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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chambal for Skimmers! - December, 2011

I always wanted to visit “The National Chambal Sanctuary” to watch and photograph the Indian Skimmers.

We were delighted to see these "Indian Skimmers" land right next to us!

When MN Jayakumar suggested that he was going on an official visit to Agra and would be able to take a few days off for shooting birds, the plan was finalized. Kulushekara and myself on our way back from “Sattal” would meet MNJ in New Delhi and then the three of us would proceed to Agra, Chambal and Bharatpur. Quite a learning experience for me! and plenty of fun!!

27th November, 2011. Back from Sattal, after a long drive of over 10 hours, Kulashekara and myself checked into a hotel at "Karol Bhag" in New Delhi and retired for the day after a quite South Indian Dinner. Tomorrow, we will be meeting MNJ and will proceed to Agra.

Kartick and Geeta of Wildlife SOS!

28th. MNJ called and suggested we meet at the “Wildlife SOS” office in New Delhi. Kulashekara and myself reached the office at about noon and were received by Kartick. Kartick at first sight was able to recognize me though I took some time to recall old memories. Kartick and myself had met nearly three decades ago in Bangalore! I was very happy to know that he along with Geeta was successfully running “Wildlife SOS” a registered Non Profit Charity in India, USA and UK. Although “Wildlife SOS” is mainly known for their work with 'dancing bears' they also have active projects to help leopards, elephants, reptiles and other animals. I learnt that their effort has been instrumental in stopping the practice of “Bear Dancing” in India! I would like to whole-heartedly applaud this effort!

Please watch Kartick on TED here -> “Dancing Bears - Rescued”!

Soon MNJ joined us and we left New Delhi to Agra after a wonderful lunch hosted by Geeta in her house. Kartick accompanied us and after a pleasant drive to Agra (about 6 hrs) we checked into a very special forest department rest-house for a two nights stay! Yes, special because we had a direct view of the “Taj Mahal” right from our front door!

View of the “Taj Mahal” from our rest-house!

29th. Early morning, we were the first to enter the “Taj Mahal” gates. Walking distance from our bed! Such a lovely monument indeed and so many tourists…

After breakfast at the rest-house Mr. Janoo, DFO Chambal, took us on a brief walk in the forest behind the “TaJ Mahal” where he has instituted a unique water management and tree planting project.Great learning for me!

We then proceeded to the “Bear Rescue Center” at Agra. Very impressive! Clean, large enclosures for bears, doctors on call, high-end medical equipment and all.

Adjacent to the rescue center the river Yamuna flowed. We spent close to an hour here in the afternoon photographing birds.

Many thanks to Mr. N. K. Janoo, later that afternoon we were able to take a boat ride in the “Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary” near Agra. A pleasant surprise for me to see so many birds there! It is said that this place ignited the passions of Lord Krishna and Radha and inspired the famed poet Surdas to Compose the “Bhakti Kavya”! Unfortunately we had very little time…though the lake was full of birds!

Next morning we will leave for “The National Chambal Sanctuary” !

Warm welcome by RP at the Chambal Safari Lodge!

30th. After breakfast we left Agra and reached the “Chambal Safari Lodge” by 11 am. About three hours drive I guess. Kartick and Geeta joined us for a day. At the lodge, RP Singh received us warmly and settled us in large comfortable rooms. My first impression of the place was very good and as they say “First impression is the best impression"!

Almost Heaven!

We spent the next two nights very comfortably at the lodge before we proceeded to Bharatpur on the afternoon of the 02nd of December, 2011. Good food and good sleep!

Here we board the boat...

We made several boat rides in the Chambal River during our stay at the lodge. We were of course here for the Skimmers!

Searching for the Skimmers…

Though we were completely disappointed initially, on the 2nd December morning on our 4th and last boat ride, at about 10 am in the morning we finally saw three Indian Skimmers!

Three Indian Skimmers appear…

...and land right next to our boat!

They appeared from the mist and were flying towards us and believe it or not they actually decided to land in a small sand bank right next to us! It seemed to me like they liked our company as they allowed us to shoot to our hearts content and even went off to sleep! And when we decided to move on, they actually rose and followed us – no kidding!!

Not just the Skimmers! We were able to see several Gharials and Muggers in the river along with a variety of birds! In Summary, we got what we came for and more!

There were plenty of these "Gharials" in the river…

and these muggers!

Plenty of these too along the banks…

And as we were on our way back after the last boat ride, very happy having bagged the Skimmers, a pair of “Sarus Cranes” flew right over our heads!

Sarus Crane

Please visit www.indiabirds.com for bird images...

See you soon in Bharatpur!

Vijay Cavale
December, 2011