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Fossil Rim Wildlife Centre, Glen Rose, TXFossil Rim wildlife center was on my hot list since I came to know about it. Last weekend we decided to end this much-awaited wait. We made a plan and started at 9:30 AM for Glen Rose. The approx distance is around 65 miles from Irving.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is dedicated to conservation of endangered species, scientific research, training of professionals, creative management of natural resources, and impactable public education about environment and wildlife. This is the ~1700 acres of open spaces which lets us interact with deer, rhinos, giraffes and other wildlife. We can drive our own vehicle through the 9.5 miles tour. We can see long distance views of Savannah-like pastures, forested areas and hillsides for the animals to roam.

Some thing about the place, ‘Fossil Rim’ – One hundred million or so years ago, the Fossil Rim area was covered by the saltwater Comanche Sea. Tidal flats and lagoons characterized the region and are memorialized now in the abundant fossils one finds. Hence the name. It is said that dinosaur’s fossils were found in Glen Rose.

Ostrich - Ramp walkOkay…coming back to my visit – We reached Fossil Rim wildlife center at 11:30. We went to information center/office and got our tickets. We also purchased an animal feed bag. This feed is restricted to one bag per car in order to avoid over feeding to the animals. At the office door, there was a interesting coin machine, which accepts one cent copper coin (with some 2 quarter coins as charge) and embosses the Fossil Rim emblem the copper coin which we entered. We tried it and I got ostrich emblem copper memento.

We took our car inside. First to welcome us was huge and equally curious Ostrich. It came near the car and rubbed its neck with our car. We didn’t feed it with our hands as they may bite. We poured some feed on ground and it allowed us to enter its territory. Further, I found an exceptionally beautiful bird. It was snow white with black wings and long scissor shape tail. Its back and tail appeared scarlet pink in flight. Later I found its name to be Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I clicked its snaps. In mean time, another bird caught my eye. It was none other than red colored Cardinal. Unfortunately I couldn’t click its snaps.

GiraffeWe headed more to find cranes, blackbucks, wildebeest, bison, zebras, red deer, bongos, greater kudu, addax, sable antelopes, zebras, and gazelle. We found another beautiful white gazelle called “Addra Gazelle“. Its name didn’t appear in the animal guide pamphlet provided by the center (Later on I mailed them and they replied with its name). In the afternoon, we halted at food joint in the sanctuary. It was located on the hilltop and we could see picturesque view of entire sanctuary from here. To our astonishment, we got veggie burger here. We were on cloud 9 then. As this place was on great height, I could see some eagles and turkey vultures hovering in the sky. Outside the food joint, there were ocelot and blue-and-gold macaws in cage.

We descended and resumed our trail. Next members were giraffe, wolves, axis deer, axis fallow, giraffe, rhinos, and emu.

Feeding the animalsI was experiencing and enjoying the wilderness very closely. Watching was more fun than clicking. I don’t use (read – don’t have) DSLR and along with limitations of my dear P&S cam, I did dare to click wildlife snaps (all wildlife photographers please excuse/ignore/spare/bear with me and my snaps).

It was a great fun altogether. All other visitors were having equally good time. There were families with kids, teens, also there were school picnics. I am short of words to describe the happiness on the children’s faces while feeding the animals. Everyone was busy in enjoying the god’s gift in the form of nature, wildlife, and wilderness. I wished if time could just wait here forever but as they say “all good things come to an end”, our trail too came to an end. We started our return journey and reached home in the evening.

Note: You can also club Fossil rim tour with Dinosaur Valley State park in Glen Rose. The park is great place to view the fossilized dinosaur footprints, as well as to hike, camp, picnic, fish, swim, and enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife. The world-famous dinosaur tracks in the park occur in a branch of the Brazos River called the ‘Paluxy’ which flows through this park.

For more snaps you can visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157616520487694/detail/

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Nashville, Tennessee:

The Music City of US

I went to Nashville last weekend. One of my colleagues (Sandeep) got a BMW and he wished to go to Nashville to do its ‘Pooja’ at Sri Ganesh temple there. He asked whether I would like to join them. I was not sure in the beginning but then I remembered one of my friends (Sachin) stays in Nashville. He was actually my teacher when I was studying. He taught me in my college immediately after doing his masters. He was always proud of me and happy with my progress. Years later the relation turned into more of friendship than teacher-student so he is now “teacher-turned-friend”. We didn’t meet for 4-5 years in Pune. Finally got to meet him here. I confirmed with him and he seemed to be pleased by the news that I was visiting him. I told my colleague that I would be able to make it for Nashville.

Park at Rest AreaWe started on Friday night and it was long journey. We had to cross states of Texas and Arkansas to go to Tennessee State. Total drive one way is around 620 miles, i.e. approx. 10 hrs from Dallas to Nashville. We couldn’t see much outside the car as it was dark in the night. In the morning, we took break at a rest area along the freeway. A rest area is a public facility on the highway or freeway for drivers and passengers to rest, eat, or refuel with minimal facilities like rest rooms, parking space, drinking fountains, telephone, picnic areas (grass lawns with benches), and sometimes more facilities like gas stations, vending machines and restaurants. We got freshen up and had muffins as our breakfast. It was a pleasant morning. American Robin caught my attention and I couldn’t stop myself from clicking snaps of this beautiful singer bird. We started again and reached my friend’s place at 10:30 am.

We took some rest and enjoyed home-made lunch. We decided to go to Nashville Downtown in the afternoon. Since the time I came to US, I had no chance to travel in public transport. I got this opportunity here. We took up bus to downtown. As we walked on the Lower Broadway, and saw many music clubs, bars, musical instrument’s shops, gift shops, live music lounges, etc. We did some window shopping. There was live music going on and people were enjoying it. We could see people playing different musical instruments like Guitar, mandolin, etc  on the roadside. This is why Nashville is called a “Music City” 🙂

Then we stretched our heads up to see some of the remarkable sky scrappers in downtown. Some of them were AT&T building (also known as the Batman Building), Life & Casualty Tower, BOA Plaza, Hotel Hilton, Hotel Renaissance, and The Pinnacle (under construction).

Then we went to riverside of the Cumberland River. We strolled at Riverfront Park and went to ‘Davidson County Public hall and Court house’. There were many beautiful fountains around this building. We crossed Commerce Street and passed by the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. It is the home of the Tennessee legislature, and the location for the governor’s office. This architectural master piece is classic model of Greek lonic temple. There is War Memorial plaza near to it. We had good time in the downtown.

Ganesh Temple NashvilleFrom downtown we went to Sri Ganesh Temple at Nashville. This is again a very beautiful place (of course much contradictory from what we saw in downtown). We entered and it was really divine atmosphere inside the temple. As in every temple in US, there were all Hindu deities. There was ‘Satyanarayan pooja’ going on by a priest for some family. I bowed to all gods. My colleague performed pooja of his car. We could hear some classical musical concert which was taking place in hall on first floor. I roamed around the temple and found a cute bird couple called “Cassin’s Finch”. I clicked some snaps of temples from outside as camera was not allowed inside.

We returned home and had tea. Savani’s (Sachin sir’s daughter) music teacher had come for dinner with us. Her name is Heather Bond. She is a famous singer and piano player in Nashville. She worked with Vanderbilt University for living and wishes to devote her life to music. It was nice meeting her. After dinner, we spent some time talking about good old college days. Sachin sir asked me where-abouts of my batch mates. He also told about his life, his marriage, his journey till US, etc. By that time, it was already late and we went to sleep.

Next morning we bade a good bye to my friend and his family and thanked them for their time and loving hospitality. We left Nashville at 9 am. We drove slowly as we wanted to enjoy the scenic views outside. On the way, we saw dense forests, trees, green grasses, jersey cows, horses, stables, beautiful farm houses, lakes, and all that which I never imagined to see here. We could relish real countryside of the US. Spring season is gradually painting the trees with different colors – green, yellow, white, pink, purple, red.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas:

We crossed The Mississippi River while entering the Arkansas state. There are many rivers like Buffalo National River crossing this state and it is a land of mountains and valleys, thick forests and fertile plains. This is why Arkansas is called ‘The Natural State’.

We had planned to wait at one of the state parks in our journey. State parks are different from our normal parks. These are protected parks for an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreation, or other reason, and under the administration of the government of a U.S. state. People come here to do all kinds of adventurous activities like hiking, camping, sailing, water sports, nature trail, birding, photography. I found few American Black vultures and Turkey vultures on the way.

Waterfall at Lake Catherine State ParkWe halted at ‘Lake Catherine State Park’ in Arkansas. We went to the park admin office and got map of the park. We located spots of our interests and headed. We enjoyed walking in the woods as part of the nature trail. There was a huge water body along side of the forest. We aimed to go to a waterfall. There was a small hanging bridge on the way. Also a wooden bench for resting. It was THE spot. We could see picturesque panorama from here. After 2 miles of walk, we finally reached a splendid waterfall. We went inside the water and it was freezing cold. I drank the water and it tasted heavenly. Remember free flowing water is always purest. 🙂

We came back from the park and resumed our journey back to Dallas. We returned back late night. It was an amazing weekend. Thanks Sandeep for taking me to Nashville, State park and moreover for considering a nature lover in me. I don’t think anyone would have showed me ‘this’ marvelous side of the US. I have the memories to cherish for whole of my life. And yes, your BMW rocks!!! 😀

P.S. : For more snaps please visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157615867820870/detail/

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My friend Prasad asked me whether I would like to join them for Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and it was instant “yes” from me. We gathered at 5:45 AM near Swargate and took Pune-Solapur Highway.

To reach Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary:

  1. Start from Swargate and take Solapur highway.
  2. Cross Hadapsar, Manjri etc. Get return receipt of  Rs. 22.50/- at “Loni Kalbhor” Toll plaza.
  3. Cross village “Yavat” and travel straight till you reach village called “Chowphule”.
  4. From this junction, take right turn to go to village “Supe”. Drive approx 5-6 Kms. After crossing a small ghat you will reach “Supe”
  5. “Supe” falls on this road i.e. “Chowphule-Morgaon” road. If you get confuse, ask villagers for “Mayureshwar Sanctuary”.
  6. From “Supe”. Take right hand road and drive more 2 Kms, we can see small tea stalls on left side and on right side there is entrance for sanctuary.
  7. You can park your vehicle at check post as vehicles are not allowed inside.
  8. Total distance is approx 70 Kms.

Mayureshwar Wildlife SanctuaryWe saw beautiful sunrise as we drove. We also found few birds – Indian Roller, Black-winged Kite, Grey Hornbill, and most pretty and equally shy Grey Patridges. On the way, we had a tea-break. We enjoyed delicious Idli-chutney got by Prasad.

We made entry of our name and check-in time at check-post. The person showed us the 1000-feet view of “Machaan” and we started walking in that direction.

Things to remember:

  1. Binocular, cap, scarf (if).
  2. We were told that camera is not allowed inside so better don’t display your cameras. Keep them in backpacks till you walk for while.
  3. Wear good shoes (no chappals, floaters, sandals) as the path is rocky.
  4. Water bottles, snacks, fruits (are best options as you can have them while trailing).
  5. Don’t talk/laugh/shout loudly as wildlife creatures will become alert and run away from you.
  6. Do NOT throw plastic bags, papers, things in sanctuary. It can be hazardous to Chinkaras.
  7. PLEASE don’t take your vehicle inside. It is best to walk in woods and enjoy being with wildlife than creating nuisance to them.

As we explored the sanctuary, we saw varieties of birds like Eurasian Collared Dove, White-throated Kingfisher, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Shrike, Laughing Dove, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Indian Silverbills, Eagle, Babblers, etc. We waited at few places to capture them. The landscapes too were beautiful.

Indian Gazelle (Chinkara)Finally Indian Gazelle a.k.a. Chinkara gave us its first glimpse. I took out my binos and watched them. Then we found few more herds of Chinkaras. They were very shy and fast-runners, and we could not click much satisfactory snaps. After walk of 3-4 Kms we reached ‘Machaan’. We climbed up and the view from top was awesome. We did spot few more herds from top and enjoyed watching them. We rested there for half an hour and munched apples. We decided to take different route while returning.

And our wise decision paid-off, a Chinkara itself came on the hilltop to check us out. It was really wonderful experience. We clicked few snaps. Later on, we found many Chinkara herds on the way back.

I was really happy to see Indian Gazelle in wild. Their glimpses themselves are rare and we could see them in numbers. Thanks to my dear Bino!:)

We started back before 12 noon and had fruit jam-sandwiches (thanks Sachin for getting them) while returning.

It was indeed an amazing wildlife wander!!! 😀

For more pictures – http://flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157613433903509/detail/

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I have been to Kavdi (also called as “Kavdipat“) for couple of times.  Each trip is a treat in itself.

We started for Kavdi at 6:30 AM. After crossing ‘Loni Kalbhor’ toll plaza, we traveled for 2 mins more and took left turn. We found Bush chat (Female) and clicked few snaps on the way. We could also spot a Honey Buzzard along with Bulbuls, Shrikes, Drongos, etc.

To reach Kavdi:

  1. Start from Swargate and take Solapur highway.
  2. Cross Hadapsar, Manjri etc. Travel straight till you reach “Loni Kalbhor” Toll plaza. Get return receipt of  Rs. 22.50/-
  3. After crossing this Toll plaza, drive 2 mins more to see “Kavdipat” sign board on left hand side. Take left turn to go to Kavdi.
  4. After distance of 10 mins drive, we reach bund and river at Kavdi.
  5. You can park your vehicle at temple near by.
  6. Total distance is approx 20 Kms.

Best season to visit: November to January.
Must carry: Binocular and a camera. 🙂

Kavdi BundFlocks and flocks of migratory as well as local birds make their way to Kavdi. Winter mornings are very pleasant. If you reach there at time of sunrise then you could get some awesome sunrise shots.

We climbed the bund and fun began. First there were Wire-tailed Swallows. I approached them closer and closer and they were all set a wonderful photo session.

Other birds found were –  White-throated Kingfisher, Small blue Kingfisher, Teals, Brahminy Ducks, Ducks, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Grey Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Black Ibis, Spotbill Duck, Cormorant, Darter, Common Sandpiper, Large Egret, Spotted Ducks.

Blue ThroatA special mention about a bird called “Blue Throat” which flies all the way down from Europe and then north Asia to this place. I saw it for first time. Thanks to Vishal for showing this to me.

If  you are lucky enough, you can also get to see – Pied Kingfisher, Peafowls, Purple Heron, Egrets, Stonechat, Scaly-breasted Munia, Red Munia, Painted Storks. 😉

On the way back, we waited at “Joshi Wadewale” and took a “Wada-paav” break. I returned home with memories of all these wonderful flying beauties.

Kavdi is truly bird watcher’s Paradise!!! 😀

For more pictures – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157603886961076/detail/
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Mor” means peacock and “Chincholi” means dense tamarind trees in Marathi.

Morachi chincholi is a small village which is around 85-90 kms from Pune on Pune- Ahmednagar highway. This information does not catch your attention unless and until you read next lines. Yes, this village is now a peacock sanctuary which shelters more than thousands of peacocks.

Peacock in Morachi ChincholiI and my friend were very desperate to visit this place. We started early in the morning as it is the best time to see peacocks. We came to ‘Malthan phata’ and had to turn left to reach Morachi Chincholi. We took a small tea break there. We packed some wadaa-paavs with us. The road was not-so-good and not-so-bad condition; covered with green fields on both sides. We got to see many birds like Brahminy Myna, sunbirds, cattle egrets, Jungle Mynas, Jungle Babblers, etc.

As we entered the village, we could clearly hear peacocks mewing. We parked our car at road side and went walking to near by fields. We saw few beautiful peacocks in the fields. It was just ultimate – peacocks in their natural habitat. We met two young school-going local boys. They agreed to show us more peacocks. We followed them through the fields. We did find few peafowl. We tried to click but in vain as they ran very fast. More we went nearer, faster they ran.

We were able to trace few peacocks on tamarind trees. After all the intense efforts, I got one snap of peacock as I desired. See image above.

These villagers are protective and conservative about the peacocks. Peacocks too are very familiar with them. We saw a woman fetching water from the well and she was accompanied with a flock of peahens. There are sources of food and water kept in tubs for the peacocks in the fields. It seems some NGO from Pune works for this cause.

We decided to return back and were thankful to our young friends who spent their time with us. We offered them some money for buying chocolates but they denied accepting it. Then we forcefully offered them those wadaa-paavs which we got and they accepted.

While returning back, a village woman asked us for lift till Shirur phata. Her name was “Babbai”. She was very talkative and happy that we came to see birds all the way from Pune. Yeh, Pune is far off city for them. As we exchanged our cell number with her, she invited us to visit Morachi Chincholi again and promised us that she will then cook jhunaka-bhakri for us. Believe me, she called us for next consecutive Sunday mornings to ask whether we have any plans to visit on that weekend. If at all, I visit this place again, I am morally bound to meet this simple village woman called “Babbai”.

We came back in the afternoon with wonderful memories of this Indian beauty. Yes, what we get in Asia is typical “Indian blue peacock”. Peacocks are found in many different colors across the world e.g. White, Brown, Green, Pied, etc. but none of them look as graceful as our “Indian blue peacock”.

How to reach –
Route 1:

  1. Take Pune-Ahmednagar highway and travel till Shikrapur village approx. Distance is 30-35 Kms.
  2. Travel few meters and ask for Malthan phata.
  3. Take left from this Malthan phata and travel straight for some kilometers.
  4. Ask local people for Morachi Chincholi.
  5. You need to take another left turn which comes straight to Morachi Chincholi.  Village ‘Ganegaon’ falls in the mid which is 7-8 Kms.
  6. Travel ahead from Ganegaon to reach Morachi Chincholi. Approx. distance from Ganegaon is 9-10 Kms.

Route 2:

  1. Take Pune-Ahmednagar highway and travel till Shikrapur village.
  2. After Shikrapur, travel more 200 mts and take left turn for ‘Kanhur Mesai’ village.
  3. Kanhur Mesai village is approx 17 Kms from here.
  4. From Kanhur Mesai, Morachi Chincholi is approx 2.5-3 Kms.
  5. Total drive is approx 25-30 Kms.

Route 3:

  1. Take Pune-Nasik highway and travel till ‘Rajgurunagar’. Distance is 40-45 Kms.
  2. After Rajgurunagar, take right turn to ‘Pabal’ village.
  3. In Pabal, from Jain temple travel straight to reach Morachi Chincholi.
  4. Morachi Chincholi is approx 20-25 Kms.
  5. Total drive is approx 60-65 Kms.

Best time to visit: Early morning or evening in the months of June to September (basically Monsoon season)

What you get to see: Lots of peacocks in their natural habitat along with other birds like Brahminy Myna, Jungle Babblers, etc.

Note: You have to carry our food and water. No facility in the village (unless you know someone like Babbai 😉 … )

Other updates: A trust called ‘Jaymalhar trust’ can provide accommodation for night halt for Rs.500/- per day and also dinner/lunch for Rs.50/-. They have developed a cement platform for feeding peacocks. The peacocks daily visits the platform before sunrise and after sunset.
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