Winter vistas of the wildlife world
Winter is coming! Well, it’s already here, this time for real and not just in the make-believe world. And it brings with it something very real and palpable to enjoy- winter wildlife. As our tropical country gets ready to get enveloped in cool mists and us humans treat ourselves to warm treats indoors, we often forget to embrace this new avatar of the outdoors. Why not head to the winter vistas of the wildlife world, for a different dose of wildlife? The opportunities are many and worth weathering the cold climes. Here is a look at how wildlife takes a different twist, and where you can continue to indulge in your wildlife fetish!
- Bustling with Birds at Bharatpur: Birder’s bliss is something that has been associated with Bharatpur since many years. Formerly a duck-hunting wetland of the Maharaja era, today Keoladeo Wildlife Sanctuary stands as the winter home for more than 350 bird species from places as far as Siberia. Perhaps it is best known for sightings of the magnificent Siberian Crane, but equally intriguing are the numerous waders, ducks, geese and pelicans that flock to this water-rich land. And for those who are looking for something more, the occasional python sunning itself in the cool winters can serve as the perfect wildlife photography opportunity! What’s best is that you need not board a gypsy and feel restricted, you are free to walk at your will or alight a rickshaw or bicycle and peddle away to natural bliss.
- Secret Lives of the Snow Leopards at Hemis National Park: The most elusive of the elusive. The Phantom of the mountains. The white ghost. This winter wildlife enigma goes by various tags, and wildlifer’s have been flocking to catch a glimpse of this mystery animal- the snow leopard. Winter is when the predator of the mountains descends to lower altitudes, giving us humans a chance to observe its whereabouts. It is truly worth battling sub-zero temperatures and knee-high snow to be able to meet this elusive creature, of which little is known. Hemis National Park in eastern Ladakh is one of the best snow leopard expedition destinations. So why wait, give a go for your fascination with Big Cats, this time with a wintery twist! Other species you can catch up with are Urial, Blue Sheep, Golden Eagle, and Marmot.
- Nature encounters at Namdapha National Park: Located in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, Namdapha is another home-base of migratory birds and a recognized biodiversity hotspot. It is the third largest national park in size in India, but that should not deter you from looking for your favourite birds. While it is a tiger reserve too, it is more so known for its avifauna and floral wealth- more than 150 species of timber alone call it home. If you are on the lookout for animals, be geared up to spot some interesting ones like clouded leopard, Assamese macaque, and the distinct Hoolock Gibbons. The diverse flora houses a number of pheasants, hornbills and the rare and endangered White Winged Wood Ducks. So, get out that telephoto lens and click away to glory, or simply enjoy a sip of tea as you soak in the chirping of myriad birds. Some of the popular camping sites in this vast expanse are Firmbase, or Hornbill, Haldibari, and Motijheel.
- Exciting Explorations at Little Rann of Kutch: For those who like to explore vistas and wildlife with a twist, Little Rann of Kutch is a saltwater marshland located in Gujarat. It is a place of high biodiversity, especially known to be the world’s largest home of the Indian Wild Ass. Extensive conservation efforts have been initiated here for this species. But this is not the only attractions, the arid lands are known to offer good sightings of Indian Wolf, Desert Fox, Striped Hyena, and Desert Cat. If birds are more your thing than mammals, then don’t think twice, this seemingly desolated stretch of land is a haven for feathered friends. Some interesting species are the Greater Hoopoe Lark, Macqueen’s Bustard, Greylag Goose and others. But perhaps LRK is best known for the talons and sharp beaks- the birds of prey. Catch a glimpse of the Greater Spotted Eagle or a Short-eared Owl and come back with some great wildlife photographs.
- A quick weekend wildlife getaway at Bhigwan and Solapur: Just 100 odd kilometres from the bustling city of Pune, and you encounter not swarms of humans but swarms of migratory birds, as winter arrives. A distinct event at this “Bharatpur of Maharashtra” is the arrival of the greater flamingos during migratory time near the Yashwant Sagar Reservoir. The best way to explore this bird-paradise is to hire a local boat in Diksal and Kumbhargaon areas. Another 150 kilometres away is another unique habitat- the grasslands of Solapur. Known to shelter the Indian Wolf, this is a quick wildlife treat for urban folk.
Cover Photo: Snow Leopard | Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee
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