Little Known Destinations

Aravali Biodiversity Park

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 25, 2007

 
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Nature does not protest, it adapts!







Nature does not protest, it adapts!

The Delhi bird Group organized a Sunday morning walk in the Aravali Biodiversity Park, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. Here are some thoughts from the walk.

The Aravali Bio diversity Park is formed out of degraded land reclaimed from the business house of Scindias who had a mining lease for the 2.3 sq.km area. This means that anything that can be plundered out of the forest/earth including mica, sand and water have all been taken out.

So instead of the sprawling forest the ridge was once, we have land pockmarked by pits and hillocks with "Vilayati Keekar" growing all over, thanks to the areal seeding done by the forest department.

2004- Enter the DDA and Delhi University. The pits are cemented (with biodegradable slurry) to encourage rainwater retention. Native trees are planted under a systematic planting program to slowly remove the "Vilayati Keekar", which being an exotic species do not harbour native insects or birds.

June 2007 - A group of nature lovers take a walk in the Park. Dr. M.Shah Hussain along with Dr.Yasir lead the walk.

Coppersmith! little cormorant in flight! Koyal! Parakeets! The birders are excited at almost every turn.

As we walked on, Indian Robin, Red Vented Bulbul, White Eared Bulbul, Purple sunbird, common Mynas, Wren Warbler and some flying Black kites become common sightings during the trail. Plain tiger butterflies and blue pansy flitted about in the area
where native vegetation has started taking root.

At least a couple of peacocks showed up close; though the morning was pierced by their calls often.

Every now and and then a thundering sound of planes taking off from the airport nearby kept reminding us we are not far from an international airport.

As we reached the periphery of the park, a bevy of peahens took off into the air. Monsoon is expected in a week, and all of them must be having eggs about to be hatched or just hatched chicks. A group of over 30 walkers would have set the alarm calls for them. They have chosen the nursery space carefully-slightly higher ground with thick bushes so that rainwater will not harm them.

Do peahens also tend to remain close to each other while raising the young? So that they can forage by turn may be? Do peahen mothers care for peachicks not their own?

At the end of the walk, one was amazed at the manner in which nature adapted. The mining pits are now small water holes attracting water cocks and cormorants-Cementing the areas with bio degradable materials -the little bit of egging on by the CEMDE, Delhi University (Center for Environment Management & Degraded Ecosystem), is rejuvenating the forest.

Selective planting of native species like Berry, Jamun,Khiorni, Guava and Anar trees etc. are automatically collecting around them the natural biotic creatures-birds, butterflies, ferrals.

Nature does not protest but adapts!

Photographs in order of appearing
1.The soil is rich in Mica
2.Walkers in single file
3.Dr. Husain
4.Bird watcher
5. Natural lake

See photographs of som eof the birds and butterflies at DelhiBird
by clicking here
http://tinyurl.com/2t5mfy
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Little Known Destinations

Chintpurni, Dharamshala, Pragpur

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 19, 2007

 
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Chintpurni, Dharamshala, Pragpur, April, 2007 

-Partha Praim Pal

 

It has been long time since we both (Kirti and myself) took a break from Delhi on religious reasons . As some of you are aware we had been blessed by a daughter some five months back – we undertook a visit to Chintpurni, Chamunda, Kangra Devi and Jwala ji along with Vanya (our daughter).

We reached Chintpurni on 14th evening. Next morning I woke up very early more due to people’s voice walking in the street – All eager to do a darshan early morning being Basaikhi weekend .Not expecting any bird life in that cacophony of people ,Radio, Stereo and of course Mandir mike – I moved out of the Dharamshala with heavy feet and heart with my Binoculars hanging on my neck .

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Just 200 mtrs from the Dharamshala, I hit upon a dirt road, which took me to semi jungle kind of a habitat, which lifted my spirit. There was a sudden expectancy in the air . Nearly 15 pairs of Asian paradise flycatcher with their long white tail fleeting around with few just couple of meters away.  A pair of Blue rock thrush, Flocks of Plum headed Parakeet and Common Rose finches, Ten odd golden orioles and quite a few more species were sighted within span of hour. Only regret being I didn’t listen to Kirti’s advice of carrying the camera for the walk.

 

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16th afternoon we reached Paragpur our destination for next two days. We stayed in a resort called “Judge’s Court” basically a Pre independence Haveli turned into Welcome heritage resort . As expected luxury at its best mixed with old royal eloquence. Paradise flycatcher once again was the highlight of the little birding I did around the property, not to miss the Grey Hornbill’s fight for nest with the Rose ringed parakeet who ultimately lost all the three juveniles to aggressive Hornbill, omnipresent brown headed, Blue throated barbet, tiptoeing Grey wagtail, various warblers, various Myna & starlings,  huge flocks of Common Rose finches etc.

 

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17th was again an out and out  religious day with three of us visiting the balance temples as mentioned above.  Except an odd sighting of Egyptian vulture and Himalayan Griffon at Kangra fort area, no birding.   Down with a severe headache due to excessive heat,  I didn’t have the strength to do any birding that day , though we reached the hotel by 5pm.
18th morning was the D day marked for my morning birding at Maharana Pratap Sagar wetland which is 20 odd kms from the hotel.  Armed with my camera and binoculars ably supported by driver Daler Singh we reached the destination early morning.  Initial scanning of the area was very disappointing though villagers informed us in advance that all migratory ducks have flown back.

I was awe struck by the huge water body. Initial disappointment gave away to some relief when I saw a Little Ringed plover feeding at the edge of the water.

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Gradually one after the other species came tumbling out as if they were hidden in some closet – only favouring the brave who can fight the ever rising temperature which was getting unbearable with every minute, though cold draft from the Sagar did help me to stay there for nearly two hours . Whether it was terns, wagtails, larks, pipits, Blue tailed Beeaters, Bar headed geese,  First winter Palas Gull, Eurasion wigeon, Small pratincole, Lapwings and of course my only two lifer of the trip Richard Pipit and Eurasian Skylark,  I enjoyed every bit of the two hour of birding.
 I cannot wait to visit the birding paradise again. 
(Text and photographs--Partha Pratim Pal )

Little Known Destinations

5 Guys, a Black Scorpio, and a place called Doddamakkali

Posted by Bijesh on April 30, 2007

 
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Distance from Bangalore: 125 Kms
Suitable for: A weekend outing close to nature.
Activities: Joy fishing, Coracle ride, River side / Mountain trekking.

One thing which stands vivid in your memory above all will be the hospitality of the staff. Kudos to the team…

So what if it’s not the season time…so what if the greenery has given ways to the golden dry color spread across….so what if the sun was brawny enough to boil the cauvery water…WE HAD A BLASTING TIME…..

With no mobile phones or televisions to bother you, it’s an absolute cutoff from the outside world. (Infact, to know who won the world cup cricket, we had to wait and ask a visitor who checked in the next day.).Winding road which goes down to the JLR resort is an attraction by itself. We, 5 guys in a black Scorpio, reached the place by 1.30 Afternoon. Major attraction of this place is off course fishing. Along with professional anglers, even the amateurs can try their luck in joy fishing. Since it’s the “catch and release” policy which is followed, no worries on damaging the eco system of the river too…

Coracle ride on cauvery is not to be missed. Go round and round and click as much photos as you can…. Be sure you are abiding to the rules and regulations. Major one being the usage of life jackets which are provided by JLR. Staff will not let you in to the water with out the same.

Let me upload few pics for you all.

A word of caution: It’s a tough n rough terrain, so if you are off to this place in your “lovely lady” kinda vehicle, you’re gonna regret. Road will budge only in front of toughies like a Scorpio or a Jeep. Especially the last few kilometers of downhill windings.

 

Little Known Destinations

Wayanad

Posted by Bijesh on April 13, 2007

 
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wayanad







Unruffled nature…… Undisturbed peace of mind……Untouched natural beauty...If this is what you are searching for to have an ideal breakaway from the normal frantic schedules….Then here it is….. It’s Wayanad for you.

We were 5 guys in the herd and the intension was to hit the road to a serene world. And we found one…. Though little bit skeptical bout going in to the forest during off season, we decided to take a chance. And believe me; we never regretted the decision through out the journey.


We started from Bangalore by 6.30AM in a Silver Tavera and yes the journey was fun (With the new Bangalore Mysore highway in place, we saved few hours also.).Good part of the journey was that on the way we had to cross Bandipur forest . Drizzle added to the fun as we stopped on the way to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, And we were really hoping to see a tusker. But naaaah…It was just silent wilderness.

After crossing the border to Kerala, after a few stretches of winding roads which deserves a special mention for the quality and maintenance, we saw the board on the left side of the road which read Jungle Park resort.

We took the kachha road and as we moved on, on either sides we could see only greenery, greenery of the forest with leaves drenched in the rain. Cool breeze running allover gave us a boost both for our tired body n soul. As we moved on, we could see a gushing stream right in front, crossing the so called kachha road.

Driver was hesitant but took the vehicle ahead through the same. We stopped the vehicle and had a nice time splashing the cold water on our face n body. We took some photographs and again started moving towards our destination, Jungle park resorts.

We were surprised to see the mist which covered the entire visibility at times. We stopped again to take photographs of the mystique nature and then moved on to reach Jungle part resort by 11 O Clock. Even at that time the fog was pretty strong in the jungle and it was marvelous to see huge trees in the background with misty fog all over the place.














We were welcomed by hot cup of Chai by the caring staff and the cottage key was handed over। Our cottage was slightly far from the main building, inside the forest, which added to the thrill n fun। We became nomadic inside the forest with our camera and the handy cam, pretty much nothing to do other than capturing the beauty of nature to the maximum।

After a good homely lunch, we again moved out, this time with a guide, deep into the jungle. Only issue was the Leaches all over as it was rainy season, but with the after shave lotions and deo sprays, we won over the leaches.

Though we had plans of visiting all the tourist spots nearby, like the pakshipathalam and bhoothathaankettu, we decided not to move out anywhere and to be inside the jungle only for the whole day. 120 Feet tall treetop house built for tourist by jungle Park resorts was a major attraction

No words can explain the raw beauty of the jungle in Wayanad and we went on clicking our cameras till the evening.

At night after the dinner, we had a nice time inside the cottage where the power supply stops at 10.30PM. Being in the middle of the jungle with no telephones or televisions to distract was an experience by itself.
The next day we packed our bags to the next destination Mysore। The beauty of the Wayanad forest will remain ever green within our hearts and hey, we recommend this wonderland for all you jungle lovers. Be there, experience and then you will know what I meant. Hope these few photographs will help you in imagining at least 10% of the fun n frolic we had during our stay.

Little Known Destinations

The Frog Temple at Oyal and SArus Congregration

Posted by Vikrant Nath on March 14, 2007

 
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 *BACKGROUND*

It was but the Fifth Day of the Seventh Year of the Third Millennium. The bright sun on a cold and windy winter morning was divine. The past fortnight at Dudhwa National Park had been completely packed and hectic. And as I drove past the sunny Lakhimpur town, National Environment Science Camp 2006-07 was finally over. Karavan Heritage and Nature Society had hosted this Camp for several school students from all over the country. The Camp had been a resounding success.

* Just around twelve kilometers from Lakhimpur, en route to Sitapur, lies the village of Mohamdabad. It was here at the jheel near this village that I sighted this huge congregation of Sarus Cranes. I The Sarus is one of the most enchanting sights of the countryside. A fleeting moment of a real life experience of the wild transcends endless hours of the best wildlife movies or watching animals in captivity. And if you have ever seen the Sarus dance during their courtship, believe me; your life has been worth living. I counted around 9 pairs that day.  I bid farewell to my feathered pals and set off with a resolution that I shall be back here very soon.

*VISITING THE WETLAND ONCE AGAIN* 8:00 AM. 16^th February 2007. The meter gauge passenger train is chugging past the beautiful railway station of Oel. This place is unbelievable.  It evokes the romanticism and innocence of a lost age. 

*NARMADESHWAR SHIV TEMPLE AT OEL* I begin my brief trek to the Narmadeshwar Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the auspicious occasion of Shivratri today.  The temple, popularly referred to the as the Medhak Mandir (Frog Temple), stirred my imagination a few years ago, when a friend told me about it. I catch a glimpse of the huge dome shaped roof of the temple. It seems quite impressive. I soon reach the gates of the temple. The beauty of earthy brown color of the brick temple is unmatched even by marble or red sandstone. A small but devout crowd has gathered for worship. I, too, collect a pooja ki thali and step in the temple compound. This temple is awe-striking. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful and possibly one of the oldest living extant temples in Uttar Pradesh. I have seen far more impressive temples than this. But this temple has a unique identity that distinguishes it from any other temple anywhere. The garb-griha (the sanctum) of the temple has been constructed over a frog shaped structure. It seems as though a frog is bearing the weight of the temple on its back. The sanctum, located at least 20 feet above the ground level, is accessed by means of steps on all four sides. . Even after many hundred years, the sanctum walls partially retain the old vibrant colors and floral designs. The devotees have thronged around the Shiva-Linga.  The place is pulsating with divine energy. The ambience is both somber and festive. After a while, I offer my obeisance to the Deity and climb down the steps of the temple. The main temple along with the four surrounding minor temples presents a grand sight. The frog structure and bas-relief sculptures upon the walls appear quite puzzling. The sculptures even though crude make an interesting study. I try to locate a spot where I can capture the beauty of the entire structure in totality. It is a futile effort. I end with many images of the temple. Full of admiration, I am eager to gather more information about its history and heritage. Luckily, I meet the Rajguru (the Royal Priest) of the temple.

*HISTORY AND HERITAGE OF THE TEMPLE*

He tells me that this temple has been built by the magnanimous Royal Family of the Oel Estate. The temple, according to him, is Four Hundred Years old. An ancestor of the Royal family found the Shiva-Ling in the holy waters of the River Narmada. It was consecrated and the temple was raised here. This temple is an invaluable possession of the Family; who refuse to part with it even in the most pressing circumstances. Another very interesting aspect, the Rajguru tells me, is that this is originally a Tantric Temple (like the famous Khajuraho temples). The sculptures on the temple represent the Tantric symbols. In fact the Frog itself is a Tantric symbol. Vedic practices have long replaced the Tantric traditions. I find all this fascinating and wonder why this great heritage is shrouded in oblivion!

VISITING THE MOHAMDABAD JHEEL AFTER A MONTH*

It takes me around half an hour to reach there to reach the jheel. There water seems to have receded somewhat. I look for exact spot where I had sighted the Sarus congregation. But this time not a single Sarus is to be seen. “Hard luck,” I mumble to myself, “perhaps I should have reached here earlier.” But I am not disappointed. I decide to wait for some more time resting underneath the roadside Arjun tree. A Collared Bush-Chat catches my attention. I like her acrobatic sorties from one reed to another. I also sight some drongos, lapwings and kingfishers. Relaxing lazily underneath a tree shade near a placid lakeside, on a nice sunny day, is a regal pleasure. I partake my share, but soon realize that I have my royal duties to attend to tomorrow. And I’d better reach the Oel railway station well in time to board the return train to Lucknow. I have hardly walked a 100 meters that I notice four large birds hovering high up in the sky. Their flight indicates that they are preparing to land. I focus my binoculars. . I am eager to see them land. With their wide wings outstretched and thin long legs pointing towards the earth, they use the air current to encircle the spot they want to land. Though high above the ground, their gradual descent has begun. The afternoon sun pinches my vision, but how can I ever forgo the sheer joy of this sight! The four paratroopers are now in descent. With every passing moment, they appear larger and larger. And then the touchdown; that is what is called perfect landing. They run a distance, strictly observing the laws of motion. The birds settle on the jheel and immediately get down to business. Of the four, one bird simply vanishes somewhere. The other three scamper for food. I shake my head in disbelief. They are Sarus!  Now I am simply thrilled. While I observe the Sarus, a few lads ferrying sugarcane on a bullock-cart observe me. They enquire about my pursuit. They tell me that their village jheel is home to many Sarus Cranes. I ask them if they can take me to the jheel.

*THE SARUS CONGREGRATION*

Yet again I savor the delights of rural India, as the bullock-cart rocks ahead to Gajnipur. Upon arrival at the village and during the walk to the jheel, I am joined by many more escorts. My escorts bombard me with a variety questions. They, finally, conclude that I am a government official making a count of the State Bird of U.P. They emphasize that I must mention Gajnipur in my report. They opine that this might help in the development of their village. Before long, I reach the edge of the village jheel. I wonder if this is the Shangri-La that the Tibetan mystics talked about. Before my mortal eyes, I behold a large congregation of Sarus, lined as though in a queue. I take a deep breath. This is no dream. A journey that began more than a month back has been fulfilled. *I count twenty-eight Sarus in the queue. Another pair is seen on another side of the jheel; that makes it thirty. Plus the four at the Mohamdabad jheel, makes it thirty-four in all. Wonderful!** * The villagers tell me that the Sarus is unmolested in this village. People respect the Sarus and do not harm the bird. I laud their attitude. They feel happy. I tell them I’ll be back. I take a final look. The grace and beauty of the birds leaves me spell bound. I retrace my steps wondering whether the Sarus can survive the rapacious encroachment of its habitat by the ever expanding sugarcane farms and sugar mills in this region.

 

Little Known Destinations

Dattatreya Ashram, Murbad

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 11, 2007

 
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Ant hill in the premises                             

 

Nature lovers’ haven in the outskirts of Mumbai

 

-S.Ananthanarayanan

 

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A short two hours drive from Mumbai takes one to Dattatreya Ashram, a dream come true of Prakash Tendulkar, mountaineer, swimmer, yoga exponent, Sanskrit scholar, nature and medicinal plant enthusiast and civil servant; and of his wife, Jyotsna, mountaineer, trekker, storehouse of Maharashtrian cuisine and folklore  and professor of Statistics in a leading Mumbai College.

 

With the help of an architect from Kalyan, Mumbai, Prakash was able to finalise the design of the ashram - the Geodesic dome, surrounded by 10 comfortable dwelling rooms, laid out in the form of a “lotus opening out”.  

At the entrance to the Ashram are a massive Mahua tree and 3 teak trees, originals of the plot before Prakash came there. Almost no tree was cut in the layout of the Ashram, but ever so many were planted!

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Over 150 types of medicinal plans thrive in the plant beds. A start had been made with 33 varieties that were already in the farm – which were identified and labeled. 

 

There are varieties of trees, there is a solar cooker,  the farm has its own cows, with calf; and Nandi the bull, till Prakash gave it away to a farmer who had lost his own. The farm also has Bambi the dog, ever ready to welcome visitors, and sundry birds, cobras, monitor lizards, rodents, insects, wild boars, rabbits, nature’s bounty!

 

There is a pebble walk, paved with pebbles collected from different rivers in India and even from the banks of Manasarovar, in Tibet. “The idea is that a walk down the pebble path can bring to the walker the benefit of visiting all the rivers and Manasarover too”, quips Prakash.  

  

Prakash and Jyotsna would love to have you over. Just drop them a line, at pstendulkar@yahoo.com. 

( Text and photographs-S.Ananthanarayanan)

Little Known Destinations

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 14, 2007

 
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Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary-Home to the Himalayan Monal

The beautiful dancing peacock has been an inspiration to all Indians to aspire for beauty and dignity. On one of my visits to Himachal Pradesh I visited the pheasantry at Sarahan where I saw the other relatives of the peacock-lesser known members of the pheasant family. The Himalayan Monal with the stern and clever look and a rainbow on its tail feathers left a lasting impression.



Both my husband and I are happiest when out in the wilderness and before long we were planning a trip to Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, in Uttaranchal India, which is the home of the Himalayan Monal.

We travelled by road, driving from Delhi to Rishikesh on the first day. After halting at Rudraprayag, we proceeded the next day to Chopta via Mandal and Gopeshwar. Once in Chopta, you already soak in the mountains of KedarNath Wildlife Sanctuary.




The forests of Kedarnath Sanctuary is the catchment area of Alaknanda River. The forests comprise a Musk Deer Sanctuary and also reserve forests where villages exist, supporting reasonable good forests where one can hear the call of the koklass pheasant and monals early in the morning. Sighting monals is not that easy as these birds are extremely shy and vary of human presence.

From Chopta you can take up the bridle path to Tungnath temple (trek/horse) –about 5 km-and you will flush monal enroute.




The peaks of Kedarnath which can be reached after a 14km trek, transport one to a heightened spiritual experience. It is no wonder that the majority of Indians who trek these mountainous routes or ride up the bridle path are seeking spiritual fulfillment. The peak “Kedarnath” is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva.




This biological reserve of Kedarnath Wildlife Sancuary is 975 Square Kilometer in area. It is home to a number of endangered animals such as Musk deer, Himalayan tahr, Serow and Pheasants. The sanctuary is part of the Garhwal Himalayas.

The vegetation is diverse and most of the forest types are sub-tropical, temperate, sub alpine and alpine. The undulating terrain ranges from about 1700’( 518m) to 22,901’(6980m).

From Tungnath you could take another bridle path to Shokharkh - a less used path in forests but lots of chances to flush monals and observe them. You will have a good sightings of kalij along the motor road above Mandal and definetly hear Koklass pheasant at Shokharkh.






Photographs by Shashi and Susan Sharma:
From top :
1. Head of Himalayan Monal Pheasant
2. Garhwal Himalayan peaks from Chopta
3. Vegetation of the sanctuary
4. Kedarnath Peaks at sunset
5. Undulating terrains which are monal habitat

(More photographs of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary appear at
"Wildscapes.net

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