For bird watching enthusiasts, India’s astonishing topographical richness allows for all kinds of exciting birding experiences, which will be etched in your diary and memory bank for years to come.
One of the best places to spend quality time is the legendary Keladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur. The bird sanctuary, also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, is a UNESCO- acclaimed World Heritage Site under the Natural Heritage category. It is located quite close to the northern city of Agra, world renowned for the Taj Mahal. In fact, one can happily club a visit to these two places in North India and come away well rewarded for the diverse pleasures both destinations offer the tourist. You may recall that the Taj Mahal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An interesting story linked to Keladeo is that it was one of the most popular places for duck shoots for parties arranged by the Maharaja of Bharatpur for the Viceroy’s entourage and other dignitaries, during the British Raj in the 1850s. Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943, shot over thousands of ducks with his hunting party in a single day! Thank God that now hunting is banned in India and the National Park is a model for conservation of the many species that can be seen here. This astonishing wetland offers thrilling sightings of both domestic and migratory species. A visitor not be missed here, in the winter, is the rare and elusive Siberian crane. You can explore the park by e-rickshaw with knowledgeable guides who have been properly trained to serve visitors at Bharatpur. Look out for the sunbathing pythons, the sambar deer, nilgai ( blue bull) and chital munching on the lush grass.
The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Goa is located in the glorious environs of an island surrounded by a necklace of that unique tidal greenery known as mangroves, which supports a wealth of denizens of the sea and land. The sanctuary, located on the island of Chorao in the Mandovi River, can be accessed only by a boat ride 15mins away from Panjim. It takes its name from India’s legendary ornithologist Dr Salim Ali. Sightings can be enjoyed of rare species on the island such as the little bittern, black bittern, red knot, jack snipe and pied avocet. You can expect quite a unique experiences checking out the avifaunal creatures in the sanctuary and that of the marine life of the mangroves.
Kerala’s backwaters will always have a magnetic appeal for visitors looking for an iconic experience of Southern India. But birding enthusiasts get a bonus at the famous Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, adjoining the popular Vembanad Lake, an intrinsic part of the backwater network, plays host to a delightful range of avifaunal species. Also worth boating off to the Pathiramanal Island in the lake as it offers rewarding sightings of migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia in the winter months. Keep a look out for species such as night heron, Indian shag, purple heron, cormorant, gulls, cotton pygmy-goose, whiskered tern and the rare monarch flycatcher.
One doesn’t always have to visit a big bird sanctuary for an exclusive in birding India. Scattered across the length and breadth of the country are thousands of even unknown water bodies which will spring a lovely surprise for the birder. So do remember to pack your bird book and binocs and enjoy the wealth of India’s lesser known birding hideouts as well.