Chintamani Kar Sanctuary, a birder's paradise
Chintamani, quite literally, means ‘a wish-fulfilling jewel’. Close to the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya in Narendrapur, this bird sanctuary (declared as one way back in 1982 and acquired by the West Bengal government in October 2005) named after the famous artist Chintamani Kar is more commonly known to wildlife lovers as CKBS. And it never ceases to surprise me. Each time I go there, I discover something new, something fascinating. Though the surroundings have changed dramatically, CKBS remains almost unchanged. Almost.
With the advent of social media and the many birding groups, the practise of posting pictures has had many effects. For one, it drives different types of people to the sanctuary. Interestingly, I find a lot of similarities between the birds and the visitors.
Ask a birder to describe a Jungle Babbler and chances are that they would say plain looking and noisy — as are the groups of enthusiastic young kids with cameras. All they want is attention. But they are not the only attention-seekers in the sanctuary. The Bulbuls — the Red Vented and Red Whiskered varieties — come a close second, much like the girls who come in noisy groups to complete college assignments on flora and fauna.
Then there’s the diva who dresses up in bright colours and moves around occasionally calling out to grab attention like the Oriole. Or the serious birder — the loner. Who likes to stay by himself. Who sits motionless and undetectable. And goes about his business only once others move away. Quite like the Orange Headed Thrush.
The winter witnesses the arrival of the flycatchers of all shapes and hues. Little interesting birds that flit around from branch to branch, tree to tree, ever busy, ever active. The girls with cameras. Well-informed and quietly going about their business. Then there’s the confused lot — they are all excited, but a bit confused about where they should go and what they should do. The Oriental Magpie Robin is similar to this type.
The Brown Fish Owl, one of the stars of CKBS, is much like the Salim Ali wannabe with a moody demeanour. The old man with the binoculars. The wise, silent one that draws crowds. The Sunday special. The Lineated Barbet types are the ones who typically go about their business quietly but occasionally get all excited and call out to each other. Then there’s the Oriental White Eye type. Busy looking at what the others are doing. Hyperactive.
The Koels are known cheats. They are constantly laying eggs in other birds’ nests. Much like the guys who steal pictures and post them as their own! The Drongos are excellent mimics. Some photographers use their smartphones to play bird calls to attract birds. They then go about using technology to enhance their pictures prior to posting them online.
But seriously, CKBS is not only about birds. There are snakes and mongoose, civets and the occasional monitor lizard that you would get to see. Sadly, after the brick wall replaced the barbed wire fencing, their numbers have depleted. But you sure need patience and persistence. And an ability to withstand swarms of mosquitoes during the rainy season.
There are fungi, ferns and orchids and medicinal plants (something I know precious little about though) there too. And millions of different types and species of insects — spiders, butterflies, bugs and beetles.
I, for one, will go back to CKBS. Again and again. Standing in the middle of the sanctuary just soaking in the sights and sounds to me is cathartic. Blissful. Energising. Try it some day.
For more pictures visit @tarunsircar on Instagram