Weaver birds

A flock of weaver birds in a field near Mitawali. Gwalior is a small town, surrounded by open fields threaded with little streams. An hour's drive in winter will take you into prime birding territory.


This is the report of a holiday in Gwalior in December 2012. The weather was cold and foggy, flights were delayed, and the sun would burn through the fog at around noon. Gwalior is small, one can see it all in little more than a day. However, like the rest of Madhya Pradesh, there are great things to see outside of town: the circular hillside temple of Mitawali, the superb little temple in Padawali, and the complex next to it. Orchha is within reach, barely. The infamous Chambal river is within an hour's drive. The picturesque ravines where policemen were once routinely murdered are now safe to walk through; but the most spectacular sights are the numerous winter birds that one can spot on a short boat trip on the river.

Things to do, and things to be careful about

The impressive Gwalior fort is perched on a plateau around which the town has grown. It is well worth visiting. There is an archeological museum just outside the massive fort walls, with a selection of wonderful pieces of sculpture from nearby sites. The plateau has a couple of other temples, which are intricte as jewel boxes. The palace of the Scindias, on the other hand, are worth missing, unless you are interested in the minor memorabilia. The city has a couple of other palaces and tombs, among which the most interesting is Tansen's tomb. Apart from the fort, the most interesting thing about Gwalior is the food: paratha, kachori, laddoo, and gajak.

Spectacular, partly because it was unexpected, were the temples at Mitawali, Padawali, and Bateshwar. Perched on a hill, the disk shaped temple at Mitawali is completely different from what one has seen of temple architecture previously. Little of the Padwali temple is standing, but that little is so intricately carved that it is worth visiting. The nearby complex of Bateshwar is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. This part of the Chambal river valley seems tamed now, in spite of the colourful reports about the rediscovery of the Bateshwar temples.

Closer to the river, where the famed ravines start, the villagers are rougher. There was a shoot out between villagers and police the first day we tried to visit the Chambal. Two days after that, we were not disturbed during a half kilometer walk through the ravines. However, it is entirely possible to skip this and drive to the bridge over the Chambal. Just below one can hire boats to cruise the river, now part of National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary. The river is full of gharial and alligators. There are also some dolphins, but they are hard to sight: we did not see any in a hour-long boat ride. The birding is spectacular.

It is possible to make a trip to Orchha from Gwalior. We did it, but I would not recommend it. The road is among the worst I have seen: the 100 km drive to Jhansi, which is on the way, took well over 3 hours. Orchha is spectacular, but perhaps the road from Khajuraho is better.

Gwalior Bird List

A randomly chosen field in north India in winter could be among the best birding spots in the country. Gwalior is an excellent base, because it is a small town, surrounded by well-irrigated farm land, threaded through by streams and lakes. The protected area of the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary is barely an hour away. It was a pity we were not planning on doing any birding: no field guide, just one pair of binoculars. The bird list was not bad, given that.

  1. Rose ringed parakeet
  2. Cattle egret
  3. Bronze winged Jacana
  4. Common moorhen
  5. Common coot
  6. Indian robin
  7. Spotted dove
  8. Blue rock pigeon
  9. Hoopoe
  10. Common crow
  11. Large billed crow
  12. White breasted kingfisher
  13. Babblers
  14. Pied myna
  15. Indian myna
  16. Woolly necked stork
  17. Painted stork
  18. Booted eagle
  19. Baya weaver
  20. Indian pond heron
  21. Rufous tree pie
  22. Jungle fowl
  23. Little egret
  24. Indian roller bird
  25. Yellow wagtail
  26. White cheeked bulbul
  27. Red vented bulbul
  28. Cormorant
  29. Long billed vulture
  30. Red wattled lapwing
  31. Bar headed goose
  32. Brahminy duck
  33. Indian skimmer
  34. Purple heron
  35. Gray heron
  36. Darter
  37. Spoonbill
  38. Pied kingfisher
  39. Egyptian vulture
  40. Ringed plover
  41. Sandpiper
  42. Green shanks
  43. Red shanks
  44. River lapwing
  45. Laggar falcon

© Sourendu Gupta. Inputs from Radiya Pacha Gupta. Created on 11 Jan 2013. Last modified on 26 Jan, 2013.