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Bhigwan: A bird-watcher's delight!

Last updated on: January 22, 2010 16:39 IST

Bhigwan: A bird-watcher's delight!

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Nayan Khanolkar

There are certain places that will always score when it comes to birding and bird photography. And when it comes to seeing migratory birds, the wetlands of the north have very little competition.

Or so I thought. A chance visit to Bhigwan, 95 km from Pune had convinced me that this is really a birder's paradise. The visit two years back was a fleeting one and I had not had the opportunity to explore the area in greater detail.

The opportunity arrived on Christmas eve and I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas gift. For starters, Bhigwan, as mentioned, is about 95 km from Pune along the Pune-Solapur highway (NH 9). It is the catchment area of the mighty Ujani dam. A drive to Bhiwan from Mumbai will take about 4-5 hours, it is about 251 km away. There are some rudimentary accommodation options in Bhigwan. The other option is to stay in Pune.


Photographs: Nayan Khanolkar
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Bhigwan: A bird watcher's delight

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The moment you step out of the hotel and start driving towards Bhigwan Lake, bird sightings start gracing you. Rollers, bee-eaters, coppersmith babblers, crow pheasants, gray hornbills are sighted on the way.

This time, thanks to the advanced Garmin GPS that we were carrying, we were recording all the spots where birds had nests and were flocking in numbers. Every location was geotagged. From the Pune-Solapur highway, take a left towards Bhigwan Lake towards one of the biggest hotspots in that area -- Diksal.



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Bhigwan: A bird-watcher's delight

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You encounter one small bridge with water bodies on both sides and you immediately see migratory water birds in large numbers -- ducks, terns, twany eagles, cotton pigmy goose, lesser whistling teal, ruff, clamorous warblers, marsh harriers, comb ducks, ruddy shelducks, common kestrels, Eurasian wigeons, gadwalls and shovellers.

You can stand on the bridge and take flight shots at eye level of terns, harriers, egrets, herons. You will also get good pictures with a basic zoom lens of coots, shovelers, ruddy shelducks etc.



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Bhigwan: A bird-watcher's delight

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Beyond the bridge is a long pathway with water bodies on either side. The path is wide enough for just one vehicle to pass, and there are bird sightings on either side.

At a distance of about 10-15 feet, we sighted bee-eaters aplenty, kingfishers, common ioras, pippits, drongos and many water birds like purple herons, purple swamphens, purple moorhens, painted storks, wooly necked storks, pheasant tailed jacanas, black winged stints, pond herons, grey herons and egrets of all types.

You can easily take photographs as the models are not camera shy if you stay inside the car. We got plenty of pictures and saw at least 50-60 species.



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Bhigwan: A bird-watcher's delight

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We also saw birds of prey like harriers, eagles and kites. A little further up is a village where the villagers offer to take you on a ride in the smaller boats to take you closer to the ducks. Flamingoes also grace this gifted place and one can reach them only through a boat ride that costs about Rs 150-200 per person. It is a treat to watch the birds at eye level in the water. The flight patterns, the fishing styles and feeding sights of waders are a delight to watch.

I came back completely impressed with this place, which can easily be called the Bharatpur of Maharashtra. After having geo-tagged all the birding hotspots, the true potential of this place hit me hard. No wonder this place is being proposed as a bird sanctuary.

One of the country's top bird photographers, Nayan Khanolkar has been a researcher with the Bombay Natural History Society and has shot and researched in almost every major wildlife sanctuary in the country. Khanolkar leads wildlife and bird photography tours through University of Experience -- his experiential travel company. He is conducting a workshop on Bird Photography at Bhigwan on January 30 and 31. Click here for more details.



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