My wife and I have only taken one first real vacation in an Indian national park. It was Keoladeo National Park, a bird sanctuary known for its amazingly diverse bird representation and a healthy python population.
The central area of the park is dominated by wetlands like this:
But these dry parts of the park hold a quite different array of wildlife:
…and most of the lizard life reflects that.
Brooke’s House Geckos (Hemidactylus brookii)
Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)
Striped Grass Skinks (Mabuya dissimilus)
The park is famous for its pythons and I made finding one my primary herping goal of the trip. I was not disappointed. On the first day, this young juvenile was hiding in an old log in a wetlands area right next to the main thoroughfare:
Indian Python (Python molurus)
On the morning of the second day, I was riding a bike through a more remote area of the park when I spotted this welcome sight in the distance:
Turned out to be an adolescent just under 3 meters:
Sadly, early morning on the third day turned up half of a DOR of a very small juvenile…method of death uncertain.
After finding my pythons, my second goal was turtles. Once again I was not disappointed at all. These two giants were sunning on a small island out in the marsh. The larger one of the left must have ran at least 60cm long.
Indian Softshells (Aspideretes gangeticus)
While riding the bike alongside the marsh, I somehow looked through this stuff on the side:
And managed to spot this turtle on a small log
Indian Roofed Turtle? (Pangshura tecta)
There were two more on another log next to him.
Finally, I was quite surprised to see this one running over the main road from one side of the marsh to the other. I wasn’t able to get too close before it made it across, but it was by far the largest adult example I’ve seen of the common but wonderfully unique flapshell turtle
Indian Flapshell (Lissemys punctata)
While looking for turtles, I came across more than a few monitors.
Bengal Monitors (Varanus bengalensis)
Finally for the herps, despite the unfavorable weather I came across a few common species of frogs. The first were found under cover on the edge of small water bodies.
Cricket Frogs (Limnonectus sp.)
And these two were spotted trapped in an old well:
Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)
Skittering Frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis)
On to the non-herps. The mammals on the trip were great – I saw dozens of deer (both spotted deer and sambars), over 20 jackals, and lots of beautiful nilgai. At one moment I may have seen my first Asian otter out of the corner of my eye, but it disappeared before I could be sure that it wasn’t just a very large mongoose lifting its hips too high.
Other mammals included House Mouse, Three-striped Palm Squirrel, Asian House Shrew, a second much smaller shrew species, Little Grey Mongoose, Wild Boar, and Hanuman Macaque.
Though the reptiles and mammals are nice, the real reason people go to this place is the birds. I easily saw over 100 species in 4 days despite not focusing on birds and not knowing anything about bird watching.
The wading birds are the most obvious representatives of the park – I don’t know how many places you can see 4 species of heron and 4 species of stork in a single day, not to mention the egrets, ibises, spoonbills, etc.
Other species seen (not all photographed) included Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Wooly-necked Stork, Black-necked Stork, and Black-headed Ibis.
Of course, there were lots of other birds in the water too. Other species included Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Darter, Lesser Whistling Duck, Spotbill, Knob-billed Duck, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Purple Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, and a lot of sandpipers and ducks that I couldn’t identify.
Personally for me, though, what was even more amazing than the water birds were the raptors. I have never seen such an incredible array of hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and vultures in one place. Over 50 species of raptor, including 9 species of eagle, have been sighted within the park boundaries, and I was able to see quite a few of them in our trip.
Crested Serpent Eagle
Collared Scopes Owls
large eagle species….perhaps a Steppe Eagle?
I also saw Spotted Owlets, Laggar Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Shikra, Oriental Honey Buzzards, possibly a Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, an enormous vulture species that I wasn’t able to photograph, and a lot of hawks and eagles that I wasn’t able to identify
A few other interesting birds showed up as well
Yellow-legged Green Pigeons
Common Hawk Cuckoo
Also saw Eurasian Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Rock Pigeon, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Pied Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Gray Francolin, Indian Peafowl, Indian Grey Hornbill, Ashy Drongo, Jungle Babbler, House Crow, and Large-billed Crow, along with several more doves and groundbirds that I didn’t ID. Let me know if you see anything in the photos that I didn’t already name.
I mostly ignored the drab little birds and didn’t bother to ID or photograph them. But by my last morning I had seen so many bird species that I thought I might try to photograph more. I couldn’t photograph most of what I saw or ID most of what I photographed, but at the least I saw Blue-throat, Pied Bush Chat, Brown-headed Barbet, White Wagtail, Southern Grey Shrike, Bay-backed Shrike, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-eared Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Ashy Prinia, Red Avadavat, Black Redstart, Indian Silverbill, Brahming Starling, Asian Pied Starling, Common Myna, Common House Sparrow, and bunch of other little birds. Again interested if there’s anything in the photos I didn’t name.
For those who are interested, a few invertebrates to round out the trip.
I had a great time, and will probably go back on at different times of year to observe the seasonal migrations at the park. Hopefully I’ll get a lot more diversity on the snake species next time (I found sheds of 3 different non-python species, so they’re definitely in there!). Thanks for reading all the way through!