I was getting into a daily schedule that would have made my Teachers & Boss proud. I would be up by 6:00 AM and in the park by 7:00AM. I still struggle to wake up and be in office by 8 am, but while out there waking up at 5 or 6 am was just fine. I am sure I am not alone in this. I would have a quick tea and start from the guest house. Davendra will ensure that a bit of breakfast was packed with me everyday.
Virender and I had decided our roles, which were quite clear. Virender was to be the subject matter expert and I was to be the awestruck tourist. Worked out well for us and I can say that I played my part perfectly. During the rounds of park, I had seen some locations where some action was anticipated. Also there were a few passerine birds that I wanted to shoot. Walking around and alternatively hopping into the rickshaw was a good idea I believe, I could cover a lot of areas in the park with little fatigue. Right opposite to the canteen, there was a small group of comb-ducks most of the time. However it was a group of juveniles and females and no adult male was in the group when I was there. Still they would give some great views to anyone who was interested.
Dusky eagle owl is one species that I was keen on seeing this trip. Unfortunately in the park there was a pair that had decided to stay away from unnecessary attention of people. While I could see it in the bins, the view was obstructed. May be next time. Spotted owlets were a bit bolder and I had some good views. While I was shooting an owlet, a distinctive gentleman who seemed to be a birdwatcher appeared there. I started retreating from there, but the gentleman was in a rush and he hurried to the spot. The owl was still tolerant, but then this man over stepped a boundary by walking right under the perch and pointing the scope right up at the bird with very distinct pointing gestures. By now I was already at a safe distance, but was saddened by this behavior. Needles to say, the bird took off in alarm (or may be to preserve his/her dignity as this man was trying to look right up the rump of the bird with a scope for whatever reasons). I guess there are as many greedy birdwatchers out there as there are photographers 🙁
There was a news of Chotu Khan (a bird photographer and a great guy, who is so lucky that he lives in the park) has seen a Rubythroat. We went looking for it. But this was not to be. I ended up with a female Buethroat and Grey Bushchat (f). While moving towards the paths less trodden upon by casual tourists, we also found a Nightjar (damned if I can ID) and a Short-toed Snake Eagle. I spent a lot of time trying to get images of Jackanas and purple swamp-hens near the temple. Also present were common kingfishers , magpie robins and parakeets to keep us company.
On the way to python point and beyond, we had some interesting encounters. I found a point, where I could spend my afternoons shooting harriers, creatively naming it harrier point for future reference. Also there were other passerine birds to explore. Bluethroats, red-headed buntings, redstart, silverbills, chiff-chaffs etc would hop onto the path every now and then. Challenge was to click them before they scoot off in another direction. As for reptiles, we had pythons and monitor lizards around. As this was a winter trip, I was not very hopeful for other snakes but had a glimpse of water snake before it slithered into the water. I was still watching where I step though.
Harrier point turned out to be a quite little spot where I could sit and watch Marsh harriers going about their business. Interaction between harriers and their prey base was really interesting to watch. I saw harriers harassing the coots, scanning the marsh, calling out etc. To be honest, I am fascinated by raptors just like everyone else and this was a great place to feast my eyes on Marsh Harriers.
Bharatpur also has a large population of Bluebulls. These antelopes are Asia’s largest antelopes. These beautiful animals are also a nightmare for local farmers and can cause a lot of damage to crops when they raid farms in the night. However, local belief that relates them to cattle provides protection to these animals against hunting/killing. I saw a few of them running in the marsh but was unable to get a good image of it. Hopefully next year.
Around the temple and SapanMori, the commoners like Jackanas, herons, wagtails, egrets etc were enough to keep me occupied. And that’s the beauty of this amazing place. It can take an ordinary sighting and turn it into extraordinary.
In the end, I felt content being there. A place where hustle and bustle of a highway is a stone throw away from the avian miracle. I felt like these were 5 days well spent. If I get a chance, I would do it yet again in a heartbeat. But now was a time for me to move on. From the marshland of Bharatpur to grassland of Tal Chappar. Virender literally pulled me out of the park to make sure I do not miss my train from Delhi. I almost did, but that’s another adventure that involves google maps :D, for now enjoy some of the images from Bharatpur.
Some of the my mental notes for Bharatpur for future visits:
- Getting there early on weekdays would be most productive. Weekends increases number of casual visitors who are there for picnic. I had fun watching my fellow north Indians try and rap like Honey Singh. Hilarious and fun but may not be endearing when this happens around a nervous bird.
- Try and explore the area beyond the temple. I saw may rickshaw pullers telling the passengers that there is nothing beyond the temple or they can not pull in a particular direction as it is not allowed. May be they take a call based on interest of the passenger but still I felt that some genuinely interested passengers would miss out on awesomeness of the park.
- Bharatpur offers great vistas for someone interested in landscapes. As I was not carrying a wide lens with me, my phone acted as my go to tool for capturing scenes. Next time I would carry a wider lens.
- Bird photography needs lots of patience (I learned that I need to be a lot more patient). Apart from the obvious waterbirds, there are lot of smaller birds that one can look for.
- While choosing a hotel, getting food inside the park should be a requirement. As far as I am concerned IORA Guest House would fit my needs just fine. My pocket also loved this place.
- Cary some cash around with you in Bharatpur. After walking a few KMs for the nearest ATM, I realized they are poorly maintained. Thankfully Davendra was able to give me a ride till market where I could find a proper ATM.
To be continued in Tal Chappar..