During the months of winter, the lakes and marshes of Uttar Pradesh bustle with the arrival of migratory birds from Siberia, Europe, China and Tibet. From the lurid painted stork, pheasant-tailed and bronze-winged jacana, to the vanishing Bengal Florian, the state is a treasure trove for any ornithologist.

Located near Sandi town of Hardoi district at a distance of 19 kilometres on Hardoi-Sandi road, Sandi Bird sanctuary was created in the year 1990 for the conservation of aquatic plants and animals. Spread over an area of 3.09 sq. km, the sanctuary entails the ‘footmark-shaped’ Dahar Jheel and is surrounded by the River Garra (formerly known as Garun Ganga).

From November to March, Sandi Bird Sanctuary hails heaps of avian visitors. Large flocks of Red-crested pochard, white-eyed pochard, the brahmini duck, Eurasian wigeon, northern shoveller, gadwall, coot and garganey teal fly here making the season a delight for bird spotting, for even a layperson.  Besides, resident birds that roost here includes open-billed stork, white-necked stork, black-necked stork, painted stork, purple heron, black drongo, spoonbill, and Indian moorhen.

Here, you can watch the poetic mating dance of the storks, or marvel at the stylish spoonbills smoothly gliding along the surface of the lake to catch a fish. Rightly says the renowned ornithologist, Salim Ali, “By the gorgeousness of their plumage and the loveliness of their forms, by the vivaciousness of their movements and the sweetness of their songs, birds typify Life and Beauty.” (The Book of Indian Birds)

The sanctuary is home to over 200 sarus cranes, the official state-bird of U.P. The only resident crane in our country, the sarus plays a significant role in maintaining the health of a wetland. In fact, the presence of sarus cranes at a wetland is taken as an indicator of its thriving ecosystem.

For both the avid bird watcher and the casual visitor, the sanctuary has a Bird Interpretation Centre so as to spread awareness about the rich avifauna here. There are two watchtowers to facilitate bird watching and are popular with tourists. There is also a walking trail along the banks of the lake where the Forest Department has provided benches for tourists.

This bird habitat also plays host to a few wild animals including Indian porcupine, jackal, fox, mongoose and nilgai. A few varieties of turtles such as Indian flap shelled turtle spotted pond turtle, Indian soft shelled turtle and Indian roof turtle are found here as well. A small reptilian population also thrives in the sanctuary including a red sand boa, wolf snake, rat snake, the poisonous common krait as well as Russel’s viper.

Moreover, the sanctuary is enriched with much aquatic vegetation like Bhoori Kai, Singhara, Pistia, Jaljanjal, Kamalini, Kamal, Jalrani, Chloris, Oona, Shama, etc. It also contains trees of babool, neem, jamun, mahua and khajoor.

Certainly, the Sandi Bird Sanctuary, like any other bird sanctuary in the state, is a paradise for all birding enthusiasts. The view of the elegant avian species, its natural beauty, and the serene ambience of the place make it a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

The bird population in the state is so opulent that the exotic creatures of flight can be spotted even at various small lakes and cultivated farmlands apart from the protected sanctuaries. Undoubtedly, a trip to even the smallest lake in Uttar Pradesh would be an enormously rewarding experience.