In January, on our visit to Kutch, we drove 300 km from the CEDO camp to Dholavira, where the remnants of a Harappan archaeological site quietly awaits visitors amid the salty drifting dust of the Great Rann of Kutch. The site is fabulous, and I was miffed that the caretaker did not allow me to videograph it. But photographs were allowed, and our dear shutterbug Sandy lost no opportunity to snap up the excavated ruins.
On our way back, we noticed a warren of little burrows in the loose earth. Like little tricks of light, puffs of dust grew beady black eyes and scurried out of the ground. Everybody else caught sight of the culprit and sighed sighs of discovery. I rubbed my eyes, missed the target, and rubbed my eyes again. I took my glasses off, put them on again, took them off again and rubbed my eyes again. Still, nothing.
And then, as suddenly as I had missed it, I saw it – a little, fawn, rat-like fellow chomping on a green leaf and dragging it into the burrow – the Indian Desert Jird (Meriones hurrianae). This diurnal rodent lives in huge colonies and is a great food source for many predators, including desert cats, jungle cats, jackals, mongooses and many raptors.
Photographs by Sandeep Somasekharan.