burrow.

Indian Desert Jird feeding on vegetation outside its burrow. Rajasthan, India. Along with the spiny tailed lizard, The jird is the staple prey for the many raptors that inhabit the desert regions of India.

The desert jird (Meriones hurrianae) otherwise known as the Indian desert gerbil, found in the desert regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

This stunning grassland wasn’t always the paradise it is today. After decades of neglect and encroachment by the nearby salt production, the sanctuary was in a sorry state.

In recent years the grassland has been gradually transformed, thanks to the efforts coordinated by Mr. S.S. Poonia, the range forest officer at Tal Chhapar. The first step was to strip away an invasive plant; Prosopis juliflora, that was choking the habitat. Next, a variety of grasses were planted such as Mothiya grass, a favourite of the blackbucks, which derives its name from ‘moti’ meaning pearl, as its sweet seeds look like pearls.

The final result is vast swathes of pristine grassland bustling with animal life. 

Male blackbuck antelope.

Leaping young blackbuck antelope in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar.

Leaping young blackbuck antelope 

India’s grasslands are home to some of its most endangered species, many of which are endemic. This important habitat now only exists in a handful of places in India and is sadly becoming increasingly scarce. One of the last true grassland ecosystems in India, Tal Chhapar is a haven for the iconic blackbuck antelope and a myriad of birdlife. 

The huge variety of interesting and unique subjects combined with smooth eye-pleasing backgrounds, make Tal Chappar a wildlife photographers paradise.

Mammals of Tal Chhapar:

The sanctuary is home to a wide range of mammals including blackbucks, chinkara, nilgai, desert and Bengal fox, wild boar, desert jird, black naped hare, desert cat and jungle cat. 

Blue Bull (Nilgai Antelope) in front of the setting sun.

Blue Bull (nilgai antelope) in front of the setting sun.

Chinkara Habitat. Indian Gazelle in desert scrub habitat stomping hooves. Tal Chhappar, Rajasthan, India.

Indian gazelle (chinkara) in desert scrub habitat.

Indian Desert Fox at sunset, photographed in desert scrub habitat. Chhappar, Rajasthan, India.

Indian desert fox at sunset.

Indian Boar sprinting across a dusty track in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India. India's Grasslands are home to some of its most endangered species, many of which are endemic. This important habitat now only exists in a handful of places in India and is sadly becoming increasingly scarce.

Indian wild boar sprinting across a dusty track.

Rutting Blackbucks. Two Male blackbucks engaged in a fierce territorial battle. Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India. India's Grasslands are home to some of its most endangered species, many of which are endemic. This important habitat now only exists in a handful of places in India and is sadly becoming increasingly scarce.

Two male blackbucks engaged in a fierce territorial battle.

Reptiles of Tal Chhapar:

Often overlooked in favour of the more easily seen mammals and birdlife Tal Chhapar is also home to 13 species of reptile. Species recorded here include the Indian saw-scaled viper, Jerdon’s snake-eye, King cobra, Indian fringe-fingered lizard, leaf-toed gecko, monitor lizard, spiny tailed lizard and more.

Wide angle view of a big bengal monitor lizard in grassland habitat. Tal Chappar, Rajasthan, India.

Bengal monitor lizard in grassland habitat. 

Indian spiny-tailed lizard close up. Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Indian spiny-tailed lizard

Spiny-tailed lizard

Spiny-tailed lizard.

Birdlife

With the abundance of prey species the sanctuary is home to an incredible range of birdlife. During the Winter months Tal Chhapar is one of the worlds best locations to see and photograph mighty raptors. Birds of prey seen here include the imperial eagle, steppe eagle, laggar falcon, common and lesser kestrels, tawny eagle, Montagu’s and pallid harriers, red necked falcon, cinereous vulture, Eurasian and Himalayan griffon, the Egyptian vulture and much much more!

Laggar Falcon

Laggar falcon

Black Kite coming in to land on a weathered post in the grasslands of Tal Chhappar, Rajasthan, India.

Black kite

Indian CourserIndian courser

 

Brown Snake Eagle 

Brown snake eagle

Portrait of Common Kestrel in warm early morning light in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Common kestrel

Juvenile Montagu's harrier perched on a weathered post in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Juvenile Montagu’s harrier

Steppe Eagle in warm evening light Rajasthan, India. Bird of Prey populations have decreased dramatically in recent years and many are now endangered. This decline in numbers is largely due to poisoning when they unknowingly feed on carcasses that are full of harmful chemicals and lead.Steppe eagle

 

Juvenile White-eyed Buzzard in flight 

Juvenile White-eyed Buzzard

Cinerous VultureCinerous vulture

Tawny Eagle

Tawny eagle

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian vulture

 
Indian Roller Take Off. An Indian roller takes flight in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Indian Roller

Spotted owlet, peering up from its nest cavity in an old disused well. Rajasthan, India.

Spotted owlet peering up from its nest cavity in an old disused well.

Ground level portrait of a Long-legged Buzzard

Ground level portrait of a Long-legged Buzzard

Backlit Pallid Harrier Portrait.

Great grey shrike perched on a thorny bush in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Great grey shrike perched on a thorny bush

A Grey Francolin poses in golden morning light. Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India.

A Grey Francolin poses in golden morning light

Silhouette of a Black drongo perched on a weathered post in front of the setting sun. Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Silhouette of a Black drongo at sunset.