Bharatpur is special for all bird lovers. And on this Tour, the magical man-made wetland just found some new fans.
We reserve the first week of February every year for this place, because over the years, it has been the most productive time for us to be there in terms of light and birds.
We arrived from Delhi and Jaipur via pre-arranged cabs, and after settling in, I briefed the participants about the park and the happenings over the past few days. We usually take tremendous care to know the day-to-day activities of each park that we visit, which helps us optimise our time. Leveraging this knowledge, I decided to take a boat ride on the first evening of the Tour. There was reportedly a flock of geese that was spotted in these waters every evening, and the boat ride was worth the attempt.
The boats at Bharatpur are not motorised and are perfect to approach the subject and make some breathtaking images. As predicted, with the sun close to setting, the birds started to appear, and all participants made some lovely images of the magnificent bar-headed geese. In addition to the target species, quite a few birds, like the crested serpent eagle, the bronze-winged jacana, the greylag goose, the painted stork, the little egret, and the black-crowned night heron, also made an appearance for the cameras.
Following a satisfying evening, we returned to the lodge for a stimulating discussion on action photography and what to expect the next morning.
Light is the one thing that makes images special, and all the participants of this group got to witness that on their first morning in the park. I made them all get up in the wee hours of the morning and rush to the park so that they could catch the first rays of light hit the revered waters.
Light is what makes images special.
Having known of a particular water body where there was a very good chance of finding the great white and Dalmatian pelicans, we set up our gear and waited patiently for the magic to unfold. With pelicans fishing and cormorants fighting, the couple of hours spent at that pond became the defining moment of the Tour for most of the participants. After making some fabulous images, we paused for breakfast and decided to collect packed lunch and spend the entire day in the park, rather than return to the resort.
Breakfast was followed by a quick search for the magnificent sarus crane and the elegant greylag goose. There are particular areas in the park which are good for the latter, and without prior knowledge, one can very easily miss them. Having done the necessary research, we knew exactly where to find them and that helped in spending some quality time with the birds.
With the packed lunch on its way, we decided to spend some time near a particularly productive pond. After a scrumptious meal, we headed out in search of some of the more common denizens of the park like storks, herons, common kingfishers (finding a very obliging individual), gadwalls and the very-obliging lesser whistling teals. The ferruginous pochard and the black bittern were the extremely welcome additions during the afternoon.
The day ended with the group lying flat on the ground, waiting for jackals to cross their path, and as if on cue, the jackals did just that.
Back from a superbly fruitful day, we gathered for some celebrations in the evening and planned for the next morning. Owing to three very good sessions, we were ready to experiment, and decided to head out to Chambal the next morning to try our luck with the endangered Indian skimmers.
Owing to three very good sessions, we were ready to experiment.
The next morning arrived with some heavy fog which accompanied the group all the way to Chambal (which is an hour-long drive from Bharatpur). Having pre-booked boats for the entire group, we didn’t waste too much time, and as soon as we reached the banks of the river, the boatmen took us to the majestic waters that carve through the famous Chambal ravines.
It took quite a while for the fog to lift and hence we decided to spend the whole day in Chambal to maximise our chances. This proved to be an excellent decision, as the afternoon session yielded some brilliant sightings of the skimmers in action and then resting at touching distance. Some notable additions were comb ducks, greater thick-knees, sand martins and the elegant river-lapwings. We called it a day as the sun was about to set, after taking a group picture on the banks of the Chambal, before returning to Bharatpur for dinner.
After a hearty meal I could sense some of the group departing for their rooms with a heavy heart knowing that the next morning was to be the last session of the Tour.
On the last morning we set forth with the aim to make some different images, and shot landing pelicans and cormorants, especially, against the light. Some participants got lucky with blue bulls splashing across the water in the morning. After a happy morning-session, the group went back for breakfast and bid adieu to the magical water-world of Bharatpur.