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Karnala Bird Sanctuary – Maharashtra
Multi-hued butterflies flirt with the sunrays that penetrate the canopy in Karnala Bird Sanctuary. The fluty notes of the shama break the stillness of this green hideaway. The notes of the feathered musician, the Malabar Whistling Thrush spin their own magic through the towering branches. A male Paradise Flycatcher with its beautiful silvery-white tail glides across the thick foliage. Shaheen Falcons shriek their domination as they use thermals to survey the landscape below. Bright pink begonias, purple Clerodendron serratum and yellow glory lilies light up a winding rocky path that leads to a historic fort. This is a forest truly for the birds and butterflies.
Although the best time to visit is between the months of July and March, birdwatchers would gain the best sightings of Karnala's avian population between November and February.
By Air: The nearest airport is at Mumbai (62 km.).
By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Panvel (12 km.).
By Road: Buses ply between Mumbai and Panvel and taxis and autos are available from Panvel.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful place to discover and observe nature. Though this is primarily an avian paradise, Karnala is also home to the four horned antelope, wild boar, jungle cat, muntjac, Indian fox, Indian hare, common langur, leopard and common mongoose. You will discover centipedes under rocks, jewel beetles on flowers and stunning butterflies – glassy tiger, chocolate pansy, blue mormon, oakleaf, common mime – flitting across. The melodies of the Paradise Flycatcher and Magpie Robin, the mimicking call of the Racket-tailed Drongo, the croaking of frogs and the scuttling little pond crabs all add to the delight of this beautiful sanctuary.
Karnala, during winter, is visited by a number of migratory birds that come from their Himalayan breeding grounds, peninsular India and Western Ghats. This is a good time to see Leaf Warblers, Blue-headed Rock Thrushes, Grey Drongos, Tree Pipits, Hair-crested Drongos, Nilgiri Wood Pigeons and Grey-headed Mynas.
While teak dominates this southern moist mixed deciduous type forest, koshimb, kinjal, kalam, jamba, alu, amba, putranjiva, jambhul, umbar, surangi, lokhandi, karpa and anjani are also seen. There are a few grassland patches and the rest is covered by karvi. Drongos, orioles, Tree Pies, chloropsis, sunbirds, mynas, babblers and several other species are seen on the flame of the forest and coral trees, especially during the dry season when they flower.
A beautiful trail takes the trekker 450 m. above the forest to a fort. Here one can see the protruding rock or pinnacle, which looks like a funnel-shaped loudspeaker, called a karn, in Marathi, from which Karnala derives its name. The fort, held by Maratha, Muslim and Portuguese rulers at various periods, offers stunning views of the countryside and on a clear day, even the Mumbai coastline. Here, on the rocky outcrops, you can sight rare raptors such as the Shaheen Falcon, diving, hunting and breeding. The path up the hill is particularly lovely in the monsoons. Wild flowers carpet the route.
Unfortunately, visitors do not respect its tranquility. The Mumbai-Goa National Highway that bisects the forest and the vehicles, besides the ruthless picnickers who only add sound, plastic and other garbage to the place are major disturbing factors. There is an urgent need to protect Karnala from such disturbances.
Visit Karnala to watch the birds and butterflies and revel in the luxuriant green canopy. Allow its sounds and sights to wash over you and in the clean air of this beautiful forest, make a pledge to protect its sanctity.
As you pass Panvel, on the Mumbai-Goa NH-17 highway, the sudden change in the landscape and the freshness in the air announces your arrival at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. Established in 1971, this tiny 12.11 sq. km. sanctuary, is home to approximately 190 bird species and it was here that the first sighting of the Ashy Minivet was made. The sanctuary is well-known by the protruding rock or pinnacle, which looks like a funnel-shaped loudspeaker, called a karn, in Marathi, from which Karnala derives its name.