Lumbini in Nepal is a Buddhist pilgrimage site, famous for being the place where the Buddha is supposed to have been born. It is considered the source of peace and inspiration by many, and a number of nations have built monasteries there.

A Sarus crane nesting over its egg [image by: Manoj Paudel]

But it was another birth that gave new joy in Lumbini. Near the Vietnamese monastery the elegant Sarus cranes were roaming around a small pond. The rare birds were collecting tiny dry branches from the bush and other essentials for making the nest to hatch their eggs.

Even as it lowers itself over the egg, the Sarus is a graceful creature [image by: Manoj Paudel]

Careful to not startle them, I took photographs through a long-distance zoom lens, staying a substantial distance away, over 150 yards. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the cycle from breeding, dropping the eggs, hatching them, and watching the chicks take flight. The planning took great effort, and was only possible with the assistance of the caretakers.

A parent bird standing guard [image by: Manoj Paudel]

The cranes created a nest almost half an hour walking distance from the pond. I visited at least once a week, sometimes twice. After three weeks the crane only dropped one egg. It took 37 days for the first chick to hatch from an egg. It took a few days for the chick to start walking, and guided and protected by its parents it mimicked their role, and was soon a confident offspring ready for the world.

The little hatchling emerges [image by: Manoj Paudel]

Hem Sagar Baral, a Nepali ornithologist estimated that there are more than five hundred cranes found in the country. Of these, more than four hundred are found in the district of Rupandehi. Due to the fall in numbers, the bird was classified as “rare” in 2000.

Both parents feeding their child [image by: Manoj Paudel]

The hatchling learn to eat besides its parents [image by: Manoj Paudel]

As the child grows, the parents help it navigate the environment [image by: Manoj Paudel]

The baby Sarus is almost ready to take its first flight [image by: Manoj Paudel]

Disclaimer: As stated in the piece, these photographs were taken from a substantial distance from the nest and chicks. Disturbing nest at an early stage is bad for the development of young birds; except for research, nest and chick photography should not be attempted.

This article was first published in December 2019.

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