this was the first multi-day bicycling trip from the bumpy-trailers. last year we had bicycled to bahosi and spent the night there, but we had come back by car. this year was less exploratory - we knew what to expect. it was a minimalist trip - no vehicle support of any kind, carrying everything ourselves.

a large pintail flock taking off near evening. suhail framed by the setting sun.
(click to enlarge any image on this page)

more than 3 thousand each shovellers and pintails, about a thousand each greylag and coot. between 15 and 20 thousand birds in total.

spending the night at bahosi lets you explore the jheel at peak activity.

at dusk, the greylags honk by overhead - most birds leave the jheel to roost in nearby fields. they return at dawn, when you are woken up by the trumpeting saruses. getting to the jheel as dawn is breaking is quite spectacular...

bicycling there

we rode out along country roads through rasulabad and bela; came back via makanpur and bilhaur and GT road. (click for interactive map)

suhail, brajesh and i set off at 0645. suhail was also part of the team last year when we explored (literally) the canal route. we got lost and went through a lot of bumpy terrain and reached bahosi completely exhausted.

this time, we were taking pucca roads. it was 95 km via rasulabad and bela, and then a new pradhAn mantri gram saRak yojana road to the sanctuary. first tea break at 38km at tripula, next stop for lunch at 62 km (rasulabad). about ten km down, brajesh, who has been a champion cyclist in all our outings, developed cramps and felt he needed to get back. fortunately, a loader could be found heading to kanpur, and he hopped a ride back.

brajesh on the road to rasulabad. at one point, we cross these trees that seem to thrive on watery soil. after rasulabad, brajesh developed cramps, and had to head back.

suhail and i reached bahosi park at 1440. karan singh was at his helpful best. the official guest house is locked up and not use-able, but karan singh arranged for some mattresses and we camped out on the floor. also, since the visit last year, bhola chaurasia has opened a shop, where a rustic meal of dal-roti-sabzi was prepared by his son piyush. piyush is about seventeen - unfortunately he has stopped going to school (class X), taking more interest in this seasonal business instead. after an early dinner, we are asleep by nine pm.

suhail and mahendra singh at the gate to the lakh-bahosi sanctuary. one of the two gazebos at the park.

next morning, we are up early to check out the dawn, but the birds have gotten in before us. we take a walk around part of the jheel, before having tea with some bread that piyush has toasted on malAi (fresh cream). we pack up our binoculars and bird books, and have tea at karan singh's house. his three sons and two goat kids are very friendly, and his wife has made some excellent alu parantha. but we are in a bit of a rush, since we have a 100km bike ride in front of us.

Our return route runs along the ganga canal for about 15km, then we turn off towards bilhaur. the stretch via thatia till makanpur has great roads; the 10km from makanpur till bilhaur is under construction, but the newly resurfaced grand trunk road from bilhaur to iitk is a dream. after leaving the sanctuary around 10:30 we are in iit by 1640, including about 65 minutes of breaks for lunch, breakfast and other stops.

on the way back, ran into the big annual basant mela at makanpur.

karan singh is the most knowledgeable and helpful man at bahosi, and he isn't even an employee. this time, he invited us for breakfast at his home in the nearby village of kalyanpur.

birds (en-route)

On our way to Bahosi, we ran into these red-headed bunting lazing on the reeds by the road.

the red-headed bunting, emberiza bruniceps, a winter visitor. munia-like seed-eating bill. i have seen another group once, off the lower ganga canal.

somewhere before bela, the route crossed back over the ramganga canal. here we saw a darter (english name in salim ali: snakebird) landing, darting about, and then taking off as well.

darterbird taking off.

painted storks and saruses on fields along our route

pied bushchat, male and female

the bee-eaters, which disappear locally in darkest winter, are just starting to be seen again. this one was part of an athletic group near bela.

birds at bahosi

Though mid-Feb is getting a bit late, Bahosi jheel was still very busy. Around 3PM, found at least 3000 each northern shovellers and pintails, a few hundred greylag that honked out overhead, red-crested pochard (~25), common pochard, tufted pochard (~20), comb duck (>60), spoonbills(~30, will go up to 100+ as the lake recedes). Wigeon. A few gadwalls and common teals - there were thousands of each a few weeks back. A couple of ruddy shelducks. A dozen bar-headed geese had come, but couldn't find any, maybe gone. Plenty of black-headed ibis, painted storks (~40), purple moorhen. Several eagles, perhaps spotted. Grey heron. Purple herons. Coots (500+).

Among the more common birds, several hundred little grebe, rooting about the shallows in straggly lines. Asian openbills, stilts, tons of egrets. Pied kingfishers diving. White-breasted waterhen and kingfisher, hoopoe, ashy-crowned lark, little and greater cormorants - in the sanctuary and also commonly along the bicycling route, esp the canal segments. Little green bee-eaters starting to re-emerge after wherever they hide in deepest winter. Sarus in groups of three or more - parents plus immatures. Crested larks and yellow wagtails along the edges. The jheel had probably > 15K individuals altogether.

At dusk, most flocks leave for neighbouring areas and return before dawn. At the same time, large groups of sarus fly in to occupy the shallows, and wake you up with their terrific trumpeting at dawn (but there were fewer than end-Feb last year ( The Lakh jheel has a similar mix though more purple moorhens - but missed out on it this time owing to pressures of getting back.

Northern Shoveller

Northern shovellers.

a coot watching the antics of the northern shovellers

northern shovellers in their characteristic shovelling posture.

eurasian coots. also a cormorant in the foreground.

Northern Pintail

The male pintail is an elegant bird, unmistakable because of its bright contrasty colours and also the sharp tail. You'll often find them upended, dabbling just below the surface.

more than three thousand northern pintails at this time, estimated by karan singh

one of the islands with spoonbills, geese (maybe greylag?) and cormorants. also some ruddy shelducks.

little grebe

wagtails - white-browed, and yellow.

spoonbills, ibises and painted storks

in the morning, we found about fifteen spoonbills, five to ten black-headed ibis and about the same number of painted stork lioned up along a ridge.

a black-headed ibis flying into the jheel at dawn

ibises and spoonbills

the painted stork is a large bird, with a 1.6m wingspan.

common sandpiper,

a purple heron, and a purple moorhen (beside a pond heron).


Last year, we had circumnavigated the lake. At one point, we ran into a large spotted eagle, sitting on the path barely four meters from us. this year, we saw eagles sitting on trees far away, but this chappie we saw up close as we were on our way out.

we ran into this eagle on the canal a little outside bahosi. Spotted perhaps?

egrets, larks and hoopoes

egrets, great and little

the crested lark was a very common sight, all along the route and also in bahosi. also saw quite a few hoopoes.


for some time, we watched a pied kingfisher executing its spectaculor dives into the water. whether it emerged with something or not, we couldn't tell. we did see a crow flying by with a fish in its beak.

the white-breasted kingfisher is common everywhere.

this parakeet was on a tree next to the unused guest house. an ashy prinia by the lake

about the lakh-bahosi bird sanctuary

the bahosi jheel is right beside the village of bahosi, and the villagers have their fields all around the birds. though this causes a little disturbance to the birds, especially near the shore, the lifestyle of the villagers is one that is largely non-intrusive to the birds.

a village cow snoozes in the setting sun, while a few shovellers root about in the weeds.

while staying overnight at bahosi has its charm, there are no facilities. no electricity, no running water. the forest department does have a guest house at bahosi, but it is completely dysfunctional, and has practically no visitors, even in season.

for more information including a pamphlet brought out by the forest department, uttar pradesh, circa 2003, visit our lakh-bahosi 2010 webpage.
amitabha mukerjee Feb 25 2011 mukerjee [at] gmail