Things have started looking up for Bharatpur,
internationally famous for its bird sanctuary. Keoladeo National Park and
bird sanctuary is one of the world's heritage sites which boasts of hosting
thousands of winter visitors of the winged variety traversing long distances
to find mild winter habitat for nesting. The late bountiful monsoon has also
done wonders to the 29 sq km park raising the level of water required for
creation of sufficient food for these visitors.
We, a bunch of birding enthusiasts,
decided to check it out ourselves. In the wee hours, 3 a.m. to be precise,
on a Sunday morning we set out in a SUV from Delhi to Bharatpur. After
meandering through a never ending maze of traffic near Badarpur, it was a
smooth three hour ride to the park. Keoladeo is named after a Shiva Temple
inside the central zone of the sanctuary. On arrival at the gate a closed
canteen greeted us, forcing a U turn to the nearest chai-shop. We returned
to the gate to hire rickshaws and our guide Prakash who appeared in good
time and we all entered in the park with bated breath. Cycles and battery
operated pollution free vehicles are also available for hire.
The first 500 meters in the park turned out to be the most rewarding for us.
We saw whatever was to see that day in the park - a beautiful sunrise, a
serpent eagle poised on a stump of a tree, a pond heron in meditation and so
on. The heronry was full of verve with painted storks and cormorants flying
in and out with nesting material and food for the young ones. It was a
delightful moment to see a sub adult open bill stork attempting to fly and
tripping over branches in its youthful exuberance. The kingfishers, white
breasted and common, fed on fishes by diving in the plentiful shallow water.
Spotted owlets and night jars stuck to their perches as if readying
themselves for nocturnal rendezvous. Egrets and grey and purple herons
trudged the swamps with an occasional pair of Sarus
Cranes satisfying their large appetites. Bulbuls,
Chats, Red Starts, Thrushes and Flycatchers chirped incessantly playing hide
and seek in the trees. The Parrots were on their own trip preparing
themselves for mating season ahead. Small clusters of coot and teal could be
seen. More of these could be seen circling over the lake in preparation of
landing for winter sojourn. Siberian Cranes, Pelicans and flamingos have
also been reported in the park making it one of the major winter vacationing
areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan,
China and Siberia.
The early morning chill persisted in the park longer than the concrete
jungle of Delhi. Monitor lizards and snakes including a python could be seen
basking in the soft sunshine near the tracks. Our footfalls generated enough
vibrations for the reptiles to feel insecure and take evasive action.
Our rickshaw-men were quite knowledgeable and showed us a large verity of
birds and took pains to tell us more about the birds' behaviour which they
have observed over the years. The only disappointment was the canteen inside
the park which was poorly stocked and did not offer any tea!
Keoladeo has been a gaming reserve of the royalty till 1972. The shameful
record for killing maximum number of birds is in the name of Linlithgow, the
then Viceroy and Governor General of India who along with his cronies killed
as many as 4273 birds in a single day on 12 November 1938. Things improved
with enforcement of law and declaration of the sanctuary as a protected
national park in 1981 and a World Heritage Site in 1985.
As the shadows lengthened in the evening, we decided to say goodbye to the
avian fauna promising them to meet again in future. All in all it was a
lovely day's out at the park with good opportunity to shoot pictures and to
understand behaviour of several birds
Best Season :
Though the park is open throughout the year, the best months are August to
November for resident breeding birds and November to March for migrant
How to reach:
Air : Nearest airport at Agra, (56
km) from Bharatpur. International airport Delhi at 180 km.
Rail : The Bharatpur railway station is 6 km from the park.
Road : Bharatpur is well connected to all the major cities of the
Rajasthan and its neighbouring states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.