Keoladeo National Park
March 12, 2013
After our usual buffet breakfast with the group, we boarded the bus headed the short distance to Keoladeo National Park, located just outside the town of Bharatpur. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site formally called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, preserved for wonderful birds in its extensive marshes, rivers, forests and grasslands. They almost lost this status before they started diverting more water back to the park. Now they have enough water and the wildlife is recovering.
Entering the park at about 8 AM, we drove the bus to the lodge and parking area about 20 minutes from the park gate. On the way, we passed estate buildings and Rajveer explained that this estate was used by the Maharajas to hunt ducks in the 1850s. Unbelievably, during one duck-shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 ducks were killed by Lord Linlithgow, the British Governor-General of India! Luckily, it was made into a sanctuary in 1972 and a national park in 1982 and the wonderful birds are now protected.
The first thing on the agenda for this morning was a pole-boat ride – so we found the three small rowboats and all boarded them. Each boat was propelled by a man who used a pole to push it along the shallow channels. Right away we saw many fantastic birds, including two kingfishers – Common and White-throated, plus herons – Purple, Gray, and Pond. The soft early-morning light was perfect for photos as we boated through channels then out into more open marshes. We were treated to two young Dusky Eagle-Owls sitting in their nest waiting for their parents to return. We also saw the Bluebull Antelope and Spotted Deer and the usual Rhesus Macaques. Our relaxing and very peaceful tour was over after two hours when we returned to our starting point.
Our next activity was a hike along the levees through the park. The trail was quite pleasant, lined with bricks and shaded with large trees. We watched a female Little Grebe sitting on a nest with a bright rust-colored male in attendance nearby. And also found a Spotted Owlette sleeping on a tree branch just overhead that awoke to stare at us. Endangered Sarus Cranes flew over, honking loudly as they flew. There were many more birds to watch plus more Bluebull Antelope. These large antelope wade in the water to eat water plants reminding me of moose. It was now quite hot in the high 80s and we were thankful for the tree cover. We headed back to the park interpretive center where a man who worked in the park for many years gave an informative slide show about the park’s animals. Afterwards, when we found our way back to the bus and drove back to our lodge.
Our group went directly to the dining room for lunch since it was a bit late – 1:30 PM. Afterward a filling meal, we had about an hour to relax. and cool-off some in our air-conditioned room. Steve went for a dip in the pool as I took a quick “power” nap to curb my sleepiness and to cool-off in our air-conditioned room.
Back up and out again at 3:30 PM, we went back to the park in the bus. This afternoon we loaded on rickshaw bikes, two to a bike similar as in Delhi, and rode down a different but similar brick-lined levee. It was good to ride instead of walk but I felt lazy, well at least we were providing income to the local people. We stopped to look at an Oriental Scops Owl hidden deep among the vine tangles high in a tree – we could barely see it. We also discovered a rare Rudy-breasted Crake, who our guides declared was the “bird of the trip.” Bar-headed Geese, an immature Painted Stork, Black Bittern, Ruddy Shelduck, and many others made our list of birds seen. It was a fruitful afternoon! At about 6 PM the rickshaws took as back to the bus parking lot and we were glad to cool-off on the air-conditioned bus.
Back at the lodge we did the usual: took quick showers then went to the dining room for our beer and dinner, prepared for the next day, and then went directly to sleep.