Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sultanpur National Bird Sanctuary

Sultanpur National Bird Sanctuary
Brown headed Barbet in Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary
     I had last visited Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary near Gurgaon way back in 2007 and that too without having any knowledge about the place and hence could not get very many pictures of the destination.  Having visited Rankhet region in January and due to pre-occupation in the office, I could not find time to visit any of the winter birding sites near Delhi during the winters.  Therefore, when the weekend offered some respite from the office work, I immediately made announcement of the forthcoming trip to Sultanpur on the last Saturday of 2013 and made preparations likewise.  However, on the ensuing night of travel, I was suddenly jolted out of my slumber by a thunderous thunder clap, caused by a thunder that had struck nearby, rattling the window panes et al.  It started pouring cats n’ dogs, but the optimist in me reassured that in Delhi such thunder showers are only passing phase and it would settle down in a hour or so.  Slowly, as my ears got used to the repeated thunder claps, I gradually receded back to sleep.  However, as my alarm clock buzzed, I found that it was still raining outside.  By this time my wife also had got up and started getting the food stuff etc. organized for the picnic, we were to embark upon.  Even the driver rang up on the dot, seeking advice regarding his reporting time, which I promptly postponed by an hour and informed him that I would be calling him up, as and when we were ready to leave or inform him if the trip was off.  But I could not find any signs of the sky relenting and slowly the pessimist in me took over and I went back to my bed.  My wife, however, refused to take the matter lying down and she started surfing the internet and searched the weather sites, looking for the exact weather conditions prevailing in Sultanpur.  Suddenly, she called me out aloud and informed me that the weather would remain overcast, but the chances of rainfall in Sultanpur were very scarce till 2.30 P.M. in the afternoon.  Her argument was that in any case I would have covered the park by that hour even if we reached there by 11.00 A.M, I reluctantly got out of the bed, only partly convinced and thus, the credit for this entire trip goes to her optimism.
Overcast Dwarka
Entering Gurgaon
Sheetala Mata temlple in Gurgaon
             We started almost two hours late than the originally scheduled time of 7.00 A.M. and started a little after 9.00 A.M. from Dwarka and found that the roads were empty and conditions heavily overcast as the drizzling continued.  We got past Dwarka and headed towards Gurgaon.  On the Old Gurgaon road, after going past the Bijwasan crossing & then past Kapashera, we finally crossed over to Gurgaon.  Being a Saturday, it was working day for many a factory workers and the road till the Maruti Company was awash both with a sea of people alongwith that of the actual kind i.e. Water logging.  The progress was slow, but as we headed away from Delhi the drizzling stopped and by the time we had got past Gurgaon, there were patches of blue sky visible.  We reached Sultanpur at around 10.30 A.M. and immediately headed for the ticket counter and luckily we were one of the first to reach there.  The ticket price is reasonable with an entry fee of Rs.5/- per person, parking fee @ Rs.10/- , Still Camera @ Rs.25/- and any Video Camera (professional or otherwise) @ Rs.500/-, since we were carrying all the articles listed, I purchased tickets worth Rs.560/- for entry to the Sanctuary.  Thereafter, we head our B’fast in the car itself, properly arranged by my better half and then headed into the Sanctuary.  But as we were about to enter, it started drizzling and I immediately covered my gear with weather cover provided in the Lowepro Camera Bag and took out my Umbrella, a wee bit skeptical as to whether we would have smooth or a rough time inside.  My negative thoughts were blown away along with the drizzle by a strong gust of wind and despite being overcast, we had a fairly comfortable visit to the Sanctuary.
Countryside on way to Sultanpur
Had rained earlier but blue patches of sky appear in distance
         Sultanpur National Park is located 16 kms from Gurgaon, on the Gurgaon-Farrukhnagar stretch, off the Delhi - Jaipur Highway (NH-8).  Sultanpur National Park falls in the Gurgaon district of Haryana, surrounded by Kaliwas village in the North, Sadhrana village to the South, Sultanpur village to the West and Chandu village to its East. Typical of the area, the geography is semi-arid (it borders Rajasthan), and has been notified as an Eco Sensitive Zone by the Govt. of India (Ministry of Environment & Forests).  The Sultanpur Lake was a seasonal lake and originally used to fill up in the monsoons only, but is now fed with water from the Yamuna River. It is surrounded by marshes around it, and lush greenery, especially in the monsoons. The area surrounding the lake is filled with reeds and grasses, but no large trees.  Although the name of Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary has been associated with the great Indian ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali, but the credit of actually identifying the place goes to Mr.Peter Jackson, a keen bird watcher and the then Honorary Secretary of the Delhi Bird Watching Society.  Mr.Peter Jackson, along with his friends, used to frequent the Najafgarh Lake to watch birds in the early 1950s. This lake was created as a result of excessive monsoons and a blocked drain into the Yamuna. However, by the mid 1960s, the govt. of Delhi had cleared this blockage in the drain and the Najafgarh lake had disappeared, and so had the birds. Jackson traveled further north to see where the birds could have moved on to and discovered another lake created by the monsoons. This was the Sultanpur Lake. The lake was full of fish and insects and had lush surroundings, all of which attracted birds from all over the region.
On the way - Indian Roller
On the way - Grey hornbill
On the way - Alexdrine Parakeet
On the way in Dwarka - Black Eastern Redstart
On the way - A Kingfisher
 Over the next few years, Jackson took many bird lovers, including Dr. Salim Ali to this lake. Finally, in 1970 Mr.Jackson approached the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, with a request to convert the lake and its surrounding areas into a bird sanctuary. Ms.Indira Gandhi, who was also the founder of the Delhi Bird Watching Society, took keen interest in this proposal and instructed the Govt. of Haryana to undertake the project. Thus, in 1972, the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary was created from the 359 acres of land surrounding the lake.  Twenty years later, on the 13th of July 1989, Sultanpur was upgraded to the status of a National Park.  The Govt. of Haryana took many steps to ensure the long term sustainability of the sanctuary. While the lake was originally a monsoon-fed lake, the Govt. made arrangements from the Yamuna River to ensure that the lake now functioned through the year. Additional trees such as Neem and Acacia were planted along the lake, as these trees are known to attract birds. Few artificial islands were also created in the lake, to facilitate the roosting of the birds.
In Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary - a bill board
Right at the entrance - White wagtail
A huge bee hive
Water birds galore

Black & white - A cormorant & an Egret

Common Moorhen

Cheetals resting

Close up of a Cormorant

Eurasian Spoonbill landing & a Kingfisher on the branch watching

Spoonbill in flight

Neelgai or Swamp Deer

Norther Pintails

Norther Pintails in flight

A Northern Shoveller in flight

Purple Moorhen

Birds roosting
             Today Sultanpur National Park offers visitors a glimpse to over 250 different bird species, bulk of which (150+) are the resident avian population and the remaining (100) are migratory birds, which come in from as far as Siberia, Turkey, Afghanistan and East European countries.   Amongst the resident Bird Species, a few are - Purple Sunbird, Eurasian Thick Knee, Common Hoopoe, Black Headed Ibis, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Common Hoopoe, Painted Stork, Paddyfield Pipit, White Ibis, Black Headed Ibis, Crested Lark, Eurasian Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Red Collared Dove, Little Coromorant, Indian Cormorant, Common Spoonbill, Gray Francolin, Rock Pigeon, Magpie Robin, Weaver Bird, White throated Kingfisher, Red Wattled Lapwing, Plover, Indian Roller, Red Vented Bulbul, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Common Mynah, Bank Mynah, Green Bee Eater, Greater Coucal.   Although, the Bird Sanctuary once boasted of hosting the Siberian Crane, it was last recorded in 2009 and amongst the other Migratory Bird Species that visit the lake every year are - The Demoiselle Crane, Greater Flamingo, Common Teal, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Black Winged Stilt, Ruff, Common Greenshank, Spot billed Pelican, Rosy Pelican, Spotted Greenshank, Starling, Bluethroat, Spotted Sandpiper, Eurasian Pigeon. Striped Snipe and Brahminy Duck are also visible in winters, though not very often.   Apart from them, there are other wild life of four legged variety that can be seen in the National Park, namely - Striped Hyena, Leopard, Blue Bull, Nilgai, Black Buck, Four Horned Antelope, Wild Dog, Mongoose, Hedgehog, Caracal, Indian Porcupine, Wild Cat and Rattle Badger. Not all of these are originally from this habitat; some of them were introduced by the Govt. to create a better overall balanced ecosystem habitat in the area.  However, as far as flora of the region goes, the area is a dry deciduous forest with primary vegetation is grasses like Savannah, and trees like Jamun, Khair (Acacia), Ber, Tendu, Banyan and Dhok.   However, the forest surroundings are covered with small grasses and bougainvilleas that have been entirely created by humans and leave an evident touch of human hands intervening in the pristine natural vistas.   We enjoyed every bit of our sojourn to this place, till we were brought back to the city environs by a large group of ladies of all sizes & shapes strutting around the perimeter talking & conversing loudly.  I thought that I would have the place to myself after they go past, but in came a cacophony of primary school students, led by their teachers and I realized that my trip for the day was all but over and as I moved out of the nature zone, it had started to drizzle, as aptly forewarned by the weathermen for the day.

Here is the video for the destination -

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