Uttar Pradesh: Lakh Bahosi Wildlife Sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh: Lakh Bahosi Wildlife Sanctuary
Photo Credit: S.k Gupta

This might not be one of the famous sanctuaries in India but is nonetheless a paradise for bird watchers

Lalitha Sridhar
October 01 , 2015
02 Min Read

THE WILDLIFE
It was a dedicated band of government servants and bureaucrats in Uttar Pradesh who worked to have the area around two shallow, canal-fed, saline lakes about six kilometres apart declared as the Lakh Bahosi Wildlife Sanctuary in 1988, thus turning what was once a shooting range for local zamindars into an obscure nature grail that draws dedicated wildlife enthusiasts. While jackal, nilgai, mongoose, fishing cats and some minor amphibian and reptile species are also commonly seen, Lakh Bahosi’s rich sightings of birds include residents like open-billed storks, white-breasted kingfishers, white ibises, sarus cranes, egrets and herons, and significant migrants from elsewhere, like pelicans, bar-headed and greylag geese, as well as less exalted visitors like pintails, spotbills and red-crested pochards. On a good day, you’ll also find spotted eagles, darters, black-winged stilts, Eurasian hoopoes (their numbers, however, are declining, sadly), Indian rollers, brahminy kites, purple moorhens, black redstarts, ruddy shelducks, and ashy-crowned sparrow larks. The larks, in particular, have a pretty dramatic mating display: watch as they plunge vertically down from a height in order to draw the attention of their mate.

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LOCATION AND HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT
Visitors to Lakh Bahosi Wildlife Sanctuary will have to take a cab from Lucknow (which is 165km away), the nearest airport, or Kanpur (112km/2.5 hrs via SH68) or Kannauj (38km/1hr via NH91A), the railway stations that are the closest to Lakh Bahosi on the main line. The most convenient place to stay is the UP Tourist Rest House at Kannauj, which has AC double rooms and a restaurant. The forest rest house within the sanctuary doesn’t have electricity, and is almost always closed, and there’s no food available in the vicinity, not even at small dhabas. So it makes eminent sense to carry some basic supplies. Do ask if Karan Singh is around—his knowledge of the sanctuary is legendary, and he has to count among the most dedicated and well-informed forest department employees in India.

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SPECIAL HIGHLIGHTS
One of India’s larger bird sanctuaries (it’s on the government’s National Wetland Conservation Programme and the BNHS list of Important Bird Areas), the Lakh Bahosi sprawls over 80 sq km and includes a portion of the Upper Ganges Canal. The twin jheels, which are surrounded by emerald green agricultural fields, attract over 60,000 birds in 150 local and migrant species on any given day during the winter: migratory birds begin arriving from afar by November and leave around March. Lakh Bahosi has an interpretation centre, observation gazebos, a watch tower, and a 10km walkway around the Bahosi lake, which offers a fine vantage for birdwatching. Don’t miss the heronries on the babul trees.


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Bingo. I spotted your article and could not resist the following This bird sanctuary is situated about 35 km from the city of Kannauj and can be reached from Lucknow via Lucknow Agra Express way in just a few hours. The distance by road is about 150 km. The approach from Delhi is via the Yamuna Express way and then the Lucknow Agra Express way. The distance is 407 km and travel time about six hours. The place to stay overnight is the tourist guest house in Kannauj and also a private hotel of reasonable standards. In UP it is one of the most popular destinations for the bird watchers. Lakh and Bahosi are two villages, a few kilometres apart, and each has one large lake. So there are two lakes , separated by a short distance. While Bahosi Lake is a little larger, the Lakh Lake has a large mound on its banks, and I believe some old building are buried under the rubble. It has never been excavated. Let us have a glimpse at a brief history as to how the bird sanctuary came into existence. In the winters of 1985, I had gone on a tour of this area, on the request of the local MLA Kunwar Yogendra Singh. Local forest ranger was also with me. We were surprised to see so many birds of different type that we were filled with the idea of saving the birds from poachers and create a protracted area for the birds. We carried out the land survey, and put the forest and revenue departments together, transferred the wet land to the forest department. Since most of the wet land had been allotted to the landless, I had to grant alternative land to the cultivators in the adjoining areas. As the land is saline, a scheme of land development was implemented to improve the quality of the soil. The soil conservation department included this area under their annual plan. . 80 sq km area around the lake was found to be the feeding ground of the bir by the winter season avian visitors. But all this land could not be handed over to the forest department, as it had human population and their cultivated fields. There was some kind of symbiosis between the birds and the cultivators. The birds were feeding off the fields, but their droppings were improving the soil for them. So we decided to retain their relationship. Sri R. S Bhadauaria, the then chief of wild life department, came in strong support of this concept. Thus an area of 80 sqkm was declared as no shooting range, and the core area of the lakes was handed over to the forest department. There was to be no interference with birds activities in this area and fishing was banned. Still , a small patch of land , right in the middle of Bahosi lake remained with the cultivators, and the birds did not seem to mind it. An old inspection house, construction date 1908, was taken over and converted into and inspection hut. It was decorated with the photographs of local birds. The area around this inspection house was saline, and had a hard pan cake under the soil. So holes had to be dug up, to ensure that the hardy plants like bougainvillea survive. The source of water to the lakes was the irrigation canal, near by and the land had become saline due to water seepage, a common phenomenon. But salt lakes is what some birds and ducks like! The sanctuary was finally in inaugurated in July 1988, before I moved on to another posting. It is a pleasure to see that the sanctuary is now one of the most popular ones in UP. However, the variety and the number of birds seems to be going down, and this a challenge for the forest department. Kishore Kumar Sinha IAS R UP Cadre. Ex collector of Farukhabad District 1985-1988
Kishore Kumar Sinha January 30 , 2019

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