Image: Ramki Sreenivasan
Despite its difficult location and weak infrastructure, Tal Chhapar (or Chapar / Chappar) Sanctuary, in the Churu district of Northwestern Rajasthan, is a big draw for both keen birders and bird photographers. Essentially a safe haven for blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), Tal Chhapar is a great place to see birds of desert thorn forests, and is an important migratory stopver point for many species. Vagrants are also an attraction of the flat tract of open grassland interspersed with Acacia and Prosopis trees. It is not uncommon to come across rarities like Barbary or Saker falcons and Pale-backed/Yellow-eyed pigeon are sometimes reported from here too (they are more common in nearby Jorbeed area)!
Pale-backed or Yellow-eyed Pigeon. Image: Nikhil Devasar
Originally a private hunting preserve of the kingdom of Bikaner, this small sanctuary now covers and area of 80 sq. km and is interspersed with exposed rocks of slate and quartzite and shallow low-lying areas which act as rain-water traps.
Map of Tal Chhapar
Tal Chhapar is part of the dry Thar Desert landscape. The area under the sanctuary is a flat saline depression, locally known as a "tal". It is mainly a grassland with scattered trees. The vegetation consists of grasslands of Eragrostis spp. Aristida adscensionis, Cenchrus biflorus, Cympogon spp., Cyperus spp., Eleusine spp., Panicum spp., Lasiurus scindicus, Aeluropus lagopoides, and Sporobolus spp. Scrub vegetation consists of trees such as Acacia nilotica, Prosopis cineraria, P. juliflora, Tamrix aphylla, Zizyphus mauritiana, Capparis decidua, and shrubs likeCalligonum polygonoides, Calotropis spp., Aerva spp., Crotalaria spp., and Haloxylon salicornicum.
Laggar Falcon; Image: Ramki Sreenivasan
Raptors are the key attraction of Tal Chhapar with White-eyed Buzzards being the dominant species. Rarities include Red Phalarope, Water Pipit, Buff-bellied/American Pipit, White-browed Bushchat, Eurasian Skylark, Indian Spotted-Creeper, Pale-backed/Yellow-eyed Pigeon, White-tailed Eagle, Merlin, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Sociable Lapwing. Other frequently met species are Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Red-necked Falcon, Laggar Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Demoiselle Crane, European Roller, Bonelli's Eagle, Eurasian Griffon, Bimaculated Lark, Cinereous Vulture, Spanish Sparrow, Rain Quail and Common/Punjab Raven.
Buff-bellied or American Pipit; Image: Ramki Sreenivasan
Aside from birds, the sanctuary is great place to see blackbuck, chinkara, Indian wolf, desert fox and other mammals.
How to reach
Tal Chhapar Sanctuary lies on the Nokha-Sujangarh state highway and is situated at a distance of 85 km from Churu and about 132 km from the town of Bikaner.
Road: New Delhi 350kms via Gurgaon - Rewari - Fatehpur - Chapar.
Rail: Nearest railway station is Chappar. The convenient station is Ratangarh Junction (40 kms from Chhapar) which well-connected with rest of India.
Air: Jaipur International Airport is 220 kms from the sanctuary via Sujangarh.
Where to stay
There are two Forest Rest Houses near the sanctuary entrance which provide basic but satisfactory accommodation.
For bookings contact
Deputy Conservator of Forest, Churu
Phone :- 01562-250938
or, 01568 – 24 23 51
or, 099 290 72 549 - Caretaker
Other nearby attractions: Jorbeed or Jurbeed near Bikaner is a carcass dump attracting rare raptors. Plus it is the best place to see Yellow-eyed pigeons.
Indian Spotted-Creeper can be seen at Gaushala, near Tal Chappar
Tal Chhapar remains closed from July to September.
Best season: October to March. Fog is an issue during peak winter.
Climate: Hot summers and cold winters. Min 8 °C; Max 48 °C
Location: 27°47′53″N 74°26′06″E