Weekending with Storks at Kulik Bird Sanctuary

Weekending with Storks at Kulik Bird Sanctuary
Asian Open Billed Storks at the sanctuary, Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Home to hundreds of Asian Open Billed Storks, this is one place you must visit during the monsoon

Uttara Gangopadhyay
June 07 , 2021
07 Min Read

From our perch in the watchtower, we could see most of the birds dividing their time between prodigious housekeeping and amorous antics. While most watched in awe, a few cameras clicked unceasingly, catching them in flight, landing on the branches, busy at nests. But the birds were indifferent to our curious glances. It was as if they knew they had a calendar cycle to follow. They were the monsoon migrants.

The Asian Open Billed Stork gets its name from the gap between the mandiblesLocated in the Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal, on the busy north-south National Highway number 12 (formerly NH 34), is Raiganj town, an important commercial and transportation hub. Lying on its outskirts is the Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary, popularly known as Kulik Bird Sanctuary. Winding around the Kulik River, the sanctuary occupies 1.30 square km. While the sanctuary can be visited round the year, the best time to visit is during the monsoon. This is the time when the monsoon migrants, especially hundreds of Asian Open Billed storks, arrive to mate and breed. The stork is easily identified by its open beak – a hollow between the two mandibles which helps them grasp their main food, snails.

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Although, the nesting is dependent on the monsoon, usually the nesting time is from July to August while eggs are laid between August and September.  If you are here in October and November, you are likely to see the parents imparting flight training to the young ones. The birds usually fly away by December-January. However, it has also been observed that birds may not breed during a drought situation.

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Other local migratory birds which can be seen during this time are little cormorant, egrets and herons. Resident birds, according to the forest department, include flycatchers, kites, owls, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and drongos.

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A combination of walks along the well-laid out paths with breaks at the watchtowers is the best way to see the sanctuary. The paths cut through forests of Jarul, Kadam Arjun and other trees. The Kulik River and several canals wind through the forest. You may find the storks and other birds while walking these riverside paths. It is best to leave them alone.

ReadNational Parks In India That Stay Open During The Monsoon

There are several watchtowers inside the forest and the heronries are best seen from here. The watchtower at the entrance has a nature interpretation centre. If you are keen to watch bats, you may do so from a watchtower erected near a huge colony.

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The sanctuary also has an animal enclosure (with a lone Nilgai bull as a resident), an aviary, a turtle pond and an aquarium (you have to leave your shoes behind to enter this air-conditioned enclosure).

Interestingly, if you are staying at the state-run tourist lodge near the sanctuary, you are likely to find the birds nesting in the trees around the building too.

The Information 
The nearest airport is Bagdogra, about 155km away by road. Kolkata is about 455km away. You may also avail the Kolkata/Howrah-Radhikapur Special Train (when operational). Budget travellers can take an overnight train both ways and spend the day exploring the sanctuary. The sanctuary remains open from 10am to 5pm. Ticketed entry. Check at the ticket counter for a guide should you need one. Carry drinking water. You may carry some snacks but do not litter.

Accommodation is limited. West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd runs Dinantey Tourist Lodge (Tel: 91- 9733008791, email: tourismcentrekolkata@gmail.com); booking has to be made online here. They have an attached restaurant. A few private hotels can be found in Raiganj town.

Note: With state governments and local administration implementing pandemic containment regulations from time to time do check with state tourism office before planning

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