THE PANCHKULA Wildlife Department has made two forest trails to help birders and other wildlife enthusiasts access the machan in Berwala Bird Safari forest in Morni Hills, part of the Khol-Hai Raitan Wildlife Sanctuary. The machan, built some years ago, had fallen into disuse because no one could access it. With a trail now available, wildlife officials are expecting the number of visitors to the bird park to go up, and for it to fulfil some of its original potential.
The forest is teeming with sambhar, nilgai and birdlife. Earlier, there were hardly any visitors, and the department was also uninterested in promoting it as a destination for wildlife enthusiasts. But with both mobility, and lack of other public spots to visit in Panchkula, Berwala has seen more tourist footfall in the last couple of years.
“The need for a trail was noticed when some of our senior officers went to the forest two months ago. They wanted to observe if there were any animals around the man-made waterbodies. They were walking towards the waterbodies but as they approached these ponds, the sound of their footfall warned the animals, and all they could see was the animals running away,” said a source in the Wildlife Department.
The 25-foot-high machan is located on top of a hill, and provides a view of the waterbodies and of the whole safari area. It is also a vantage point from where forest guards can observe human movements. On a clear day, it is also possible from this machan to see the machan of the adjoining Ber Shikargah Wildlife Sanctuary.
The trail that has now been made is 1.5-km-long, and starts at Berwala Wildlife check post, which is on the Panchkula-Nahan main road, which is also NH-73. Visitors who go in their cars have to park their vehicles on the roadside near the check post.
The trail was made in May and it took a whole month as it required clearing of thick bushes, undergrowth as well as small trees. A second shorter trail has also been made from another point on the main road, 3 kms from the checkpost, that also leads to the machan.
“The trail was constructed for promoting birdwatching and field observation of wild animals from the specific height. A watchtower on the nearby hills of Berwala Bird Sanctuary was constructed two years ago but a trail was missing for a long time. Work is on to construct trail to connect this with the two machans situated in Ber Shikargah Wildlife Sanctuary,” Inspector (wildlife) Jaiveer Kumar said.
Lt Gen (retd) Baljit Singh, an avid birder who is a long-time resident of Chandigarh’s Sector 16, and was a driving force behind the Berwala bird park, said the trails were supposed to have been made back in 2003 or 2004. “We (including then forest and wildlife officers) had great plans for the safari and I remember we had chalked out a detailed plan for two-sided trail upto the hill from the link road for observing birds and other wild creatures. Later, the plans were dumped as some staff members were transferred and some of them retired.”
Singh said the area had a huge potential to be developed as an important birdwatching site. He said if the trail had been made now, it must be well-guarded.
In 2004, Singh said, he had observed 83 species of birds, including the Great Barbet, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Crested Bunting, Verditer Flycatcher, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Blue Whistling-Thrush, White-throated Fantail-Flycatcher and Black Bulbul.
A senior officer with the wildlife department said, “We have mentioned the names of trees on yellow plates nailed to the branches. Morni hills have different species of wildlife. It is easy to observe sambar deer, bluebulls, gray langur, jungle cats, chital around these waterbodies from the machan. There are also leopards but they are not easy to spot.”
Berwala bird safari is nestled between the last two ridges of the Shivaliks before the range flattens out towards Panchkula and is spread over 260 acres.