Birdwatching at Bharatpur

Bharatpur is home to the Keoladeo National Park – a bird sanctuary in Rajastan. The park is a protected sanctuary and has been declared a world heritage site. Since Bharatpur is a two and a half hour train journey away from Delhi, it makes for a perfect weekend getaway for ornithology enthusiasts.main
The best time to visit is during winters when birds from colder regions come to this warmer abode. I made my way to Bharatpur with a small group of friends in the beginning of March. Even at this time, there is quite a bit to enjoy. The park opens at 6.30 am- around sunrise. Be there on time to witness the goldeny-orange sun rise above the trees in the distance. It is at this time the birds awake and the incredible symphony of their chirping fills the air. Early morning and late evening are the best times for bird-watching.
morning
Don’t forget to pack sufficient water, biscuits , a good pair of binoculars and a bird book like “Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali” The bird book will be very handy while trying to identify birds and recollecting names of the ones you saw

cycles

The best way to move around is on bicycles that can be rented at a nominal fee. Walking would be too tiring and one cannot cover much ground. The only other option- rickshaws- can only travel on wide paths and one would miss out on the inner, narrower paths and their hidden treasures . We managed to cover around 15km down on this path:

mapThe landscape kept changing- sometimes it would be dry land with savannah type grass and grazing spotted deer. A few kilometres later, we found ourselves manoeuvring down a very narrow path with water and flocks of water hen on both sides!

path waterIt is recommended that one take on a guide/naturalist for a few hours. If you are new to bird-watching, spotting and identifying birds is a tough task without a guide. Within just 3 hours, we learnt ALOT! My friend who previously could not tell the difference between a mynah and a sparrow could now identify and rattle off the names of the different types of kingfishers!

We learnt about how the porcupine and python are good pals and share a home. We heard the babblers and the whistlers and understand why they are called so. Our guide told us how the census of animals was carried about and invited us to take part in the next one! We saw the ibis standing like a statue with its wings spread out in the sunshine and learnt that it was drying its wings. Once the guide left us, we were on our own and went about trying to identify birds ourselves.

deerWe managed to see migratory birds from places like China and beyond! I saw a kingfisher dive vertically into the water and come out a few moments later with a fish wriggling furiously in its beak a la natural geographic style! Fat wild boars running through the marshes made for an amusing site. Families of peacocks and deer crossed our path barely a few meters in front of us! We tried to follow antelope by foot. We cycled past entire skeletons of animals with their structure still somewhat intact! And we went looking for Pythons! We found one sprawled across a branch shedding its skin and another baby python curled peacefully along the track

pythonSome of the animals and birds we encountered:
Wild boar, Jackal, Spotted deer, Antelope, Turtles, Pythons…
Little cormorant, Snake bird, Rosy Pelican, Heron (purple, grey, night and pond Heron), Egret (cattle, median, little and Indian reef), Stork (lots of them! ) , Ibis (white, black and glossy), Geese, Lesser Whistling Teal, Spotbill, Crested  Serpent Eagle, Indian Griffin Vulture, Grey Partridge, Common Peafowl, Purple Moorhen, Coot, White Breasted Waterhen, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Yellow Legged Green Pigeon, Blue Rock Pigeon, Red Turtle Dove, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Barred Jungle Owlet, White Breasted Kinfisher, Small Green Bee-eater, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Hoopoe…

bird 1Equipped with simple point-and-shoot cameras, we weren’t able to take good quality photographs of the wildlife. Many of the visitors had huge cameras with one foot long lenses. Not to feel left out, we whipped out our binoculars and took photos through them resulting in snaps like these.

binoc-storkFor a twist of history after lunch, you can make your way to Deeg which is a 1.5 hour journey by auto. The Deeg Palace was built in 1772  and was used right till the 1970 s.  Though built by Jat rulers, the architecture is influenced by Mughal courts. Elaborate carvings and a provision for a monsoon like ambiance adds to its beauty. Even in the hottest of weathers, the palace stays cool.

deegBird-watching at Bharatpur- it’s definite you’ll want to return with a good pair of binoculars again! Even 6 hours at the sanctuary will instill in you an interest for birdwatching, an appreciation for nature and a whole lot of memories!

reflections

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