For an avid traveller like me, long weekends are small packets of joy that unleashes my wanderer side sleeping deep within me and looking for an escape from the humdrum of city life. 


As the Christmas Holiday and Weekend were around the corner, I started looking for a short trip that can spur my senses and fill me up with new experiences. Living in Delhi may bore certain disadvantages in terms of pollution, traffic, or some kind of agitation. However, it also acts as a gateway to several interesting places in India coiled around its unique culture and mesmerising wildlife. Bharatpur is one such destination I chose to explore with my family. 



Tucked away in the tropical dry deciduous forest of Rajasthan, Bharatpur was said to be the eastern gateway to the "Land of Kings" before being transformed into a powerful city. The sturdy structure of the Lohagarh fort in Bharatpur displays the valour of Jat rulers in withstanding the repeated attack of British forces in 1805.



However, more than its history, Bharatpur came into the limelight for harbouring a unique birdlife. During winters, its vast wetland becomes the interim home to a wide variety of migratory species, living harmoniously with the native flora and fauna. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary was formally established on 10th March 1982, the site was later enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site for maintaining a humble abode to many rare and gorgeous winged species.


My adventurous trail inside the bird sanctuary kickstarted with the crack of dawn. Early mornings and late evenings are believed to be the best period for birdwatching. As that's the time in the entire day when the birds are very active and can be easily spotted before the harsh & excruciating sunrays compel these wonderful species to vanish in the dense thickets or hide in a burrow.



Spanning over 28.73 km², Rikshaw is one of the best modes of transport in this bird sanctuary unless one chose to walk or ride a bicycle. I booked one Rikshaw to traverse through the park. To my surprise my Rikshaw-walla was very knowledgeable, had a good sight for spotting birds and well cognizant of every nook and cranny of the park, leaving no room of doubt for hiring a naturalist as well. 



The sanctuary is divided into three landforms, dry forest, grassland and wetland. While the Dry forest mostly serves as a resident for resident and passerine species, Grassland is best known for housing Rock-Python, Antelopes, Spotted Deer and packs of Striped Hyenas and the wetland is filled with migratory birds, especially waterfowl



I got a fleeting glimpse of Long-tailed Shrike sitting on a branch perhaps looking for prey. It may not look gigantic as a predator but it has a unique style of hunting, according to my Rikshawala the bird kills his hunt by nailing it on a throne. I also spotted Grey-hornbill sitting far away on top of a tree. It was my first Hornbill that I got the opportunity to see in its natural habitat. We also spotted Magpie Blue Robin and Jungle Babbler. While the later is a common species in North India, the former is a passerine bird coming from Bangladesh and West Bengal. 



As we moved further, I was amazed looking at a tree packed with Yellow-footed green pigeons. A few steps away were three Spotted Owlets cosily sitting on a hollow branch and one sitting atop. It was a striking sight commanding to be captured by my camera. On the border that marked the end of savannahs and the beginning of wetland, I was thrilled to watch a large Python crossing us and making its way to the other side of the park. 



Exploring the wetland was the last leg of our journey and I was awestruck at the countless waterfowls basking in the sun. Most of them have come all the way from Russia, Siberia, North China, Mongolia and Ladakh. The expanse initially inhabited by  Pheasant-tailed Jacanas,  Great Heron, Great cormorant, Snake Bird was little further resided by Common Teal, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Pintail, Red-headed Pochard and Bar-headed Goose. 



The trees became the nesting ground for Painted Stork, witnessing its stunning flight at such close distance was a spectacular sight to marvel. The sudden hovering of the Greater Spotted Eagle created upheaval in some part of the wetland but it did not deter the attention of Common Kingfisher gazing intensely at the water to find his prey. The sanctuary is home to three kinds of kingfishers, Common, White-throated & Pied and we were lucky to spot all three of them en route. 



Bharatpur is a treasure chest for people passionate about birdwatching and bird photography. My journey was not only fulfilling and rejuvenating, it also helped me to reconnect with nature long-lost in the urban world. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Written by Subhash Kumar


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