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Posted by Vikrant Nath on February 22, 2008

 

VISIT TO THE KISHANPUR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

“Well the beautiful dream is over!” that is exactly what I felt, when I returned from back from the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. The two days at Kishanpur were like a dream, a dream come true.

My friends and I started from Lucknow on a Saturday morning at around 8 A.M.  Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary, a 4 hour drive from Lucknow, lies 13 km from Bhira town in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Spread in a compact area of 200 sq Km, it is a part of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  We reached Kishanpur Forest Rest House at around 1 P.M. The Rest House lay 6 km deep inside the Sal and Teak forest. It is an austere British style mansion with two suites, a kitchen, dining room, fireplaces, flush toilets and solar light arrangement. It was a real paradise; a place where I oft dream to live.
We had our packed lunch and were ready by 2 P.M. to visit Jhadi Tal. Jhadi is a large clear water wetland formed by the flood waters of the Sharda.  But we were told that we could only visit after 4 P.M. So, we stationed ourselves on the resting chairs under the shade of a huge Ailanthus tree. Here we spotted the grey tits, treepies, woodpeckers and black headed orioles.

By now, a Forest personnel was ready to take us to Jhadi Tal. It was a great pleasure driving on the forest dirt track canopied by the tall Sal tress. In fact, this was a real ‘long drive,’ a city dweller ‘longs’ for. With no other vehicle on the track, the smooth forest road was a treat.   We soon reached Jhadi Tal. A number of migratory birds graced the Tal.  On the far end, we could see the grasslands locally referred to as the phantas. We spotted a large herd of barasingha or swamp deer. It was, in fact, a harem dominated by a solitary handsome stud in the company of some 24 females. They were all squatting on a circular island like mound.  We made our way to the second machan. Here we saw an even bigger herd of swamp deer. I counted 47 of them. Most of the members of the herd were males. Their mighty antlers glistened brightly. Most of members were seated near the grassland. The herd was waiting for the dusk so as to proceed concealed into the jungles to munch the soft grass. This was the largest herd of any deer species ever seen by us. Infact Dudhwa Tiger reserve, particularly Jhadi Tal is the last refuge of Northern Swamp Deer.

We drove further ahead to the Sharda River. A narrow stretch of silted land separated the river from the Jhadi Tal. The river has been rapidly changing its course. It has shifted almost 4 km towards the Jhadi Tal over a short period of time. We could see a number of uprooted trees on the banks. We also spotted a lonesome croc on the far bank. We made our way back to the second machan, eager to glimpse the evening retreat of the Swamp Deer into the Sal Jungles. But, unfortunately, the forest guide insisted that he had orders to return.  It was soon nightfall. The waxing moon was shining bright. We could not see many stars in the sky. We spent some time with the Forest Staff. Around the fire, we discussed about the mystical ways of nature. The jungle was now wide awake. We heard the scary sounds of the jungle. The owls announced their presence. At close quarters, a cheetal hurled a call of alarm. The very feeling of the jungle king, the tiger, lurking around and observing you, was very exciting.

We went back to the Rest House tand had barely switched off the light, when I was awakened by some scratching noise. I fidgeted for a while wondering what it was. But the noise continued and continued, for ages it seemed. I reckoned that some people were trying to barge inside the Rest House. Fearful, I awakened my friends. We braced ourselves for an impending crisis. After a little awhile, we discovered the cause; a stout rat perched on the tube-light. He made a mess  the entire night with nibbling antics. We couldn’t catch a wink of sleep.

Next morning, armed with binoculars, bird-books and breakfast, we were ready to visit Jhadi Tal again. As we moved on the jungle track, we saw the pug marks of a tiger. He was brazing our trail. I am certain, he saw us, liked us and blest us as well.  We reached the second machan. The moment we stepped out of our vehicle, the birds started to literally run away on the waters of the Jhadi Tal. We stationed ourselves on the machan and enjoyed the bread, butter, jam and grapes and watched birds at ease and peace. It was for the first time that we saw the Red Crested Pochard. The distinct reddish pink beak was glittering. The tufted orangish hair on the head of the drake was very interesting; while his white body was a total contrast. The duck had a brown head. We also saw the dabchicks, grebes, common pochards, pintails, mallards, shovellers, river terns, the distinct white eyed pochard, spoonbills, egrets, snakebirds, herons, black necked storks, Indian Water hen, purple moor hens and the cormorants.

A herd of swamp deer, numbering around 29, was also to be seen. Some active members locked their antlers for a rather brief mock fight. Oh! And how can I ever forget the naughty, chubby otter family. We saw five of them. At one moment they were perched on the barringtonia tree just underneath the machan. And soon afterwards, they were swimming merrily and effortlessly in water. They would dive in and pop out their head with a glistening fish in their teeth. They gobbled up their catch in great gusto, gup-gup-gup. They were indeed quite an amusing sight; but they also shooed the birds away. Wherever they went the birds drifted elsewhere. After sometime the otters were back on the same tree, looking very cute in their shinning coat.

We drove towards Jhadi baba (a mighty banyan with pillared ariel roots). Soon the Sal forest gave way to a dried and burnt grassland at the other end of Jhadi Tal, Hence, we entered the dense green riparian forest, which extended till the river. I prayed to Jhadi Baba to save the precious Tal and to call us time and again to this great paradise. In this jungle of jamun, gular, khair, rohini, peepal, bargad we spotted a few chetals, hog deer and peacocks.

We returned back to the rest house at around 12:30 P.M. After lunch, we spent a leisurely afternoon napping in the winter sun on comfortable armchairs.  Around 4:30 in the evening, we drove to the Tar Kothi area with the chowkidar. The track passed through dense Sal and Teak forests. Tar Kothi was an uninteresting forest post near a bio-fenced farm; with a canal flowing nearby.  We returned back through an interesting untouched forest track and spotted a Sambar mother and child duo on the way. In the Terai jungles, the sambar deer is even rarer than the tiger. We also drove to Kishanpur Village around 2 km from guest house. This village of 500 voters is a big threat to the wildlife of the Sanctuary. The villagers have been provided with full fledged track for the movement of their vehicles. From early morning till late night, the rattling tractors and bikes ply on the road, disturbing the tiger habitat. There was not a single sighting or even a trace of wildlife in the dense forest around the track.

On our return to the Rest House, the chowkidar set the fireplace ablaze. It was a real romantic setting for us. We sat near the fireplace for long time chatting, gossiping and philosophizing. The hot food was a treat as well. The troubling rat too was absent and we could finally get some sleep. I was woken by the chital’s alarm call which was followed by the roar from the king himself. The king had come himself to greet us, but we were asleep! Well! We shouldn’t be complaining. It was our fault. We didn’t dare venture outside the Rest House. Early next morning we packed our bags and drove back to Lucknow with indelible memories of the jungles of Kishanpur.

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