viernes, 27 de noviembre de 2015

Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary

Accustomed to frequent efforts that aim to observe some extraordinary birds in the Spanish nature, whether the Mediterranean imperial eagles, black storks, some aquatic species, passerines...

The opportunity to visit one of the National Parks in India, on my frequent trips to this country, strikes me as witnessing a sort of primeval paradise, in which animals would seem to have a different concept of fear of man…, at least a different degree of what may be considered a secure distance...

From left to right: Lesser goldenback woodpecker / Indian roller / Shickra

This is the case of a small and handy park, a manageable one in many ways and which fortune has allowed me to approach several times already ...: It is located just four hours by car from Delhi, its dimensions allowing for a convenient one day visit, although it’s best to stay a couple of days, maybe a full weekend, and it has a great hotel infrastructure at hand from the entry.

I’m referring to Keoladeo World Heritage Bird Sanctuary Site… a mosaic of grassland, woodland, woodswamp and wetland, home to over 375 avian species in only 30 sq. km. together with 34 mammal, 14 snake, another 17 reptile and 8 amphibian species…

Spotted owlet

Absolutely amazing is to experience a countless bird species watching day in Keoladeo, riding a bicycle in the company of my guide friend Amarchand . When he was a child, Amarchand got to meet here the great Indian ornithologist Salim Ali, and Keoladeo has long since hidden no secret to him anymore.

Keoladeo is a staging ground for migratory waterfowl arriving in the Indian subcontinent along the Central Asian flyway before dispersing to various regions.

It has one of the world’s most spectacular heronries and host 15 species of birds in huge numbers. Keoladeo National Park used to be the only wintering site in India for the rare and endangered Siberian cranes, but this species is now extinct in most of its territories.

Situated in a shallow saucer like depression in the flood plains of Bharatpur, Keoladeo has developed into a National Park after its Maharaja owner handed his XIXth century man-made duck shooting reserve to the Rajasthan government, back in 1956.

Left and right: Darter / Purple heron

Though Keoladeo birds stage year round for bird-watchers to enjoy, October to February are, let’s say, the pick season, where wetland is full of water and the heron colonies are boosting. This is the time when Painted storks are busy nesting, together with spoonbills, herons and adjutants... this being possibly the most spectacular show in the park. 
On the opposite hand, in the winter months, some birds like Jacana show eclipse plumage.

The variety of birds you can expect to see during a December bird-watching day, include not only overwhelming sorts of water-birds: grebes, cormorants, herons and egrets, storks, ibises, geese and ducks, cranes, moorhens, jacanas, snipes, plovers and lapwings, waders and terns...

You will definitely see also raptors, owls, pigeons, parakeets, kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes, hornbills, woodpeckers, barbers and many other bird kinds.  

Left: Pond heron

Down: ... bronze wing and pheasant tail Jacanas / Below, sarus crane.

If planning to visit Keoladeo, rather from October to December, I recommend you leave N.Delhi the previous day afternoon. Make a booking in the cosy Birder’s Inn hotel, a five minute walk from the Park entry.

Once in the park, visits can be done either with a bicycle or with a rickshaw... Do not try visiting the park on foot.
You might be a bird-watching lover, the bicycle is for you then, since you will reach solitary more interesting spots along secondary paths
Or you might just be a simple tourist eager for amazing experiences... then the rickshaw is for you, although having the inconvenience of sticking to the main central road only.

From left to right: White breasted kingfisher / Azur sunbird

Upon entering the park, it is absolutely advisable hiring a local guide, since he will know where to take you. Ever since I first visited Keoladeo, I have called my friend Amarchand, who will have an answer to any question you might want to know (91-7568135673). 

The map on the left shows the park layout. Entrance and ticket sale is in the upper side and a main tared road crosses it from north to south.  

Lakes and ponds extend at both sides of the road and are mainly surrounded by secondary paved and dirt tracks starting at both sides of the main road. 

Other than the lakes, the park is covered with thick tree and shrub forests.

Visit starts along main central tared road. Morning winter fog soon dissipates and gives way to a clear blue sky. This is the right time and place to spot forest birds. 

Heading up the side roads that border the lakes is then the most advisable thing to do. Here, a quiet and silent ride will reveal bird-life aplenty, both within the woods and grasss swamps where herons, egrets and bitterns  hide, and in the open wetlands, where hundreds of ducks, purple moorhens and glossy ibises can be spotted feeding or simply basking under the sun.

Left and right: Lesser whistling and Comb head ducks

When eventually reaching back the main road, after as long as it may fancy you to spend your time staring at bird's life, you'll find yourself in what will seem to you a sort of busy rickshaw highway..., as up to here you might eventually have been just on your very own... 

A rickshaw trafic jam awaits as soon as you reach front of the incredible painted stork nesting colonnyPainted storks being large and colourful birds, their  colonies become centres of tourist interest and have become the most well known image of Keoladeo. Thousands of them happen to nest in tree colonnies in the winter months, from October until February.

Painted stork nesting colonny 

But Keoladeo is not only about bird-watching... Look carefully and you will probably notice life other than birds... maybe a soft shell turtle, a lizard, a deer, a jackal, even a huge python sleeping under a bush... Eventually, watching some other animals won't require being any carefull, as is the case of antelope or wild-boars...

Python molurus

Try starting to visit the park sometime around seven to eight in the morning, soon after sunrise, when bird life awakens to a new day activity. 

By four or five in the afternoon you will be wanting to reach the hotel back... Time for a refreshing swim, or to check your pictures in the laptop. 

If not staying again for a second day (I recommend you stay two days), leaving the park then will take you back in Delhi at the right time for dinner.

With 375 reported bird species, no wonder visiting Keoladeo again and again takes you always to new thrilling discoveries. So, Bye bye now Keoladeo... I hope I can visit you soon again.

Soft shell turtle

Track riding in the setting sun... 

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