The northernmost part of the great Thar Desert witnesses a magical period every year. The sky turns darker with the sound of thousands of wings flapping together. The silent-golden dunes of the place gradually turn into the amalgamation of white, black and grey, filling the environment with omnipresent loud croaking. Sounds frightening, right?
Well, this phenomenon, which occurs annually from March till August, is anything but scary. It is the phenomena of the fascinating demoiselle cranes (the smallest and the second most abundant of the world’s crane species) migrating into the place where they’ve found a haven among the people who went out of their way to create a fine habitat for them, that too, in one of the least habitable places on earth.
Khichan, a village situated 150 km north of Jodhpur, is a place on the political map where all this happens. It all began when a couple of the village Mr. and Mrs. Ratanlal Maloo, started feeding the local pigeons around the area. Gradually, their practice attracted other birds and small animals like squirrels around the feeding place. This gathering of animals eventually made few of the passing demoiselle cranes take interest in the location. They swooped down, fed themselves fully, and returned to the place again the next day, accompanied by their friends.
This was just a beginning. In no time, hundreds of the cranes found their way to this village, turning it into a migration ground of a sort, when winters turn bitter in the neighboring Asian countries. The number of cranes that migrate to the village, since then, has only seen the upward slope in a graph. This year, more than seven thousand birds have already arrived at the village. And according to an estimate, the number is expected to rise up to twenty-five thousand the next month.
It is mesmerizing to see these birds, that are often associated with wetlands and similar terrains, flocking in thousands of numbers towards the arid region of the Indian subcontinent. However, when we consider the fact that this largely hunted specie of cranes receive conservatory like welcome in Khichan, the migration process ceases from being a surprising event.
Kurjas (the Rajasthani name of the bird) are quite special birds for the people of Khichan. They are considered auspicious by the majority of people and even have folk songs written on them. There is also an exclusive organization named ‘Kuraj Sanrakshan Vikas Sansthan’ in the village, the function of which is solely to provide a protective environment to the birds.
The organization runs on the donations received from the local villagers. Its primary function is to arrange food and water for such a large gathering of birds. To give these birds a disturbance-free area where they can enjoy quiet meals, a large land situated on the outskirts of the village is reserved under the name Chugga-Ghar. Ironically, the land has now become a tourist attraction spot, nullifying the original purpose of the whole effort. Nevertheless, the environment enthusiasts of the place are making sure that this attraction should not cause any adverse effect on the whole phenomenon.