Sunday, Dec 04, 2022
×
Outlook.com
×

Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary: Weekending With Birds

Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary: Weekending With Birds

This sanctuary in West Bengal is good for observing and photographing migrant Asian Open Billed Storks and other birds during the monsoon

Catch the Asian Open Billed Storks at Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary
Catch the Asian Open Billed Storks at Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary Shutterstock.com

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.

Located 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.

The hollow between the mandibles helps the birds grasp their main food, snails
The hollow between the mandibles helps the birds grasp their main food, snails Shutterstock.com

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.

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 flycatcher, kite, owl, woodpecker, kingfisher, drongo, etc.

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.

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.

Information The nearest airport is Bagdogra, about 155km away by road. Kolkata is about 455km away.  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.

The best place to stay is Dinantey Tourism Property operated by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation.

Raiganj is known for its aromatic Tulaipanji rice, which got the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2017.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement