Haryana – Land of contrasts
Why are you going to Haryana? What is there in Haryana? Such questions were asked to me whenever I told my friends about my OikoEssence camp to Haryana. And I had only one answer, ‘to explore the place’. That was not the expected response but it turned out to be a pretty good exploration camp for all of us.
Haryana state is a land of contrast – an important agricultural state of India and at the same time emerging IT establishment giving tough competition to original IT capital – Bangalore. One could see flat, plain land covered with various agricultural crops everywhere. Although, Haryana gets less rainfall but, the fields are provided with the artificial water supply. It has borewell and canals everywhere which come up with their own issues. While central-western areas are evidencing rise in brackish water table and water-logging issues. The fresh water belts on the other hand are facing downfall in water table.
About our trip
Our trip started with Bhindawas Lake Bird Sanctuary which is located in Jhajjar district, about 10 kms from Jhajjar town. It has a man-made wetland that attracts lots of migratory birds and ultimately some birders. It was established as a Bird Sanctuary by the Government of India in 3rd June, 2009. Constructed to store the excess waters of the Jawaharlal Nehru canal at the time of power failure of Lift Canal System, the Sanctuary is spread over an area of 1074 acres. Due to the water problem at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan, over the past years, the sanctuary has become more ecologically important and made Bhindawas Bird sanctuary’s lake as their alternate site to a number of migratory water birds.
Our birding started with Pied Kingfisher. We saw common coots, garganey, Indian spotbill ducks and grey lag geese and many more. We spent around an hour and a half here and then realized that we were hungry. Being in Haryana it is good to have food in any of the Dhabas on the way. You will get good food here preferably go for Parathas. Throughout this camp we had either paneer or aaloo or mixed paratha for every breakfast and sometimes for lunch as well. At places on can get nice makke-di-roti and sarson ka saag. After spending day at Bhindawas, we spent our night at Rohtak.
There is a very small but very interesting waterbody on the way to Rohtak – Dighal wetland. It appeared like 75% of the lake is covered by birds. Dighal village is on the route of many migratroy bird species which makes it an ideal location for bird watching. Hundreds of species of birds migrating from Africa and Northern Asia stop over here. We saw coots, painted storks, pochards, shovellors, bar headed geese, little grebe, salvonean grebe, little grebe, pied avocets and many more during our visit. Pied avocet has interestingly up-curved beak that makes this bird very special. We had to reach Rohtak that evening before dark so, had to leave this place within two hours.
Rohtak too has a water body and before going to our hotel we decided to pay a visit to the lake. It was worth visiting here. We were welcomed by a peacock (our national bird). This lake has a walking path surrounding it and there is good patch of vegetation that surrounds the path. One can see some common birds (land/forest birds) and water birds. There is a colony of bats that roosts here. We saw many frankolines here. When we were about to leave, we saw a jackal trying to camouflage itself to catch a prey (probably stray dogs). So, could not leave the place for next half an hour as our campers got busy with taking photographs.
Next day we had to travel a very long distance till Mandi dabwalli. There is another lake – Ottu on the way. We paid a visit here as well. It appeared that this lake is facing a problem of illegal encroachments of Agricultural lands. Very less birds were seen at this place. This was kind of compensated with sweets, papdis and chaai in Kalara sweet shop opposite to the lake. This shop sells excellent sweets.
Next day were actually on a mission. Mission to search a sanctuary – Abubshahar. We used GPS to locate the same. But, couldn’t find. So we continued to our next stop Hussainiwalah Border. There is a National Martyrs Museum adjacent to it. This area has faced series of attacks and many of our army men have sacrificed their lives here. There is old heritage monument and there is another ruined station building that has broken railway tracks that used to connect India – Pakistan earlier.
Panchkula has totally different terrain than rest of Haryana. Being close to Himachal Pradesh it has mountains and culture here is totally different. If you love peace and want to spend some quality time with your near and dear ones then this is the perfect place for you.
Pinjore and Morni Hills
On the next day we went to Pinjore. There is a fair good chance to see Himalayan and couple of other Vulture species here. There is a vulture conservation centre in this area which run by Bombay Natural History Society. We got to see good number of Himalayan Vultures flying up in the sky. This forest is a part of Bir Shikar Ghar Sanctuary. However here is no proper board that mentions the sanctuary limits. Same is the condition with Khol-hi-raitan sanctuary which is situated at about one and a half hour’s driving distance from Pinjore. But, we decided to go to the Morni hills first where we had booked our stay. And it turned out to be a good decision. As we reached our hotel, Blue magpies welcomed us with their singing and hopping on Red silk cotton tree just outside our room window. Later great barbet, sunbirds joined the ‘red silk cotton’ party. We took a little walk in surrounding area and saw some nuthatches, woodpeckers, barbets, sibias.
Next day morning, we set out in search of another sanctuary- Khol Hi Raitan. Again the same story repeated. There is no proper signboard mentioning the sanctuary’s area. But still according to map of our ‘Uncle Google’ we were in sanctuary and there was a small board at one side of the road that mentions you are in Khol Hi Raitan Sanctuary. We got down from the vehicle and decided to walk for some distance as there was nice forest on both sides of the road. We saw some common birds. We heard a sound of fallen leaves and grasses as if a small animal was running through the bushes and suddenly the sound stopped. We were looking through those bushes from a distance for some movement. But, nothing happened. So we decided to get back in vehicle and go to the fort and lake in morni hills. I was waiting for everyone to get in vehicle, one vehicle passed us and suddenly a bird crossed the road just after that vehicle passed. It was having magnificent shades of blue, green, red and its feathers shined as a gold in the sun. Yes, it was Monal Pheasant. I had seen this bird earlier in Uttarakhand about 14 years back when I was doing my Master’s course in Botany. I was so happy to see this beauty again that almost ran to the bushes it went after crossing the road. I wanted to show it to my campers. But, no luck. Although this species is common in Himalayas but, due to shyness it is rarely seen. Himalayan Monal is state bird of Uttarakhand and it comes under ‘Least concerned’ category of IUCN Red Data list of Species. Even though its population trend is decreasing. This species face problems due to habitat destruction and is also hunted for food. Wish we could photograph it for all readers!
Next, we all went to the small medicinal garden nearby and then to fort and lake. All these are tourist spots. We saw good number of birds at the entrance of Fort.
Next day after taking a walk around Ghaggar river where we saw crested kingfisher, we left for Kalesar National Park. Our ‘monal area’ was on the way to this. So we again spread over to search for this this bird. No luck.. We headed for Kalesar and reach their at 2 pm. This national park offers safari rides. I call this safari as luxurious safari. It has to be done in a closed SUV. We were shocked to see this as we all are familiar with open jeep safaris. Anyway, the forest was beautiful. We saw sambar, chital and wild boar during our ride. This ride takes you to the artificial water hole inside the park. It has small bushes around it and one can see some common bush and grass birds as bee-eaters, munias etc.
We had to catch the flight in the evening next day. On our way we went to archaeological sites of Kurukshetra and Thanesar. Thanesar is also an important historical and pilgrimage spot.
We all were amazed with Haryana’s varied landscapes and culture and its natural wealth. Truly, our India has such a rich heritage of cultural and natural beauty. Unfortunately, we all run behind foreign destinations.
Gauri Gurav is a botanist and naturalist based out of Mumbai. Having worked at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF India), Gauri has expertise in bio-diversity (birds and plants species) and has extensive field experience in organizing nature camps. Currently, she runs her own venture Oikoessence – http://oikoessence.blogspot.in/