The tropical and northern-dry deciduous forest belt of Haryana is exceptionally rich in birdlife. A substantial chunk of the bird species found in the entire state along with Delhi region could be spotted here in this semi-desert sandy plain area. Leave aside the Sal-forest belt, the second best region for organised birding in the state would be this. Not only Bhindawas but another bird-sanctuary Khapadwas, situated adjacently at a distance of 1.5 km, along with a drain that tangentially passes through it, makes the area an ideal birding destination during winter-migration season.
As is confirmed by the game records of the previous rulers of Jhajjar, in its heydays, the region was equally famous for sheltering a wide variety of animals including tigers. The onetime nawab of Jhajjar, Nawab Ghulam Ali Khan, is often portrayed riding on a tiger. 1845-1850. Collection: Cynthia Hazen Polsky, New York. Due to its close proximity with the territory of Delhi, the region continued to be frequented by the Mughals and later the British for their game trophies. However, courtesy the avaricious materialistic growth later and the shrinking habitat, today, animals are no longer sighted and birdlife too has been dwindling.
Apart from supporting a wide variety of resident birds, the wetland has long been attracting avian visitors from far and wide. From just a water-logged territory to its fortunate transformation into a full-fledged bird sanctuary, the wetland has equally been frequented by bird enthusiasts. The forest officials would smugly endorse that the birding-site was first discovered by a group of “foreigners” who later advocated setting up of a well-conserved bird sanctuary. During the pre-independence days, Bhindawas benefitted from its location on the tail-end of the drain which fed the wetland with monsoon excesses it carried.
Later on as luck would have it, an occasional power failure at the lift system of the nearby Jawaharlal Nehru feeder would often divert the flow of water creating an artificial lake that not only acted as the buffer storage but fed the habitat of a wide variety of water fowls as well as a few wild mammals. Meanwhile, the site was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the state government in 1985, whereas, the union government’s nod to set it up as a bird sanctuary came as recently as in 2009. Originally constructed to store the excess water of the canal, the 12 km long peripheral embankment, fenced by nothing but eucalyptuses, now doubles as a pathway-cum-motorway and facilitates bird-watching.
The spread of the sanctuary – almost 1100 acres – is effectively similar to the Bharatpur wetlands and more than double the area of the Sultanpur National Park. The official checklist of the state forest department mentions up to 250 avian species inside the Sanctuary. Enlarge your scope to include the neighbouring habitats such as villages of Khapadwas, Khetawas, Dhighal and Matanhail bani, etc. and your actual field-result could be more than that. With some on-site patience and luck, you could actually spot a few rare creatures.
Tucked away from the humdrum of town-life, the peaceful environs of the sanctuary would make for an ideal birding destination. A network of unmarked trails within the embankment would take you closer to the avian creatures in their habitat as well as heronries of waterfowls. While picnicking, lay your lunch out in one of the two watchtowers and enjoy the expansive view of the lake. My preferred lounging site within the lake is the olden bridge next to the drain where you could closely observe families of playful parakeets.
Every year the lake attracts a fairly good number of waterfowls. An overall annual headcount could be pegged at 50,000. Some of the commonly spotted resident and migratory birds include Blue Peafowl, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Cormorants, White-throated Kingfisher, Gray Francolin, Black Francolin, Shikra, Black Kite, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Comb Duck, Eurasian Thick-knee, Bronze-winged Jacana, Purple Swamphen, Spotted Owlet, Spot-billed Duck, Greater Coucal, Little Grebe, Flamebacks, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Roller, Common Hoopoe, Eurasian Collared Dove, Black Drongo, Rock Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Jungle Babbler, Oriental Darter and Rose-ringed Parakeet, Whiskered Tern, Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Gulls, Graylag Goose, Mallard, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Pratincoles, Green Bee-eater, Cuckoos, Common Pochard, Great Egret, Crested Lark, Ashy Prinia, Bitterns, Plovers, Lapwings and Bar-headed Goose, etc. Besides, one can also find mammals such as Neelgai, Jungle Cat or Jackals within the sanctuary.To make them partner with the cause of wildlife conservation and support its efforts, the Bhindawas forest department has started providing potable water to the nearby villages. A Nature Interpretation Centre, to create awareness about conservation, is also under construction at the lake. Other than that for a few years now, the officials have stubbornly engaged themselves in a few counterproductive exercises such as creation of an unsuccessful herbal park at the cost of north India’s largest heronry. Despite all its beauty, the ever increasing water hyacinth is a major issue which the officials have yet not been able to tackle. The best way to generate enthusiasm and garner footfall will be to conserve the habitat and make it safer.
While at Bhindawas, if you are lucky you might bump into its most regular visitor, Sh Suresh C Sharma. Right from its notification, Sh Sharma has contributed considerably to ensure Bhindawas gained recognition and knows the lake like the back of his hand. I have had the luxury of accompanying him on quite a few of his field visits. Still young at heart, Sh Sharma is quite knowledgeable about the area and keeps a track of bird activities at the lake.
With acres of yellow mustard fields spread across all directions, the surroundings of the lake in winters are equally enticing. Located within the confines of the newly carved district of Jhajjar, the Bhindawas Bird Sanctuary is approximately 15 km from the main town and is not more than a couple of hours drive from Gurgaon. If traveling from Delhi or Gurgaon, the lake could either be reached through a left-diversion at village Chuchhakwas on the Jhajjar – Dadri highway or from the right-diversion at village Hassanpur on the Jhajjar – Kosli highway. Approaching from Rohtak, take the diversion towards village Chuchhakwas, via Beri, through village Dhighal on the Rohtak – Jhajjar highway.
Even as the state tourism department is mulling to build a resort here, as of now, a limited accommodation is available with the state forest department in its rest house. If booked in advance, the resident cook can dish out superb home-cooked meals. The winter timings are 0630 – 1700hrs and in summer from 0600 – 1800hrs. Carry a pair of binoculars and a telephoto if you must.
Average Altitude: 220 m
Best time to visit: Winter season
Travel Lure: Bird watching
Accommodation: Very Limited