I was wondering what to do over the weekend when my friend suggested bird spotting at Okhla bird sanctuary in Delhi. This came as a surprise for two reasons. I had never been bird watching before and I wasn’t even aware that this sanctuary existed in my very own city. So, on a cold winter morning, I struggled out of bed at 6am to drive 20km for my first bird watching experience. “Why hadn’t I done this before?” was my first thought after my special encounter with these gorgeous winged creatures who had flown hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometres to be here. Now I’m determined to visit the numerous bird sanctuaries across India each winter.
November to March is the best time to spot some rare species of migratory birds, which flock to the country from as far away as Siberia, Afghanistan and the Himalayas. It does require patience, but its well worth it once you spot these beautiful birds. India has some some fabulous birding sites and here are the ones that have made it to my bucket list.
Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha
The islands within the coastal lagoon spread over a vast area in Odisha become a cosy home for many migratory birds who fly all the way from Siberia, Central Asia and Iran. You can spot the white bellied sea eagles, flamingo, shovellers, ospreys, golden plovers, sand pipers, pelicans, gulls and many more. If like me, you can’t tell the difference between a hornbill and a myna, then take a guide along who will help you with Identifying the species. Chilika Lake also happens to be Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon and the sunrise and sunsets here shouldn’t be missed for the world.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
Being located on the banks of the gorgeous Vembanad Lake, this is one of the most scenic birding sites in the country. From November to May, migratory birds like Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal can be spotted resting on the branches of trees or hunting for food. If you enjoy taking photographs this is a great place to experiment, so keep your zoom lens ready to capture a flurry of colourful feathers.
Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Goa
If you thought Goa was all about beaches, seafood and water sports, think again. It also happens to be your best bet to spot birds in between lazy days at the beach. When you are bored of the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea, head straight to Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary where the mangrove swamps provide a great backdrop to watching birds nesting and contentedly feeding .
Eagles, kingfishers, egrets, herons, wood peckers, kites, myna, curlews, sandpiper, redshank, and hoopoe can be spotted throughout the year but if its migratory birds you are after, visit between November to February, when you can see pintail ducks, cormorants, mallards, purple moorhen and storks.
Keoladeo bird sanctuary, Bharatpur, Rajasthan
Hop in a cycle rickshaw or get on a golf cart and go down a road that cuts through the 29 square kilometre wetlands in Rajasthan. Here hundreds of species of birds arrive during the winter months. Although the famous Siberian crane has not been spotted here for some years, there are plenty of others to see. You are sure to spot hundreds of painted storks perched proudly on trees completely nonchalant to the admiring tourists. Water shortages had reduced the number of birds arriving here in recent years, but ample monsoon rains in the last two years have enticed the gorgeous creatures back to this UNESCO World Heritage site.
An avid bird watcher? Tell us your favourite places to spot these beautiful creatures.