Being from North India, it’s no surprise that this is my go-to region when it comes to planning quick trips. Relatively leisurely birding and a variety of habitats always puts me at ease and destress me completely.
My first stop on this trip was one that was not far from Delhi at all - the Sultanpur National Park. In fact, it is so close that I don’t even need to bother about looking for accommodation. I can return to the comfort of my own house after a day of birding here. While the actual designated park is a great wetland habitat, perfect for spotting waterfowl, raptors, waders, and even Nilgai, it is the grassland patches surrounding the park that are always my favorite.
These tall grasses are like haystacks with beautiful needles hidden inside them. One such needle was the Sind Sparrow, a bird that has eluded me every time I go birding in Sultanpur National Park. This time, however, with the help of my guide, I was able to find a cute little pair, sitting in a thorny tree. My only regret was that by the time my camera focussed, the sparrows flew off into the grass, never to be seen again. Nevertheless, I was pleased with having seen them at all! Another elusive resident of the Sultanpur Flats is the White-browed Bush Chat, also known as Stoliczka’s Bush Chat. Unfortunately, it eluded me on this visit as well. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my day here, with birds like Isabelline Shrike, Long-legged Buzzard, Red Collared Dove, and more to keep me happy!
My next destination was my all-time favorite place - Bharatpur. Bharatpur itself has an old city charm. Carved doors, intricate architecture, and warm people make up most of the landscape of the city. Apart from the forts, and palaces, Bharatpur is also home to some of the most beautiful museums that showcase the history and heritage of the city and the relics and artifacts. Bharatpur is home to the Bharatpur Palace and Museum, the beauty of which blew me away. Many of the old Havelis and palaces have now been turned into hotels or resorts, but they still retain much of their original structure and character. It’s really not difficult to imagine what Bharatpur must have been like a hundred years ago.
Birding in Bharatpur for two full days was bliss for my inner birder. From regal-looking storks and cranes to scores of ducks, grebes, waders, and more, there was plenty to keep my eyes and camera busy! With the help of my guide, I even got a faraway glimpse at a Dusky Eagle-Owl, a lifer for me, and even more special as I am partial to owls.
Much of my second day here was spent with a day trip to nearby Dhaulpur, and the Chambal River Sanctuary.
Now if there is one group of animals I like as much as birds, it is the crocodilians, and Chambal is the best place to see the Gharial, a very special animal for me. The best way to explore is by boat specially provided by the Forest Department, and this Chambal river safari was the perfect way for me to get up close and personal with some of the more special river denizens for some amazing birding in Chambal. I managed to see some amazing wildlife, including my targeted Gharials, and birds like Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied and River Terns, and various waders.
Sadly, Chambal was my last birding stop on this particular journey. So it was that another birding trip came to an end. I learned how much difference a good birding guide could make, helping me spot elusive birds in the grasslands of Sultanpur, or even teaching me so much about the history of Bharatpur, something I’ve never really paid attention to.