Just a 20 minute drive from
Kolkata lies a 13,75,000 square feet lake, known as the Santragachi Jheel. Winter months
(October to March) draw 4000 to 5000 ducks and waders to this safe haven.
What is really the key feature of Santragachi
is the protection that these birds receive at this small lake. Unless you visit
Santragachi and see the unconcerned way in which the normally wary birds move about, you
can never appreciate the miracle of Santragachi. And the credit goes to the Indian
Railways who own and maintain the lake and more
particularly to the local residents who take pride in protecting the birds. As a local
youth told me, just try and harm the birds....and it takes that little to change bird
Santragachi is not beautiful. It is hemmed in
by habitation and railway tracks. Water hyacinth covers a large part of the surface and there is very
little green cover. But the birds more than make up in their variety, numbers and in the
unconcerned way they make Santragachi a home.
Lesser Whistling-Ducks dominate this lake, as
they do in most parts of the east. But by no means is Santragachi a one duck
pond. Regular winter visitors here
include the rare Fulvous Whistling-duck, Swinhoe's Snipe, Ferruginous
Pochard, Comb Duck and the more common Gadwall, Garganey, Northern Pintail,
Northern Shovelers and others. Jacanas and bitterns are the resident
How to reach: Santragachi is easily accessed from the Kona Expressway which
connects the second Hoogly Bridge with NH 6. As you cross the bridge from Kolkata and take
the Kona connector, Santragachi Railway Station is a bare 20 minute drive. The jheel or
lake is right behind the rail tracks and a short walk from the station. Your destination
is less than 10 kms from Raj Bhavan, the city centre.
November to February when the temperatures dip. Early mornings (6.30
am) and late afternoon (4.00 pm onwards) are the best time(s) of the day.