Abundant rains foretell good season for Bharatpur bird sanctuary

August 21st, 2008 - 12:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatpur (Rajasthan) Aug 21 (IANS) The world-famous Keola Deo Ghana Bird Sanctuary of Bharatpur is looking forward to early arrival of migratory birds this year following abundant rain in the region.The sanctuary has been facing a crisis in the last two years due to water scarcity. There had been clashes with local farmers when forest department officials tried to channel water to the marshes where the birds nest.

The foreign winged visitors were moving away from Bharatpur to Agra district’s Keitham bird sanctuary on the national highway, where they were more vulnerable to poachers.

“This year, however, the lush green cover, the worms and small fish proliferating in the wetlands in Ghana will definitely attract more birds,” a hopeful cycle rickshaw puller Veer Singh, who doubles as a tourist guide, told a visiting IANS correspondent.

The hotels and the rickshaw pullers here had faced a hard time in the past few years as the number of bird watchers went down significantly. But this year the rain gods have been particularly kind to southeastern Rajasthan where the sanctuary is located.

Bharatpur district has received more than 700 mm rainfall, 50 percent more than last year. Neighbouring Karauli and Dholpur districts too have had good rains, with the result that all dams in the area are filled to capacity.

The sanctuary attracts hundreds of thousands of birds each year, notably from Siberia and Central Asia.

The birds start arriving at the end of September or early October. This year, the hoteliers are expecting an early rush as conditions are very favourable.

Regarded as one of the finest bird parks in the world, the sanctuary also supports a population of deer and antelope - sambar, chital and nilgai - as well as wild boar, apart from local birds.

More than 300 species of birds are found in this small wildlife park of 29 sq.km of which 11 sq.km are marshes and the rest scrubland and grassland.

Originally developed and patronised by the erstwhile royal family of Bharatpur, it was once among the best duck-shooting areas in India. The government banned hunting in the late 1960s and declared it a national park in 1982. In December 1985 it was recognised as a world heritage site by Unesco.

Migratory birds at the Bharatpur bird sanctuary include several species of cranes, including the famous and rare Siberian crane, pelicans, geese, ducks, eagles, hawks, shanks, stints, wagtails, warblers, flycatchers, larks and pipits.

Of the local birds, the most striking are the painted storks that are now busy building their nests on trees at the edges of the marsh.

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