Text & Photographs: Aditya Narayanan
To an avid birder like me, nothing brings more joy than discovering new and unique species of avifauna that nature holds in its arms. And to make it more interesting, the diverse and rich landscape of India has no dearth of sanctuaries and forests that provide shelter to the feathered beauties. With a constant eye for a new trail to blaze and capture some of the most beautiful birds, I often look for an opportunity to go on a birding tour. This spring, when the winter chill was fading from the northern states, I planned a trip to Nawabganj.
In case you are travelling from Lucknow to Kanpur, you can book a cab from Lucknow to Kanpur and on your way, make this an interesting pit stop, spend a couple of hours and continue on your journey. I assure you, it would worth the detour.
The sanctuary: An overview
For the uninitiated, this quiet town, about 45 KM from Lucknow, is famous for its eponymous bird sanctuary. At only an hour’s drive from the city, it was perfect to spend a day in the lap of nature. I availed one of the cheap and reliable car rentals in Lucknow and headed out on a lovely March morning. The land of the Nawabs is also quite royal in its natural offerings. As soon as you cross the newer areas of the town, you can see the landscape changing into quieter, cooler, and greener locales. The spring sun was still making its way through the horizon and the weather was just about right to be outdoors all day.
The Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary is popular for housing migratory birds from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and the other Commonwealth States. Also, as I had read in a recent journal, a lot of species from the upper Himalayas, Tibet, China, and Siberia, have found their way to the forests of Nawabganj. I parked my cab at the entrance. There was a children’s park, a cafeteria, and a motel, for visitors who prefer to stay overnight and explore in-depth.
I stopped by the Interpretation Center, which offered a map for the premise and possible areas for sighting specific species.
The birds of Nawabganj
The huge 500 acres of lush greenery enclosed a shallow lake, surrounded by marshy vegetation and thick clusters of evergreens, which seemed like the hunting and nesting ground for water birds. There were narrow dusty trails to explore on foot. A few nature enthusiasts were on their bicycles soaking in the fresh morning air. The lake area was surrounded by a paved pathway, fenced on either side, which worked well to keep my camera steady. Being a weekday morning and the air still crisp, there were a handful of people around, and most of them seemed birders like me. With my camera in one hand and binoculars in the other, I started walking along the trails. The stillness of the air was only interrupted by the chirping and tweeting of different birds, harmonizing into a unified melody. I spotted a lone egret perched on a mound of grass in the middle of the lake, in a meditative mode, perhaps waiting for its first meal of the day. Meanwhile, from a distant branch, a blue-headed kingfisher dived at a lightning speed in and out of the water with its prey. Further ahead, a mother stork was feeding its chicks, nestled comfortably on a high branch. It took me quite a few adjustments to take the right shot so I could capture them in action.
I noticed a watchtower and a few viewing sheds along the trails and the lake area, for birders to sit in silence and wait for the right moment to capture a striking pose. The overall ambience was truly a delight for nature lovers and photographers.
To make a short and quick list, I managed to spot and photograph a Garganey Teal, Mallard ducks, three types of pheasants, purple moorhen, red lapwing, bee-eaters, peafowl, and cotton teal ducks. Waterbirds like painted storks, cranes, terns, and jacanas hovered around the lakeshore.
I continued my walk and found myself at the deer park. A herd of spotted deer were grazing and seemed oblivious to the noisy crows overhead. By the time I wrapped up my tour, it was late afternoon. I sat down at the cafeteria to review the photos and rewind the day in my head. In the monochromatic green surroundings, the birds added multicoloured hues, like a live painting. I realized that this trip made me complete half of my wishlist of 1000 species of birds that I had aimed for many years ago when I first started birding expeditions. With 500 more to go, I started looking forward to my next adventure into the world of these winged friends.
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About the writer:
Aditya heads the content team of a travel organization and spends all his free time exploring new destinations, reading and writing.