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Demoiselle Cranes of Keechen, Rajasthan
Demoiselle cranes are the smallest of the crane species. Standing 3 feet tall, they weigh approximately 4-7 pounds with no atypical distinguishing feature about them except for their unmistakable call. Loud, trumpeting, and higher pitched than the common crane, their conversations can be heard long before you can see them. The cranes begin their winter migration between August and September. It’s an arduous task which involves flying at altitudes as high as 26,000 ft in order to cross from Northern China/Southern Russia over the Himalayan mountains to the grasslands of India. Many die from fatigue & hunger or at the predation of eagles. Blink and you’ll miss the small outpost of Phalodi, halfway between Jaisalmer and Bikaner. Many tourists may only look at this dusty two-horse desert town as a refueling stop; But in recent years, as tourism continues to spread across the outer rim of Rajasthan, a local ritual in the nearby village of Keechen has attracted a lot of attention. It’s this area where, at last count, nearly 7,000 demoiselle cranes come to winter.
For more than 150 years the cranes have reportedly been coming to Kitchen. Why? Villagers spread grain on the fields for the birds. In fact, feeding of the birds is a routine process, twice a day at 6:30 and 3:30 every day. The birds are in full force at these times, yet it’s still possible to see those that linger in-between feedings. A small seating platform has been constructed just steps from the reservoir’s edge. From here, 180º views of the birds in the natural landscape is easily seen.
Tourists can find the feeding grounds four km off the main road. A freshly paved concrete road brings vehicles within steps of the small sand dunes marking the embankment of the water reservoir. HEADS UP: Before travelers can disembark from their vehicle, local kids begin an aggravating process of begging for money. No tricks performed, no homemade products to sell, these villager children walk with no shame as their outstretched hands ask for Rs 10. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end at the small parking lot. Persistence must have proven to be successful as the kids follow tourists ad Museums around the reservoir.
Plan on a minimum of 30 minutes to view the birds. This is a great chance to stretch tired legs, grab fresh air, and break out the camera.