Artcle written by N.Shiva Kumar
M igration of millions of birds into Indian subcontinent is like an annual pilgrimage, religiously pouring in from the harsh winter lands of the northern hemisphere. As Siberia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Europe gets cold and covered in snow, a multitude of small and big birds take wings flying nearly 4000 kms over harsh terrains in search of good food in tropical India. It's a ‘flight of fancy' for many but for avid birdwatchers it is a wakeup call as nearly 100 unusual species donning a range of plumage converge.
To witness and photograph these winged visitors from far-off countries, four friends recently started at 4 a.m. and travelled 400 kms by road into the hinterland of the Great Indian Desert. Equipped with an array of cameras and binoculars we reached in time to see a flock of beautiful demoiselle cranes gliding into the dry grasslands of Tal Chappar in Churu district. Situated in North-Western Rajasthan, the small but isolated sanctuary lies strategically on the migratory passage route of scores of birds. The most spectacular migration seen here is that of raptors especially the harriers. These spectacular birds of prey pass through this area during the month of September and October. Montagu's and Marsh Harrier are more common, while Pallid Harrier and Hen Harriers are found in lesser numbers. Many migratory birds including the dainty demoiselle cranes will stay here until March mulling over the variety of menu spread across the pristine grasslands.
Tal Chappar wildlife sanctuary is basically a flat terrain with huge grassland looking like one outsized manicured lawn from a distance. Obviously the seasonal monsoons cajole growth of lush grass that slowly turn golden as it matures over a period, bearing billions of seeds. The height of the grass is just about three feet and harbours enormous number of insects thriving on the meadow. Insects attract a large number of small predatory creatures like the lizards, reptiles and rodents and these in turn lure numerous hungry birds. Grass seeds also are first-rate fodder for smaller birds like a variety of doves, pigeons, larks and pipits. Even the ostrich-like great Indian bustard, a very rare bird came visiting in 2009 for the first time at Tal Chappar and is regarded as significant occurrence.