My birder-photographer husband has been going to the Surajpur Wetland and Natural Forest, a biodiversity park located on the fringes of Greater Noida, frequently for the last two years. His descriptions of an easily accessible bird paradise, hidden from the cacophony of Delhi, sounded perfect, and I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about.
We left early on a Saturday morning, and after just an hour’s drive I found myself transported to an expansive, green space. There was a gentle quiet, made up of the pleasant sounds of the forest. My city-deadened senses woke up, and I began to register the different textures and sights.
From the entrance we started walking clockwise on an oval trail that goes around the huge waterbody at the centre of the park. No cars, scooters, or cycles are allowed. Walking is the only way to experience this tranquil area, and soak in the park’s biodiversity. Benches at regular intervals are perfect for a short rest, and there are watchtowers to climb and say hello to the birds. The trail is dusty, but clearly marked out, and goes through some deeply forested areas.
The only mammals we saw on that day was a herd of nilgai, but grey mongoose, Indian hare, golden jackal and the five-striped squirrel are also frequently visible. Birds we saw aplenty: flocks of sarus cranes and multiple species of storks flying above us in droves, piercing the serene morning with their conversation. Herons, northern shovellers, cormorants, water peafowl, and buzzards were spotted along the trail. Frolicking on the water at various points were spot-billed ducks, lesser-whistling ducks, cotton pygmy geese, comb ducks, common teals, purple moorhens, and red-crested pochards. The ferruginous pochard, bar-headed goose, greylag goose, and gadwall are also found here in good numbers, and some lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of rarer species like the bristled grassbird, and black-necked stork. To top it off are 52 species of butterflies.
Much work has gone into creating this park. Since 2010, the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund-India, with support from the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, has developed 761 acres of the Surajpur Wetland. Besides creating a nature trail, more than a million trees have been planted, and an artificial dam built to ensure water supply during the winter.
It took us four hours to complete the whole circuit, though it’s possible to do it in as little as 1.5 hours, with fewer stops. By the time we were ready to leave, I had a new appreciation for this place where visitors can enjoy nature at close quarters, and local and migratory birds get themselves a piece of paradise.
Appeared in the December 2015 issue as “Surajpur Safe House”.
Look Out For 186 species of birds from 44 families, some of which are threatened. These include 102 resident species, 53 winter migrants, 28 summer migrants, and 3 passage migrant species. Large numbers of local and migratory birds can be seen from Oct to Mar (surajpurwetland-up.com).
Getting There Surajpur Wetland and Natural Forest is in Surajpur village in District Gautam Budh Nagar (Greater NOIDA), about 40 km/1.5 hr southeast of Connaught Place in Delhi. It is best to hire a full-day cab for the journey from Delhi, which will cost approximately ₹3,000, as getting a cab for the return journey might be tough.
Open All days, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; no entry fee (the divisional forest officer, Gautam Budh Nagar Forest Division, can be reached at 0120-2425989 for more information). Strict rules prohibit picnicking and ensure visitors keep the park clean.
Kavita Devgan has many avatars: she is a health columnist, nutritionist and weight management consultant, a speaker and the author of “Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People”.
Bhanu Devgan is the co-founder of photo contest website, India Photography Awards. He has spent over 20 years working for top corporates. Photography is his passion; since 2008, he has been taking pictures on wildlife, landscapes and travel.