Originally this started as a collection of photos I wanted to post. I was a novice photographer when I started this blog. Now I have learnt some of the tricks of the trade and can call myself an amateur. I will use this blog to highlight some of my works and also some tricks/tips which I think may be useful to others.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Photographing Birds at Chupi Char, Purbasthali, West Bengal

I have not updated this blog for quite some time. I was busy doing other stuff and did not have a lot of time for photography projects. I decided to amend this and and write a comprehensive blog post on Bird Watching at Chupi Char, which will not only be a post on photography, but also a travel guide to this place.

How to go
We had planned to visit two places (Bethuadahari and Purbasthali).We woke up at 3 AM in the morning, prepared lunch for my son, and hit the roads by 5:45 AM. Bethuadahari is on NH - 34 (About 22 km from Krishnanagar) so we took VIP Road, Jessore Road on to NH-34. NH-34 was very crowded at that hour, full of slow moving trucks, and my driver had to weave between them to maintain an average speed of 55-60 kmph. My son has motion sickness, so after stopping a few times to let him puke and with a dirty car we reached Krishnanagar. There are a few dhaba type restaurants at the junction of NH-34 and SH-8 at Krishnanagar, where we had our breakfast (Luchi, Cholar Dal and Alu-Ful kopi fry), followed by tea. I felt that it was a little pricey compared to the quality of the food. Each luchi was Rs 4, the veg fry was Rs 20 per plate and the tea was Rs 6 per glass. The quality was just acceptable but probably this was the only place on the road to Bethuadahari where we could get a decent breakfast. (All other places on the way cater to mainly truck drivers and the few I checked out had roti/sabzi only)
After stopping at the bridge over Jalangi river for a few photographs, we reached Bethuadahari by 9:30 AM and that was a big mistake. The place isn't open before 11 AM and they will only allow you in a group of 15 so you have to wait till it is 11 AM and there are 15 people like you waiting to get in. I had packed a tight schedule, so I decided to go away, after trying to persuade with the guards in vain to let us in. Good that he did not budge from his duty, but the bad thing is that the timings are not tourist friendly! We stopped again in the woods where the rail line crosses NH-34 for a few more photographs.
Now it is time for the photographs on the road, though I would not claim them to be great. It was very foggy and this is the best I could manage!
The first one goes ... rail bridge over Jalangi river,which is a photograph one almost always take while driving over NH-34. You could see some better samples taken by other folks at panoramio.
From Purbasthali Trip

The second photo was also taken at the same spot. This is the road bridge which is not very awe inspiring!
From Purbasthali Trip

The third photo is of the train at the level crossing at Bethuadahari.
From Purbasthali Trip

The next photo is of the sublime beauty of the forest in the morning!
From Purbasthali Trip

After turning away from Bethuadahari, we headed southbound in NH-34 towards Krishnanagar. At Krishnanagar we took SH-8 westbound towards Nabadwip. In the meantime my son has puked a couple of more times, my wife is nearly hysterical and it took me a lot of persuasion to go to Purbasthali, instead of heading back home. The logic that won was it is only a little more than an hour to Purbasthali while home is much further away. SH-8 is in a horrible state, and after a long bumpy ride which took much longer than I anticipated, we crossed Bhagirathi river via Gauranga Bridge, crossed over Nabadwip and took SH-6 northbound towards Purbasthali. We turned right onto a local road towards Purbasthali railway station, crossed the rail line and continued on the winding village road for about 5 kilometers (I did not look at the odo, the villagers said it was 5 km) till we reached the picnic grounds of Chupi Char. I was glad I took an expert driver, as the narrow dirt road with steep embankments would have definitely scared a nervous driver like me! Finally we reached the deserted picnic spot with only a few locals. It was absolutely otherwise deserted though a tourist party of 5-7 people came immediately after me and boarded the boats.


Tip : I took a sub-optimal route from Kolkata, as I had Bethuadahari in my itinerary. Best way from Kolkata is to take Kalyani Expressway, cross over river Hooghly from Kalyani towards Bansberia and then take the northbound SH-6 (Magra Road) and then (Kalna-Katwa road) to Purbasthali. At this point in time Kalyani expressway is in a mess, but SH-6 between Bansberia till Kalna is a fantastic village road. You can easily drive at 90KMPH if you want to, or you can drive slower and take in the beauty of this village route. After Kalna it gets crowded, but still it would be an ok-ish drive.


We reached there around 12 Noon. My wife totally freaked out at reaching this place. It was absolutely deserted and nothing but a village ground. So this brings us to the moral of the story - Do not make the mistake of bringing someone with you who is not a photography enthusiast, or a bird enthusiast. They would be disappointed.
It was lunch time for my son, so my wife fed my son, while I strolled in the grass taking a few photographs, drinking in the beauty of the place.
Purbasthali is an Oxbow Lake of River Ganges. It is rich in food and that is why it is a favorite place for a lot of birds. The following pictures give you an idea of the place.
This is the view of the western side from the picnic spot.
From Purbasthali Trip

And this is the view of the North-eastern side, showing the other tourist party in a boat.
From Purbasthali Trip

While this captures the expression of my family while taking a walk in the Park!
From Purbasthali Trip

After my son's lunch was over, I rented a boat for the hour. They asked for Rs 350 for one hour, and after some bargaining I got it down to Rs 250. I believe I paid much more than I should have, but with a big car, a wife and a small son, it is difficult to negotiate. I would say if you bargained well, you could negotiate Rs 250 for about two hours. So we finally boarded the boat, and off we went for bird watching!


Tip : Do not forget to get a good pair of binoculars and a camera with a good telephoto lens. I had the camera, but forgot the binoculars, so I enjoyed the birds with my tele-lens while my wife had to be content just with the boat ride and by viewing the birds from a distance!


Tip : Best time to view the birds and to photograph them is early morning and late afternoon. I could not be there early morning because I planned to go to Bethuadahari first. I could not stay till late afternoon as I had to be back home for my son. Do not make the same planning mistake that I did!


The river was full of birds and though it was still very very misty, I got a few pictures of the birds. I only could spot a few species, but with some homework, and a little bit of leisure time in your hands, I believe you can spot a lot more!
The bird which I saw in lot of abundance is a native bird: Indian Cormorant. (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) It could have been Little Cormorant as well, but I believe I am correct in classifying them as Indian Cormorant, owing to the bluish beak.
From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip

From selected birds

From selected birds

Another bird which I saw in abundance is the Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra). They are black birds and look very much like ducks. They can be identified by their white beak.
From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip

I saw a couple of Northern Pintails (Anas acuta)
From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip

One Spot Billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha) - Odd man out amongst the Coots
From Purbasthali Trip

A few The Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
From Purbasthali Trip

We rescued one Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), who got himself tangled with the fishing nets. He would have died unless we spotted it. This picture shows the hands of the boatman who is trying to disentangle the bird. The bird was too sick to fly and stayed on the bottom of our boat till the end of the trip. Then the boatman released him on the banks and he hopped away to the bushes. It seems his wings were still too wet/damaged to fly.
From Purbasthali Trip

A Green Bee-eater, Merops orientalis
From Purbasthali Trip

One Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta)
From Purbasthali Trip

A few more which I have not identified yet.
From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip

From Purbasthali Trip



After a happy afternoon of bird photography I came back home contented. We were all hungry, as we did not carry lunch, and there were almost no dhabas on SH-6 by which we came back - but finally we spotted one where we had a lunch of rice, dal, cabbage curry, fried potato & mutton curry. The food was not that great but we relished nonetheless, because we were too hungry by that time.
We had a fantastic late afternoon drive through SH-6 and a gruelling drive through Kalyani Expressway, and finally reached home at 6:45 PM.
That concludes my journey and the blog. However, a few more tips.


I researched my trip from the following two web links. Thanks guys for putting that up



I located the place through Google Maps.


I used Waze for Navigation. While Waze routes were still sub-optimal, it still allowed me to take the correct turns. I will try and put them up in both maps.


Purbasthali is a big place, and the exact spot is known as Chupi Char by the locals. While asking for Purbasthali will still take you to the correct place, you would look more knowledgeable if you ask for Chupi Char.
Have a safe trip, and let me know how it goes

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Anonymous said...

I have visited on 1st Feb, 2014. I took the road via dankuni, to baidyabati to delhi road, via mogra, assam road etc. Its around 148 Km from my place in kolkata behala. I followed nokia maps using GPS in my mobile. The roads are v good, but its taken around 4 and half hours to reach.

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