The start of the year 2020 brought a welcome change to my life. I shifted to Pune after spending close to four and a half years in Delhi. Having spent around 15 years in the hills (Almora), 3 years near the hills (Haldwani), 4 years in a university cum city (Pantnagar), 2 years in a peaceful campus (Bhubaneswar) and around one and a half years in a quiet village in Chhattisgarh (Kelhari), I was never prepared to live in a big, crowded metro city and all this time I could not really love the city I lived in. So, this chance to shift to Pune was the best new year gift I could have ever asked for.
(This could be a maths problem- now tell what my age is? :P)
The first trip of 2020 was not just the first one for the year, it was special because it was the first one from my new home. It was just a one-day trip with my family, but it managed to show me so many things that I had never seen before- It was in true sense, the first trip with so many “firsts”.
So, my first trip in 2020 was a short and sweet one day trip to Agnipankh Flamingo Point, Kumbhargaon and Bhuleshwar Temple.
Kumbhargaon is a small village in Bhigwan town and it is an approximately 2.5 hours drive from Pune. It is around 110 km from Pune and is situated on the Solapur -Pune Highway. Bhigwan is located at the banks of the backwaters of the Ujani Dam, which is built on river Bhima. The backwaters have converted the area to wetlands and therefore this has become the “winter vacation destination” of variety of migratory birds that come to India from Siberia and parts of Central Asia. The place is popularly called the Bhigwan Bird Sanctuary and Kumbhargaon is one of the bird-watching points of Bhigwan.
Here, I would like to mention the reason for choosing to go to the Agnipankh point particularly. While reading about the bird sanctuary, one name appeared very frequently on all blogs and reviews- Mr. Sandip Nagare. On searching more about him I found that he is a resident of Kumbhargaon and runs a nature conservation group called Agnipankh in his village. He has trained people of his village in nature conservation and has also skilled them to provide guided boat tours to the visitors, providing them a means of livelihood. He is an avid bird watcher, a photographer himself and has published a book called "Birds of Kumbhargaon". His was an inspiring story to read and I wanted to meet him and take tour with him or one of his guides.
We started from Pune at 5:45 am and reached our destination at around 8:00 am. The location of Agnipankh on Google maps is accurate and it leads to you to the right place without any hassles. We met Mr. Sandip and his team members and started the boat tour at around 8:45 am as there were around 3-4 more groups waiting before us. Mr. Sandip also runs a homestay and a small restaurant where you can have breakfast, but we chose to skip that because we wanted to complete our boat tour without the scorching sun roasting us.
Meeting such an inspirational human being for the first time becomes the one of the "firsts" of the trip :)
We were taken for the tour by Pramod Bhaiya, who has been working as a guide for 8 years now. He showed us a variety of birds like Brown headed Sea Gull , Black headed Sea Gull, Cormorant, Whiskered Tern, White Heron, Grey Heron, Black Winged Stilt, White Throated Kingfisher, Storks and then finally the GREATER FLAMINGOS :). He also told us quick facts about some of these like cormorant are used for fishing in China, inability of the whiskered tern to swim and its technique of fishing (this i actually observed later), how gulls are differentiated based on the color of their beaks, the pretty heart that comes out when flamingos face each other is actually a fight :D and many more. And all this conversation happened in Marathi mixed with Hindi, which Pramod Bhaiya called Remix.