It is always difficult to sum up a day at Keoladeo National Park when you have seen so many great birds, and most of them have shown very well and very close. When one of the group states it is probably the best day’s birding they have ever done, then that comes as close and as accurate when describing the overall feel of such a day. Well, we saw 121 species covering so many different bird families, and the variety on offer was really quite astounding. When you consider that I have experienced better here in the past – then the potential here is enormous (if that makes any sense?).
Anyway, we arrived at the entrance gates around 6.45am (it’s just 5 minutes from our hotel) and took a short walk along the road in the cool, early morning air. We didn’t see anything too exciting to be honest, just some Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and Brahminy Starlings to start with, so we hopped on our rickshaws and went down to the old parking area. A fantastic male Siberian Rubythroat skulking in the shadows certainly got the pulses racing before another short rickshaw ride further into the park got us to some better habitat. The road from this point was bordered by tall trees, before opening out into more familiar habitat with water and marshes either side of the tree lined road – the classic feature of birding at ‘Bharatpur’.
After an unsuccessful search for Tickell’s Thrush we walked on into the more open areas and got stuck into the raptors and I’m glad to report that there is still a healthy wintering population here. We saw a lot of Steppe Eagles, several Greater Spotted Eagles and 2 Indian Spotted Eagles, along with Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Western Marsh Harrier and Shikra. On several occasions we found Steppe and Greater Spotted Eagles perched in nearby trees or on the ground.
|Indian Spotted Eagle|
|Greater Spotted Eagle|
In the bushes beside the road we saw Bluethroat, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, lots of Lesser Whitethroats (of the halimodendri race), with good views of both Hume’s and Greenish Warblers in the trees.
|Clamorous Reed Warbler|
Out on the marsh we saw lots of wildfowl, maybe not as many as I’ve been used to from previous tours but there was Lesser Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, lots of Garganey, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and a single Red-crested Pochard. The main wader prize (for me) went to White-tailed Lapwing, a bird I really like and we spent some time watching quite a few in the scope. There were also lots of other species such as Wood and Green Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank and Common Greenshank etc. There was also nice views of Intermediate Egrets, Purple Herons, Eurasian Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, and lots of Black-headed Ibis as well.
|Indian Spot-billed Duck|
A superb male Ultramarine Flycatcher was something of a surprise to say the least and showed very well indeed, and of course we saw Dusky Eagle Owl, a family of which were roosting on a nearby island of acacias.
|Dusky Eagle Owl|
One of the classic birds to be found here is Sarus Crane and we were lucky to see this pair feeding in the marshes before circling overhead in formation on numerous occasions.
Following lunch at the temple area we spent the late afternoon birding around Mansarovar Lake and got lucky with our third Black Bittern of the day, this last one actually posing nicely rather than the two previous flybys. There was also a close Indian Python, Indian Cormorant, and several Black-crowned Night-Herons.
Other species seen today included Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Spotted Owlet, Long-tailed Shrike, White-eared Bulbul, and some close Yellow-eyed Babblers. But the overall kaleidoscope of large numbers of birds combined with very nice views of almost everything is what makes this site so special.