Oct 082012
 

 

Tal Chapar: A Hidden Birding Paradise in  Rajasthan

Nilgai and drango at Tal Chapar wildlife sancturay Rajasthan

Dance of The Drango in Tal Chapar on a Neel Gai

 

Tal Chapar in Rajasthan a bird watching trip

If you are ready to look beyond the forts, and palaces and tigers of Rajasthan then Tal Chapar ( also spelled Tal Chhapar) is for you. Tal what? You may ask an obvious question as Tal Chappar is still not an on the tourist circuit unless you are a raptor from Central Asia from countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,   Russia etc. Tal Chappar is to bird watching what Ranthambore and Jim Corbett are to tiger spotting. Situated in a hidden corner of Rajasthan Tal Chappar wildlife sanctuary is about 340 KM from Delhi and 200 from Jaipur and is easily approachable by both road and train in 5-10 hours depending on the route and mode of transport taken.

migrant raptor lesser kestre Tal Chappar

Lesser Kestrel in Tal Chapar Wild Life Sanctuary

 
Tal Chappar started its life as the Shika Gah or hunting grounds for the Bikaner royals and a haveli at the boundary of the sanctuary still reminds you of the days when in one day the maharaja shot dead 150+ Great Indian bustards ( not a typo), this was before the bustard was declared an endangered species and the hunting grounds were converted to sanctuary for Black Bucks introduced by the maharajah for the sole purpose of hunting!  Fortunately, the buck bred at a faster pace than the Maharajah could shoot them and soon the hunting ground became a protected sanctuary. Today it has the highest number as well as the concentration of Black Bucks (Antilope cervicapra) anywhere in the country. With no natural predators in the sanctuary the bucks have multiplied and today, the sanctuary has 1000+black bucks all enjoying life in the slow lane on the juicy grasses. There are so many black bucks in the sanctuary that it is impossible to click a picture without one of them coming in the frame.

Fast forward today and the Tal Chappar wildlife sanctuary is a birders paradise more than 300+ species of birds have been recorded here some of them only here in India. We spotted a total of 104 bird species during our 3-day stay including some very rare raptors and harriers, this does not include mammals like Blackbuck, blue buck, Indian fox, desert rat, hedgehog, reptiles like Monitor lizard, spiny-tailed lizard and my first snake in the wild sand boa.

egyptian vulture on tree looking for dead animals in tal chhapar rajasthan

Egyptian Vulture in Tal Chapar Rajasthan

 

migrant bird on tree top in Tal Chapar Rajasthan

European Roller-Coracias garrulus in Tal Chapar Rajasthan

 
I visited the sanctuary last week and took a guided tour with Darter a company specializing photographic tours. Our tour leader Shreeram MV is an accomplished birder and photographer with more than 600+ bird sighting to his credit. One of the advantages of somebody knowing the place as well as birds is that you save a lot of time and you can find 3 times more birds at the same time. Another major advantage of somebody like Shreeram with you is that he understands the behavior food habits, calls etc of different birds, so he will tell you where to point your camera and be ready so that when the bird is in focus you start clicking. This really helped me in clicking some very rare bird photos like Lesser Kestrel, Eurasian Creeper, Laggar falcon, Egyptian Vulture, European Roller ( very different from Indian roller they pass through India on their journey to Africa). Needless to add the logistics are taken care of and I did not have to worry about, safari, food, hotel etc. as everything was meticulously planned to the last minute.

colorful bird spreading wings in tal chhapar
Indian Roller
This post and any discussion about Chapar will be incomplete unless I thank  Mr. Surat Singh Poonia, Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Tal Chapar Wildlife Sanctuary ( Google lists it as Tal Chapar Rajasthan), who is the man responsible for turning around the sanctuary from an also ran me to sanctuary to one of the best in the country. When he took over anything that could go wrong in a jungle was wrong, there were foreign invasive species like Mexican Acacia all over the place, no proper water source and the sanctuary was littered with discarded polythene bags by rogue tourists and locals alike. The water situation was so bad that by Jan/Feb the water sources used to get dry, grass will perish and the sanctuary had to buy water and fodder for the black bucks.
bird on the hillock at Tal Chappar Wildlife Sanctuary Rajasthan
Crested Lark in Tal Chapar Rajasthan

One of the first things Mr. Poonia did was literally uproot every single Mexican acacia tree from the sanctuary precincts and start growing local trees that do not suck the water out of the soil. Every single piece of polyethylene was picked up and removed from the sanctuary (we are talking about an area of 800+ acres! Phew!). The fence was strengthened, water holes were dug and in a few years mother, nature smiled and today Tal Chappar is one place where every birder wants to go as the birds have returned. We were very lucky to meet Mr. Poonia and he was kind enough help us to look for birds.
bird looking at its own reflection
Wood Sandpiper and Common Stilt in Tal Chapar
How to reach: Trains in the morning from Sari Rohilla ( DEE) to Ratangarh (RTGH), station ( 5-6 hours), cabs from there or if you like driving on rough roads drive down via Gurgaon, Rewari, Loharu, Churu in around 7-10 hours depending on the size of potholes and traffic.(Where is that politician who wanted Indian roads like cheeks of heroines?)
Black buck and eagle at watering hole Tal Chapar

A Blackbuck and a Bonelli’s eagle share water in Tal Chapar

For stay your best choice is the Tal Chappar forest guest house that though owned by the government, is very nicely managed by Sharad Sridhar an avid birder and photographer himself. We were fortunate that he was there during our visit along with his wife and 3.5-year-old daughter Vanya who can recognize more than 50 birds! Like father like daughter.

golden sunset in Tal Chappar Rajasthan

Black Buck Returning home at Sunset in Tal Chapar Rajasthan



More in this series to come in next few days keep watching this space. Feel free to share this with your friends and like the Facebook page of Desi Traveler by clicking here.

Tal Chappar is a must visit for Nature lovers, especially bird watchers and also for those who have been there, done that and now are looking for a different kind of wildlife experience. Will be posting about some other things that we saw there in next few posts. You can subscribe to the blog to get it in your mailbox.
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  38 Responses to “Tal Chapar-Rajasthan for Bird Watching”

Comments (34) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Brilliant captures… I also appreciate the great conservation work done by Mr. Poonia…

  2. hi its really good write up .can you please share info i am planning a trip in mid december this year, for birding guide and accomodation need help please.

  3. Hi

    Loved the post and pictures. Was planning to visit next Jan and would appreciate some help. Will a 200mm/300mm be enough or will I need a longer lens? Also whom do I contact for room and guide?

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for your write up. It is indeed a very interesting read. It will be of great help if you can share the contact information of Sharad / Vandana. We are planning a trip in coming Oct. Do you have any recommendations for place of stay?
    Regards,
    – Prasad

  5. Nice read . We are planning a trip in August , will help in planning.

  6. Wow awesome shots… especially the Vulture and Kestrel…

  7. Enjoyed reading your post on Tal Chappar.

    I am planning a trip to Nawalgarh next week and would like to do a day trip to Tal Chappar from there.

    Whom can I ask for advise on routes, bird guides etc. at Tal Chappar?

    Thanks!

  8. Hey here you gave us an outstanding write up and pictures are exceptional.

  9. My first visit here & i loved your post-it is a pleasant surprise to see a sanctuary which is well managed & flourishing.The Indian Roller is a real beauty-never seen it around.

    • Hi Indu… welcome to Desi Traveler, I am glad you liked the post.. there is more in this series coming, and you can subscribe to the updates if you like..

      thanks..do visit again.

  10. Nice to learn about Tal Chappar. Can't help saying this — those photographs are Superb!!

  11. This is one of your best posts. Your affection for the birds might have been the cause of your good trip, in turn the reason for this fine narrative.

    Thanks for introducing such pretty birds from our own country. I could not get the name of that pretty blue tailed bird.

    In a way, I am also anxious that I should see this place, but will I be. This is the effect of your post.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  12. Oh my my…Given that bird watching is such a difficult task, you have excelled with your snapshots. Kudos!

  13. This is really interesting…
    Rosesandgifts.com

  14. Thanks Shovonc… I am just a beginer and took help with birds from the experts.. check this for real birding expert

    http://www.visualquotient.net/index.php/category/blog/

  15. You could do a book on birds. I'm sure there are enough bird fanciers who would love it.

  16. Thanks a lot Amit G and Deepak G… it is indeed a great place to vist specially in winters, writing a few more posts on the same. Hopefully u will like them

  17. Stunningly pretty birds and an awesome post! Thank you Prasad:)

  18. Wow an amazing place for sure! On my wishlist now thanks to you!!

    Lovely captures all!

  19. Exceptional photos ! Great work…

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