Dream Sarus Moment
Anticipation is a wonderful feeling, especially if you have waited for the moment almost all your life. The cherished desire to capture in frame a family of Sarus cranes bears fruit in Keoladeo National Park for our avifauna enthusiast.
When I informed my parents at Kannur(in Kerala), that the Ornithology field camp as a part of my “Leadership Course in Bio-diversity Conservation’ ,conducted by BNHS(Bombay Natural History Society) is scheduled at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (Keoladeo NP), my mom was more excited than me! She still remembered my all-consumimg craving or desire to visiting Bharatpur during the family vacations to Rajasthan during my schooldays. Unfortunately, during my previous visits I couldn’t make it up to Bharatpur. since those visits were more intended for the family to meet the relatives residing in Rajasthan as well as to visit various heritage sites there.
Thus it was that I felt privileged to visit this magical land this time. Our field trip was scheduled for early January of 2019, where we could see lot of winter visitors along with resident species amidst the misty grasslands of Keoladeo. The icing on the cake was the presence of nature enthusiasts(my fellow course mates) along with some of the best Ornithology experts from BNHS, including Asst.Director of BNHS, Dr. Raju Kasambe and BNHS Scientist Nandkishore.
There were two species of birds were in my wish list while coming to Keoladeo, the Siberian crane and Sarus crane. Since the central population of former species which was once a winter visitor here is said to be extinct now, I was more desirous to see a pair of Sarus from this wonder land. During the first day trial, which started in the afternoon, we had spotted plenty of birds, a python basking in sunlight, couple of Nilgais (Blue bull) and Chitals (Spotted deer). On the second day I became excited while spotting a beautiful wall painting of a Sarus crane with its juvenile on a grocery shop near the Keoladeo (Shiva) temple inside the park. I day-dreamed of capturing a frame of a pair of this beautiful bird with a juvenile.
The second day trail continued with glimpses of flocks of Pelican, nesting sites of Black Neck Stork, Heronry of Painted Storks, raptors surveying the blue sky. Finally, as our guides Brijendra Singh & Randeer Singh had guaranteed, we spotted a couple of Sarus cranes. It was a little disappointing since the pair was far away from our line of visibility, so that we didn’t get a clear view of birds even through the high power spotting scopes provided by our spotters. Within the fun filled second and third day, incidentally our last day in Bharatpur, with the help of field guides (service available in the NP) along with BNHS experts, we had spotted and identified a plentiful count of more than hundred varieties of bird species.
The half day trial on third was going to end by 12:30 noon with lot of memories and learning experiences to cherish for a lifetime. Except for me, it was tinged with disappointment for not being able to get the cherished glimpse of my dream frame of a family of Sarus cranes.
It was when we were returning back to main gate to meet our 1st batch participants, that they contacted us with the news that a pair of Sarus Cranes nearby ‘Sapan Mori’ has been spotted and few of the participants who had booked their return during night had already left to the spot guided by Nandhu Sir in search of the Sarus Cranes. My buddy pair, Neelkant Bora had booked evening train to Jaipur, and thus had plenty of time and desire to go in search of the pair. So Neelkant and I, with the expert guidance of Raju Sir, bid adieu to our batch mates, and left the scene while contacting Nandhu Sir regarding the location. Before we reach the spot Nandhu Sir and his team had already left the scene, but with the guidance of a few rickshaw drivers we managed to identify the spot and headed to the same.
The area resembled a paddy field and I was lucky enough to see my dream frame of a pair of Sarus cranes with a juvenile. I managed to take few snaps of this elusive species, spotted among the grasslands from a very close range. A moment later, we were suddenly disturbed by the presence of a wild boar entering the bank for drinking water, where I was lying with my camera gear. Facing wild boar in its territory is not a good idea. We were lucky to escape this time, as it stared at me for few minutes in contemplation of the degree of threat I supposedly posed, dismissed me as a non-threat and went back into the grasslands from which it had so suddenly emerged.
We stayed there for another hour, giving rest to my camera, and simply enjoying the serenity of the moment, watching the beauty of the juvenile bird and parents learning the basic of feeding and how to behave in the habitat. The moments spent here reminded me of the quotes by James Thurber ‘Beautiful things don’t ask for attention’.