Flights of fancy at Santragachhi Lake


The Tourist Lodge signage

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The Tourist Lodge




A bunch of geese


The clickers

5_Fulvous Whistling Duck

Fulvous whistling duck

7_ Eurasian or River Kingfisher

 Eurasian kingfisher

8_Common Moorhen

 Common moorhen

9_Northern Pintail duck

 Northern Pintail duck

10_Bronze winged Jacana

 Bronze-winged jacana


A bunch of flying geese 




 Gliding over the surface


 Gliding over the surface-2


 High up in the air


 A ballet of two birds


 Flying through the air

Kingfisher (1)


Kingfisher (2)


Kingfisher (3)


Kingfisher (4)


Kingfisher (5)


Kingfisher (6)


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 Do not click …courtesy Mom!

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A cackling bunch 

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 Gliding through the water

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 Branches by the lake

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 Row along the lake

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A  cackling bunch of geese

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 Crow up in the tree

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 Cormorants in the lake

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 Cormorants in the lake-2

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 Birds in the tree

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 Birds in the tree-2

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 Birds in the tree-3

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 Water sports of an avian kind

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 In the midst of the lake

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 Greenery, foliage and shadows

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 A herd of geese

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 A herd of geese-2

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 A herd of geese-3

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 Lake Placid

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 Lake Placid-2

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 Lake Placid-3

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 Lake Placid-4

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 Lake Placid-5

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 Lake Placid-6

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 Lake Placid-7

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 Lake Placid-8

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 Water sports

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Rippling waters

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 Lake Placid

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 Lake Placid

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 A bunch in the air

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 A bunch in the air-2

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 A bunch in the air-3

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 A bunch in the air-4

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 A bunch in the air-5

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 A bunch in the air-6

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 Flying high

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Rippling waters 

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A flock of geese 

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A flock of geese -2

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 Over the water

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 Over the water-2

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 Lake Placid

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Ripples and foliage 

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An old temple 

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The lake  

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Solitary flyer 

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A song of two birds 

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 A melange of colours

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The gull’s solitary flight 

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Birds -1

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Birds -3

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Birds -5

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 Putting a point through

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And back to where it began

( Some of the pictures: courtesy Sukanyadi and Pampadi)

Winter, the queen of seasons in and around Kolkata, brings its own unique charm and enjoyable atmosphere to the city and its environs. The chill in the air is pleasant enough for excursions to nearby places, such as the Alipore Zoo, which are thronged by masses of people on any given holiday. There is also another place which has gained prominence in the recent years, particularly with the flight of migratory birds who used to earlier frequent the Alipore Zoo, but now disturbed by the urban chaos and pollution, to more tranquil environs. This is the Santragacchi Jheel (Lake), around 12 km from the heart of the city (Esplanade).

The name Santragacchi comes from the Bengali Ol (elephant-foot yam of arum family), a vegetable which supposedly causes causing an itching throat if ingested. This vegetable is produced in good quantities in this place, which is a subdivision under the Howrah district. Santragacchi is today is a thriving village, connected by the Kona Expressway by road and the South Eastern railway ( the erstwhile Bengal Nagpur Railway) by railroad.

We (a group of five people- Jhinukdi, Pampadi, Mom, Dad and myself) set out on a fine Sunday morning for Santragacchi , excited by the prospect of enjoying what is the largest congregation of migratory birds in the environs of Kolkata. Crossing the Vidyasagar Setu, and going onto Kona Expressway, it takes about 15 min (crossing 7 km) to reach Santragacchi. Keeping the station on the left hand, we went further up, took an underpass, and came back towards the station, parking our cars just outside the station.

We crossed the overbridge, reaching the other side of the station. Crossing a few hundred yards, we came across the sight that we had travelled so far to see- hundreds of migratory birds in and around the lake .

There are several species of birds that frequent the lake. The most common among these are of the Whistling Ducks, which are found in huge hordes all across the lake. Some of the other birds commonly seen here, are- Northern pintail duck, Cormorant, Kingfisher, Sarus crane, Northern shoveler,Cotton pygmy goose, Comb duck etc. Jacana and Moorhen are the resident species to be found here.

When we arrived, it was ten in the morning, and we could see a large gray mass in the centre of the lake, which, on closer inspection, we found were the whistling ducks. These birds have a typical body composed of grey, white and rust colour. As I zoomed in with my binoculars, I could see them moving about on the island in the centre of the lake.

As I was moving my binocular further ( and fervently taking pictures), I spotted a curiously shaped bird, pitch black, with a sharply cut body and head, sitting royally on a pole in the middle of the island. Then I spotted one more, and still one more. Being rather non-experienced in avian matters, I asked Jhinukdidi about this bird, and came to know that this was the cormorant, widely found around water bodies all across the Indian subcontinent.

For the benefit of birdwatchers who want to spend a tranquil evening by the lake, the Railways department (who own the Lake and the areas around it) has a guesthouse, aptly named “Bird view” . This place has facilities for overnight stay, and is situated bang on the edge of the Lake, from where one can get an uninterrupted view of the lake. From this vantage point, we took several pictures, and had an impromptu breakfast, before moving on.

We heard a sudden rumble in the foliage of the lake, and turned around, to see a curiously coloured bird , painted in streaks of black, indigo and white, with a white streak on its beak. This was the jacana, a common tropical bird found in the waters of the subcontinent. These birds have large webbed legs, which allow them to walk amongst the floating vegetation found in the lake.

It was nearing noontime now, and as we went around the lake, the large flocks of birds seemed to stir to life slowly but surely. Huge flocks of geese were lifting their mass of bodies above the water, rippling the surface with their motion. The excitement in the air was very much palpable, and all of us could feel it. It was quite an experience to see them take off, gracefully in flight, and then vanish into the air, in huge hordes. The “wings of flight” provided us an opportunity to experience the gracefulness and agility of these birds. We hurried to take out our cameras and click the birds as they went around, encircling the lake.

There were several old buildings ubiquitously placed around the lake. Unfortunately, so was the garbage dump which we encountered, which was giving out a putrid smell, and was a rather unsightly sight. Cleanliness was clearly not a virtue in these parts.

As we finished circling the lake, clicking away to glory, we were greeted by the sight of a colourful woodpecker, pecking away to glory , its red beak standing out conspicuously. And the next one was the clincher and biggest gift of all- two majestic kingfishers perched by the side of a smaller lake, adjacent to the Santragacchi jheel. It was the Eurasian or River Kingfisher, whose colour was absolutely stunning and very different from the Common kingfisher.

All in all, it was time well spent, and one Sunday that all of us enjoyed thoroughly.

Directions: Santragacchi is 12 km from Esplanade

Transport :

Best time to visit: Nov to Feb





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