Every year, as winter creeps in, the demoiselle cranes come to Kinchan. This hamlet (also called Khichan), in West Rajasthan, is their chosen retreat from the cold of distant Siberia. They come with graceful flapping wings, eagerly crowding into the special feeding area that the villagers have set up for them.
The September skies of Khichan, a sleepy village in north-west India in State of Rajasthan, fill with the noisy arrival of thousands of demoiselle cranes. These winged visitors transform the nondescript town into one of the most favoured bird-watching destinations in the country. More than 15,000 of these migratory birds, the smallest of the cranes, descend on Khichan every winter, attracting bird lovers, photographers and tourists from both India and abroad.
The demoiselle cranes had been visiting for a while, and then, the villagers realised that there was a decline in numbers because of the inevitable development in the area. That is when the local Jain Samaj stepped in, funding the establishment of a dedicated feeding area, and spreading out jowar for the birds each morning.
The early birds arrive in late August and the last stragglers leave in late March, and numbers are highest in December and January. You can sit on a rooftop perch, courtesy Sev Ram Mali, self-appointed guardian of the birds, and sip on a cup of hot strong tea as you watch the birds feast.
About 35 kilometres away from Kinchan, Barsingha Villa, in Bhap, was once the ancestral home of the Barsingha family and is today a hotel. The exterior belies the beauty of the interiors, where mud-coated walls are draped with bougainvillea and the kitschy rooms with Rajasthani decorations are bright and welcoming. There are plenty of corners that invite you to relax with a book on a divan or comfortable chair, and you can use the property as a base to explore the area. Visit the salt pans that give the village its name – ‘bhap’ is a reference to the vapour that rises from the salt. Indulge in a candlelit dinner on a rooftop in the village nearby, and make a trip to Bhaaton ki Dhani, a village of once-nomadic tribals who have set up home in adobe houses. And, just by the by, Barsingha Villa is a good place to try the local food. Don’t miss Rajasthani classics like ker sangri, rabri and laal maas.
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