Bharatpur – birds, a princess, and a heroic rickshaw driver

So today we have an ‘easy’ day planned – a trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which is 100 metres down the road from the hotel. We start with a logistical issue – do we take a rickshaw (two people on each), or a bike each… The kids want bikes, we think rickshaw, mostly as we’ll have a lot of stuff to carry….

Second issue is that it may rain, and we need to hurry while the weather is OK…

Third issue is where we would have lunch. Steve asks the hotel, and they say they can have a packed lunch ready in 20 minutes.

An hour and a half later lunch is ready…

IMG_0136 lunch

Shakti has said he will be happy to join us today, so we all walk down together. The rickshaws are now hassling him instead of us, presumably they think he’s our guide.

When we get to the bird sanctuary the ticketing process is really complicated – 400 INR per person for entry, plus rickshaw if you want one (by the hour), plus guide if you want one (by the hour), then the bikes are bought in a 4 hour stint, although only 50 or 60 rupees.

So, Ella, Jack and Shakti opt for bikes while Steve and I hop into a rickshaw. It immediately starts raining and I feel guilty, particularly as the rickshaw guy is pushing the rickshaw at this point, and everyone else is pushing their bikes. We’re the only ones under cover, and we really could be walking.  I feel a bit princessy, in a spoilt way, rather than in any way regal… We’re wondering if we’ve made a bad decision regarding rickshaws and bikes and whether this will be the way of the rest of the day… pushing bits of metal and feeling awkward…

We stop after a very short time and the guide points out an Egyptian Vulture. He sets up his monocular so we can all have a closer look, and then shows us how to use a mobile phone to get a picture…

Turns out a camera takes a slight better photo… This kingfisher is probably my best monocular/phone pic…


And here’s a load of other things we saw.

India day 3-1
Egyptian Vulture
India day 3-2
India day 3-3
India day 3-6
Black Headed Ibis
India day 3-4
Long Tailed Tree Pie
India day 3-10
Darter, Kingfisher and male Spotted Deer


We soon realise that without the guide we would have seen a flock of green parakeets, probably some deer, and not a lot more. The guide was listening, watching and sometimes even bird-calling, although I’m not sure if that was partly for show.

He led us into all sorts of far flung reaches, including a temple area. He was spotting birds maybe around 500 metres away, which he then pointed out with his scope. Many of them seemed to me to be pretty much invisible to the naked eye, even though he patiently pointed them out over and over. Perhaps should have taken my glasses, although I do also think he had a real talent for it.

There was a moment when as we were walking along we realised that the rickshaw chap had (helpfully and impressively) loaded three of the four bikes onto his rickshaw and pedalled off into the middle distance. While this made for a relaxed birdwatching and spotting experience it did mean the kids main form of entertainment was now missing (they definitely seemed to enjoy the bikes and the birds were slightly secondary), and also our packed lunch was far far away…

India day 3-8

We wandered up via some Purple Heron, Greater Coucal, Painted Stork, Spoonbill (a bit of a favourite)…  I realise I’m all about the novelty bird-watching wise, and like either a gaudy colour, (kingfisher) an impressive stature (stork), or a pointless addition to the beak (spoonbill, stork, eagle). We also saw a mallard or two.

Eventually we were reunited with our lunch, which we had planned to share with Shakti, and were now left unsure as to the ‘correct’ thing to do as to whether to offer rickshaw guy and guide food too. Shakti negotiated the etiquette hurdles for us, and the rickshaw guy seemed grateful to have his bento-boxes filled with a spot of lunch. They also produced, as if from nowhere, a small chai tea each for us.

At around this time we were asked (politely) if we’d mind posing for a picture with some young men.   We went along with it but felt a bit cringey – it wasn’t just one quick pic, there were lots of swaps around and different cameras used, and then eventually Steve was (literally) elbowed out altogether so one young man could have his photo with me. Knowing how awful pictures tend to turn out of me, I couldn’t help wondering what horrors he was storing up for himself… Apparently at this point the rickshaw driver, (and Ella’s new best friend and evidently better parent) had been protecting her from having her picture taken with a young man who was a little insistent.

India day 3-13

There came a point at which we felt if we didn’t head back soon this would be getting very expensive and we may never leave… We just got chance to see a Dusky Eagle Owl and baby in a nest, then male Eagle Owl nearby in a tree, before heading back to the entrance. It was a fairly long way by rickshaw and bike, so I was pleased we hadn’t gone for the walking option as I felt like it would have lost its charm by the time we reached the entrance… On the way we saw two Sarus Cranes, which were obviously a good thing, as there were many people with properly serious cameras lurking to take pictures of them.  They are apparently as tall as a man.  Or a man who is crane-sized anyway.

India day 3-11

We got back to the hotel before the thunder, lightening and real rain started up in earnest.  As it was I felt like we’d had a great experience, and had really struck lucky with both the guide and rickshaw driver.

Tomorrow we plan an early start, ready to be leaving at 8am, which will be 2.30am English time, but we seem to be adjusting OK…

I read somewhere yesterday that you should ‘make sure your driver knows who’s in charge’ on day one, which of course we did… Shakti has us on a tight rein already.  In fairness, he’s usually right. He tells us he can take us to a monkey temple on the way to Jaipur as well as a step well, which Steve is keen to see.


Total birdcount:

Egyptian Vulture, Black Shouldered Kite, Spotted Owlet, Purple Sunbird, Yellow Footed Green Pigeon, Red Fronted Bulbul, Long Tailed Tree Pie, Jungle Babbler, ‘Brown Head’ Barbet, Common Blue Kingfisher, Black Head Ibis, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Coot, Red Water Lapwing, Glossy Ibis, Largest Grey Babbler, Marsh Harrier, Gadwall, Mallard, Greater Coucal, Painted Stork, Spoonbill, Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Darter, Bar Head Geese, Purple Heron, Black Necked Stork, Bronze Winged Jacana, Greylag Goose, Whistling Duck, Black Necked Stork (eating a Coot), Open Beaked Stork, White Necked Stork (that’s it’s old name – couldn’t catch its new one), White Breasted Kingfisher, Dusky Eagle Owl (male, female and baby), Black Bittern, Sarus Crane


Antelope, Spotted deer, Rhesus Macaque, Soma Deer, Wild Boar


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