There are some places that God created for beauty & diversity, Bhigwan is one such place. A paradise for number of migratory birds Bhigwan stands out in the list of Must Visit places around Pune, especally in Winter times. Bhigwan is a small dusty town around 100 kms away from Pune and is also referred to as the “Bharatpur of Maharashtra”, as it becomes a hotbed of migratory birds during the winter. Bhigwan is at one end of the huge Yashwant Sagar reservoir, forming the backwaters of the Ujani dam. The water catchment area is spread across around the town of Bhigwan. It is an amazing place to see wetland migratory birds like Bar-Headed Goose, Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, many species of ducks , Painted Stork , Grey Heron and many more birds.
One of the main attractions during the migratory season is the arrival of the Greater flamingos also called as अग्निपंख in Marathi. During the months of early December till March every year this place is crowded by Bird Watchers & Bird Photographers from all over Maharashtra.
How to Reach Bhigwan Bird Sanctuary
One can travel to Bhigwan by various means of transport. 1) State Transport Buses bound for Solapur and onwards from Pune take you to Bhigwan in 3.5 hours. The obvious advantage of ST bus, is that one need not drive. However Bhigwan is a vast area. The birding spots are as far away as 10 to 15 kms from Bhigwan main town. So this mode is not convenient. There is also a train station at Bhigwan. However both ST bus and train are not convenient. The best way is your own vehicle or hired vehicle.
To reach Bhigwan, the easy way is from Pune to Hadapsar and then join to Solapur highway. After about 100km from Pune on Highway you will reach Bhigwan village. Do not use Bhigwan flyover. Take service road from Bhigwan village and then turn left after crossing the flyover. Drive 3 to 3.5km – Take right for sanctuary. There are two main villages Kumbhargaon & Diksal. You can go to either village. More or less there are same chances of sighting the birds.
I visit Bhigwan almost every year and my favourite place is Kumbhargaon bird sanctuary. It is better if you book your Boat ride in advance. I am normally booking with “Kranti Flamingo Point”, Mr. Datta Nagare – Mobile No. 8087767691. There are many other boat operators who also provide guide. You can also order Breakfast & lunch with them. It is delicious Maharashtrian Food. For Bird Watching or Bird Photography it is recommended that you reach Bhigwan before Sunrise & start your Boat ride latest by Morning 7.00 AM OR afternoon 4.00 PM. Boat ride takes 3 Hours minimum.
I am always excited to visit Bhigwan for one reason : You are welcomed by colourful Painted Storks flying overhead or flock of Pink Flamingos or the Cormorants flying in the sky in large numbers. I still remember my first visit to Bhigwan. Our boat reached deep inside the water about 6 – 8 Kms. inside from the Boating point. We were curiously looking at Flamingos busy in fishing in large numbers away from us, suddenly our guide pointed towards the sky and the scene was mesmerizing. Complete sky was full of Pink colored birds gliding above our head. For a moment we forgot to click the pictures & kept looking at the beautiful play of colors in the sky. Then the shutterbugs started clicking. After a while the flock of hundreds of Flamingos landed in the water & started looking for their favorite food i.e fishes. The beautiful tall birds with long neck & long red legs were in front of us busy in their own world, ignorant of onlookers.Once they land in large numbers at one place near the water, normally they remain there for hours. You can photograph them peacefully in all angles & moods.
Once you are finished clicking Flamingos, you can look around for other birds and you can see variety of wetland Birds like Grey Herons, Open Bill Stork, Grey Headed Gulls, River Turn, Black Headed Ibis, Glossy Ibis and various Ducks like Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Coot, Bar Headed Goose, Rudy Shel duck etc.
The diversity of Bird species found in Bhigwan is incredible. Large number of migratory activity Birds come to Bhigwan for Nesting. These birds include Greater Flamingos, variety of Ibises, Storkes, Egrets & Seagulls. Apart from these wader species, Bhigwan has large variety of local terrestrial birds. All in all Bhigwan boasts of more than 400 different species of birds through out the year.
Bird Photography is comparatively easy in Bhigwan since the Birds are accessible to you. Even 100-400 mm telephoto lens is adequate. You only need Ultra Telephoto Lens for Flamingos since we can’t go very near to them. You can go very near to Painted Storks since they do not shy away with Boats. However you should always remember to wear dull colored clothes & carry hat or cap. Camouflaged clothes are preferable. Huge bird activity is seen during Morning & Evening in the middle of water. Normally you see ample quantity of Grey Headed Gulls and River Turn fighting for the prey. Flying up & down with their prey. There are ample opportunities to photograph these moments. Your guide cum boat driver helps you to locate & identify various birds.
On the return journey to boating point, we clicked all these birds & many more which you can see in the pictures below.
After getting down from the Boat, you can spend some time on the nearby grassland for photographing grassland birds like Common Hoopoe, Green Bee Eater, White breasted Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Yellow Wagtail, Bush Chat, Shrike, Black Drongo etc.
|Purple Swamphen||Ruddy Shelduck||Little Cormorant|
|Common Moorhen||Spot-billed Duck||Common Kingfisher|
|Small pratincole||Common Coot||White Throated Kingfisher|
|Glossy Ibis||Comb Duck||Pied Kingfisher|
|Black Ibis||Garganey Duck||Wire-tailed Swallow|
|Oriental White Ibis||Pallas Gull||Common Swallow|
|Asian Open bill Stork||River Tern||Red Rumped Swallow|
|Painted Stork||Gull billed Tern||Purple Rumped Sunbird|
|Woolly Necked Stork||Grey Heron||Yellow Wagtail|
|Common Sandpiper||Purple Heron||Grey Wagtail|
|Spotted Sandpiper||Pond Heron||Greater Flamingo|
|Curlew Sandpiper||Cattle Egret||Osprey|
|Black Tailed Godwit||Median Egret||Western Marsh Harrier|
|Black Winged Stilts||Large Egret||White-breasted Waterhen|
|Northern Shoveler||Eurasian Spoonbill|