Forests are magical places, more so in winters when the trees and the bushes remain shrouded in mist for long hours in the morning. It almost seems like a black and grey world till the sun eventually manages to shove away the thick blanket of fog and the first rays of yellow light peep in. Almost immediately, the hitherto quiet forest seems to awaken from the seemingly endless slumber of cold winter nights. Suddenly, there are chirping noises all around, along with the flutter of wings and the jungle is alive.
It is indeed an amazing experience walking through a forest witnessing this transition. Most forests in India do not allow visitors to get off their safari vehicle. The Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, incidentally, is one such place where one can walk amongst the bushes to one’s hearts content.
A declared UNESCO site, the Bharatpur bird sanctuary is a mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, bush forests etc. This man-made wetland is home to a variety of birds, reptiles and fishes. In addition, thousands of winged visitors arrive in winter for breeding from the cold northern latitudes. A variety of waders such as ducks, geese, water hen, egrets gather around the swamps while the larger and boisterous painted storks colonize the trees overhanging the water. The raptors usually stick to the taller perches overlooking the swamps, keeping a close eye for a potential meal. An early morning walk through the maze of trails that run through the park notably increases the likelihood of sighting a wide variety of species.
The park, lying on the south eastern edge of the state of Rajasthan is two- to three-hour drive from New Delhi. This makes it a convenient weekend destination not only for bird watchers but also for folks who care for a slice of nature every now and then. A visit to the park can be combined with other popular destinations nearby such as Agra and the Chambal River based national park.
All images: Arnab Mukherjee