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The short spell of winter in Kolkata - does not give much opportunity for birding, especially of migratory birds. So, wrap up your little ones, head to the below destinations, and watch the innocent faces, flushed with bewilderment at the beautiful creatures they will see.
Here is our list of places to go bird watching with your child.
Birdwatching on a boat in the middle of Oxbow lake is an unforgettable experience. The huge lake-island Chupi-r Char, as it is locally called, was created when the river Bhagirathi changed its course over time. This unique eco-system where tall grasses and shrubs grow in abundance, make it a safe haven migratory birds. You can find birds here that have flown in from the Himalayas, Africa and Siberia. There are thousands of Lesser Whistling Teals, Cormorants, Asian Open Bills, Storks, Bonze Winged Jacanas, Red Crested Pochards, Common Coots, Purple Moorhens, Green Bee Eaters, Ibis, Drongos, Little Swallows, Pond Herons
1. Hire a boat: Hiring a medium size boat, that can carry eight people, costs you 150/- per hour. It takes around 3-4 hours to cover the lake.
2. Another interesting route is to take a boat on the river, and flow downstream . Contact Sanjay (9564 64 26 94), the local guide, for a conducted tour. As birds are best viewed during the early morning and afternoons, you might prefer a night stay. He can arrange a savoury local-lunch for you and your night stay there.
3.Do not forget to collect freshly made ‘Nolen Gur’ and Khejur-Patali (Palm jaggery) from the local market.
Transportation: Hop in a Katwa-local from Howrah Station to Purbasthali, in Burdwan. Then take a van-rickshaw or ‘Toto’ up to Chupi-Char Watch tower. From there hire a boat to immerse in natural beauty.
This sleepy little village near Dankuni, has become a popular hotspot of bird watching in greater Kolkata. Here you will find a wide array of species like the common rosefinch, Indian silverbill, yellow-bellied prinia, pied harrier, black-shouldered kite in good numbers. The extended paddy fields make for a beautiful background for bird-photography.
Mycity4kids tip: Look for Mr Radhanath Polle, an intensely knowledgeable ornithologist of the area.
Transportation: Reach Uttar Para railway-station then take an auto up to Raghunathpur bazar and walk for ten minutes to reach the place. Or drive to the Delhi Road off the Durgapur Expressway. From the first cross road turn right. Turn left from Raghunathpur into the village of Boshipota.
This extensive wetland is an Oasis for bird-lovers, and hosts around 5000 plus water birds during winters. Don’t miss the Fulvous Whistling duck and Swinhoe’s Snipe among the regulars like Northern pintail, Gadwall, Lesser whistling Teal, Comb duck and Baikal Teal which flock in good number here!
Transportation: The nearest rail station is Santragachi Junction or easily reachable from Dankuni Flyover.
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden
Commonly known as the Shibpur Botanical Garden, this birding location in Howrah, is on the edge of Hooghly River. It is a 228 years old sprawling Garden, founded in British era, which provides ample opportunity of bird watching. The Stork-billed Kingfisher, Rufous Woodpecker, Brown Hawk Owl, Greenish and Yellow-browned Warbler, Lineated Barbet, Booted Eagle and Black-naped Oriole can be spotted here. If you are lucky, you can also spot some of the rarest species of birds here, like the Black-capped Kingfisher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red-breasted Parakeet and the Eurasian Cuckoo.
Transportation: The nearest railway station is Howrah to reach the spot. You could also avail the ferry from Bichali Ghat of Metiaburuj or take a metered taxi / drive across Vidyasagar Bridge and take the Botanical Garden Exit.
This grassland, behind the Indian Institute of Management, is a breeding ground of various birds like the Black-breasted weaver, Bengal Bushlark, Black and Yellow Bittern, Watercock, Oriental Skylark, White-eyed Buzzard, Purple Swamp hen, Black-shouldered Kite and Zitting Cisticola. This is again another popular place for bird-watchers.
Transportation: Plenty of busses to and from Joka (located in South 24 Parganas).
This desolate twenty bigha of forest land, home once, to the Bengal Immunity factory, now houses various Woodpecker, Storks, Kingfishers, Migratory birds and Cormorants . Baranagar has become a vital nestling ground for water-birds.
Transportation: On B.T Road at Tobin Road bus stop take an auto-rickshaw up to Bengal Immunity Compound.
The lush green foliage adjacent to The Ganges has created a number of Nature Parks here. You will find the Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker nestling here.
Transportation: The place is in North 24 Parganas. Avail a train from Sealdah to Barackpore or any bus from Shyambazar going towards B. T Road upto Talpukur Stop. And from there catch a rickshaw to take you to the Nature Parks.
Chintamoni Kar Bird Sanctuary (CKBS)
This relatively small bird haven (17 acres) is known locally as Kayal-er Bagan. Here, a trail will lead you through a green canopy around the park and give a glimpse of a variety of birds, butterflies, ferns and fauna. Visit between October to February. Be patient and you will spot birds like Shikra, Tickell’s Thrush, Eurasian Woodcock, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Black Hooded Oriole, Chestnut Trailed Sterling among many others.
Transportation: Around 10 kms. From Ruby General Hospital, it is well connected by road. One may take either Bus or Auto from Garia/ E. Bypass and get down at Rathtala.
Many birdwatchers often call this CKBS II. This place is for serious Bird enthusiasts as reaching the place requires plenty of walking. The veteran nature enthusiast Mr. Asit Banerjee’s residence is worth visiting here for its mini-sanctuary status.
Transportation:Shyamkhola is 2km. walk from Kalitola, Narendrapur.
Nalban Fishery Complex
The largest wetland at the northeastern part of the city under the Fisheries Department of West Bengal, hosts a wide variety of water birds including Great-Intermediate Egret, Pond Heron and Purple and Grey Heron, Rusty Rumped Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warblers, Watercock, Common Shelduck, Black-Headed Gulls, Rubythoat, Grey-Headed Lapwing.
Transportation: Nalban Fisheries Complex starts at the border of Saltlake Technological Park. This part of the city is easily accessible by any public transport. Otherwise, one can drive straight upto the end of the technological park and the water body is right at the approach road. Get down and walk upto the fish tanks. Another pristine approach is from near the water tank to the fisheries office.
Kolkata’s very own Dhakuria lake is gaining prominence for being the host of new feathery visitors flying hundreds of miles from the Himalayas to this chaotic concrete city. The Asian Subtail and Slaty-Black Flycatcher are the most uncommon visitors of late. Catch a glimpse of innumerable Kingfishers, Drongos, Waterhen, Woodpeckers, Barbets and diminishing Painted Stork among other fascinating water birds.
Bird watching is a tough job! It requires discipline, perseverance and hard work, three important elements that build the strong character.Introducing this educational hobby during the formative years ofchildren helps them slowly inculcate concentration and observation skills.
Tips for a little Birdwatcher:-
1. Wake-up Sleepy baby – Sun-rise and Sun-Down are great for Bird-watching.
2. Do the Homework - try to recognise your neighbourhood birds and identify whether it is a male or female.
3. Carry a good pair of Binoculars, a Hat and Sun-screen in your bag.
4. Get A notebook to keep records
5. An illustrated field guide for reference to identify birds.
6. Wear Neutral Colours, bright colours distract birds.
7. Join a local Bird watching troupe.
8. Drink plenty of water while on a field trip and throw your snack’s wrappings into the litter-bins only.
9. Finally, Shhhhhh!!!!...Don’t scare the birds…Enjoy!!