February 22, 2024

One winter weekend in Bharatpur

I have never taken any interest in birds, thinking of it as too much effort for too little reward (yeah go ahead, sue me). The first time I started to notice them was during the trip to Corbett this January, when I stayed with the enthusiastic naturalist Imran Khan at his home The Ranger’s Lodge. Imran accompanied us on every safari and pointed out every single animal and bird – and Corbett was so rich in birdlife that I was hooked.

A few weeks later, the husband and I headed to Bharatpur – also known as Keoladeo Ghana bird sanctuary – towards the end of winter. It was also the end of the migratory birds season, but there was enough and more activity on that front to keep us happy, especially since it was our first time at a birder’s paradise.

We were staying at The Birder’s Inn and the minute we stepped out, we were approached by a cyclerickshaw-wala. Although there were a dozen waiting outside the hotel, it was his turn and there was no pushing and shoving. At Bharatpur, only the very serious birders hire guides; for the rest, the rickshaw-walas double up as guides, since they have been going into the forest for decades.

Some of the more adventurous – and fit (read foreigners) – travellers do the rounds on cycles, which in a way allows them the flexibility to go into the smaller mud tracks and marshy lanes.


As we entered the sanctuary, the sun was just coming up and we were all excited by our first sight of peacocks silhouetted against the golden light of dawn.


That is when I realised how addictive birding can be – we ended up spending the entire day at the sanctuary, just to zip in and out of Birder’s Inn for lunch.

These are a few images from my first proper outing as a birder, accompanied by a gruff, but informative rickshaw-guide. Feast your eyes on this rose-ringed parakeet couple, a largish spotted owlet (I think), green bee-eaters (in the process of eating bees), plump magpie robin, that gorgeous purple sunbird and a magnificent flying peacock.







And now, an image I am particularly proud of – the flameback woodpecker. I caught this beautiful bird from a great distance, and at a second’s notice before it flew away.


The stars were the winter birds – and there were dozens and dozens of them – painted storks, ibis, ruddy shelducks, snakebirds, northern shovelers and many more. One of the highlights was this pair of saras cranes – the world’s tallest flying birds – flapping its wings and performing an elegant dance of sorts for a long time.


Now that I have got a small taste of the birding life, I hope for more of it soon…

12 thoughts on “One winter weekend in Bharatpur

  1. I love bird watching. Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur is one of my favorite tourist destination. I have visited twice till-date but during off-season; still very happy to be there. I wish to visit during December or January during peak-season to watch more and more birds and wild life.

  2. Wow! I love spotting birds… got into it in 2013 when I spent a considerable amount of time in Ahmedabad and was amazed at the sheer variety of birds that would fly into the gardens around my parent’s house. Ever since I have started spotting birds wherever I go now! I think its a fun interest to have! Now clicking photos of birds according to me needs some serious talent. You have done a super job. That peacock in flight in stunning!

    1. Thanks, Chaitali. I really enjoyed spotting and photographing the birds in Bharatpur. And you’re right – once you get into it, you start spotting birds everywhere. Now, I see them in my garden in Bangalore and am amazed that I never noticed them before!

  3. Beautiful! I used to observe birds of all kinds since a long time until recently that I started finding out their names and habitat.

  4. Thanks Charukesi. Used to be an avid birdwatcher when young. But forgot all about it in the modern work life. Been in delhi for over 2 years and never been to Bharatpur. Thanks for reminding me about the joys of birdwatching. Will certainly make a trip to Bharatpur this winter.

  5. Hello Charuskesi
    The way you have described the flight of one of the world’s tall birds, Saras cranes flight, likening it a sort of a dance had my heart dancing with delight about wanting to visit it. The flame back woodpeckers picture is the best. Every wild life enthusiasts dream come true.

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