Image: By Nikhilchandra81 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
As someone who loves birds, my constant endeavour has been to protect the avifauna by bringing birders and nature lovers together through social media. And the fact that I am a member of a bird-conservation community in my city, just adds to my effort. So, when the members of that community decided to visit the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary last winter and do a little research on the current status of migratory birds in India, it was obvious that I would never leave such a chance for such an adventure.
For those who are unaware, the Bharatpur Sanctuary has been renamed to Keoladeo National Park and is the country’s largest avifauna reserve. Situated in Agra, this is the second biggest highlight of the historic city after Taj Mahal.
Equipped with our cameras, binoculars, and recorders (to record bird sounds and their calls), our group of 8 people headed to Agra on a cold January morning. It takes 1.5 hours to reach Bharatpur from Agra city. The best way to travel to Bharatpur is to book a taxi in Agra from a reputed service provider, especially if you are travelling during the winter holidays.
We reached Bharatpur and settled ourselves at the Bharatpur Forest Lodge. This is a convenient lodging option for birders since it is right inside the sanctuary, only 1.5 Km from the main safari section. Once inside the sanctuary, you can take a Jeep or Elephant Safari. But since we had to be awfully quiet and take a lot of photos and record sounds, we chose to explore on foot.
A day the sanctuary
Every year, as some of our group members mentioned, thousands of birds from Siberia, Central Asia, Mongolia, Europe and other colder regions in the northern hemisphere would come down to the warmer tropical mountains of north India and stay throughout the colder months. For over 200 years, Bharatpur has been witnessing the migration of more than 230 species of exotic avifauna but their number has reduced over the years, with lesser forested areas to nest in and too many tourists exploring these areas.
There is a concrete road that runs throughout the park and is mostly for vehicles, with nature trails on either side. The path we took on, cuts through small pockets of marshy lands where groups of painted storks were resting and feeding amidst the reeds. These black-necked birds are the quintessential members of this sanctuary and come every year to nest in the forests of Bharatpur.
A 10-minute walk further ahead led us a bunch of Kingfishers waiting for their catch, a few stray Siberian Rubythroats, Moorhens, and a couple of Herons wading through the muddy patch. My birder friends divided into two groups- one went towards the outer fringes and managed to spot the Greater Painted Snipe. And I with the group continued on our walk inside and noticed a peahen trying to perch on a tree. On hearing our footsteps on the dry leaves, the national bird flew away but managed to give us a long shot photo.
There were also one or two Flycatchers, Wagtails, and larks, lurking randomly around the forest. Once in few years, the forests of Bharatpur are replete rosy pelicans, different species of cranes, geese, ducks, warblers, eagles, pintails, darters, and more, and I promised myself to keep coming back until I see them all.
To all fellow bird-lovers, here are few tips from our community for a successful tour of Bharatpur:
- Get a good start and book a taxi with a trained driver from Agra to Bharatpur to avoid unnecessary hassle.
- Opt for a stay closest to the sanctuary, so you cut down on travel (even if it’s walking) and have more frequent trips throughout the day.
- Avoid taking the Jeep Safari, since vehicle sound can drive the birds away.
Hope to see your pictures from your next trip to Bharatpur.
Disclaimer: Guest Post
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