We have just returned from Bharatpur which is 175 kms south of Delhi just off the main Delhi Agra road where we visited the Keoladeo Ghana National Park also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and perhaps the only bird sanctuary which was created by a Maharaja. The city and surrounding area used to flood terribly, so in 1760 the Ajan Dam was constructed and became Bharatpur Lake. This became the hunting preserve of the Maharaja and was considered one of the best duck shooting areas in the world. There is testimony to how many more birds existed in those early days from the plaques found in the centre of the park reporting the day's shootings. I have photographed the one recording the largest bag of the day with over 4000 ducks shot ! What did they do with them? How much duck can you eat ? Were they able to preserve any for later consumption? It does raise so many questions about this sport.
In recent years Bharatpur suffered lack of water, through failed monsoons and also through the dam not releasing enough. We were told that after many legal battles some of these issues have been solved and the Park will be able to receive a lot more water in the next year. The water is vital to ensure that the bird life is preserved and increased.
This is the best season to visit.Contrary to last year the water levels are higher and the bird population is plentiful perhaps not at the levels of the erstwhile Maharaja but enough for those interested in birds to view and admire in plentiful numbers.
The anhinga Darter also known as the snake bird.Sleek and elegant.
The painted storks nesting in the trees. Big and clumsy.
The faint touch of pink on the painted stork's tail. So feminine.
One of the millions of dragonflies that are another favourite of mine.
We were not disappointed. For one thing you can walk in the park on raised tarmac paths and on both sides of the road you can view the birds in the wetlands. When you get tired you can opt to take a cycle rickshaw and there is really no better and more peaceful way to travel in this bird haven where the only sounds you hear are the bird calls. That is not to say that you cannot see water buffalo bathing, chital, Nilgai and boar but our attention was focused on the birds. I am no twitcher but the sheer enjoyment at being able to clearly see and enjoy the birds at close proximity was very rewarding.
This is where you can see the endangered Siberian Crane- none to see this time as they havent arrived yet- but we saw the Sarus Cranes in the fields, the woolly backed storks, the painted storks in their hundreds sitting adroitly on their nests with their fluffy babies, the beautiful anhinga darter which is also known as the snake bird. When you see it swimming through water it really does look like a snake. The herons, pond, grey and purple ones who are like the soldiers in the Park forever patrolling this field or that. The egrets, lesser and larger everywhere,the wire tailed swallows darting in and out of the bull rushes, the whistling ducks and knob-billed ducks, the beautiful white breasted kingfisher and even a spotted owl and a marsh harrier. The list goes on but perhaps rather than listing them all you could go and see them.
A cormorant sunning himself.