The Himalayan rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, Sharda, Gola, Ghagra and some more have deposited alluvial soil in the flat areas of Northern India, thus making it the most fertile region in the world. Delhi the capital of India has located on banks of river Yamuna. Being the capital of India has taken its toll, but fortunately some 25 miles outside the city there are some birding hotspots, Sultanpur is one such haven for birders.
Sultanpur National park lies at Farukhnagar in the Gurugram district of Harayana state. With an area of 142.5 hectares at present, Sultanpur was first discovered by Peter Michael Jackson a famous British Ornithologist. In the year 1972, it was declared as a Bird sanctuary and later in the year 1991 as a National Park.
The Park also revolves around a water body, called Sultanpur lake which is the breeding ground for most water birds. There is a walking trail around the lake of 3.5 km. In between, there are pathways been made into the lake to have a closer view of the action provided by birds in the middle of the lake. The walk around the lake covers wetlands and some scrubland areas.
Sultanpur National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. During winter thousands of birds travel from central Asia, and European countries to avoid the freezing winter looking for a feeding ground towards the warmer place and lands to India. The state wildlife department of Delhi survey says that the Sultanpur is a home for over 28000 birds in Winter.
One morning in the first week of February we (a team of 06 from Nature Safari) decided to go birding at Sultanpur National Park. We started early from home to reach the park gate at 0700 hrs. That is when the park opens and the bird’s calls and the bird’s movements bring the park alive.
As we entered the park we saw hundreds of birds on top of a tree in the middle of the water. The lake was still covered with the mist. While looking through our binoculars young ones of Painted Stork almost fully-fledged with their parents. These storks breed during September and October. With the incubation period of 30 days and takes around 60 days to fully fledge. The young ones were about to leave their parents to start their own flight in life.
Alongside the Painted Storks, there were Indian Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Purple Heron, and the dabbling ducks floating underneath the tree. Some of the birds we saw from the point were Greylag Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Pochard, Spot-billed duck, Northern Shoveler and many more. And the numbers were in hundreds.
As we went ahead a small bird floating in the lake grabbed our attention. The moment it noticed that she was sighted she dived inside the water and came out after a few seconds from another spot. This beautiful bird was Little Grebe. The little grebe is a strong swimmer and diver who hunts for fish and aquatic invertebrates in the water. It makes excellent use of the greenery around the water body as a hiding place.
Because its legs are set so far back and it cannot walk well, it nests near the water’s edge, like all grebes. The average number of eggs laid is four to seven. When an adult bird departs the nest, it normally makes sure that the eggs are covered in weeds. Predators are less likely to notice it as a result. Soon after hatching, the young leave the nest and can swim, and chicks are frequently carried on the backs of the swimming adults.
The species breeds in Sultanpur during the rainy season. We spent around 15 to 20 minutes looking and observing the bird. Along with the Grebe, there were other birds busy feeding like Common Morhen, Common Coot closer to the edge of the water.
Along the trail, we heard a very unique bird called with a high pitch sounding like swee, swee, swee. We started looking around the trees. We saw a bird with throat, wings, and tail with all black, with pale yellow borders. The breast is orange, and the underparts are yellowish-white.
A patch of orange can be seen on black wings. It was small minivet. The resident bird of the Indian sub-continent but it is not so common to see the bird. We have been lucky to see a flock of around 4 individuals. These birds catch the insects on their flight and from the trees when they are perched. It seemed like they have finished searching for the insects on that tree. They flew and our attention is again taken by another bird a winter migrant, Common Green Shank.
Common Greenshank is the larger wader than the Sandpiper with a slightly tilted bill and gentle eyes. The general plumage is greyish, with a white belly and greenish legs. In-flight, the bird appears dark above with a broad white stripe running down the middle of the back. Singles or small groups are the most common sightings. Strides through the water, plucking and sweeping with its bill. Breeds in northern Europe and Asia, and migrates and winters in Africa, southern Asia, and Australia, and Sultanpur is one of the places where it can be found because of the presence of wetland environments.
After covering the area closer to the lake, we started walking to the area where the habitat was more of scrubland and woodlands. We saw several birds like, Rose-ringed parakeet, Pied Buschat, Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian robin, Greenish Warbler, Lesser White Throat and many more.
As we moved ahead a bird was perched on top of a small acacia plant. With a blackhead, broad white half-collar, and rusty-red chest. It was a male of Common Stone Chat. Females have a dull colour, less contrasted face and chest pattern than males, and are mostly streaky brown above.
The sun was out till then and the birds of prey had started using the thermal to fly up in the sky. Black kite and Short Toed Snake Eagle were flying up in the sky.
After sighting over more than 40 species of birds we completed our wonderful birding trip to Sultanpur National park in the morning. Below is the list of birds by common name sighted on the date:
|Birds by common name
|Birds by common name
|Yellow wattled lapwing
|Spot billed duck
|Red wattled lapwing
|Indian grey hornbill
|Grey leg goose
|Chestnut shoulder Petronia
|Black red start
|Oriental magpie Robin
|Common hawk cuckoo
|Rose winged parakeet
|Red breast d fly catcher
|Short Toed Snake Eagle
The greatest time to visit this bird sanctuary, which is ideal for birding and bird watching, is during the winter, when many migrating birds flock here.