The Department of Environmental Studies of the Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi organised an overnight field excursion to the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur on 29-30 January 2017. Keoladeo National Park is a large marsh (~30 sq. km) situated at the confluence of River Banganga and River Gambhir. It once served as a private hunting ground for the local ruler and was declared as a reserved forest area in 1967 and later upgraded to a National Park in 1981.
The Deeg Palace (or the Jal Mahal) also formed part of the field excursion and was the stop-over destination en route to Bharatpur. The Deeg Palace was built in the 18th century by the Jat rules of the time and it an excellent piece of architecture showcasing remarkable water management practices and innovation, which require further research. The exhibits of the princely times, however are a stark reminder of hunting practices of those times and some of them need to be incinerated rather than showcased. The Palace is also famous for its colourful fountains which are reported to run twice a year.
An interesting aspect of the Deeg Palace, which is quick to grab the attention of even the most distracted, is the presence of large number of large bats in the Palace compound. One would expect these bats to be hidden away inside the old built structures. However, these bats are found hanging from the trees, out in the open, even in broad daylight. The bat population here is considerable in number and would certainly benefit from an inquiry into their behaviour and habitat preference, especially since such a study seems wanting.
The overall experience of visiting the Deeg Palace can be considerably improved if the State administration and/or the State Tourism Department of Rajasthan can improve the immediate surroundings of the Deeg Palace. This would go a long way in attracting more tourists as well as retaining the ones who have already visited the place once.
After Deeg Palace, the next destination was the Keoladeo National Park, after a night stay at Bharatpur. Keoladeo National Park is a birder’s paradise that promises never to disappoint! One of the few National Parks in India, which are always open, and always full of tourists and nature enthusiasts, Keoladeo (Ghana) National Park is a must visit for anyone who has any interest in Nature.
The Keoladeo (Ghana) National Park is home to resident as well as migratory birds and the latter can be best met during the winter months when they are here. Some of the birds spotted during the field trip included, among others, Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala), Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger), Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis), Greater Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) and Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus). The Park also offers some excellent photo and video opportunity, like below:
Some other waterfowls sighted during the field trip included Greylag Goose (Anser anser), Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Gadwall (Anas strepera), Eurasian Wigeon (Anas Penelope), Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), Garganey (Anas querquedula) and Common Teal (Anas crecca).
The Keoladeo National Park also has some mammal species such as the Nilgai and Jackals. Snakes and monitor lizards also frequent the Park and the latter were spotted during the field trip. The field trip was an overall learning experience for all the student participants as it provided a detailed understanding of the relationship that bird populations have with each other and with us. The Salim Ali Nature Interpretation Centre, located inside the Keoladeo National Park further helped the students explore and understand this relationship further.