Bhigwan - The Bharatpur of Maharashtra

Chetan Kulkarni

Super User
Bhigwan

Since I have come back to Pune a photographic outing has been on the cards. The original plan was to go to Mulshi for a sunrise shoot. On Wednesday, a friend asked if I am interested to go to Bhigwan or Veer Dam. I said I am happy to go to either places because that Veer would mean I would get to see the Bar Headed Geese and Bhigwan would provide an opportunity to see the flamingos. The final plan was to go to Bhigwan. I had last been here about 7-8 years ago and had just my 350D and 17-40mm lens. This time I was having my 100-400mm lens and my friend was having a 600mm f/4L IS.

Something about Bhigwan. Bhigwan is about 110 kms from Pune on the Pune Solapur highway. The water body at Bhigwan is formed as a catchment area for the Ujani Dam. Most of the bird sightings happen around two places, Diksal and Kumbhargaon. We went to Diskal. To reach the place drive on the Pune Solapur highway and after the second toll booth look for the Ahmednagar turn. Just near this turn on the left you will find the road to Diksal.

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The Greater Flamingos are the species of flamingo seen in Bhigwan. During the colder times of the year, many of the Great Flamingos from Siberia migrate to warmer climates. They generally end up in either Iran or India. They won’t migrate though until the weather turns bad so when the season is a mild one they may not end up migrating at all. Due to global warming their migration patterns seem to be getting shorter and shorter.

The male Great Flamingos can be up to 61 inches tall which is more than many humans. They only weigh about 8 pounds which is extremely light for an animal that is so tall! Their feathers range in color from dark pink to bright red. They also have areas of white blending in with them. While in flight you will be able to see areas of black underneath as well.

They tend to enjoy locations where there is plenty of salt to be found in the water. Many people don’t realize just how well this species of Flamingo is able to swim. That is because they tend to stick to swamps and lagoons that aren’t very deep. They will stand in the thick mud and find plenty of food there to be able to survive on without having to venture into deeper waters. They will stomp their feet in the mud to help stir up the accessible food in the area.

Bhigwan is a very popular destination in winter and on weekends it is choc a bloc with visitors (both flamingos and people to see them). In order to visit them one must leave early in the morning and reach Bhigwan around 7 am. Preferred months are December, January and February.

Back to our trip, Santanu who had initiated the plan had to drop out at the last moment so it left three of us to go. In order to reach the place in time, I had to leave my place at 3:45 AM :shock: That is a rare thing for me lekin photography ke liye kuch bhi karega ;)

We left at 3:45 am as planned and went and parked my car at another friend's place. We left his place at 4:45 and reached Bhigwan around 6:30 AM.

We were greeted with a stunning sunrise. Whether we will see the flamingos or not was the next question.

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Chetan Kulkarni

Super User
We had already informed our boatman and guide Bapu that we would be arriving in the morning. We called him up to tell him we have arrived. As we drove across the old bridge we saw a beautiful sunrise. And could not hold back taking images.

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A little further we stopped again

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The moon was looking lovely too

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As we reached our embarkation point, we asked Bapu if the birds were sighted earlier in the morning? He said they were 100 meters from the spot of departure earlier that morning but had flown away not to be seen. Anyway we waited for a few moments and departed in our boat provided by Bapu. After checking the surroundings I sighted 3 flamingos at a place and asked the boatman to take us there. This was not what we expected to see but three is better than nothing.

We asked him to take us closer and the birds seem to be sleeping. We could not get too close otherwise we would risk disturbing the birds who would fly away.
 
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