Blogger: Neil Santy, Volunteer (Business Partnerships)

Perhaps you’ve seen the film; the one with Dev Patel, Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson? Well, the hotel really does exist! We went to visit on a recent holiday out in the wilds of Rajasthan, and although it was fascinating, I was drawn to the red-wattled lapwings and laughing doves that abound in that part of the Indian countryside.

An eighteen day whistle-stop tour through Rajasthan, taking in Delhi, Agra, Bharatpur, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, then down to Mumbai and Goa, was an opportunity to catch up with some of the wildlife of that vast and diverse sub-continent. Just on the bird front I was amazed to spot 188 different species – many I had never seen before (not having been to India before). That’s only scratching the fauna surface and plenty of excuses to return to an utterly intriguing and beguiling country, full of colour, contrast, and friendly people.

The good news for any birders out there is that water has returned to Bharatpur, a combination of a reasonable monsoon last year and the decision to pump water in from the local river systems. Perhaps it’s not reached the sheer numbers of its heyday and a number of species have, in the intervening years, decided to find pastures new but the birds are returning.

Here is just a taster of some of the stunners that we came across:

A large numbers of waders (mostly black winged stilt and green and common sandpiper, but also marsh and wood sandpiper and greenshank), flocks of lesser whistling duck, numbers of painted stork, bar headed goose, ruddy shelduck, egrets, little cormorant, darters, and purple swamphen. Some of the winter visitors were still in residence and we caught up with Siberian rubythroat and orange headed thrush.

 Picture: Crested Serpent Eagle in Ranthambore

 Picture: Rufous Treepie in Ranthambore

Some real highlights were the haunting cry of the sarus crane drifted over the lagoons and the explosions of teal, pintail, coot and wigeon every time an Indian spotted eagle passed by, were spectacular. It’s good to know that a passion for birds is growing in India and more people are becoming interested in the environment: with its burgeoning population, the countryside will need all the friends it can get. For example, our guides were hugely knowledgeable and could often pick out the birds without the aid if binoculars….not quite sure how they do it! 

If ever you get the chance, go: besides the fauna, you cannot fail to be impressed with the temples, forts, and yes, of course, the Taj Mahal. We hope to return one day…..especially as we missed the kings of the forest – the regal tiger.    

  Picture: Kingfishers a plenty

Editor's Note: Neil Santy is one of our newest volunteers.  As Natura People Business Liaison Officer he is developing links with Suffolk businesses and working to place Minsmere as the top tourist destination for Suffolk.  Natura People is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IV A 2 Mers Seas Zeeën Crossborder Programme 2007-2013.