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Rush Hour At Khichan

Rush Hour At Khichan

Using both a regular and fish-eye lens, Yashpal Rathore captures the bustling arrival and departure of thousands of migrating Demoiselle Cranes as they pit-stop at Khichan to refuel for their gruelling journey ahead.

Photo: Yashpal Rathore.

Khichan, a small village near Jodhpur, Rajasthan, comes alive every winter with a congregation of 12,000 to 15,000 Demoiselle Cranes Anthropoides virgo. The spectacle starts well before sunrise when tiny specks start appearing on the northern horizon of the pre-dawn, deep blue sky.

Photo: Yashpal Rathore.

Soon, like squadrons of fighter planes in their typical ‘V’ formation, the cranes start arriving from every which direction. By the time dawn breaks and the sky rapidly changes hue from blue to golden amber, the sky is filled with cranes as far as the eye can see, and their calls assume a crescendo as they start landing.

Photo: Yashpal Rathore.

Why do the cranes congregate in this particular hamlet? The local Jain community trust, with financial support from across the globe, daily puts out grain for the cranes. The practice started years ago, when a few dozen birds stopped over during their migration from their breeding grounds in Eurasia. Encouraged by protection from the local community, and with the efforts of conservationists Seva Ram Mali and Ratanlal Maloo, those few dozen pit-stopping migrants grew to many thousands.

Photo: Yashpal Rathore.

At the feeding grounds, as time progresses, one group of sated cranes flies out of the Chuggaghar (quite literally bird seed house) and the next group, which had been patiently waiting on the fringes, moves in to feed. Once full, they will fly off to waterbodies around the village to quench their thirst or even take a bath. By noon the cranes are all gone and the Chuggaghar wears a deserted look. In fact, for someone arriving at the Chuggaghar in the afternoon, it would be hard to imagine that the nondescript village was the stage for something so spectacular earlier in the day.

Photo: Yashpal Rathore.

I was fortunate to be at Jodhpur during the last three winters, and each time I made it a point to witness this amazing spectacle of nature. I would arrive before sunrise and then quietly watch the drama unfold.

Author: Yashpal Rathore, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, August  2015.

 
 
 

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