Explored Sukhna Wildlife sanctuary — Jungle Trail, First Time, Chandigarh.

By Aaryan Bhalla

The thought behind these pages is to familiarize beginners with the obvious — it will help them to know the birds a little better and, more importantly, interest and equip them to look for birds that are scarce and worth observing when met because opportunities may be limited.

Only on the 20th of December living in Chandigarh. I first time I visited Sukhna Wildlife sanctuary — Jungle Trail, First Time in my life. I have visited sukhna lake more than 20 times. But not its Jungle trail any yet.

Chandigarh is nestled at the base of Shivalik Hills. It is a planned city with tree-lined roads, parks, and gardens. Chandigarh, the dream city of India’s first Prime Minister, Sh. Jawahar Lal Nehru is known as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture in the twentieth century in India.

temple of “Chandi Mandir”

Chandigarh derives its name from the temple of "Chandi Mandir" located in the vicinity of the site selected for the city. The deity 'Chandi’, the goddess of power and a fort of 'Garh' laying beyond the temple gave the city its name "Chandigarh-The City Beautiful".

Le Corbusier, the French Architect

Le Corbusier, the Architect of this modern city gave the people of Chandigarh, a man-made lake for activities. To save the lake from silting up, check dams were built in the catchment area, which evolved into a rich ecosystem now a sanctuary.

In the vicinity of Chandigarh are other wetlands, jungles, scrublands, grasslands, badlands, agriculture fields, and orchards. These diverse habitats have resulted in rich avian diversity.

Morni Hills at Himachal, 35 KM away from Chandigarh

This diversity is augmented by the presence of the Morni reserved forests in adjoining Haryana and the lower ranges of the Himalayas which are less than 30 Km from Chandigarh in the State of Himachal Pradesh.

A view of the sukhna lake on a sunny afternoon.

Sukhna Lake is made in sector 1 of Chandigarh and is a reservoir at the foothills (Shivalik hills) of the Himalayas. This 3 km² rainfed lake was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills by Le Corbusier and the Chief Engineer P L Verma.

To preserve its tranquility, Corbusier insisted on two things: that it be forbidden for motorboats to circulate in the water, and for vehicular traffic to be prohibited on top of the dam.

Originally the seasonal flow entered the lake directly causing heavy siltation. To check the inflow of silt, 25.42 km² of land was acquired in the catchment area and put under vegetation. In 1974, the Choe was diverted and made to bypass the lake completely, the lake being fed by three siltation pots, minimizing the entry of silt into the lake itself.

Basically, Chandigarh is one of the greenest cities in the country with about 41% of the geographical area under green cover. Chandigarh has two notified Wildlife Sanctuaries below-

1)Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, Sector 1, Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary Main entrance.

2) City Bird Sanctuary, Parrot Bird Sanctuary, Sec 21, Chandigarh

City Bird Sanctuary Main Entrance.

Besides these two Wildlife Sanctuaries, Chandigarh has about 700 sec. of the forest area in the city. Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a large number of fauna i.e.Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Insects, etc.

Parrots at Parrot Bird Sanctuary, Sec 21, Chandigarh

Chandigarh has one major wetland i.e. Sukhna Lake which is spread over an area of about 1.5 sq. km with a large variety of birds and aquatic life. Sukhna Lake wetlands are home to several species of resident birds, and are also an important wintering ground for many migratory species. Chandigarh city and its adjoining area are also home to a large variety of birds.

Introduction

Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary spreading over an area of 2600 hect. is situated at 1 km in the North-East of Sukhna Lake. It forms part of the Sukhna Lake catchment area, falling into Shivalik Hills. Shivalik hills are ecologically sensitive and geologically unstable and thus are highly prone to soil erosion during rains. The soil in the Shivaliks is sandy, embedded with pockets of clay which is highly susceptible to erosion by surface runoff.

Walking through the Jungle Trail waiting for the birds to see.

Sukhna lake was constructed in 1958 and in the sixties & early seventies, the rate of siltation of the lake was very high due to the high rate of soil erosion from its catchment area. Up to 1988, 66% of the original water holding capacity of the lake was lost due to siltation. To minimize & control soil erosion from the hilly catchment area, various vegetative and engineering methods were adopted by the Forest Department. These soil & water conservation measures undertaken on a sustained basis yielded very good results, and the rate of siltation of the lake has reduced drastically.

The dried lotuses grew in the water of the lake.

Soil conservation measures supplemented with massive afforestation led to the development of very good forests in the hilly catchment area, which is now an ideal habitat for a wide variety of fauna. Consequently, this area had been notified as “Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary”.

Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary Entrance from the backside of the regulator End of the Lake.

It is home to many exotic migratory birds like the Siberian duck, storks, and cranes, during the winter months.

Map of the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary.

The lake has been declared as a protected national wetland by the Government of India. Sukhna Lake is the venue for many festive celebrations too.

Every year a Military Literature Festival is held at Lake Club, Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh.

Then, on the 20th of December, we were feeling very bored in our home. So, to do an outing we decided to visit Sukhna lake but, after reaching there in the afternoon. we thought that we had never visited the lake reserve forest and the Jungle trail either. From the regulator of the lake.

Nature Interpretation Center, Sukhna Lake

We visited there for the first time.

The Nature Interpretation Center was built near Sukhna Lake to sensitize and educate the visitors and the residents of the city. The mushroom-shaped building of the NIC will focus on promoting ecotourism in the city.

It also has a beautiful presentation about Migratory birds which migrate from Russia, China & Himalayas in Sukhna lake also encourage people about the wildlife of Sukhna, and Nature interpretation center had been made by Chandigarh Forest And Wildlife Department.

The center’s main aim is to do research and bring awareness among people about the lake’s ecosystem, conservation of flora and fauna in the lower Shivalik hills. Statues and sculptures are made too which makes it more extraordinary. It's free to visit it and one can visit it during the visiting hours.

Sukhna Lake Regulator End

So, from the backside, we entered and started walking through the Nature Jungle Trail.

Me using a small binocular to find a bird.
Mom is also using a small binocular to try to find a bird.

So, we decided to do bird watching there. People were saying nothing is there, time wastage, nothing for your interest. But we were hoping for the Birds to be seen and we didn’t go that what people were saying.

Nature Jungle trail birdwatching spot in the middle of the lake.

Most of the pictures were miles from being perfect, but they were oozing with flavor and aroma of the joy and delight which we had tasted that day walking through the trail till 2KM’s ..... Me, mom, and Dad.

Some of our birds are well adapted to life around human settlements and indeed many can be found only around habitations.

The Birds we saw at this sukhna wildlife sanctuary, Jungle trail were I had never seen :

Eurasian Coot Duck

The coot breeds across much of the Old World in freshwater lakes and ponds. It occurs and breeds in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range into New Zealand. It is resident in the milder parts of its range but migrates further south and west from much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze.

Coot giving a poss and showing its white bill to the camera.

It largely blacks except for the white bill and frontal shield. As a swimming species, the coot has partial webbing on its long strong toes.

A coot floating in Lake water

It is reluctant to fly and when taking off runs across the water surface with much splashing. It does the same, but without actually flying, when traveling a short distance at speed in territorial disputes or on land to escape from intruders.

A lonely coot

The Eurasian coot is much less secretive than most of the rail family and can be seen swimming on open water or walking across waterside grasslands. It is an aggressive species, and strongly territorial during the breeding season, and both parents are involved in territorial defense.

House crows

They are very commonly seen. However, these were also a part of our Birdwatch.

A group of Crows

We saw many house crows near the Nature Interpretation Center, Sukhna Lake in a Tree. These are also very common all over India. House crow is also called low or kagaa in Hindi. It is the most familiar bird of Indian towns and villages. The body is covered with more or less black plumage, while the neck and breast are gray colored.

White Wagtail

We were resting after birdwatching. we saw this wagtail roaming the jogger's path in the lake.

The white wagtail is a slender bird. The white wagtail is an insectivorous bird of the open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey.

They are found in India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, in some parts of Europe, and wild across South Asia.

Black kites

Black kite is also known as pariah kite and Cheel in Hindi. This bird is quite large in size and grows up to 60 cm in length. It is brown in color. It is a Bird of prey.

The opened wings of a black kite

Scavengers were found around human settlements. Commonest bird of prey that we get to see today. Circles in the sky for hours and often seen in the hundreds at roost or near a
preferred feeding area. partial to feeding on earthworms.

Cattle egrets

Cattle egrets were seen in Kishangarh near sukhna choe while we were coming.

A pure white bird with a stout yellow bill and greenish or blackish legs. During the breeding period, the head, neck, and parts of the back become a washed buff orange. Sexes alike.
Habits: A gregarious bird seen in small flocks in open areas. Often moves with cattle and other grazers to pick up insects disturbed by them. Nests and roosts in large colonies on trees. Subject to some local migration.

Others are too far off the island to make out. The white ones look egrets… intermediate or large, hard to tell.
The same goes for the black ones…. cormorants… which ones are hard to tell.

It was found near the cattle. It's not water-dependent. Wet fields, marshes, swamps, pastures, grassland, and parks.

White-throated fantail

Run along this bird to capture a white-throated fantail

This was the first time I saw this Bird: White-throated fantail. It is found in forests, scrubs, and cultivation across tropical southern Asia from the Himalayas, India, and Bangladesh east to Indonesia.

This is what the Bird looks like. It's very different from our photo.

It has a dark fan-shaped tail, edged in white, and white supercilium and throat. There is otherwise much variation in plumage between races. Most resemble the Himalayan which is mainly slate-grey above and below, with a black eye mask, and a white throat and eyebrow.

Hair crested drongo

Flying Hair crested drongo

Hair-crested drongos move in small flocks and are very noisy. The “spangled drongo,” is native to the east coast of Australia and its name is pejorative slang for a silly person. This may be due to its strange chattering and cackling.

Hair crested drongo finding something on tree’s branch

The hair-crested drongo is an Asian bird of the family Dicruridae. This species was formerly considered conspecific with which the name “spangled drongo” — formerly used for both — is now usually reserved.

White-throated Kingfisher

A white Throated kingfisher sitting on a wooden trunk.

The white-throated kingfisher, also known as the white-breasted kingfisher is a tree kingfisher, widely distributed in Asia from the Sinai east through the Indian subcontinent to the Philippines. The kingfisher is a resident over much of its range, although some populations may make short-distance movements.

The commonest kingfisher species were seen in the country. Bright red bill, chestnut head and belly, white throat, and bright turquoise upperparts.

It can often be found well away from water where it feeds on a wide range of prey that includes small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents, and even birds. During the breeding season, they call loudly in the mornings from prominent perches including the tops of buildings in urban areas or on wires.

It has a white throat or from where it got its name.

The adult has a bright blue back, wings, and tail. Its head, shoulders, flanks, and lower belly are chestnut, and the throat and breast are white. The large bill and legs are bright red.

Little cormorants

Slightly smaller than the Indian cormorant, it lacks a peaked head and has a shorter beak.

Flying Cormorant

The breeding adult bird has a glistening all-black plumage with some white spots and filoplums on its face. There is also a short crest on the back of the head. The eyes, gular skin, and face are dark. For non-breeding birds or juveniles, the plumage is brownish and the bill and gular skin can appear more fleshy.

The little cormorant is found across India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and lowland Nepal. It is also found in parts of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. It is not found in the Himalayas, but vagrants have been seen in Ladakh.

Others are too far off the island to make out. The white ones look egrets… intermediate or large, hard to tell.
The same goes for the black ones…. cormorants… which ones are hard to tell

Little cormorants tend to forage mainly in small loose groups and are often seen foraging alone. They swim underwater to capture their prey, mainly fish. A study in northern India found that the little cormorant fished in water that was less than a meter deep and captured fishes of about 2–8 centimeter

Rufous Treepie

Rufous Treepie hiding in the cluster of branches of a tree.

They are very noisy. It is long-tailed and has loud musical calls making it a very conspicuous bird. the main color of the body is cinnamon with a black head and the long graduation tail is bluish gray and is tipped in black. The wing has a white patch.

The range of the rufous treepie is quite large, covering Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. It inhabits an open forest consisting of scrubs, plantations, and gardens. The Garhwal Himalayas migrate seasonally between different elevations.

Rufous Treepie showing its long tail

The rufous treepie is a treepie, native to the Indian Subcontinent and adjoining parts of Southeast Asia. It is a member of the crow family.

Indian cormorant

The Indian cormorant has a narrower and longer bill which ends in a prominent hook tip, blue iris, and a more pointed head profile.

The Indian cormorant or Indian shag is a member of the cormorant family. It is found mainly along the inland waters of the Indian Subcontinent but extends west to Sind and east to Thailand and Cambodia.

These cormorant fish are gregariously found in inland rivers and large wetlands of peninsular India and the northern part of Sri Lanka. It also occurs in estuaries and mangroves but not on the open coast. They breed very locally in mixed-species breeding colonies.

Rock Doves

Rock Doves enjoying the sunny day.

Rock Doves are the most common birds of India which everyone has seen. Rock Doves Are also known as common Pigeons/Rock pigeons are also known as Domestic pigeons/Kabootar in India.

A large group of rock doves at Kishangarh while going back home.

They are not seen in the forests or on a tree. They can be seen on different historical buildings, on wires, on-air conditioners, or railway stations.

Garden of Silence

Full view of the Garden

There’s one garden too which is known as the Garden of Silence which is a meditative space at the end of Sukhna Lake. It features a seated Buddha. The garden is financed by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, and developed by Chandigarh Administration. This is the latest monument in Chandigarh.

Buddha statue in the Garden of Silence.

Hosting a seated statuette of Lord Buddha amidst concentric circular stairs, the Garden of Silence in Chandigarh stands for what the city is defined for. The visual calmness arising from the ambiance of Garden of Silence, Chandigarh differentiates it from its contemporaries in many ways. Chandigarh is known as the city of gardens that are lush green and have some amazing features but this garden of silence is a bit different.

BIRDING HOTSPOTS NEAR CHANDIGARH

Sukhna Lake, Sukhna Nature Trail, Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, Leisure Valley, City Forest Chandigarh, Nepali, Kansal, Saketri, Patiala Ki Rao, Siswan Dam, Gobindgarh Fatehgarh Sahib, Zarakpur, Mirzapur Dam Sirsa River Bed, Chakki Mor, Dagshai, Jawaharpur, Motemajra, Morni Hills in Haryana, bhoj Nagar & Jangeshu in Himachal Pradesh.

There are birds around us everywhere, some living in parks and gardens near our homes, and some even sharing space with us in the heart of the city. It just takes a little curiosity to identify and know a little more about these direct decedents of the dinosaurs and develop a green hobby that can give you a lifetime of pleasure for free!!…

Explore the City Beautiful: Chandigarh

The only thing depends on the interest. If you thought that there was nothing, then there will be really nothing. But, hoping for the best and positive will make your personality really positive.

#Always be Positive

Thanks to everyone who is Birdwatching and the passionate few who are Birding. May we continue this tryst with nature always….

This world is very unique, God has given life to all of us, therefore it will take care of our life. As God is a true person and merciful also because Life is given by you, you are the hope, we are the only belief that you will save us from every difficulty.

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