Day 1: Delhi - Bharatpur
You are scheduled to arrive at Delhi by early morning
there the representatives from Nature Safari will assist you and you will also
get an opportunity to relax and recover after your flight at one of the city hotels.
Some impatient wild lovers can join an excursion to the Yamuna River at Okhla,
one of the best bird watching sites in urban Delhi. Here on the exposed mud flats
we can expect to see a variety of water birds and waders including Little Cormorant,
Brown-headed Gull, Black-bellied Tern, Pond Heron, Red-wattled Lapwing, Black-winged
Stilt, Avocet, White-breasted Kingfisher and many other characteristics Indian
species. Great clouds of Black Kites wheel over the city in the afternoon thermals
and various other raptors drift across the sky although sadly the once abundant
White-backed Vultures are now very scarce following a mysterious viral disease
that has severely depleted their numbers.
Passerines around the Okhla
barrage might include several shrike species, Citrine Wagtails, Paddy field Pipits,
mynas and possibly a few warblers in the bushes. Okhla is a fine place to gain
an introduction to the Indian avifauna and May even provide a few rarer surprises
or perhaps the very local White-tailed Stonechat and Striated Babbler, two Gangetic
specialties. Later we take a four-hour drive to Bharatpur for the stay of six
nights in a hotel just outside the reserve. Day 2-6 : Bharatpur
Ghana National Park at Bharatpur is arguably the finest bird sanctuary in the
world. Formerly a shooting preserve of the Rajput Maharajahs of Bharatpur, it
is just 29 sq. km. in extent but holds a remarkable diversity of habitats.
The Keoladeo Ghana National Park or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary lies between two
of India's most historic cities, Agra and Jaipur. This north Indian sanctuary
is situated in the country's northwestern state of Rajasthan, about 190 km from
the national capital of Delhi. The name Keoladeo is derived from the name of an
ancient Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva in the sanctuary central zone while
the Hindi term 'Ghana' implies dense, thick areas of forest cover.
these will be an unequalled array of wetland species, a great variety of vultures,
eagles and owls, plus numerous small landbirds. As well as birds, the park has
an excellent variety of wild mammals; Nilgai (blue bull), Sambar and Spotted Deer,
Macaque, Wild Boar, Asiatic Jackal, Smooth Indian Otter and two species of mongoose
are all common, and this is one of the few places in India where the rare Fishing
Cat may be seen. At night the howling of the Jackals lends a chill to the warmest
of evenings and a variety of nocturnal creatures begin their foraging including
a number of Indian Porcupines. Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a stunning birdwatching
locality that ranks alongside the best in the world. Amazingly compact, it provides
the kind of spectacle that almost defies description. The flooded jheels ensure
sheltered feeding and refuge for countless thousands of geese, ducks, storks,
herons and waders. Many of the storks, herons and egrets begin to nest during
the monsoon rains that extend into September and with a protracted breeding season
it is usual to see much activity around the treetop colonies until well into February.
The only Crane to nest at Bharatpur is the impressively huge Sarus, long
afforded protection in India as a sacred bird, but their powerful trumpeting cries
are not the only crane calls to sound across the marshes as flocks of Common Cranes
take advantage of the reserve during the winter months and are sometimes joined
by a few Demoiselle. The magnificent Siberian White Crane was formerly a regular
sight at Keoladeo but despite being afforded complete protection during their
winter sojourn, these conspicuous birds have been severely depleted by shooting
during their long migration and these days are only irregular visitors.
The Sarus crane is the world's tallest flying bird; a large male may stand six
feet tall. There are three recognized subspecies of the sarus crane. The Indian
sarus cranes live, as their name implies, predominately in Asia's subcontinent.
In areas dominated by the Hindu religion, the Indian sarus suffers little persecution.
They have, as a result, lost much of their fear of humans and often nest in rice
paddies where they are regarded as omens for good crops, especially in India.
Pelicans are regular visitors, both White and Dalmatian, often soaring
in thermals with great flocks of Painted Storks, Open-billed Storks and raptors.
Birds of Prey at Bharatpur form another great attraction for birdwatchers. A typical
day walking around the reserve will produce dozens of raptor sightings and the
range of species includes Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Imperial, Steppe, Tawny and
Bonelli's Eagles with the possibility of also seeing wandering White-tailed, Pallas's
Fishing and even Golden Eagles. More often to be seen sitting on a suitable branch
than flying, the Bharatpur eagles present many identification headaches! Moving
away from the wetland habitat there is much to see in the extensive kadum woodlands
and the acres of thorny acacia scrub. These are the haunts of Dusky Eagle Owls,
Spotted Owlets, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Grey Hornbill, Coppersmith Barbets, Lesser
Goldenback Woodpeckers, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, minivets, Common-Wood Shrikes
and many other forest birds including the elusive Spotted Creeper. During the
winter months, visitors from the Himalayas join the resident species in these
woodlands and it is during this season that various flycatchers, warblers and
thrushes occur to add excitement to the daily birding.
Siberian Rubythroat is a regular visitor to the undergrowth in the Park as are
Pipits, Red-breasted Flycatchers, several species of thrush and many Bluethroats.
Warbler afficionados have plenty to search for with Clamorous Reed, Paddyfield,
Blyth's Reed, Yellow-browed, Moustached, Cetti's, Smoky and Dusky Warblers all
to be anticipated, albeit by no means all easy to find! As well as the migrants,
the Reserve is also host to an impressive variety of birds typical of northern
India, a list which includes; Grey Francolin, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Green
Pigeon, Red Turtle Dove, Coucal, Pied, White-breasted and Common Kingfishers,
Indian Roller, Hoopoe, Black Drongo, Pied and Common Mynas, Tree-Pie, Red-vented
and White-cheeked Bulbuls, Jungle and Large Grey Babblers, Indian Robin, Magpie
Robin, Citrine and Large Pied Wagtails, Purple Sunbird, Yellow-throated Petronia,
Bay-backed and Long-tailed Shrikes. Yet more awaits in the more isolated arid
corners of the Reserve. It is here that one or two introduced Blackbuck may be
found but of ornithological interest are occasional appearances by Sociable Lapwing,
Indian Coursers and other dry-country birds. During our stay we will also visit
the Chambal River (a 70 kilometres drive) and Bund Baretha - a large reservoir
situated 30 kilometres from Bharatpur. The River Chambal is one of the country's
most beautiful and least polluted river systems. The National Chambal Sanctuary
was formed to protect this pristine river ecosystem, complete with its varied
flora, aquatic life and avifauna. The Chambal River, which is the mainstay for
the entire wildlife of the sanctuary, harbours a variety of aquatic life such
as the elusive, and endangered,
Dolphin, Marsh Crocodile, Gharial or Fish Eating Crocodile, Freshwater Turtles,
River Otters and a various species of fish.
The surrounding environs
of the river are a true bird watcher's delight offering the chance to add several
species not found at Bharatpur such as Indian River and Black-bellied Terns, Great
Black-headed Gull and the bizarre Indian Skimmer, often to be found resting on
sand-bars in mid-river. Passerines here can include Common Babbler, Tawny Pipit,
Sand, Short-toed, Crested and Rufous-tailed Larks. Bund Baretha is a large reservoir
which is also noted as a good location to find Indian Skimmer and other waterbirds.
The surrounding arid countryside is worth checking for sandgrouse, Indian Coursers,
Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Eastern Pied, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears along with
a number of prinia species to test identification skills. Bharatpur is fulfilment
of an ornithological dream and even with the time at our disposal there is always
so much more to do and see in this wonderful wildlife sanctuary. Day
7 : Delhi
A day of sightseeing in Agra begins with a visit to the deserted
ruins of Fatehpur Sikri, once the capital of the Mogul Empire, which is situated
roughly half way between Bharatpur and Agra City.
Dusky Crag Martins
skim over the red sandstone walls of this ancient place and although the accent
is on history during our visit, birds are always on hand for those members of
the party with less interest in the events of the past. Hoopoes, Brown Rock Chats
and possibly a Blue Rock Thrush might be seen as we walk around and clouds of
Black Kites and vultures circle
the latter likely to include several Long-billed. On occasions wintering Wall
creepers find the numerous rocky crevices worthy of investigation and if we are
really lucky we may come upon one of the resident Eagle Owls. About one hour from
Fatehpur Sikri we enter the historic city of Agra and enjoy a guided sightseeing
tour of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort but these world-famous buildings are not
without ornithological interest for those reluctant to abandon birding.
The Yamuna River here is always populated by flocks of waders and the skies filled
with Black Kites. Possibilities include Ruddy Shelduck, River Lapwing, Avocet,
Marsh Sandpiper, River and Black-bellied Terns, Great Black-headed and Brown-headed
Gulls, Lagger Falcon and Spotted Owlet. The quieter corners of the Taj gardens
might reveal barbets, Grey Hornbills and perhaps a few warblers. Omnipresent at
every site are the chittering, inquisitive little Palm Squirrels and a fine mixture
of colorful butterflies. Today though the birds take second place to the magnificent
buildings and prime among these is the breathtakingly beautiful white marble monument
of the Taj Mahal, one of the best-known images of India but never a disappointment
in real life. In the evening we will take our train to Delhi (a 3-hour journey).
Here we will be transferred to International airport to catch the plane to London.
Day 8 : Depart
we depart Delhi late evening/in the early hours of
the morning on scheduled flight back home .
Birding Tours of Bharatpur Reservation