With our second consecutive 5am alarm call, we rolled out of bed and wandered off to Keolado National Park on the outskirts of Bharatpur arriving there as the gates opened just before 6am.
Not being natural twitchers and having been told on arrival at our guest house that the peak bird spotting season is monsoon time or just after and we are a month or two before that (i.e. probably as low season as you can possibly get), we didn’t have particularly high expectations. Our situation wasn’t really improved by the fact that we’d managed to leave our binoculars in the guest house (despite having been carting them around with us for 6 months, this being one of the very rare opportunities to justify their carriage).
L: Yellow footed pigeon; R: Darter
However despite the initial bad omens, this proved to be a great experience. We hired some bikes, the most rickety to date which were just about fit for purpose given the flat terrain, the good road in the park and the fact that you were always cycling very slowly looking about you for some feathered friends. I would not have liked to have taken these out onto the open road.
We also hired a guide who came “armed” with both binoculars and even a telescope which was a complete boon. How he spotted some birds several hundred metres away I just don’t know and it’s fair to say without him, we may have been somewhat limited to pointing out peacocks, cormorants, egrets and, if all else failed, “bird” to each other.
We also managed to get some cheat photos using our mobile phones and the telescope. And ok, while these are not good enough for publication in National Geographic or the like, they are certainly good enough for our album and much better than anything we would have got if left to our own devices!!
With and without the telescope: Grey Heron
And while we may not have seen the huge volumes or all the varieties that the park has to offer in peak season when the migratory birds have flown into town, I don’t think 4 hours have ever passed quite so quickly. In fact I probably only realised time was pressing on because by 9am, the sun was in full force and the temperature was already steadily climbing towards the higher 30s.