On a chilly winter morning, the only thing on your mind is to snooze off the alarm clock and sleep back again in your bed. But we woke up at 4.30 in the morning. Ask me why? It was the day we had planned to go to Bhigwan for some bird watching. My kids who usually complain when I wake them up for school and my husband who’s “5 minutes more…” never ends, woke up in the first alarm ring. After freshening up we were off to our short trip to Bhigwan- The Bharatpur of Maharashtra.
How to reach:
Bhigwan is at a distance of around 100 kms from Pune. It takes 2 hrs to reach the place. The sunrise and sunset at this place is simply amazing and hence not to be missed! Also, the flamingoes can be seen in huge numbers during this time!
I had done some research about bird watching at Bhigwan on the internet and many people had recommended Sandeep Nagare and Agnipankh Flamingo Point for bird watching. I also got his number easily over the internet and hence I contacted him. He sent me the map of the place and the stay options as well. There are many bird enthusiasts who reach Bhigwan in the evening, go for bird sightseeing in the evening and then stay there to wake up early in the morning to go back again for bird sightseeing. The village Kumbhargaon is a small village and the stay is also very basic yet clean, so you can think of the option if you do not prefer waking up early in the morning and going.
Bhigwan has the backwaters of the Ujaini dam and there is a small island in the middle where the birds flock. It is sort of marsh land. There are two bird points for Bhigwan bird watching – Kumbhargaon and Agnipankh Flamingo Point. We went to the later one.
Once you reach the Flamingo point, you will be given a boat and a boatman who will also be your guide. Once you start your ride, you will be zapped by the knowledge of the boatman. They would know the names of all the birds, their features and where they migrated from. They will have answer to all your queries.
What you can expect:
So our journey started and after about 15-20 minutes into the ride, we could see an island where hundreds of birds. The beautiful greater flamingoes and their reflection in water looked surreal!
As these greater flamingoes walked, it looked as if they are doing some catwalk and as they flew it felt like poetry in motion. It is a very surreal experience, as you watch the birds rise in one single sweep off the ground, take a round across their side of the lake, and then settle down on the water again. The whites and pinks of their feathers feel as if somebody highly talented has painted it with some very soft brush strokes! You can’t help become speechless at the sight!
Read the book, “Illusions” by Richard Bach? Remember the way he describes the flights of the sea gulls? Get a real life experience here, and a strong flashback of the book!
The painted storks looked as if god had splashed colours on them!!
There is a plethora of varieties of birds that can be seen during Bhigwan bird watching. Herons, storks, egrets, ibises, bee-eaters, ducks, cormorants, pelicans, kingfishers, water hens, babblers, wagtails, sunbirds, godwits, shelducks, falcons, ospreys, brahminy kites, stilts, terns, redshanks, swallows, sandpipers… And these are just to name a few!
Some of the egrets were males in full blossom due to the mating season. Generally, the egrets are entirely white in color. However, in the mating season, the males turn the feathers on their heads and necks golden in color. It’s a God-awesome sight to behold!
Birds, birds everywhere!!
We also saw a fleet of Brahminy Ducks gently swimming in the lake. When asked about the name, the boatman said it is because the bird is of red and yellow color like haldi-kumkum! Funny how some names get formed. Same thing for Brahminy Kites as well. What a magnificent bird!
Check out the kingfishers in the place. Generally, we only know about the blue colored one. However, you can see the pied kingfisher here, which looks as if the regular kingfisher was turned through a black and white film! If you’re lucky, you can even catch a kingfisher catching a fish in action. This is extremely rare and beautiful, as these little birdies are very fast and catch their prey within a matter of a few seconds. Do keep your eyes peeled for this amazing feat. The fish never knows what comes at them!
The boatman also showed us the bar-headed geese at a distance and explained us that they cross Himalayas to come here.
What I liked the best is that these people are really sensitive towards the birds. They say that if a bird gets trapped in a fishing net, we call the doctor and treat them. Also while driving the boat, they ride the motorboat (using the machine) till you are at a distance from the birds spot, but once you come near it they switch to rowing, so that you do not disturb the birds.
Rules you need to follow
There are some rules that you need to follow:
- Flash photography is not allowed and you are allowed to click photographs only from your boat.
- You have to keep a safe distance from the birds as instructed by the boatman.
- In no way can the birds be disturbed. You have to take care of that.
- Cannot attract the birds with fake recorded voice.
Simple To dos:
From my trip I also had a few learnings out of which I have listed a few below:
- If you start early in the morning, you won’t have much options for the breakfast. Sandeep Nagare serves lip smacking homemade Pohe and Omelets for breakfast. If you have kids with you, do carry something to eat with you. However, be careful they don’t eat it on the lake, or they might drop something in the water.
- Another great way to go about would be to reach Bhigwan by 7 a.m., do some bird sighting for 2 hours, leave at 9 a.m. and go to the village for some breakfast. There is an amazing place close to the highway, called Jyoti Misal, which serves the best Misal Pav I know!
- Wear camouflage clothes. Don’t wear bright colors like white, bright green, blue, etc. Wear army greens, or grey colored attire. This will ensure you don’t stand out in the surroundings, and the birds will not be alarmed by your sight.
- There are many flamingoes on the wetland at the time of sunrise and it is surely a sight to behold. But you also get to see a lot many later as well. Hence do not worry if you are not able to make it at the time of sunrise. Also it gets hot there at around 11 and hence morning time is the best.
- Do carry a really good camera or a mobile having good camera as you wouldn’t want to stop clicking once you see the beauties.
- If this is your first time, I would recommend to carry only a pair of binoculars, rather than a camera. Soak in the beauty the first time you go! You can plan another trip for the photos.
You can combine the Bhigwan Bird watching trip with the nearby places like Bhuleshwar or Ramdara and then go back home.
If you are going by car with your kids, do not miss our post on ‘Activities to do while traveling‘.
It is night now as I am writing this blog. I really can’t get over the beautiful sight of birds that I saw today. I am not an avid bird lover and barring a few common birds I didn’t have much knowledge of any, but certainly Bhigwan stole my heart. And we have already decided that next year aur ek trip to banta hai…
Have you been to Bhigwan? Do share your experience with us!