Morning Safari at Keoladeo National Park – Exploring Bharatpur
The Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that plays host to thousands of birds especially during the summer season. Over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Park their home. It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park is a man-made and man-managed wetland and one of the national parks of India. The reserve protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, provides grazing grounds for village cattle and earlier was primarily used as a waterfowl hunting ground. The 29 km2 (11 sq mi) reserve is locally known as Ghana, and is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. These diverse habitats are home to 366 bird species, 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species,7 turtle species, and a variety of other invertebrates. Every year thousands of migratory waterfowl visit the park for wintering breeding etc. The Sanctuary is one of the richest bird areas in the world. It is known for nesting of its resident birds and visiting migratory birds including water birds. The rare Siberian cranes used to winter in this park but this central population of Siberian Cranes is now extinct. According to Sir Peter Scott Keoladeo Sanctuary is the world’s best bird area.
Geography Keoladeo National Park
Keoladeo (Bharatpur) National Park (27°10’N, 77°31’E) is a World Heritage Site situated in eastern Rajasthan. The park is 2 kilometers (km) south-east of Bharatpur and 50 km west of Agra. The Park is spread over approx 29 square kilometer area. One third of the Keoladeo National Park habitat is wetland systems with varying types of microhabitats having trees, mounds, dykes and open water with or without submerged or emergent plants. The uplands have grasslands (savannas) of tall species of grass together with scattered trees and shrubs present in varying density.
A similar habitat with short grasses, such as Cynodon dactylon and Dicanthium annulatum also exists. Woodlands with thickets of huge Kadam trees (Neolamarckia cadamba) are distributed in scattered pockets. Richness and diversity of plant life inside the Park is remarkable. The Park’s flora consists of 379 species of flowering plants of which 96 are wetland species. The Wetland is a part of the Indo-Gangetic Great Plains.
In an area characterized by sparse vegetation, the park is the only spot which has dense vegetation and trees. The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forests intermixed with dry grasslands. Where the forest has degraded, the greater part of the area is covered with shrubs and medium sized trees. The park is a fresh water swamp and is flooded during the monsoon. For most part of the year, effective wetland is only 10 km2. The rest of the area remains dry.
Dykes divide the wetland into ten units. Each unit has a system of sluice gates to control its water level. Depth of water ranges from 1 metre to 2 metre during rains (July, August and September). In subsequent months, October to January, the level gets lowered. The area starts drying from February. In May and June, the entire area dries. Water remains only in some depressions. This alternate wetting and drying helps to maintain the ecology of the fresh water swamp, ideal for water-fowl and resident water birds. Arrangement to pump water from deep tube wells to fill small depressions to save seeds, spores and other aquatic life also exist. They are also helpful in extreme years of drought.
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