Birdwatching in Purbasthali, West Bengal: A Complete Guide

By soumyadebnath | Sep 3, 2020
Asia > India > West Bengal > Purbasthali

little cormorant

little cormorant


It was a day of December and the cold wind of winter was on full swing. I decided to get on a train to Purbasthali. Purbasthali is a village of Purba Bardhaman district of West Bengal, India. It is a small village with 5000 villagers. On the outside this village will seem like any other village of India. But this village has something special that draws tourists from all over the states, here, BIRDS.

Purbasthali is made up of alluvial soil which makes this an extremely fertile land, geographically it is located between the river Ganga, Damodar and Ajay. This village has a type of lake called an Oxbow lake. That makes up a marshy wetland populated by several flora and fauna species. This wetland spreads over around 4 kilometers, while that canals which run meandering around it may be as long as 10 kilometers making it a perfect breeding ground for migratory birds. Which is the main attraction of this place. I will list out the names of the species that one can find here

Now, let's talk about how to reach Purbasthali. Assuming that one is travelling from Kolkata, there are numerous trains that run from Howrah to Burdwan, anyone of those trains will take to the Purbasthali station. Upon reaching the station one has to take the auto-rickshaw from the station and ask them to take you to Chupi chor. The distance is hardly 3 km from the station, though one must know it is going to be a little bumpy ride.

Once you are at the lake stroll around a little get a hang of the area and have a cup of tea. When you are done you can start looking for accommodation for the night stay. There are several places available which you can book online before the trip and by the time you will be making your trip there will be many more. The bird watching has become popular and it gives a considerable amount of income to the locals. Naturally they are building more accommodation to host the guests better.

There are quite a few differences between normal travel and a bird watching tour. Let's follow the in here in the forms of Dos and Don'ts.

Dos

1. If you are just there to watch the birds and not to photograph please bring a binocular
2. Wear muted full sleeve shirt
3. Try to talk as softly and silently as possible
4. Bring a hat and apply sunscreen
5. Bring sunglasses otherwise your eyes will be fatigued
6. Whenever in doubt consult a field book to identify the species
7. Be patient
8. Follow your guide's instructions

Now the Don'ts

1. Do not talk loudly or shout
2. Do not dump any plastic or foil to the water
3. If you have applied sunscreen or insect repellent do not wash your hands in the lake
4. No spitting
5. Avoid arguing with a guide, remember they are just ordinary village people and fishermen who were given basic training. If you know better keep it to yourself
6. Try not to smoke
7. Don't force the guide to take the boat closer to the birds.

Now that we have gone through all the serious talks let's talk about the fun things.

1. You will enjoy the fresh air being far from the city hassle and pollution
2. People there are friendly, try having a conversation with the locals you may learn something different about the place
3. Try the local cuisine there it may not be gourmet but will be filling and hearty food specially the mutton.

Ok now that you have been told about the place and how to go about the things there let's find you a boat that you will be needing while bird watching. To get a boat and a guide you need to talk to the manager of the co-operative. Who will be right there before the lake. 30-40 registered boats are there with trained guides and you should choose one of them. It is important that you check their ids beforehand. You can bargain the rate a little. I would suggest you take the boat for the entire day if you are serious about bird watching, simply because you will pay less and have a better chance of spotting birds.

Once on the boat you will experience a gentle breeze and glittering water. It will look unreal. The water there is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake. The floor of the lake is covered with green moss and numerous other types of water plants that makes it look otherworldly. After a few minutes you may encounter your first bird of the lake. Now depending on the depth of your ornithological expertise you may or may not know the bird. If you don't ask for the name of the bird to your guide. Now I'm making you a list of the most common birds you can find there. I would suggest that you look them up so that you can identify some of them yourself.

Cotton Pygmy Goose, Grey Heron, Osprey, Cattle Egret, Siberian Stonechat, Northen Pintail, Kentish Plover, Ruddy Shelduck, River Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Striated Heron, Black Headed Ibis, Eurasian Wigeon, Garganey female, ferruginous pochard, Purple Swamphen, Common Kingfisher, Tuffed Duck, Gadwall Pair, Purple Heron, Bronze winged Jacana, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, Red Crested Pochard, Common Coot and Very rare leucistic Cotton pygmy goose

These are the list of the birds there and if you are really lucky you can find some reptiles and fish hunting mammals there too.

Let's talk about the most important thing the expanses... Travelling and transit fare will be 200/- inr per head from Howrah including the auto-rickshaw

For food you can spend anywhere around 250-500 for two people for a day and may be more if you choose to do so. Alcohol is also available at 5 % more than the counter.

Expect to pay around 700 for a night in Purbasthali and you can obviously go higher. While there if you have time in hand ask the local transporter to take you to the ISKON temple that is not very far from there and will cost very little. Happy birding and have a safe journey.

Photography Birds Nature Lake Birdwatching

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Written by soumyadebnath
I am a travel and nature photographer. I hold a degree in English literature

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