We had had a fabulous days birding on our first day in the park ( please see first post for first day birding photos) and after a great nights sleep at the Bharatpur Ashok Hotel we were ready for our second day in this great little park. Even our lady companions who are not as avid birders as me and my friend were ready at the first sign of light to get into the park.
We walked to the gate and the parking area where the rickshaws are available. In our excitement we were too early and we had to wait for the first rickshaw drivers to enter the park. While waiting we got the opportunity to photograph the small birds on foot which we would have missed on the rickshaw.
So the white eared / whiskered bulbul and the brahminy starling got their moment in the sun. By the time they had posed sufficiently for the 300mm we saw the first rickshaw drivers enter and hired them to go into the park.
As we entered the park we saw a Shikra sitting on the perch all balled up in the cold. I always consider it my lucky mascot cause seeing a shikra has always resulted in great sightings for me. And it was the same this time too!!
Our first sightings of waterbirds was a pair of spot billed ducks who were very close. It was mating season so we waited a while and sure enough, they started mating!! We voyeurously clicked on till they finished the short act before moving on.
We had heard that a heavily pregnant deer we had seen yesterday had delivered a fawn very close to the road in the evening. We were hoping that they hadn’t moved off so soon. Thankfully they were still at the same place where we saw the mother yesterday and we got some decent photos of the mother and child together.
As we moved on leaving the deer in peace we saw one of the most striking sights of any wetlands, a darter or a snake bird drying its wings after a early morning swim. The Darter has a long snake like neck and when it swims in the water you can only see its neck giving it the other moniker “Snake Bird”. I have photographed darters countless number of times. But when you come to the next one in its typical spread wings pose you can’t help but take more photos.
One of the ignored birds of the park is a pond heron as you can see it in all farms and small ponds all over the country. Plus its a dull brown looking bird which doesn’t look pretty sitting down. But in flight a pond heron with its white wings is a pleasure to photograph. I particularly like it when you get the sun shining through the wings giving it a surreal look.
There was also a colony of bar headed geese in the park this time. These pretty birds travel long distances and I have seen them from Ladakh to the Rann of Kutch. I was lucky enough to catch one in flight this time and it is one photo which I like personally.
We soon reached the centre of the park and this time took the opposite foot trail of the one we had taken yesterday. We saw a pair of young eagle owl in the distance but they were too far away to get good photos. We were still searching for the pied kingfisher which had evaded us thus far in the park. This time it was only the white breasted kingfisher which had been gracious enough to pose for us. Even the small common kingfisher ( I can’t understand the name because its not that common!!) which had sat patiently for us on our last visit was nowhere in sight.
We saw a few plain prinias darting about in the bushes. These small birds are restless souls and very difficult to get good photos of. After trying to get the restless critter in focus I managed a shot when it reached the top of the bush it was dancing around in.
A little further we noticed a flock of ducks flying away in a rush. The reason was a spotted eagle with its young setting down in its nest in the marshes. It was pretty far off, but its not everyday that you get to shoot a young eagle which looks radically different from its adults, so we gave it a go.
As we were about to return back on to the road and return to our hotel for check out (We were scheduled to leave in the evening) we saw something fly into the tree. It was a pair of spotted owlets. ( Featured image) Closer than I had ever seen them before. We clicked away till kingdom come. As we tentatively moved forward one of them turned back and gave me a glare. It’s the best photo of a spotted owlet I have till date.
On our way out we were lucky enough to see the Himalayan Rubythroat come out of its known lair in the bushes close to the gate. Even though it was in the shade and not in great light, no one misses the chance to photograph a rare visitor to the park.
We quickly checked out, had a delicious breakfast and rushed back to the park. On our way in we saw two of the ducks which we didn’t get good photographs the previous day, the common teal and the garganey which are in fewer numbers.
As our lady companions left to search for the Sarus they had missed yesterday. We were left searching for our pied king fishers. As if by providence we saw a pair sitting on a dried up tree in the middle of the water. We parked ourselves there and started taking photos. Soon they moved close to each other. Now we had two pied kingfishers in a frame where till yesterday we could find none!!! To top it all off they started mating!! It was compensation for all the while the small bird had evaded us.
Now we were thoroughly satisfied with our trip. In a short span we had seen and photographed a huge variety of birds. The weather Gods had been kind on us this time. We met the ladies who had spotted the sarus and returned to meet us at the Keoladeo temple inside the park.
We started on our way back and found two scops owls trying to sleep in a tree canopy. We tried to be as quiet as possible and took photos of the sleepy duo before moving on.
We were almost at the gate when we saw a few empty rickshaws by the road. A python had been spotted nearby and the occupants had gone to see it. We did the same and as we hurried to the spot we saw a gigantic python with it’s belly full slowly slithering away trying to get away from the intruders. I only had the 300mm lens attached as I didn’t expect to see something so huge and hence only got photos of the head of the massive snake. But it was an experience I will never forget.
As we reached back to the hotel for our last lunch at the Bharatpur Ashok we were sad to leave this magnificent park and head back home.
Bharatpur has lost its Siberian Cranes but there is still enough here to interest the avid birder and more. I will surely be back soon!!
Till my next post from another destination.