When I got on to a train to Bharatpur in early February I realized that I don’t travel much by train any longer. Most of my travel for work is done between cities connected by flights. When I make a trip far away, I try to maximize my time at the destination by flying as close to it as possible and then taking a car. These are high-impact ways of traveling. It is not unlikely that trains have smaller environmental impact.
Railway stations have changed a lot. The station in Mumbai was vast and much better organized than it used to be. But what was amazing was the station I got off at half a day later- Bharatpur in Rajasthan. This town has now defined itself by the Keoladeo National Park next to it. The park is one of the most famous birding spots in the country; if you tell anyone that you are going to Bharatpur they will immediately respond with “Birds.”
This incredible feat of conservation is celebrated in the railway station. Murals of lotus flowers and buds, metal cutouts showing deer and tigers, and paintings of birds decorate the station. If you ever rolled past the station in a train you would not miss the connection to nature that Bharatpur now professes.
Murals of owls, herons and foxes greeted me as I got off the train. My phone was not working so I waited while The Family took the photos which you see here. We were a small group of birders, most of whom we had met for the first time the previous evening as we boarded the train. Several of the others also had their phones out to take photos of the station.
We gaped at this large mural of painted storks in their nest. It seems that serious birders don’t take out their big lenses for stuff like this, although they should. I was pretty impressed by the four species which stood by the side of the nest in homage. A skein of flying painted storks were the first birds that were pointed out to us by our rickshaw-guide when we came here in the last century in the days before we had taken up birding.
Our transport had arrived, and the spree of photography had to be cut short. As The Family took a last photo I thought that it would indeed be worth a note in a wildlife magazine if we could get a photo of a Brahminy Kite fishing. That Kingfisher off on the side seems to have turned green with envy.