Birding Without Borders

Day 268: Bicycle Birding

A few hours of pedal power.

September 25, 2015, Delhi, IndiaAfter my alarm went off at 2:15 a.m. at Tal Chhapar, Ramit and I packed up and traveled west through the wee hours to reach Bhuratpur, today’s main destination, by mid-morning.

Bhuratpur is well known among birders for Keoladeo National Park, originally created as a duck-shooting sanctuary with artificial impoundments and flooded areas. Nobody hunts the ducks here anymore but the wetlands remain, and Keoladeo is an incredible oasis for birds.

We met a local naturalist named Dilip Kumar Saimi at the park gate. No vehicles are allowed inside the reserve except rickshaws and bicycles, so, rather than walk, Dilip suggested we hire bikes for several hours. This seemed like a wonderful idea and things just got better when I saw my bicycle: It was bright pink with flower stickers and swept-back handlebars! Ramit’s was the same except it had a front basket, which made me jealous.

Birding by bicycle is so much fun—I haven’t actually been on a bike since last year. The three of us pedaled around the wetlands for more than four hours. We found Cotton Pygmy-Geese, a Black Bittern, and an Indian Paradise-Flycatcher, all new for me. Riding around in the sunshine, surrounded by birds, felt idyllic, even if I’d seen most of these wetland species before. Hundreds of Painted Storks, Indian Cormorants, and a few Eurasian Spoonbills nested alongside one path.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much the opposite. Dilip knew a reservoir near Keoladeo where we might see Indian Skimmers, so the three of us zipped out to check it. Unfortunately, the roads in the area were so horrendously potholed that a one-hour drive turned into two, then three, then four. The skimmers weren’t at the lake, nor were many other birds. By the time we made it back to the park to drop off Dilip, it was dinnertime, and we still had a three-hour trip to Delhi ahead. Ramit and I arrived at his house in Delhi at midnight, having found just five new birds in 22 hours today. Hard work!

New birds today: 5

Year list: 4467

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