Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bhigwan - Water Birds Aplenty!

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Water Birds Aplenty!

For birding enthusiasts in Maharashtra and the adjoining states, Bhigwan ranks high on the list of birding destinations. Bhigwan is highly spoken of in birding circles because it is the destination of migratory water birds including the beautiful flamingoes in the winter months. If you want to sight a wide variety of water birds and that too in their plenty, Bhigwan is the place to go!!!

I made plans to visit Bhigwan in March 2014. I had confirmed online that the birds had arrived in Bhigwan and that it was indeed a good time to visit Bhigwan. During my online research I got to know about other birding spots, viz. Patas, Varwand Dam, Narayanbhet etc. around Bhigwan or enroute from Mumbai to Bhigwan. I decided to make optimum use of my time by visiting as many birding spots as possible.

The next step was to finalize the accommodation and transport arrangements. Since I planned to make it a 3 days visit, I decided to book a hotel in the nearest town or city. I finally decided to stay in Baramati, about 25 kms from Bhigwan. Baramati is home to a lot of industries and has decent hotels to cater to the business clients. I did not have a problem in finalizing a hotel for my stay.

Bhigwan is about 250 kilometers away from Mumbai by road. Since I planned to visit several birding spots during the 3 days, I decided to hire a vehicle for the trip. That would give me the flexibility to go wherever I needed to, whenever I wanted to.

The last step was to arrange for a local guide who could guide me to the right spots. A local guide with his / her expertise can help you utilize your time and efforts in an optimal manner. They know the best spots and the right time to visit those spots. I finally decided to take the assistance of Mr. Sandeep Nagare, who according to online blogs was very knowledgeable and helpful. I called up Mr. Nagare and fortunately he confirmed that he could accompany me during my visit.

All bookings done, my final itinerary had a busy and hectic look to it.

Final itinerary

Bhigwan Trip - Final Itinerary


Mumbai to Baramati
7:00 AM
12:00 PM

Bhigwan - Diksal

Bhigwan - Kumbhargaon


Varwand Dam

Mayureshwar WLS

Narayanbet, Bhuleshwar


Kavadipath to Mumbai
18:00 PM
20:00 PM

I was anxious, eager and excited about the upcoming trip.

10th March 2014
Bhigwan beckons!

The journey from Mumbai to Bhigwan started early at 7 am. The ride on the Mumbai-Pune expressway was a pleasure and we reached Pune in approximately 2 hours. We encountered traffic in Pune before we got onto the Pune - Solapur Highway. This highway was an absolute delight. Smooth roads and minimal traffic meant that we reached Baramati just after noon. A great start to the trip.

I checked into the hotel in Baramati, Krishnasagar Residency. It was a decent and clean hotel. The food in their restaurant was even better. A few hours of rest and relaxation later, I was raring to go!

About Bhigwan
Firstly, some information about Bhigwan. Bhigwan is a small town on the Pune-Solapur highway. Bhigwan is located at one end of the reservoir of Ujni dam. During the winters, the reservoir’s waters attract our migratory winged-friends from far and away. There are villages located on the banks of the reservoir. Each village offers a different view and experience of the reservoir’s waters. Two of the more popular villages for birding are Diksal and Kumbhargaon.

How to reach Diksal:
At Bhigwan (facing Solapur), after exiting the Pune-Solapur highway, you need to take a left turn  and keep going for a few kilometers till you reach an old bridge. Diksal village is located at the end of the bridge.

How to reach Kumbhargaon:
In order to reach Kumbhargaon, do not take the exit for Bhigwan. Instead, continue on the Pune-Solapur highway for a couple of kilometers, till you see the signboard for Kumbhargaon on the left. Take the exit for Kumbhargaon. Follow the narrow road till you reach the Kumbhargaon village. You may need to ask for directions at a couple of places.

Detailed instructions with maps can be found at the following site, which I used in planning my travel. All thanks to the author, Mr. Vivek Kale for the excellent information.

My plan for day 1 was to visit Diksal and spend the evening there. I would visit Kumbhargaon the next morning.

An evening in Diksal
I reached the old bridge at Diksal in about half an hour. As soon as I reached the bridge I could see a lot of water-birds in the water. We crossed the bridge and reached Diksal village. I met an elderly man, who agreed to take me birding on his boat. After some price negotiations, we finally set off in his boat.

A few minutes into the boat-ride, we neared some small islands in the water. And on these islands were a wide variety of water-birds. Asian open-bills, Grey Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Black-winged Stilts, Godwits, Glossy Ibises, Pallas’s Gulls, Terns and many more. The best part was that these birds were present in large flocks. It was sheer a delight watching and photographing these birds.

 Birds of a feather flock together - Asian Openbill Stork 

 Balaning Act - Black-winged Stilt 

 Great Stride - Great Egret 

 Grey Heron in the company of  Asian Openbill Storks 

 Sun-basking - Cormorants 

 All gloss - Glossy Ibis 

 River Tern 

 Black-tailed Godwits 
All credit to my elderly guide for his skillful handling of the boat. He steered the boat close enough to the birds without disturbing them. Rowing the boat and that too against the wind was hard work indeed.

Next on my wish list was flamingos. My elderly guide directed the boat to one corner of the reservoir. There, on a large island, I saw a lot of Northern Shovellers, Garganeys, Black-headed Ibises, Cormorants and Gulls. We maintained a safe distance from the birds so as not to scare them away. In the water, beyond the large island, was the pink treasure I was itching to sight. The Greater Flamingos.

 Northern Shovellers in flight 

 Birds Aplenty! 

 Take off - Northern Shoveller and  Little Cormorant 

 Black-headed Ibis 

 Pretty in Pink  - Flamingos 
The boat made it’s way slowly and steadily towards the flamingos. Flamingos are very shy by nature and tend to fly away when anyone gets too close to their comfort. Therefore we maintained a safe distance. The flamingos were an absolutely beautiful sight. The tall and graceful birds in different shades of pink, with red and black wings, were a treat to the eyes. Needless to say the camera’s shutter button was pressed down continuously for a very long time.

 Greater Flamingos 

 Greater Flamingos 
We spent a lot of time near the flamingos. After a while, rain-filled clouds started rolling in. These clouds did not block the sunlight completely. As a result, we had some amazingingly soft light for the next few minutes. I just could not get my fill of these beauties. The flamingos however had their fill of me and started flying away. Even in flight, these birds were grace and beauty personified. The flying flamingos were a fitting finale to my first day in Bhigwan.

 Greater Flamingos 
 Up close - Greater Flamingos 

 Up, up and away - Greater Flamingos 
Just as the flamingos flew away, as if on cue, it started drizzling. We made our way back to the shore. Two hours had passed as if in the blink of an eye. It was a most enjoyable and satisfying evening. The up close experience with the flamingos was a long cherished dream come true.

 Water Drops 
And to cap off a beautiful day, a beautiful rainbow appeared in all it’s glory.

 Mobile shot - Rainbow 
As I returned to the hotel, I wondered about the next morning. What will Kumbhargaon have to offer?

11th March 2014
Flamingos, Give me more!

The next morning I reached Kumbhargaon village. I was directed to Mr. Sandeep Nagare’s house, where a huge board greeted me. The board made me feel that I was in safe and knowledgeable hands. I met Sandeep and his brother Nitin. They were friendly and welcoming.

 A welcome sign 
The boat-ride was delayed due to a light fog. So, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Sandeep’s house. I learnt that Sandeep offers homestay facility to visiting birders at his house. Sandeep was knowledgeable about the local birds. He had formed and trained a team of local youths in bird-spotting and identification. He and his team also took care of injured birds and nursed them to full recovery. It was heartening to meet such selfless and dedicated nature lovers.

After the fog cleared, we started the boat-ride. Sandeep informed me that he would first look for flamingos and would cover the remaining birds after I’d had my fill of flamingos. That sounded like a great plan to me!

We went pass Gulls, Terns, Storks, Herons etc. in the hundreds. After half-an-hour of rowing, we finally sighted a flock of flamingos in the distance. But before we could approach the birds, they took off. Would the trip have an anti-climatic ending?

 Taking to Flight -  Greater Flamingos  
My fears were however unfounded as the same flock returned and landed a lot closer than earlier.  We approached the flock cautiously and this time they did not fly away. The flamingos were in larger numbers than the flock I had seen the previous evening. It was a virtual sea of pink!

 The Pink army - Greater Flamingos 

 Greater Flamingos 

 Close march - Greater Flamingos 
We spent more than 45 minutes watching and photographing these birds in various poses, wading, flying, landing etc. This was my best time in Bhigwan. 

 Greater Flamingos 

 In Flight - Greater Flamingos 
As we made our way back, we noticed a flamingo that let the boat a lot closer than we would have expected. On closer observation we found that the bird had a broken leg. I felt sorry for the bird and watching it try to fly with it’s broken leg was an agonizing sight. We stayed away from the bird not wanting to increase it’s misery.

 Agonizing: A broken leg - Greater Flamingo 
Bhigwan had experienced hail-storms the previous week. A lot of birds had been killed and many more were injured by the hail stones. This particular bird appeared to have been injured by falling hail-stones. It was a heart-breaking sight.

We continued to make our way back. We stopped to photograph some Painted Storks. These colourful storks were wonderful subjects for photography. After the flamingos, these birds fascinated me the most.

 Hand-painted: Painted Stork 

 Painted Stork 
Next up I saw a Marsh Harrier sitting on the banks. This was my first sighting of any Harrier species. It sat on the banks for a few moments before it took off allowing me an opportunity to get a flight shot. 

 Marsh Harrier 

We also saw Ruddy Shelducks, Godwits, Ibises, Asian openbills, Gulls and Terns. The gulls and terns easily numbered in the hundreds. The gulls hovered around the fishing boats hoping to catch some fish.

 Ruddy Shelduck 

 Glossy Ibis and Black-tailed Godwits 
 Little Cormorants 

 Terns and Gulls 

After the boat-ride ended, we went to a spot nearby. There were countless painted storks and cormorants there. We walked about and were rewarded for our efforts with sightings of the following birds, Purple swamp hens, Glossy Ibises, Black-crowned Night herons, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Eurasian Collared dove, Sandpiper, Greenshank, Drongo, Common Iora, and Spot-billed ducks. How could any birding trip be complete without sighting a kingfisher? And last but not the least was a Common Blue kingfisher.

 Greater Spotted Eagle 

 Black-crowned Night Herons 

 Yellow-crowned Woodpecker 

 Common Blue Kingfisher 

It was a wonderful end to my birding in Bhigwan. And what an amazing birding experience it had been. The flamingos had made my trip most memorable. I’m sure I will return to this beautiful location in the future.


  1. Beautiful post Tobin.
    Looks as if you discovered a new land inhabited only by birds. :)
    The flamingoes are very pretty and graceful. Wish you many more such rewarding trips. Keep posting.

    1. Thanks for reading and posting your feedback Amita. It was indeed a Water birds' paradise. Keep reading :)

  2. Such a nice place. Eager to visit. Nicely written blog. Thanks


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