Ghana has become a vast field laboratory for ornithologists and is one of the world's best-studied wetland ecosystems.354 species of birds are found in this small park of 29 sq km of which 11 sq. km. are marshes and the rest scrubland and grassland. The unique mix of marshes, pastures and woodland at Keoladeo is the key to the high density and diversity of birds.. It is possible to spot 150 species in a single morning.
Nesting for resident birds, coincides with the arrival of the monsoon, which brings in its wake all the food that hungry chicks need for their development. In the crowded heronries, raucous 'fights' are commonplace as birds jostle for the best breeding sites and for nesting material.
The park heronry , is said to be one of the finest in the world. Talking about the heronries of the world, Roger Tony Peterson wrote, "Perhaps the most impressive spectacle of all is the great assemblage at Bharatpur, near Agra, India, where half a dozen species of herons and egrets nest in association with painted storks, spoonbills, ibises and cormorants..." Seventeen species of birds, namely, Grey heron, purple heron, night heron, large egret, median egret, little egret, cattle egret, large cormorant, Indian shag, little cormorant, darter, painted stork, open-billed stork, black-necked stork, white-necked stork, white ibis and spoonbill are known to breed at Keoladeo heronry. Half- submerged trees seem bent with the weight of birds in August, when crowded heronries of resident birds can be studied. At this time herons, cormorants, egrets and shags compete for space with each other for such nesting sites. Till the young ones are able to take off and fend for themselves (around November/December) there is a constant race to grab food from the swamps that provide a virtual buffet comprising such exquisite offerings as snails, tadpoles and frogs, beetles, crustaceans and mollusks. Jacanas use the floating vegetation, treading like ballerinas on the broad leaves that spread across the water bodies. Such vegetation is also used by them to lay their eggs, safe from terrestrial invaders.
By October when migrant birds start to arrive, so do migrant birdwatchers. A third of bird species are are migrants, many of whom spend their winters in Bharatpur, before returning to their breeding grounds, as far away as Siberia and Central Asia. Migratory birds at Ghana include, as large a bird as Dalmatian pelican, which is slightly less than two meters, and as small a bird as Siberian disky leaf warbler, which is the size of a finger. Other migrants include several species of cranes, pelicans, geese, ducks, eagles, hawks, shanks, stints, wagtails, warblers, wheatears, flycatchers, buntings, larks and pipits, egrets, , biterns, snipes, spoonbills, coots, storks, kingfishers, Sarus crane, falcons, and many more.
Of all the migrants, the most sought after is the Siberian Crane or the great white crane, which migrates to this site every year, covering a distance of more than half the globe. These birds, numbering only a few hundred, are on the verge of extinction. It is birds from the western race of the species, that visit Keoladeo, migrating from the Ob river basin region, in the Aral mountains, in Siberia via Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are only two wintering places, left for this extremely rare species. One is in Feredunkenar in Iran, and the other is at Ghana. The journey to Bharatpur takes them 6,400 kms from their breeding grounds, in Siberia. They arrive in December and stay till early March. Its well-studied behaviour and movements suggests it arrives after travelling 6,400 kms from its Siberian home and that it stays till March to feed and rest before making the long journey back home for the summer.
What is peculiar to Bharatpur, is that many of the species are specialist feeders, like the Siberian crane. Each helps itself to one ingredient of the wetland soup. Flamingos sieve the water for plankton, spoonbills rake the mud with their lower mandibles for mollusks, tadpoles and weed, while egrets and herons spear their prey, and geese and Brahminy ducks graze at the water's edge.
As water sources dry up, Sarus Cranes, the world's tallest flying birds, are attracted to Ghana from far and near. In March and April perhaps around 400 birds populate the park, but they start moving out again when the monsoon arrives and water is easily available. Perhaps around two or three dozen mating pairs stay back and their breathtaking courtship dances around July, when their sonorous calls float over the swamps, are wondrous to watch.
Some of the birds you are likely to see are:-
Water Birds (wetlands): Painted Stork, cormorant, egret, Open-billed Stork, White Ibis, darter, shoveler, teal, Bronze winged and Pheasant Tailed Jacanas, Ruddy Shelduck, Demoiselle and Sarus Cranes, Gadwall, Pintail, Mallard, Coot, Purple Moorhens.
Raptors: King Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Crested Serpent Eagle, Ring-tailed Fishing Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Blackwinged Kite, Pallas Fishing Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Collared Scops Owl, Spotted Owlet, Dusky Horned Owl.
Others: Lark, pipit, kingfishers, doves, mynahs, bulbuls, Blue Jay, oriole, Blossom-headed Parakeet, hoopoe, shrike, bee-eater, wagtails, finch.
Migrants: Siberian Crane, Steppe Eagle, Pale and Marsh Harriers, Osprey, Common Teal, Indian Little ringed Plover
Click here for bird check list of the park.
Besides the avian fauna, a large variety of mammals and reptiles are also common in the park. These include the Nilgai, Sambar, Chital, Leopard and the Wild boar. A bonus to reptile-lovers are the large rock pythons which can be spotted, sunning themselves, especially at Python Point, beyond the Keoladeo Temple.
You need at least 04- 05 days for birding. Bicycle Rikshaws - with the birding guide pedaling, and bicycles are the only transportation allowed in the sanctuary.
Agra (55 km) is the nearest airport with connections to many places in the country. Bharatpur in on the main railway line and is connected to Delhi and Sawai Madhopur ( Ranthambhore). Agra, is linked to most destinations in the country. By road, Bharatpur is 180 km and approximately a 4-hour drive from Delhi. It has good road connections to Jaipur (178 Kms) and Agra (56 Kms).
Our tours allow time for visiting Taj Mahal and the ruined city of Fetehpur Sikri., and include Ranthambore, Chambal, and Patna bird sanctuary. A visit to the fascinating pink city of Jaipur with stay at a heritage palace hotel can be added on from Ranthambhore.
The best time to visit is late October to early March. The National park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Varied accomodation is available. Our choice is hotel Sunbird in the standard catagory, and Lamxi Vilas Palace in the Heritage luxury catagory. Click here for more details.
Patna is a small wetland covering 2 sq. km. It is jam-packed with migratory waterfowl and other species. More than 200 species have been recorded there. One can see large concentration of rosy pelicans, waders, ducks, cranes etc. The birds allow close access and there are watch-towers for birding.