Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weekend Trip To Wilderness

 This was a great weekend outing. We (my flat mate Jan Peters and me) went to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary (around an artificial reservoir called Keetham near Sikandra town some 17 kilometers from Agra towards Delhi on National Highway 2). 

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary:

I visited this Sanctuary after six year. It was in a bad shape then. The water bodies had dried up. Tourists were not amused to see arid birds in a sanctuary known for aquatic migratory birds like cranes, goose, ducks, teal, pintails to name a few. 

This time the bird diversity here was dazzling. All the migratory birds were here and in good numbers (the only notable exception is Siberian Crane that has not visited this sanctuary now for a decade. A slight clarification here, we saw two Saras Crane but not in the sanctuary but just off a busy highway not very far from Mathura city).

It is a lovely morning here, must have been seven thirty-eight, the mist was slowly giving in to the rising sun, the chirrups of the birds cheered us.

There is plenty of water now making it a big wetland. The wetland is broken by muddy tracks, forming a grid, was built to facilitate hunting by local royalty some hundred years ago. Now bird lovers move on it, mostly on rickshaw. The rickshaw pullers are guide as well, they are mostly middle aged Sardarji, can identify birds in many languages.

We did not take a rickshaw. Instead, we hired two cycles from the forest department for fifty rupees. We used them for the next four hours to crisscross the sanctuary.
There were some serious issues with those cycles. Mine was ladies. This, though, had little operational consequences. But what did make ride tough was the fact that one of the paddles would come off every hundred meters. The moment my buttocks would hit the seat it would bend backwards, and thus the tip of the seat would rise up and hurt where it hurts the most. I was riding a bicycle after a decade, so after an hour or so base of my hindquarters started to torment at the contact of the seat. But I did not give up. By the end of our long cycle ride, I was paddling standing, despite, the broken paddle.

Jan’s cycle was no better, but he did not complain of any collateral damage on his body, for every morning he races to his office on his Atlas cycle through smog-laden Delhi’s congested roads.

Though, all said and done, the cycles served us very well.
Green to rust-maroon coloured algae spread like a blanket over the big pool of static water where birds of many descriptions stood, constantly feeding was a surreal sight. There were so many varieties of big and small birds. Many were comfortable in water, land and air. All were fending for food in the same pool. The big birds didn’t bully the small ones. There was a great harmony. They were all doing what they were supposed to do. The coexistence in diversity was with a natural ease. They were assured that there was enough food for all. They hold a lesson for us, the warring Homo sapiens who are in conflict amongst themselves, within them, and with the rest. I was reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi said: 'There is enough for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed'

We took one big round of the wetland. Then digressed, walked a muddy track for a couple kilometers into a desolate shrub forest, finally emerging into a road with some familiar rickshaws that guided us back to where we started.  

Jan was in charge. He would stop and ask me to look at birds, inform their peculiar traits, habit, habitat and whether they are found in Germany or not. He was fairly excited to see a pair of spotted eagle seated on top of a bare tree in the middle of water pool some fifty meters away from where we were standing. 

There were few sighting that captured the imagination of a non-birder like me: a big colony of painted stork, hundreds of them dominates the skyline of a certain part of the sanctuary. Then a large dove, had yellow thick fur, cute is the word to describe. Kingfishers always impress me. There were many white-breasted kingfishers; pied kingfisher was conspicuous in absence.

Finally we lodged ourselves on a wooden platform protruding into a static water body where hundreds of moorhen swam, basking in the sun. Jan dozed off while I narrated my career profile as a journalist.

I spent time loading a floating leaf with dry twigs wondering how much weight it can take.  I overloaded it with a big pile of small twigs and kept adding more. The leaf did not drown under the weight, but floated away from me, as if protesting, enough!

More on Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary soon.

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