Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a man-made wetland, was owned by the Maharaja of Bharatpur. In the second half of the 1800s the Maharaja used to hunt birds here, now it’s a protected national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the richest bird parks in the world.
In January, we see more species of birds than in any other month. One can easily spot over a hundred and fifty different species in just a few hours!
I like to visit Bharatpur in the third week of January. The park is less crowded at that time of the year because the holidays are over and people are back to work, school and college. In January we see more species of birds than in any other month. One can easily spot over a hundred and fifty different species in just a few hours!
One afternoon I was walking along a little mud trail along with my guide, Govind. We were looking at cormorants drying their wings. But Govind wanted me to see something else…there was something small and black sitting on the trail in front of us!
It looked at us and flinched. It was a nervous couple of minutes for all three of us but eventually we settled down. The creature felt at ease and started walking round without a care about our presence.
Govind identified the creature as a juvenile painted stork. Juvenile painted storks look so much different from adults.
It sat there with bent feet and feathers tightened inwards. It looked cold. Like a small child running a temperature with no adult supervision.
Many hundred painted storks had made nests on top of bare trees. Trees that grew out of the wetlands to our right. Each nest had at least three chics in it.
So then why was this little bird separated from the rest? Was it injured? It could walk, but will it ever fly again?
Govind assured us that it would. He said that the bird must have fallen from its nest into the water. It will be able to fly once its wings dry up. The water had made its wings heavy.
Lots of people had come to see birds in Bharatpur that day. So Govind suggested that we hang out with this little stork to ensure that nobody touched it, picked it up or injured it. It seemed to feel safe around us.
I was fully kitted out in a winter jacket and hood, yet I was freezing. I wondered how long it would take for the bird to dry up.
30 minutes later, nothing had changed. It would walk for a couple of minutes and rest then walk some more and rest again. We clicked some photos and filmed some videos.
And then suddenly without warning, it flapped its wings and started to fly. It did a lap of honour, circling above us two times, before taking off for the skies and back to the safety of its nest.
Govind and I had the brightest smile on our face.
The lesson I learnt from this is that it is best to leave an injured-looking bird or an animal alone if I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I could do more harm than good because I’m not an expert in this field.
I often remember this juvenile painted stork whom I named Eric and wonder where he is right now. Painted storks don’t migrate very far. So perhaps I have seen him all grown up on my subsequent visits to Bharatpur, but I don’t recognise him. I’d like to think that Eric always recognises me and remembers our afternoon together. I don’t know if it’s a he. It could be a she, she could be Erika!
Being out in nature makes us feel better emotionally, contributes to our physical wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
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