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Madhya Pradesh

Racquet-tailed Drongo Dicrurus remifer ©Laurence Poh Website

Madhya Pradesh has a varied topography but almost one third is forested. The forest types include dry thorn forests; tropical moist deciduous forests and tropical evergreen forests. The area of reserve [reserved for eventual logging] forest is 58,733 km; protected forest constitutes an area of about 35,586 sq km and unclassified forest area is around 900 sq km. There is no doubt that the natural splendour of Madhya Pradesh includes a wide spectrum of wildlife inhabiting this land ranging from tigers and leopards to antelopes and gazelles, other mammals and reptiles and an abundance of bird life.

Of the two bio-geographic zones, the semi arid zone has two subdivisions - Malwa plateau and fragmented wetlands. Madhav National Park and about 9 of the total of 25 wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh are located in this zone. The second zone, the Deccan Peninsula includes both the Vindhya and the Satpura hill ranges. Popular tiger reserves like Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Satpura, Panna, the three National Parks and a score of wildlife sanctuaries are located in this zone. Madhya Pradesh has an effective protected area network of about 10,860 sq km and boasts of one national park and 25 sanctuaries. These reserves continue to harbour their original resident and migrant species.

The mission of national parks and sanctuaries is to establish a network of protected areas representative of the country's important and unique features and to conserve and manage them in such a manner that they will be preserved for all time in their natural state. The wild life conservation initiatives launched by the state have received a major impetus by the inclusion of forest dwellers to ensure the survival of forests and wildlife embodied in the launch of the Project Tiger in the early seventies. The application of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), formation of the Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation to secure help and support from NGO's and general public at large, conservation of critically endangered species besides the tiger [like Barasingha (swamp deer) and Gharial (mugger crocodile)] are some of the major landmarks in the state of Madhya Pradesh's success in wildlife conservation.

Project Tiger

The forests were nurtured carefully by the royal families to preserve the Tiger's habitats for hunting. Old wildlife classics estimate a population of around 40,000 tigers in the 1940's. By the year 1970, the population of tigers in India perilously declined to about 2000 individuals as the result of the loss of hunting preserves and widespread habitat destruction. The tiger was close to being annihilated. Project Tiger was launched in 1973 because of the threat to the tiger. The objective was to ensure the maintenance of a viable population of the tiger in India and to preserve for all times, such areas as part of our national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of future generations, which had the added bonus opf preserving many areas for other wildlife too. The Project Tiger Directorate provides assistance for scientific management, protection, communication, habitat improvement, water and soil conservation, research, infrastructure etc. Kanha in Mandhya Pradesh was among the first nine reserves designated. Panna, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Pachmarhi are later inclusions. 1999 estimates are of a population of 709 tigers (235 in tiger reserves, 143 in protected areas and 331 tigers in general forest areas) in Madhya Pradesh (19% of India's and 17% of World's tiger population). The state, therefore, is rightly called the Tiger State.

Flora and Fauna.

The state of Madhya Pradesh encompasses a breath-taking wilderness along with extensive flora and fauna and rich biodiversity. There are countless variety of plants and animals in a state of interdependence. There are more than 1000 species of flowering plants, ferns, orchids, aromatic and medicinal plants. More than half of the forests of the state lie in the eastern region and are tropical. Teak and Sal are the two chief species of trees found in the state and constitute about 20% of the total forest area. Tendu leaf tree found in abundance in Madhya Pradesh is also a good source of income for villagers. The grasslands along the plateaux and the streams in the valleys are good during the monsoon season but fade away during the hot months of summer.

The faunal wealth of the Madhya Pradesh is equally rich and diverse. Inhabitants include species of cat, antelopes, gazelles and dog family, many other species of mammals and reptiles as well as birds. Crocodiles and gharyal inhabit the rivers and lakes. The heavily forested regions and marshes and wetlands create a natural habitat for birds and support a wide variety of birdlife.

Some of the best parks and reserves are described below.

Top Sites

Bandhavgarh National Park

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Once the personal hunting ground of the Maharajas of Rewa, Bandhavgarh is famous as the original home of the white tiger. It became a national park in 1965. The national park covers an area of 1161.47 sq km with a core area of 624.75 sq km dominated by extremely rugged terrain with many hills. The adjoining Panpatha wildlife sanctuary created in 1983 has an area of245.84 sq kill. The park is located in the eastern Satpura hill range of Umaria and Katni districts among the outlying hills of the Vindhya range. Many hills and hillocks dot the area amidst valleys, meadows and marshes. There are a number of old tanks, water holes to provide for water sources and Charanganga river is the prominent river flowing through the park. With tropical dry and moist deciduous forests interspersed with grasslands, the vegetation is chiefly of sal forest in the valleys and on the lower slopes with bamboo found in abundance almost throughout. Bandhavgarh has an abundance of tigers and other wildlife species. The reserve is rich in birds, some 250 species are found in the park. The Tala range rich in water and food resources harbours most of the wildlife. The main entry to the park is through Tala, 35 km north of Umaria. Nearest rail heads are Jabalpur (170 km), Katni (102 kill) and Satna (112 kill) on the central railway and Umaria (35 km) on the Katni Bilaspur route. From the Umaria railway station it is an hour`s drive to Tala. State, private transport buses and taxis ply between Katni and Umaria, and from Satna and Rewa to Tala. Khajuraho (210 km) is the nearest airport from where it is a 5 hours drive to Bandhavgarh. The ideal time to visit would be the period between November & June. The park is closed from July to October inclusive. Jeep safaris are available from dawn until about 1000 and from 1600 hours until dark, when the animals are most active. A forest department guide accompanies the visitors. Elephants are also used by the forest department for tiger tracking. The sprawling meadows of Chakradhara, Bhaitari Bah, Raj Bahera, Sehra are rich in avifauna.

Kanha Tiger Reserve

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Despite all the astonishing diversity in its wildlife, Kanha is best known as the habitat of the tiger. Kanha is on the world map as the most picturesque place nestled in central Indian Highlands to see Tiger. It has a long history of conservation and prides itself on being the first sanctuary of the country – in existence since 1935. The national park encompasses an area of 2059 sq km comprising 940 sq km core, 1009 sq km buffer zone and 110.79 sq km of satellite minicore of Kanha, Phen Sanctuary. In the core area of the national park, human activity is totally prohibited and this is where the elusive tiger can be viewed roaming about. The current population of the tigers in the park is guesstimated at 127. Banjai and Halon rivers flow through the park, of which Halon is perennial. A number of tanks, dams, and canals are also the major source of water supply for the wildlife. The forest cover inside the park is largely tropical moist deciduous type. Kanha has about 22 other species of mammals. Some 300 species of birds inhabit the park including Peafowl, Black Ibis, Green Pigeons, Treepies, etc. Water birds can be seen near the park's many rivulets and pools. The park is open from 1st November to 30th June [February to June being the best time to visit] and is accessible by road from the town of Mandla and Jabalpur. Khatia (3 km from Kisli and 68 km from Mandla) towards Mandla and Mukki (82 km from Balaghat) towards Balghat are the two entrance points to the tiger reserve. Jabalpur (168 km) is a convenient rail head. Nearest airports are located at Jabalpur and Nagpur (270 km). There is a daily bus service available for Kisli and Mukki from Jabalpur and back. Some of the best viewing areas are the meadows around Kanha and Bamni Dadar, also known as Sunset point.

Panna Tiger Reserve

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Located in the north central part of Madhya Pradesh, the park is spread over an area of 66,640 sq km within the districts of Panna and Chhatarpur. Panna National Park was constituted in 1981 and declared a tiger reserve in 1994 and has an area of 542.69 sq km, Gangau Wildlife Sanctuary 8,753 sq km and Ken Gharial wildlife sanctuary at a distance of about 30 km from Panna national park, an area of 4,520 sq km. The main forest types are southern tropical dry teak forest and northern tropical dry deciduous mixed forest and the reserve is rich in fodder grasses. The lifeline of the park is the Ken River which meanders for about 55 km through the tiger reserve from south to north. Springs and gorges along the course of Ken River offer magnificent sights. Springs (locally called jhirias) are the major water sources available during the months of summer. Regular sightings of Tiger are reported [population is c.32]. Leopard is more common. More than 200 species of birds including a host of migratory birds have been sighted in the park, including Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Pond Heron, Quail, Parakeets, Mynas, Bulbuls, Cuckoos, etc. Khajuraho, the nearest airport is just 25 km from Panna. Satna (70 km) is the nearest railhead for those travelling from Delhi. Varanasi and Kolkata, Katni (130 km) for those travelling from Mumbai, Nagpur and Chennai and Jhansi (194 km) for those travelling from Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Madia and Hinouta are the two entry gates to the park, The park is closed between July & September inclusive, the best time to visit is between December to March. Only four wheel drive petrol vehicles are allowed to watch wildlife and to go around the tiger reserve.

Pench Tiger Reserve

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Named after the river Pench, the Pench Tiger Reserve is located in the southern reaches of the Satpura hill ranges and was constituted in 1992 with a total area of 75,790 sq km out of which 29,286 sq km is the core area of the reserve, 11,830 sq km of Pench wildlife sanctuary and 3,467 sq km of area is the buffer zone. The river Pench meandering through the park divides it between Chhindwara and Seoni districts. The forest cover belongs to southern tropical moist teak and dry teak forests and the southern dry mixed deciduous forest. The ground is covered with a maze of grasses, plants, bushes and saplings. Bamboo is restricted to some valleys, dazzling white kulu (sterculia urens) trees scattered around singly in the forest stand out conspicuously among the various hues of green. The flow of the Pench river stops by December. But a number of water pools serve as water holes for the wild animals. There are a few perennial springs and tanks in this tract. At the southern border of the park at Totladoh, a dam has been constructed on the Pench river which creates a huge 54 sq km reservoir in this part of the park. The Pench Tiger Reserve is 12 km away from Khawasa town on NH 7 between N agpur and Jabalpur. Nagpur is the nearest rail head and airport. Khawasa is just 80 km from Nagpur on NH 7. Jabalpur is 203 km from the park. It is en route to Kanha from Nagpur. The population of tigers is estimated at 40 individuals. Pench boasts of more than 250 species of birds including several migratory ones. Visitors can use their own or hired 4 wheel petrol vehicles. Diesel vehicles and walking on road is not permitted inside the park. Totaladoh Dam, the highest hills in the park, Kalapahad, the place to see a large bison herd, Bison Camp (10 km from Karmajhiri), the Bison Retreat (close to Rukhad) and the watchtowers of Raikassa and Golpahari are the sites which promise a different experience.

Satpura National Park

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Satpura National Park is cradled in the rugged hills of the Satpura range in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh. The national park is spread over an area of 142,787 sq km together with the wildlife sanctuaries of Pachmarhi and Bori. Rich in biocultural diversity, the park was established in 1981 and harbours some of the most critically endangered animal and plant species. The terrain is generally hilly with precipitous slopes, deep and narrow gorges ravines sheltered valleys and dense forests with many water falls. Tawa reservoir created on the Tawa River extending over an area of 200 sq km is the main water source along with channels of Soubhadra, Nalni, Denwa and Wagdwari rivers. The area is uniquely diverse ranging from dry thorn forest to tropical dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi evergreen forests. Teak, sal and mixed forest are the major compositions. The Bori wildlife sanctuary is rich in Bamboo. Over 1200 varieties of flowering and non flowering plants are found in this area. The Tiger is found in good number but is confined to dense forest areas. 35 tigers were recorded in 2001 census. Panthers are found all over the park. The area has a wide spectrum of bird life. Among the birds represented are Jungle Fowl, Quail, Patridges, Bee-eaters, Eagles, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Vultures etc. One is also attracted by a large variety of colourful butterflies, moths and other insects. Madai, Churna, Bori, Dhal and Paraspani are some of the areas of viewing wildlife. The national park is easily accessible by road from Bhopal (210 km), Jabalpur (240 kill), Nagpur (250 kill) and Chhindwara (85 kill). Pipariya (52 km) is the closest railhead and ltarsi is the closest rail junction. Pachmarhi is the closest bus stand and the gateway to this reserve. The best time to visit the park is between November & June. Most of the roads in the park are only passable from December. The park is closed during the monsoon season. Also see: http://www.tribes.co.uk/India/Central-Reserves/satpura-national-park

Contributor

Neelesh Agrawal

India Footprints

Jabalpur, Madyha Pradesh

indiafootprints@hotmail.com

http://www.indiafootprints.com

Useful Reading

* Field Guides & Bird Song

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Birds of Northern India

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ISBN: 0713651679

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Useful Information

State Bird: Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi

Guides & Tour Operators

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Anytime Tours

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e.g. Corbett National Park, Pangot (Nainital), Sat Tal, Chambal, Bharatpur, Ranthambhor NP - This tour is designed for fast pace birding in northern region of India. This has proven to be an extremely productive tour. This tour can be customized. Best time: November to April…

Birding Pal

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Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

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CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2007 [04 April] - Mike Meidlinger

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…Another fine day breaks on Bandhavgarh national park as our party splits with Tom and Ali joining the rest of the guests on a return visit to the temple and cliffs while the other three decided to view more of the park on another drive. As well as a very poor view of a new Tigress birding, as usual, was fantastic as usual with Changeable Hawk and Short-toed Snake Eagles, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo of the impressive grandis subspecies constituting the highlights…

2011 [04 April] - Kathie Claydon

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We had a total of 445 bird species in the North East (more were seen or heard only by our guide Abid but have not been included) and 21 mammals and plenty of plants, insects and a few reptiles. Then a (separate) total of 151 bird and 15 mammal species in Bharatpur/Chambal/Ranthambhore. The whole trip produced 511 bird and 31 mammals species…

2013 [02 February] - Hannu Jannes

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…The number of bird species recorded was 283, a whopping new record for this itinerary! Highlights included a flock of the increasingly scarce Indian Skimmers at the Chambal River, amazingly close views of Black-necked Storks, Sarus Cranes and Comb Ducks at a village pond near the Chambal River, several encounters with Painted Spurfowls, two elegant Indian Coursers, a good showing of vultures including our first sightings of Himalayan Vultures on this itinerary, 20 species of hawks and eagles including Tawny, Indian Spotted, Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagle, several Crested Hawk-Eagles and White-eyed Buzzards, both the Jungle and Rock Bush-quail, eight species of owls including the very handsome Mottled Wood and the majestic Brown Fish Owl, a very confiding Brown Crake, the threatened Black-bellied Tern, large and noisy groups of Malabar Pied Hornbills and a good selection of passerines including six species of prinia and seven species of pipit, Tickell's, Orange-headed and Small-billed Scaly Thrush, both Jerdon's and Gold-fronted Leafbirds, and a flock of the subtly beautiful Sind Sparrows. The biggest ornithological surprise of the trip was a discovery of a first winter male Blue-and-White Flycatcher at Bandhavgarh, the second ever record for India…

2015 [02 February] - Hannu Jannes - Bandhavgarh

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The number of bird species recorded on this tour was 265 including such highlights as a small group of the increasingly scarce Indian Skimmers at the Chambal River, close views of Black-necked Storks, Sarus Cranes, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, excellent encounters with Painted and Red Spurfowls, a covey of showy Jungle Bush-quails, a good showing of vultures including the critically 2 BirdQuest Tour Report: Tigers & Birds of Bandhavgarh www.birdquest-tours.com endangered Red-headed, Indian and White-backed Vultures, Greater Spotted Eagle, several Crested HawkEagles and White-eyed Buzzards, five species of owl including the very handsome Mottled Wood and the majestic Brown Fish, Brown Crake, the threatened Black-bellied Tern, a large and noisy group of Malabar Pied Hornbills, Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian White-rumped Spinetail, and a good selection of passerines including six species of prinia and six species of pipit, Tickell's and Orange-headed Thrushes, both Jerdon's and Goldfronted Leafbirds, a gorgeous white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher and the subtly attractive Sind Sparrow.

2015 [04 April] - Nick Crouch - Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Agra & Delhi

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Whilst not caring what birds I saw as long as I saw a Tiger, I did of course want to see as many birds as possible... Having been to Goa in 2007, I had also seen many of the available species before, but still had plenty to go it; in the end, I saw 163 species, of which 37 were new for me. I didn’t take a scope (instead taking my DSLR), and most of the time didn’t miss it – although it would have been useful for distant waders at Okhla Bird Sanctuary, and raptors and pipits in Bandhavgarh.

Places to Stay

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Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge

Accommodation

A two-star property recognized by Deptt. of Tourism, BANDHAVGARH JUNGLE LODGE is walking distance form the Park’s main gate and is in the periphery if the park. It has been developed on a theme of an Indian Village, Thus has combinations of mud with thatched roof and an inner court yard. The estates meadows attracts Deer and other animals which come soon after sunset. One can even take a convenient walk in the reserve forest for Bird Watching as the place is flourishing with fruiting. At night in the peace and tranquility of the night one can hear various animals call such as alarm calls of the Deer from the Tiger and wonderful galaxy of stars in the sky…

Chitvan Jungle Lodge

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Chitvan is the most discreet of the Jungle and Safari Lodges in India. It blends into the surrounding landscape, while providing a stunning viewpoint for observing the area's wealth of Wildlife. Chitvan blends perfectly with the surrounding countryside. The surrounding hills are wooded, and the open grassland in front is interspersed with some Sal trees, whistling thorns, and some scrub. You will be captivated by this unspoiled corner of Kanha National Park, spread in about 14 acres of land…

Kanha Jungle Lodge

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Kanha Jungle Lodge is just a short walk from Kanha National Park, Mukki entrance gate. It provides visitors with a truly exciting and rewarding jungle experience. The lodge nests in an 11 acre estate of thick mature Sal forest providing a ideal setting for bird watching for a natural history oriented traveller…

Ken River Lodge - Panna National Park

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Ken River Lodge is 2km from Panna National Park. Swiss cottage tents with attached toilets and showers give you all the modern amenities along with the thrill of staying in a tent. There are 10 tents…

Monsoon Forest - The Soul of Bandhavgarh

Accommodation

A Stunning Safari Lodge with conservation in its heart, Monsoon Forest redefines the idea of conservation-based tourism. It is a perfect combination of one of the best traditional wildlife experiences and a great spiritual retreat…

Panna Tiger Resort

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The Panna Tiger Resort has eight cottages & four tented accommodations. Each cottage has an attached western style toilet and a hot shower. The resort is located right next to river Ken.

Pench Jungle Camp

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The Pench Jungle Camp, nestling among 12 acres of lush foliage, sprawling lawns, and untouched landscape is a perfect getaway for nature lovers! It is aptly named as a Jungle Camp.... that provides an unqualified jungle experience! Although the resort is unparalleled in its luxury and comforts. The Resort accommodation comprises of 13 Deluxe Air conditioned Safari tents, 3 Deluxe Air- Conditioned cottages, 4 Premier Air-Conditioned Rooms and a spacious family suite. We have a pool villa coming up very soon.

Royal Tiger Resort - Kanha National Park

Accommodation

The beautiful Royal Tiger Resort is tastefully spread over an area of 6 acres in the buffer zone of the Kanha National Park. This 3-star property is ideally located very close to the entrance of the park at Mukki. A dense forest of mature sal trees surrounds this resort consisting of eighteen excellent suites. These suites are thoughtfully distributed around the resort in clusters of 2 and 4 to cater to different size groups.

Tiger Trails Resort - Bandhavgarh National Park

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The resort is a short drive from the park. It has 12 rooms with all the modern amenities. From the resort you can see the Bandhavgarh fort…

Reserves

Bandhavgarh National Park

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The Bandhavgarh National Park is located within the district of Sahdol in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This forest nestled among the Vindhya hills came into existence in 1968 when the Maharaja of Rewa handed over the area to the government for it's formation. At the time when it was handed over to the government, the fauna was not faring too well due to the difficulty in the control of poaching. Once this became a protected area, the animal population took a drastic turn and began to flourish.

Kanha National Park

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Kanha has a huge variety of birds for birdwatchers to see. Over 300 different species have been reported here. Some of the more interesting ones for bird lovers to look out for are Pied or Marsh Harriers, Red Jungle Fowls, Painted Spur Fowls, Lesser Whistling Teals, Common Teals, Pintails, Cotton Teals, Shovelers, Peafowls, Indian Rollers, Racket Tailed Drongos, Red Wattled Lapwings, Brown Fish Owls, Nightjars, Laggers, Shaheen Falcons, Kestrels, Barn Owls, White Eyed Buzzards, Black Winged Kites, Shikras, Crested Serpent Eagles, Crested Honey Buzzards, Yellow Wattled Lapwings, Green Bee-eaters, Doves, Black Vultures, Scavenger Vultures, Long Billed Vultures, White backed Vultures, gray Hornbills, Tree Pies, Mynahs, Munias, Bushchats, Warblers, Flycatchers, Babblers, Woodpeckers, Black Headed Orioles, Golden Orioles, Paradise Flycatchers, Pied Malabar Hornbills, Indian Pittas, Indian Stone Curlews, Common Gray Partridges, Painted Partridges, Green Pigeons, Black Ibis, White Necked Storks, Lesser Adjutant Storks, White breasted Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, Egrets and Cormorants.

Karera Sanctury and Madhav National Park

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The thorny open country of the Karera Sanctuary houses the haughty Great Indian Bustard and the equally snooty blackbuck. In stunning contrast is the nearby rich habitat of Madhav National Park. Let us explore these twin sanctuaries of wildlife…

Madhav National Park

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Madhav National Park is equally rich in avifauna. The artificial lake, Chandpatha, is the winter home of migratory geese, pochard, pintail, teal, mallard and gadwall. A good site for bird watching is where the forest track crosses the rocky stream that flows from the waste weir. Species that frequent this spot are red-wattled lapwing, large pied wagtail, Indian pond heron and white-breasted kingfisher. The park's avifauna also includes the cormorant, painted stork, white ibis, laggar falcon, purple sunbird, Asian paradise flycatcher and golden oriole…

National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary

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The large area of National Chambal park is shared by the three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. This sanctuary is famous for the rare gangetic dolphin.