Bharatpur awaits you

A few hours on the Frontier Mail train from Delhi and you would be in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, one of the world's finest birding destinations. The short five-kilometre journey form the station to the swamps of Keoladeo Ghana is best made on a horse-drawn tonga which clip-clops its way through the dusty town.

Nothing can prepare you for the contrast as you enter the confines of the verdant preserve created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur at the turn of the century to attract migratory birds, which he and his guests proceeded to shoot in thousands.

Birding at Bharatpur is great for both beginners and professional ornithologists. Cycles and cycle rickshaws provide a noiseless, fun way to move about the sancturary. Birdwatchers confirm having seen more birds here in one day than they have in a year of serious birdwatching in most other areas. Curiousity, a decent pair of binoculars and patience are all you really need. Depending on the season, the areas around the lakes are teeming with water-birds - Black-tailed Godwits, Greylag Geese, herons, sand pipers, snipes, coots, grebes and teals, all busy with the never-ending task of feeding themselves and their young. Large Egrets ride serenely on the backs of half-submerged sambar cooling off in the water, thir antlers festooned with ribbons of weeds. Cormorants skulk about scanning the ponds fro a meal or else occupy the upper branches of trees, wings outspread like gigantic bats. Siberian Cranes used to be regular winter visitors and a star attraction at Bharatpur. Now, however, when even a couple of birds turn up it is cause for celebration!

In recent days, a most interesting development has taken place. Scientists from the BNHS reported that they say a tiger in the swamps! The Director of the park, Ms. Shruti Sharma, confirmed the sighting and said that the cat had probably been around since December 1999. According to official records, the last tiger was spotted ( and hunted) in Bharatpur in 1962.