Want to go birding this winter Here's your guide

Winter is the perfect time to check out these off-beat birding areas across India.
Want to go birding this winter Here's your guide

Bhigwan, Maharashtra
This increasingly popular birding site is spread across the backwaters of the Ujani Dam. In winter, it hosts a large number of migratory birds, including ducks and flamingos. Baramati is the nearest big town but you can also make a day visit from Pune (100 km away by road). Set off in a country boat from Kumbhargaon or Diksal and you can get really close to the birds. Some of the local boatmen are excellent birders (but it helps to know the local names of birds). You can also combine a visit to Bhigwan with a visit to Mayureshwar Sanctuary known for the chinkara or the Indian Gazelle.

Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary, West Bengal
Located on the southern outskirts of Kolkata, this sanctuary is home to a large number of birds. Winter is the best time to visit. You have to approach through Narendrapur (within easy driving distance from Kolkata). 

Eagle Nest Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh
Tucked inside the West Kameng district, the sanctuary has over 450 bird species. Frequent visitors to the area recommend entering the sanctuary through its northern gateway, Tenga (on the Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang highway) you can also approach it from Doimara in the south. Only a part of the sanctuary is accessible by car. If you want to really explore, go trekking. The Eagle Nest ridge rises to a height of over 10,000 feet, with the Eagle Nest Pass perched at 9,186 feet. It has the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary to its northeast. Accommodation is basic and available at Bomdila (50km away) and Tenga (30km away). Indians have to obtain Inner Line Permit and foreigners Restricted Area Permit, in advance, to enter Arunachal Pradesh. For the sanctuary, you have to get forest entry permits as well as pay an additional entry charge levied by the local tribes.  

Lava, West Bengal
This small town in the eastern Himalayas is the gateway to some interesting birding areas. The road from Algarah to Lava is known to spring many surprises on birders by way of rare birds. The adjoining Neora Valley National Park and the forests around the hamlet of Lolaygaon are also home to many species of birds. Lava is accessible by road from Kalimpong, about 35km away. You can stay at Kalimpong, Lava and Lolaygaon&mdashgovernment-run lodges, private resorts and homestays available.

Pangot, Uttarakhand
Located a mere 17km from the popular tourist destination, Nainital, the forests around Pangot are home to an amazing number of Himalayan birds. You can stay in Nainital.

Sewri, Maharashtra
Located along the eastern edge of south Mumbai, the drab mudflats of Sewri turn colourful during winter. Thousands of lesser flamingos gather here and can be seen at close quarters when the tide is at its lowest. Besides, you will find birds such as plovers, curlews, redshanks, sandpipers, stints, etc. The mudflats are within walking distance of the Sewri Railway station on the Central Railway&rsquos Harbour line.

Thattekad, Kerala
The 25-sq km bird sanctuary is home to more than 300 species of birds. It was the famous ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali, who drew people&rsquos attention to the rich bird diversity during his survey of the Travancore region way back in the 1930s. Tucked between the tributaries of the Periyar River, the peninsula-shaped sanctuary is also home to 28 species of mammals and 9 species of reptiles. The place is about 50km from Kochi and can be combined with a visit to Munnar. Apart from Forest Department&rsquos accommodation inside the forest, you can also stay at private resorts and homestays outside the sanctuary.

Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh
This little-known bird sanctuary is only 5km from Guntur town. In winter, its bird life increases manifold owing to the arrival of migratory species, including pelicans, white ibis, painted storks, etc.

Information Birding requires a lot of patience. If you are planning to take it up as a hobby, it is best to join an existing group or tag along with an expert. Always dress in neutral colours, wear a pair of sturdy walking shoes, and keep a notebook and pen handy for drawing up your own bird lists. BNHS, Kolkata Birds, Gaia Eco Tours, Bangalore Birding are some of the groups that you can contact. Popular bird guides&mdashThe Book of Indian Birds, A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India, Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, etc.

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