Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bird Watching

The feathered ‘lords of the air’ may not have as phenomenal a fan-following as the beasts that walk the earth, but those with a avian-fixation will know how crazy this sport can get. Sightings are, at times, about seconds - and priceless seconds they are - for your target may hit the air again anytime and be gone forever. Hats off to the ornithologists and the avifauna enthusiasts with their extraordinary patience and an eye for nature’s display of its impeccable color sense.

A ‘quiet’ ariel watch

India’s beeline of bird watching connoisseur from across the world is thronging by the day. A huge populace of widlife photographers too are included in this ambit. The Indian terrains are extremely avian friendly and welcomes a multitude of migratory birds from all over the world. In the Himalayan ranges, an enmesh of trekking expedition with your birding tour can add to the gambol. Down south, a enthralling river cruise through the dales camouflaged with multi-colored avifauna, where the air reverberates with relentless chirpings, can be an out-of-the-world experience. Tape recordings are also made, which, however, are prohibited in the Keoladeo Bird sanctuary. Be patient, be quiet, be attentive - are your bird watching mantras. Good luck!

Pack your bags to

India! 2000 rarest of the rare species and god-knows-how-many bird-watching zones await your arrival!

Wild wild west: Rajasthans’s Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, more popular as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park is one of Inida's pioneer wildlife conservation centers. Its shot to fame is however the Siberian Cranes Cranes that come here every monsoon traveling 6,500 km. A dismal tide, however, is that the year 2002 saw this endangered guests for the very last time in India. So before you go to Bharatpur, hail pagan bird-gods and the Indian ones that you are the one who reports to the world ‘the return of the Cranes’. Crane-talk apart, the sanctuary’s marine vagetation, kadam and babul forests, shallow lakes shelter in them about 300 species of Indian birds. Flocks of cormorants, spoon bills, storks, egrets, herons, pelicans, ebis and grey herons can be sighted all over the park. Phalodi, in Rajasthan, is another spot where the lovely Demoiselle Cranes from Mongolia and Europe, abound.

The Aravalli foothills nestle the Sariska wildlife sanctuary (Rajasthan) with more than 200 species of birds including the Gray Hornbill, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black/Red Headed Bunting, Wryneck Woodpecker Babbler, White Breasted Kingfisher, Little Brown Dove, Small Minivet, Golden Oriole, Great Gray Shrike, Pale Harrier and Tailor Bird.

Himalayas: The Himalayan foothills are, needless to say, rich with avifauna. For a change at Corbett National Park let the tigers be, go there for the birds. Corbett’s 600 species of birds exceeds the total number of bird species found in Europe and is about one fourth of the diversity found in India.

Fly South: The Nilgiris are rich with species like the White-browed wagtail, Rufous treepie, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Black-rumped Flameback, Chestnut-bellied nuthatch, Indian nightjar, Black Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the Indian cuckoo. The best times for bird watching are between October and April.

The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary (Kerala) on the banks of Vembanad Lake, has resident birds like waterfowls, cuckoo, owl, egret, herons, kingfishers and water ducks. The migratory population include Siberian cranes (no more though), parrots, teals, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, etc. House boats and motor boats offer lake cruises ideal for a quiet bird-watching adventure.

Renowned ornithologists, Salim Ali’s brainchild, the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary Kerala, houses 500 winged species including the Indian Roller, Cukoo, Common Snipe, Crow Pheasant, Jungle Nightjar, Kite, Grey Drongo, Malabar Trogon, Woodpecker, Large Pied Wagtail, Baya Sparrow, Grey Jungle Fowl, Indian Hill Myna, Robin, Jungle Babbler And Darter.

Other birding grounds are Gir National Park (Gujarat), Nandankanan (Orissa), Rajaji National Park (Uttaranchal), Kolleru Bird Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh), Manjira Bird Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh) and Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh). Our Bird watching tours have the best picks - in case you don’t want to miss a thing!

Travel Tips

Binoculars are a must-must-must carry. Team it up with a hi-tech camera. Try pick clothes that have more of green shades - the birds are a shy lot. And some research can go a long way in recognising them instantly. Handbooks on birds like the “A Birdwatcher’s Guide to India” by Krys Kazmierczak & Raj Singh, Salim Ali’s more recent Ali/Ripley series, “The Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent” by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp are recommended. Accommodation options abound.



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