The famed Keoladeo National Park is located at Bharatpur and less than two hours by car from Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Winter is a great time to visit there when it has one of the greatest waterbird concentrations in the world. We spent two days birding there in 1998, January 18 and 19, plus about three hours early the next morning. In 1999, we could only devote one full day of concentrated birding and about four hours the following morning.
We knew that the Siberian Cranes we saw in 1998 would be gone by March (the two adults returned this year; last year's juvenile did not) but were surprised at the lower number of species, particularly waterfowl and raptors. As it turned out, many had departed the area around mid-February as they do each year.
But having said that, there were still many, many birds, and any first time visitor would be greatly impressed. For us we still managed to see several new species and enjoyed wonderful views of many others -- for example, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Wryneck and Bluethroat. The early morning boat ride (not in a motorized boat but one that moved along quietly by a man using a long pole) equaled last year's excursion, both for scenery and wildlife. The boats can take eight people.
Again, our rickshaw guide was Ratan Singh, a superb birder. The non-birders (all but three) also had knowledgeable rickshaw guides who knew the birds, had great eyes and carried their own binocs.
Our bird book of choice this year was the new (1999) A Guide To the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives by Gimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp. We did carry, and refer to occasionally, Salim Ali's The Book of Indian Birds (1996). The new guide covers the 1300 species found on the Indian subcontinent resulting in a five-pound weight that makes it tough to carry in the field. Another handicap is that the birds shown on the plates are often crammed too close together (and with twelve artists contributing to some plates, it's not surprising some illustrations are better than others). Also, the small range maps are difficult to interpret because they rely only on shading -- understandable because of the costs to use color in the maps. Finally, an annoying problem for visiting birders is the strange order of the birds (text and plates) because it doesn't follow Clements or any familiar bird book. For example, woodpeckers are found near the beginning before grebes, cormorants and pigeons.
But, most important for all birders, is that overall the art work on the 153 plates is great, the species accounts are top-notch, and the introduction is helpful and thoughtful. It is our understanding that eventually the book will be converted to a true field guide, perhaps for each country, and be released in soft cover.
To get around the weight problem we took out the plates and had them all spiral-bound together. We did bring along the rest of the book to take advantage of its detailed descriptions and species accounts that we often used after being out in the field.
Again, we were glad we brought along A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia by Bahrain Bhutan, et al because of its compact size and the fact that it included all the waterbirds seen there. It was helpful -- quick and easy -- in comparing one species with another. The book by Nigel Whitely Where to Find Birds in Asia was of some help and a must if you do not plan to travel with a bird group.
Blue Bulls (Nilgai), Sambar, Spotted Deer (Chital), Common (Indian) Jackal, several Mongooses, Rheus Monkeys, and Indian Wildcat are some of the mammals that can be found. We saw one Indian Python sleeping on a log just off a path after having devoured some large prey. Last year we saw 8-10 in a breeding area.
NOTE 1: The numbers below given for each bird in no way reflects the actual numbers of species that can be seen as the area is far too great for a few people to conduct a census. Our sightings were based on birds reasonably close to the few paths we walked and not for any of the congregations of birds seen far in the distance.
NOTE 2: We use "a few" for 15-25 birds, "a number" for at least 50 birds and "many" for over 100.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis (two) Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster (several) Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus (about 20 out of the water) Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica (many) Greylag Goose Anser anser (one) Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus (seven) Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus coromandelianus (3 males, 12 females) Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope (several males) Gadwall Anas strepera (several) Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha (2-4) Northern Pintail Anas acuta (a few) Garganey Anas querquedula (four males, two females) Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata (a few) Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca (male) Little Egret Egretta garzetta (a few) Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia (a few) Great Egret Ardea alba (2 or 3) Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (5-10) Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii (a number) Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis (two) Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis (two) Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (several) Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus (a few) Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (about 50) Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala (many) F Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans (two) Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus (one) Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus (three) Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus (one) White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (one sitting, flying, sitting) Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (one) White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis (about eight) Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus (1 or 2 flying, 2 on ground) Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina (one juv. sitting) Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga (3-5) Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax (one) Gray Partridge Perdix perdix (2 or 3) F Ruddy Crake Laterallus ruber (one, great view) Ruddy-breasted Crake Amaurornis akool (six) White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus (a few) Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (a few) Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus (a number) Eurasian Coot Fulica atra (many) Common Crane Grus grus (15 feeding, 5 flying) Sarus Crane Grus antigone (4 adults, 4 juv.) Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus (two) Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus (one) Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis (two pairs) Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (two) Common Redshank Tringa totanus (several) Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus (two) Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola (a few) Ruff Philomachus pugnax (a number) Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (one) Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus F White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus (one nearby) River Tern Sterna aurantia (one) Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis (several) Red Collared-Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica (one) Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto (several) Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis (1 or 2) Indian Scops-Owl Otus bakkamoena (one) Spotted Owlet Athene brama (five) Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis (three) White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (several) Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis (three) Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis (two together) Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis (one) Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops (several) Indian Gray Hornbill Ocyceros birostris (one) Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala (one) Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla (1 in bush and ground) Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis (two males) Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus (one) House Crow Corvus splendens (a few) Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus (three males) Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum (5-10) Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra (6-8) Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (several) Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica (one) Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (two males) Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (male) Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata (pair) White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis (one) Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer Blyth's Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum (one) Great Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus (one) Clamorous Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus (one) Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita (one) Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca (1 or 2) Common Babbler Turdoides caudatus (one) Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus (a number) House Sparrow Passer domesticus (several) White-browed Wagtail Motacilla madaraspatensis (one) Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (several) F Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola (three) Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea (several) F Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris (two very close) Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica (male)103 Species
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