Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary - Fact File

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

About Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

The beauty of the Western Ghats, the majesty of Maharashtra, and the blessings of nature make this place a real treat for the nature lovers. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most beautiful wildlife sanctuaries in India.

The Bhimashankar wildlife Sanctuary was declared by the govt. of Maharashtra on 10th Oct 1985 as a reserve forest for the Malabar Giant Squirrel and a huge number of other animals and birds. It covers 130.78 sq. km of forest. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is positioned at an altitude of 2100 feet to 3800 feet, and is located in the Ambegaon taluka of Pune District, Maharashtra, infact; it is spread over the districts of Pune, Raigad and Thane districts of the north-western part of Maharashtra. There is a shrine in the forest of the wildlife sanctuary, which has one of the 12 Jyotiralinga temples of Lord Shiva. The valley found beyond this temple is a wonderful combination of shrubs, magical herbs and plant life and serve as the catchments area for the Bhima, Ghod and Arala rivers, which empty into the Krishna. It receives heavy monsoon rainfall of approx. 6000 mm annually.

However, this forest has also seen some turmoil in recent years from tribals who have felt unjustly burdened with the declaration of a wildlife sanctuary in their ancestral environment. The undulating Bhimashankar plateau straddles the main ridge of Western Ghats with its peaks and flat ridge tops.

The easiest way to reach the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is to drive down from the city of Mumbai, which generally takes around 7 hours (approx. 250 kms). The best time to visit the wildlife sanctuary is from the months of October to May. The tourists are suggested to carry camping gear, dry snacks, binoculars, woolen clothes and mosquito repellents. One can also trek from Karjat side, from the foothill village of Khandas (36 kms from Karjat station). There are 2 paths – Ganesh ghat (Easy) and Shidi Ghat (Tough), but both paths traverse through amazing forest with rich bio-diversity.

This is one of the best habitats in the Western Ghats for the giant squirrel and there are confirmed sightings of tigers. However, tourism projects which seek to build in the heart of the forest threaten the arboreal ecology of these creatures. Proposed roads also threaten the forest, as do development projects designed to cater to the needs of pilgrims who visit the nearby temple complex.

Trails:

There are several trails in the sanctuary; some of the well defined trails are as follows:

1) Gupt Bhimashankar Trails (1.5 kms long straight walk): This trails traverses from the south of Bhimashankar Temple through a magnificently dense forest with high canopy trees. One of the best trails to see the Malabar Giant squirrels along with scorpions, and reptiles that rest under the rocks and crevices. Also a good trail to see the Western Ghats endemic birds like White-bellied blue flycatchers, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Yellow-browed bulbuls etc. There is a temple “Sakshi Vinayak” at the end, from where the trail drops down towards a stream. Here there is a Shiv lingam which is called “Gupt Bhimashankar”… there are small perennial water puddles that attract many species of birds and butterflies and has plenty of Water boatman and water skatters (insects)…..This trails futher leads to Bhorgiri caves down the valley.

2) Nagphani Trail (2 kms long with steep, but easy climb): This is the highest point trail and stands at 3696 feet. Once at the summit, you are left breathless not so much from the climb, but from the vista that opens in front of your eyes. You can see a brilliant sunset from the peak. The ground looks like a black and green patchwork quilt with little clusters of villages thrown in for a touch of red. A number of tiny lakes glisten like rubies in the translucent reddish glow of the setting sun. Serpentine rivers meander gracefully around sleepy villages like skeins of raw silk. The skycap is dominated by forts and neighboring hill stations, like Matheran that jut out proudly into the sky. This trail is very good for watching raptors (Birds of Prey) with regular sightings of Common Kestrel, Shaheen falcon, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent eagle, Black eagle etc. The “Padar gad” , Tungi and Peth fort is just below on the plateau towards Karjat and A Hanuman temple is situated at the base of the summit. The top is also famous for the carpets of wildflowers just after the monsoon.

3) Machaan Trail (1 km from adjacent to MTDC resort and straight, easy walk): This trail traverses from near the MTDC resort and the terrain is more or less open with good visibility. There is a tiny machaan(watch post) erected by the Forest Department near a small Dam (Which is usually dry in Summer, but always has water on the other side of the wall) and a small temple dedicated to “Bhagadevi”, the forest Goddess of Bhimashankar. Extremely productive trail for mammals like Mouse deer, Barking deer, Sambhar, Hare and good place to see Nightjars in the evening. I have seen Leopard Pugmarks on this trail, almost on all occasions that I have been.

4) Forest Rest House (1 km from opp. MTDC with steep, but easy climb): This walk traverses thro’ a good number of tall trees, especially Ficus species and a very good trail to see bird species like White-cheeked Barbets, Chloropsis, Black Bulbuls, Flycatchers, Brown cheeked fulvetas etc. At the end of this trail, there are settlements for Forest staff and offers a very nice panoramic view of the surrounding forest.

5) Koli Village (3 Kms steep trek down towards Karjat side): If you are trekking from Karjat side, then you will have to pass through this village, before reaching Bhimashankar. Otherwise one can climb down from Bhimashankar to reach here, which is situated on a plateau. Tough a steep trail, this traverses through a nice forest rich in Biodiversity with plenty of insects and birds including Shamas, Orange headed and Malabar Whistling thrush, Orange Minivets, Flycatchers etc. The Villagers sell nice and refreshing “Butter milk” for the trekkers climbing from Karjat side. There are plenty of open habitat birds near this village where Rice and Nachni are cultivated in the fields.

6) Ahupe Forest (19 Kms from temple, with 7 kms of good road and then a walk of about 11 kms): As you near Bhimashankar, approx. 4 kms before, there is a small tar road towards your right, which travels through one of the few remaining primary forest patch, extremely dense and pristine. The tar road ends up till the Kondhwal village (approx. 5 kms from the main road). This is an amazing place, very quite and cool. From here, one can descend down to “Siddheshwar fort” and further down towards “Naneghat”. The first few kms where one can go by road is very very rich in birdlife with sure sightings of Crimson-backed Sunbirds, Orange headed Thrush, Black Bulbuls etc. Near the Kondhval village the cultivated fields offers Bee-eaters, Malabar and Syke’s Crested larks in plenty

Though these are well defined trails, any jungle path is very productive in Bhimashankar and the surrounding countryside...

Fact File:

Location: Western Ghats Of Maharashtra


Coverage Area:130.78-sq-km

Main Attraction: The Home Of Malabar Giant Squirrels, Birds, Insects, reptiles and Medicinal herbs

Accommodation: Small restaurants cum basic rooms for the devotees near the temple (ranging from Rs.300/- onwards, Dormitories ranging from Rs.100/person onwards)

Blue Mormon resort (about 9 kms before the Temple), price ranging from Rs.900 / room onwards- Excellent

Hyde Park (about 7 kms before the temple), price ranging from Rs.450/- onwards – Basic

Electricity: The Temple area is now connected with electricity and telephone. However the mobile range is only limited to BSNL as of now, but one can get range of other mobile services from the various high points.

Food: Small Dhabas and Restuarants serve basic Vegetarian food, however, due to shortage of drinking water (supplied by water tankers daily), bottled mineral water is recommended.

Travel:

By Rail: The nearest railway station is at Pune

By Air : The nearest airport is at Pune.

By Road: The road distance from Mumbai is approx. 255 km via Malshej Ghat


Nearby Excursions: Temple of Lord Shiva, Dimbhe dam, Nagphani point for a superb view of the plains below and the surrounding Western Ghats, Bhorgiri caves and other nature trails as given above.


Medical Facilities: The nearest hospital is approx. 47 kms in the town of Ghodegaon.


Ideal Road routes from Mumbai:

Via Malshej Ghat: Mumbai – Thane – Kalyan – Murbad – Malshej Ghat – Junnar – Ghodegaon – Dhimbhe Dam town – Bhimashankar (approx. 252 kms from Sion, Mumbai)

Via Lonavala : Mumbai – Vashi – Panvel – Khandala – Lonavla – Chakan – Rajgurunagar – Manchar – Dimbhe Dam town – Bhimashankar (approx. 240 kms from Sion, Mumbai)


Personally, I would prefer the Malshej Ghat road, because of good road, thin traffic and scenic beauty ;)

Flora:

It contains relic forest with a high diversity of endangered evergreen tree species many of which are endemic to the Western Ghats. The main forest of this sanctuary is the southern tropical semi evergreen forest. Tourists can find wide range of plant life, magical herbs, and shrubs. The major flora found in Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary includes Bamboo, Palas, Babul, Bija, Salaia, Tendu, Dhawda, Zizphus Helicteres, Khair, Sal, Terminenalia species, Casia Auriculata, Bel, Hiwar, Teak, Hirda, Behada, Jamun, Ficus ssp., Anjan etc. The commonly found shrubs include varieties of Isora, Vitex Nigundo, Solanium Giganteum, Lantana etc. and many species of herbs, climbers, grass and ferns.

In the monsoon season, one can spot a bioluminous fungi growing on some trees. The fungus gives out a faint glow that makes the tree trunks shimmer gently in the darkness of the night.

Fauna:

The area is rich in fauna since there is variety of forest types in the sanctuary. The wild life found here includes Malabar Giant Squirrel (of the ssp. Ratufa indica elphinstonii), Leopards, Barking Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Langur, Hares, Pangolin, civet cats, and occasionally Hyena. More than 150 species of birds are found in Bhimashankar WLS and the surrounding areas (Checklist at the end). Among the birds one will be able to find are White-Bellied Blue flycatcher, Puff-throated babbler, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Brown cheeked Fulvetta, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Black Bulbul, Indian Black Bird, Black Eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Emeral Doves, Oriental turtle dove, Grey Jungle Fowl and many, many more. One might get to see the great butterfly and moth brigade including several species. The Insect life is tremendous here and the reptiles are in plenty.

Best Time to Visit: For Birds October to May, For Insects and Reptiles, July to Dec, For Wildflowers Aug to Nov.


Permissions: There is an active forest dept. office very near to the start of the temple steps. Though not many restrictions to roam around on the trails inside the sanctuary, you are not allowed to venture inside the forest after dusk.

About Malabar Giant Squirrel (Shekru in Marathi)

The sanctuary is famous as the home of a highly endangered subspecies of the Malabar Giant Squirrel - Shekaru ( Ratufa indica elphistoni), which is also the state animal of Maharashtra ! The animal is extremely shy and almost never comes down from the trees where it stays. The giant squirrel is mainly arboreal and so needs a thick canopy of trees to move around in, look for food. The giant squirrel has a distinctive rust-coloured fur and shrill cry. It lives either on its own or in pairs, making nests at the high ends of branches, well away from the reach of predators. It lives all its life on the trees, leaping upto 20 feet between branches and trees. It could make upto six nests on trees so as to take shelter in the nearest one during a crisis. Its breeding season extends from March to April and again from September to October.

Road Map from Mumbai and Pune:

The Legend of Bhimashankar

The Bhimashankara temple is a composite of old and the new structures and is built in the Nagara style of architecture. It is a modest yet graceful temple and it dates back to mid 18th century. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is also said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate the carrying out, of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.

This temple is closely associated with the legend of Shiva slaying the demon Tripurasura associated with the invincible flying citadels Tripuras. Shiva is said to have taken abode in the Bhima form, upon the request of the Gods, on the crest of the Sahyadri hills, and the sweat that poured forth from his body after the battle is said to have formed the Bhimarathi River.

Bhimashankar is a beautiful black rock structure built in the Nagara style of architecture, the temple dates back to the mid 18th century. Believed to have been built during the reign of the Peshwas, the temple surprisingly displays a relic of the Portuguese time, a large bell hanging between two huge pillars in the courtyard. A small path behind this temple leads to a natural Shiv ling in the riverbed, a short distance down stream, only visible when the water level is low. Besides the temple, the two picturesque lakes, Kamalja Devi and Hanuman and the highest point,

Although the structure here is fairly new, the shrine Bhimashankaram (and the Bhimarathi river) have been referred to in literature dating back to the 13th century CE. Saint Jnaneshwar is said to have visited Tryambakeshwar and Bhimashankar.

For more on this, click here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhimashankar_Temple

http://www.jyotirlinga-tour-india.com/bhimashankar-jyotirling.html

Below Bird Checklist is compiled by me and should not be considered authentic in a sense.....I have only included the resident species in the list so far (will update it later)

No.

Name

Status

1

Grey Francolin

UC

2

Blue Breasted Quail

UC

3

Jungle Bush quail

UC

4

Rock Bush Quail

UC

5

Barred Button Quail

UC

6

Red spur fowl

UC

7

Painted Spur fowl

UC

8

Grey jungle fowl

O

9

Indian pea fowl

O

10

Lesser whistling duck

UC

11

Spot Billed Duck

UC

12

Rufous woodpecker

O

13

Heart spotted woodpecker

O

14

Brown capped pygmy woodpecker

O

15

Yellow crowned woodpecker

UC

16

Lesser yellownape

UC

17

Streak throated woodpecker

UC

18

Black rumpedflameback

C

19

White Naped woodpecker

UC

20

Brown headed barbet

UC

21

White Cheeked barbet

VC

22

Coppersmith barbet

O

23

Malabar gray hornbill

UC

24

Indian gray hornbill

UC

25

Common hoopoe

UC

26

Malabar trogon

UC, Rare

27

Indian roller

UC

28

Common kingfisher

C

29

Oriental Dwarf kingfisher

UC

30

White throated kingfisher

VC

31

Pied kingfisher

UC

32

Green bee eater

VC

33

Pied cuckoo

O

34

Common hawk cuckoo

O

35

Eurasian cuckoo

UC

36

Lesser cuckoo

UC

37

Banded bay cuckoo

O

38

Grey bellied cuckoo

O

39

Drongo cuckoo

O

40

Asian koel

C

41

Greater coucal

VC

42

Puff-throated babbler

VC

43

Vernal hanging parrot

UC

44

Rose ringed parakeet

C

45

Plum headed parakeet

VC

46

Malabar parakeet

UC

47

Indian swiftlet

UC

48

Asian palm swift

C

49

House swift

C

50

Alpine swift

C

51

Crested treeswift

VC

52

Collared scops owl

C

53

Eurasian eagle owl

UC

54

Brown fish owl

UC

55

Brown wood owl

UC

56

Spotted owlet

O

57

Jungle Owlet

C

58

Grey nightjar

VC

59

Indian nightjar

VC

60

Savanna nightjar

UC

61

Rock pigeon

O

62

Nilgiri wood pigeon

C

63

Green imperial pigeon

UC

64

Oriental turtle dove

C

65

Laughing dove

VC

66

Spotted dove

VC

67

Red collared dove

UC

68

Eurasian collared dove

UC

69

Emerald dove

VC

70

Pompadour green pigeon

O

71

Yellow footed green pigeon

UC

72

White breasted waterhen

UC

73

Purple swamphen

UC

74

Common coot

UC

75

Eurasian thick knee

UC

76

Little ringed plover

UC

77

Yellow wattled led lapwing

UC

78

Red wattled lapwing

C

79

River tern

O

80

Black shouldered kite

C

81

Black kite

VC

82

Egyptian vulture

UC

83

White-rumped vulture

UC

84

Long billed vulture

UC

85

Short toed snake eagle

O

86

Crested serpent eagle

VC

87

Black eagle

C

88

Shikra

C

89

Oriental honey buzzard

VC

90

White eyed buzzard

C

91

Tawny eagle

UC

92

Bonelli’s eagle

C

93

Changeable hawk eagle

O

94

Common kestrel

C

95

Red necked falcon

UC

96

Amur falcon

UC, Pasg

97

Laggar falcon

UC, Rare

98

Peregrine falcon

UC

99

Little grebe

UC

100

Little cormorant

UC

101

Indian cormorant

UC

102

Little egret

UC

103

Cattle egret

VC

104

Indian pond heron

VC

105

Black crowned night heron

UC

106

Black ibis

UC

107

Woolly necked stork

UC

108

Indian pitta

UC, Pasg

109

Asian fairy bluebird

UC

110

Blue winged leafbird

O

111

Golden fronted leafbird

VC

112

Bay backed shrike

UC

113

Long tailed shrike

O

114

Southern grey shrike

UC

115

Rufous treepie

C

116

House crow

VC

117

Large billed crow

VC

118

Eurasian golden oriole

UC

119

Black hooded oriole

C

120

Large cuckooshrike

O

121

Small minivet

O

122

Orange minivet

VC

123

White throated fantail

C

124

White browed fantail

UC

125

Black drongo

C

126

White bellied drongo

O

127

Bronzed drongo

UC

128

Greater racket tailed drongo

O

129

Black naped monarch

VC

130

Asian paradise flycatcher

UC

131

Common iora

VC

132

Common woodshrike

C

133

Malabar whistling

VC

134

Indian Blackbird

VC

135

Orange headed thrush

VC

136

White bellied blue flycatcher

C

137

Blue throated flycatcher

UC

138

Tickell’s blue flycatcher

C

139

Oriental magpie robin

VC

140

White rumped shama

VC

141

Indian robin

C

142

Pied bushchat

VC

143

Chestnut tailed starling

O

144

Brahminy starling

O

145

Common myna

O

146

Jungle myna

VC

147

Black lored tit

UC

148

Eurasian crag martin

UC

149

Dusky crag martin

VC

150

Wire tailed swallow

O

151

Red rumped swallow

O

152

Streak throated swallow

O

153

Red whiskered bulbul

VC

154

Red vented bulbul

C

155

White browed bulbul

O

156

Black bulbul

VC

157

Yellow browed bulbul

VC

158

Gray breasted prinia

O

159

Jungle prinia

UC

160

Plain prinia

C

161

Ashy prinia

O

162

Zitting cistcola

UC

163

Oriental white eye

UC

164

Blyth’s reed warbler

UC

165

Common tailorbird

VC

166

Indian scimitar babbler

C

167

Tawny bellied babbler

O

168

Yellow eyed babbler

UC

169

Large gray babbler

UC

170

Jungle babbler

VC

171

Brown cheeked fulvetta

VC

172

Indian bush lark

O

173

Ashy crowned sparrow lark

C

174

Rufous tailed lark

UC

175

Malabar lark

VC

176

Sykes’s lark

VC

177

Oriental sky lark

UC

178

Thick billed flowerpecker

C

179

Pale billed flowerpecker

VC

180

Purple rumped sunbird

C

181

Crimson backed sunbird

VC

182

Purple sunbird

VC

183

Crimson sunbird

O

184

House sparrow

C

185

Chestnut shouldered petronia

C

186

White browed wagtail

O

187

Paddyfield pipit

VC

188

Tree pipit

O

189

Baya weaver

UC

190

Indian silverbill

O

191

Scaly breasted munia

O

192

Grass hopper warbler

UC

193

Richard’s pipit

UC

194

Blyth’s pipit

O

195

Jerdon’s nightjar

UC

196

Plain Flowerpecker

UC

197

Intermmediate Egret

O

VC = Very Common: Almost 100% Sighting

C= Common: Most likely to see

O= Occasional : Seen sometimes

UC= Uncommon : Least likely to see

Rare= Scarce records

Pasg= Passage Migrant : Possible in this season

21 comments:

sophia said...

hello addi
i loved reading ur article.have been wanting to start a foundation for the malabar giant squirrels and squirrels in general.squirrels are being killed for their fur and is used for making painting brushes.can u help me out in giving me a few ideas how to go about it.my field is totally differnt but im very passionate about wildlife and want to do my bit.thanks in anticipation
bye
sophia

Hamadryad said...

This is a terrific effort.. It is very informative and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Keep it up and I wish you would now go Melghat Tiger Reserve.. I'm looking for some detailed info abt that place.

Karishma said...

Absolutely brilliant! Wat a brilliant description..It covers everything a beginner needs to know about the place.
Personally Bhimashankar is my weekend getaway..love the place:)

Suhas Anand said...

terrific report addie bhai...v helpful as i plan my trip

workhard said...

HI, this serves as a nice guide, let alone for tourists but nature lovers like me, im gonna email this link to my friends too.

Haiku

Anonymous said...

hi,
the bell I have seen to. According to historians it was battle-loot from the fort of Vasai. Chimaji Appa presented it to the temple after he won war against Portuguese.

REF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhimashankar_Temple

Omi619 said...

It was very helpful 4 my project Thanx 4 ta blog

Omi619 said...

Good It helped me in ma project thanx

amit said...

its awesome man!!!!!!!!!!
it helped me in my english proect
-AMIT. PILGONDE

tomorrowisanotherday said...

very informative

trimbakeshwar said...

Hi, this is anil kumar,i want to visit the place of bhimashankar,and while searching i found your blog..i got lots of information about bhimashankar here..
thanks for the post...

mehul said...

loved reading ur article...really too informative upto the point....great one addie...
but frankly speaking we were very frightened going to gupt bimashankar in the heavy rains and many locals advised not to ventuire deep inside due to the dangers of the animals...

though we went inside but returned after a short walk....it was creepy...very faint light...

anyways thanks addie...

jayshree said...

Hi Adesh

thanks for bringing alive the mystique that is Nature.. and sensitizing our souls long since dead in the city...don't know how to thank you.. just that the pics, the comments so alive...
warmest rgds
Jayshree & Murali

dhanesh said...

hi all,

I m planning to go to bhimashankar, just wanted to know is the road good for car and how far we have to park the cars to rch the temple and is it safe?

Anonymous said...

Hi,,,
Adesh
im very passionate about wildlife but unable to contact correct person
Can you help me
My mail id is shreeshail_123@yahoo.co.in

ViKiShi said...

The best information anyone can get easily is nothing but this...
Thanks...

Atiyah . Naushad . Khan said...

Hi it is a really good effort put forth by u .. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK .., IT REALLY HELPED ME IN MY ENGLISH PROJECT !!! luvd it !

Atiyah.khan said...

The information is TERRIFIC !! it helped me a lot in my ENGLISH PROJECT .. Which was nearly SUFFORCATING ME !! KEEPUP THE GOOD WORK !! it's a lovely and really appreciated effirt put by u !

Meenal Dutia said...

Hi, this is extremely informative. I am planning a trip to Bhimashankar and would love to do some birding there. Can I find a good birding guide (person) in Bhimashankar who can take us birding? You can respond to me on meenaldutia@gmail.com

sandy said...

Wohh!! you beauty!!! thats a terrific effort... Brilliant!! Loved reading your article and am planning to visit this place sooner... Thanks for this...

Anonymous said...

best description of bhimashankar.
I never knew that shekru was state bird of maharshtra.
Great Blog .Tx