Friday, August 5, 2011

Naini Tal a vanishing Garden of Delight

Uttarakhand a la Uttaranchal.

The plains give into the rising mountains. From a distance the mountains look indomitable, inaccessible and over powering. As you climb up from Kath Gudaam in between the folds of the mountain the paradise unfolds. The steep rising curves can be frightening for those not used to hills in India. The cool refreshing aroma of the hills overtakes fear and a holiday mood sets in. We did see an elusive leopard on the way uphill somewhere before Bhim Tal. The tigers are rare but for some seasonal migrants from Corbett and surrounding region.      

I have visited Sat Tal and Bhim Tal many times on birding tours. These are must visit places since the urbanity is creeping much slowly. Sadly the whole of Naini Tal is a dying ecosystem thanks to uncontrolled construction. People are displacing natural lands, not only here but all over the country. The investor and builder lobby is unstoppable and benefit from inherent corruption in the system. 

But thankfully there are some places left preserved, even now. Birding does not take place only on forested regions of this district. Birding spots line Kainchi are littered with polythene waste and degraded. Destruction of natural lands is evident near all human settlements in India. The avian species are forced to inhabit these places because the habitat suits them. But for how long?      

Pangot though not colonized extensively  has been under the scourge of villages and much of the areas has been denuded. Sat Tal and Pangot are excellent for birding and the former is better holiday destination than Nainital township which is a bazaar bursting at its seam. I would  never suggest a holiday in the over crowded township. 

The amazing spectacle of Snow White Himalayan Ranges are visible from Sat Tal and Pangot the best. Nainital Valley can be best seen from the heights of Pangot which is over 2000 MSL. 

The road to Corbett passes through the Bajun Valley another good birding spot. You drive down hill  through the Corbett country via Choti Haldwani  & Kaladhungi all these places have retained the forest canopy to some extant. Jim Corbett has popularized these places in his memoirs & stories of man eating tigers which he hunted skill fully. Besides the core zone places like Lal Dhang, Sita Vani near Rampur, Mohaan and Koshi River Beach are excellent for birding outside the preserve. Sadly human ingress is quite noticeable in many areas - one of the reason for elephant attacks and man eating by tigers.  

Corbett National Park is a true tiger country and a picturesque wildlife conservancy. The preserve is an excellent bird destination as well. More than 500 hundred avian species inhabit this enchanting tiger reserve seasonally. Hence the park attracts birders as late as April when the heat begins to rise. These Himalayan Foothills referred as Terai contain Bhabar tracts, Sal forests along with mixed canopy and large stretches of grasslands now seen only inside the park. At greater height the tree line changes to Oak, Birch, Rhododendron and Pine. Moss laden barks of trees attract many birds especially woodpeckers. 

The stretch of grassland at Dhikala Meadow inside core zone of the park, quaint glens and high rise mountains are enchanting and so are the Ramganga River sides.

Lot of natural places in the foothills are loosing ground to industrialization, agriculture, rampant construction and increasing humanity. How long this wonder land remains is anybody's guess. 

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