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Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

This magnificent bird haven in actual came into being paradoxically as a duck shooting preserve for Maharaja Suraj Mull of Bharatpur. He transformed the shallow depression formed by the confluence of River Gambhir and River Banganga into a reservoir by damming the rainwater in monsoons.

Flooding of water created shallow wetland ecosystem causing it to be a perfect habitat for an astounding variety of birds. The park that was a hunting preserve for the Maharaja and the British continued to be so till 1964, after which the hunting was banned.

A forestation policy of planting acacias was vigorously followed. However the ecosystem at the Park continues to be fragile due to pressures of tourism and need for water from surrounding villages. However the environmentalists won the day in 1985 when UNESCO listed it as World Heritage site and earlier in 1982 it was declared as National Park.

And, today the Park is recognised as the most important breeding and feed grounds for the birds in the world. Some species are still endangered and especially the Siberian crane. Visitors are advised to maintain low noise level and avoid littering the park.

The Park opens from sunrise to sunset around the year. The ticket is Rs 200 per foreign visitor and Rs 25 for Indian visitor. Vehicles are permitted upto Shanti Kutir about 1.7 kilometres inside at Rs 50 per vehicle. After this you can choose to walk, bicycle, or go by cycle rickshaw, Tonga or boat when the water level is high.

The cycle rickshaw wallah’s displaying yellow plate meaning authorised double up as guides also carry binoculars. Hotels do supply packed lunches and you can get a bite at a canteen on the second gate and even at Forest Lodge.

A paradise for the avian world, and the pilgrimage for the bird lovers, it was known as the best duck shooting resort in the British empire. But was declared a reserve for birds in 1956 and later upgraded to National Park. UNESCO has listed it as a world heritage site. The geographical location is ideal as it is on the main North-South avian route of India. Although small in size, 29 sq km. Only, it boasts to house more than 375 species of beautiful birds, and more than 132 of them breed inside the Keoladeo Ghana National Park and nearly every year new ones are added to the list.

The sanctuary not only attracts birds from India but also from places like Europe, Siberia, China and Tibet Before monsoons hundreds of these exotic birds roost and nest building activities start on the babool and kadam trees of the park. Water coming through the Ajan Bandh starts filling the various ponds and lakes of the Park.

When assured of enough food, hundreds of large, medium and little cormorant, darter, purple and grey heron, various species of egret, painted, open-billed, white necked and black necket stork, white ibis, spoonbill, night heron and other birds get busy in courting and mating. The trees are overflooded with nest, one can observe a tree housing nests upto fifties and sixties in number belongign to different species of birds looking after theri loving young onces. The nests on the trees look like pearl necklaces. Gracious Saras cranes, the tallest flight birds nest in exposed and open area, both partners share the duty of hatching, while changing incubating duties, they come together, raise their neck and give out shrill trumpetic calls in unison and at the same time fan their feathers.

The newly born chicks are only 10cm. in size but grows upto one metre in height within a year. As the monsoons arrive birds from every part of the country start pouring into the park. Migratory water-fowls, including the pride of Keoladeo Siberian Cranes form the indispensable part of Park. The water-fowls visit the park in millions during the month of October. Rosy starling marks the beginning of the arrival of migratory birds. The most noticeable water-fowl coming to the park are barheaded and greyleg geese.

The ducks spotted here are pintail, common teal, ruddy shelduck, mallard, widgeon, shoveler, commong shelduck, red crested pochard, gadwall etc. predatory birds like imperial eagle, steppe and tawny eagee, spotted eagle, marsh harrier and laggar falcon are attracted towards the park completing the avian food chain of the ecosystem. Some of them like short toed eagle, lesser spotted eagle and shikra are the residents of Park.

About 11 sq km Area of the park is covered with water the remaining portion is rich with Kingfisher, Red Vented and white cheeked Bulbuls, Babblers, Quails, Partridges,Sunbirds, Sparrows, Parakeets and orioles which live in bushes and burrows. The year round activity of the winged beauties has made the park a pilgrimage for bird lovers and an ornithologists delight. The animal populace also show their presence although they are thoroughly dominated by feathers, wings and beaks. The animals include the Black Buck, Sambhar - the largest Indian Antelope, Spotted deer, and Nilgais.

Pythons can also be observed at some places lazing in the sun. Vehicles are only permitted upto Shanti Kutir inside the park. The Electra Van of forest department can be engaged in the sanctuary, although the best way to explore the park is on foot or bicycles which are available on hire. Cycle rickshaws can also be hired.




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