Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

#1 Jul 4th, 2008, 11:02
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  • waghobha is offline
#1
Hey everyone,
Last Sunday we took off from Delhi to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (Haryana).
Delhi to Sultanpur: 46 kms
Time: 1.5 hours thanks to meandering road passing through old Gurgaon.

Here's a report:

Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary
“Hey P, is that a fish?” called S, interrupting my nature-induced stupor on the Sultanpur Lake shore. Curious as always, I immediately picked up my not-so-tiny self from the grass cushion, and ran closer to the water. About a foot away from the lake shore were two yellow things swimming just the water surface. “Must be some big fish”…S reasoned, while I fiddled with my binoculars to get a closer look. Suddenly I noticed the effect the ‘things’ were having on the water surface…the ripples had a distinct pattern…and then, to my amazement- the ‘things’ turned in a perfect circle. The cerebrum was quick do its job and I jumped and shouted -” It’s a snake”.

It was a snake alright; no ordinary snake but a python- almost 10feet long and 6-7 inches thick! Needless to say S, I and Z were kicked and we immediately decided to wait out on the bank in hope that he comes slithering out. That plan in place, we plunked ourselves on the muddy grassy shore and started counting the egrets across the water. Actually, S and Z were busy shooting with their impressive Canons while I counted the herons having no such sophisticated toy at hand.

Passing thru old Gurgaon
Well, now you may be wondering how we came about to be on a lakeshore being entertained by herons and pythons…and that too at the very early hour of 8 am on a Sunday morning? It so happened that this Sunday instead of lazing in bed for hours at end, S and I decided to join Z and V, two photographers on a shoot at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary in Haryana around 1.5 hours from Delhi.

The fact that we chose to get up at 5 am is proof of our iron-will and we set off at 6.30 am on stomachs empty of food and full with enthusiasm. After picking up V near the airport we were truly off.

Now, I had heard that Sultanpur is pretty accessible from Delhi but after the trip I am glad we had someone along who knew the road. Without V we would have never made it to Sultanpur. The route is pretty straight till Gurgaon. Then, you have to enter old Gurgaon, which is a terrible eyesore. The houses built in typical interior India style, are haphazard and ugly with no design element. Basically the only rule these guys follow is- build a wall wherever you can. Adding to this architectural assault on our senses was the non-existing road.

Apparently a flyover is being built on the state highway from Gurgaon to Jhajjar so that road is closed, and all traffic has been diverted via village roads in the old city. If new Gurgaon is a picture of concrete and glass-enclosed hell, old Gurgaon with its flowing nallas, tilting brick lodgings competes with its 'modern' sibling for "Who is the ugliest of all?” crown.

HUDA-oh GOD
Incidentally, in some areas the roads and houses were built by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and seeing the state of old Gurgaon one wondered whether Oxford, Merriam-Webster and others have jointly changed the meaning of these words to "repellent and repugnant". V had a good solution to get rid of these houses and build nice white-washed clean dwellings in their place- carpet bombing. Hmm. Hope Bush was not listening.

Eyeing Cattle egrets
Leaving old Gurgaon's mess behind we passed through rural Haryana which was much nicer and somewhat cleaner. The road too was good so Z who was driving could take in a bit of the scenery instead of continuously looking out for the next ditch. The road cut a straight line through lush green fields in which cattle egrets picked breakfast of earthworms. We passed a village tree which housed a cattle egret colony- a good start our bird-watching trip.

After a quick eggy breakfast in the Haryana Tourism hotel- Rosy Pelican- we entered the sanctuary- well not immediately as we had to drag V off who was engrossed in clicking a myna in a tree right outside the restaurant and S who was captivated by Green bee-eaters.

Finally into the park-hoopeeee
Even before we entered the park we met a pair of Hoopees taking a stroll in the lawn. They even obliged us by opening their crests. As we passed through the park gate, a family of Grey Babblers greeted us with a lot of babbling and chirping. They sat all puffed up in a Neem tree looking very important and serious. While three cameras and their holders zoomed in to get a good shot these avians lapped up all the attention.

Leaving the self-absorbed Babblers behind, we followed the brick path laid for park visitors and soon came across a Greater Coucal. It flitted from tree to tree playing hide-n-seek with us. We played along for a while till it disappeared in the bushes.

Drongo family
In a little while we came across a Black Drongo's nest with three tiny babies peeping out! As they craned their necks trying spot their mother, four not-so-tiny humans craned theirs’ to get a better look at the birdies. I think we scared the chicks and they immediately disappeared inside the nest.

After 10-15 minutes of deliberation and waiting for them to surface, V suddenly walked up to a nearby leafless dead tree and started feeling its trunk. Before you jump to any conclusions about V’s behavior let me tell you that he was just checking its strength. I know because he immediately started climbing it. The tree looked dead and we feared that it would come crashing down. I mean we feared it would crash on us and we would be caught under the dual weight of the tree with V in it.

Thankfully, the old tree had deep roots, and was not yet ready to meet its maker. In a jiffy, V was balancing on his left foot in a V created by the trunk, trying to find a foothold for the right one. For a moment or two he did a one-legged mid-tree jig, before balancing his suspended leg on a tiny twig. I suspected he has been taking lessons from David Copperfield.

Now secure in the tree, V grabbed his camera from us and attempted to get a better shot. Alas, it was not to be. The nest was partially hidden in the leaves and the angle was all wrong. After making the mamma bird very impatient and irritated we moved away from the tree with the nest and decided to try and go to the other side of the lake through the semi-dry bed.

With that in mind, we steered to our left, towards the grassland and muddy flats closer to the lake shore. And this is how we came to be near the lakeshore when our-friendly-neighborhood-python decided to display his swimming skills.

On the far side of the lake were a colony of Painted Storks, and Little Egrets. Walking on the muddy shore was a solitary Black-winged Stilt and some Common Teals. As I sat by the lake feeling the breeze on my face and the burning sun on my nose V and Z took their own kind of ‘rest’, read puff.

Blue-cow is it?
Suddenly the lake water jostled and we were stunned by the sight of an entire herd of Nilgais emerging out of the island on our right. Out they came in a single file and started walking to the left. Then abruptly, as if on cue, all of them started galloping across the grassland-crowns flying in the breeze and heads tossed up- they looked magnificent!

Now we wished even more to go over to the other (dark) side…do I sound like Mr.Skywalker… well ignore my digressions. What I was saying is that we tried to cross over to the other side via a small busy expanse of land from which the Nilgai herd had emerged.

Island of death
This was not really a good idea for two reasons. One, it was a difficult task for me-because- me in my infinite wisdom had worn floater-type of footwear instead of sneakers. Now, I am not the one to let something as small as inappropriate footwear stop me in my tracks so I trudged on sinking one foot and in the other in the gooey mud. Second, the entire area was abundant in Indian Babul trees and other thorny buses. Here is where I managed to get a Babul thorn in my foot, get bitten by something which made my arms break out in some itchy rash and also step in so much Nilgai dung that I was in danger of being chased by a male Nilgai looking for a mating partner!

We plodded on relentless in our pursuit of the other side. Various attempts were made and our shoeprints dotted the exposed lake floor all over, in all directions. Defeated, we decided to turn back via the same thorny island-obviously not because we are dodos…pun intended…but because that was the only way back.

Once more we bent over, walked like hunchbacks, pushing overhanging branches away from our face and stepping into more dung and still more dung. The trees covered the island so densely that it was dark and sullen. The air was thick with humidity and rivulets of blackish sweat ran down our faces. The island seemed to go on forever, the water bottles had run dry and we dreamt of ice cold cola and lumbered on. Then suddenly, it was all worth it.

We took a sharp turn and were stopped in our tracks- it was a stark and shocking sight- an entire Nilgai skeleton- all bones and skin with just the meat missing. The old beast lay there just as it had fallen, one foreleg at an angle and the hind legs askew. It looked like it had been eaten up by village dogs gone wild. These once domesticated felines are said to roam free in the park and hunt in packs following their age-old instincts.

Leaving the skeleton behind, we emerged from the spiny isle out into the grassland. By now it was almost 6 hours since we had been inside the park. The body was tired but the mind was not. Listening to the call of the parched throat, we started back and rushed into the welcome cooled environs of the Rosy Pelican hotel.

Ahhh--AC-for-me
As we gulped down glasses of iced Pepsi, we went through the morning's take of photos. V had got a National Geographic worthy low-angle shot of a lizard sitting on a branch with its tail up in the air. S was not happy with his collection and Z rued that the tripod was more of a liability than a help on wildlife shoot.

Once fortified with food, we decide to start back for Delhi but not before we spent another 15 minutes chasing a Eurasian Golden Oriole while it went about its business. V as usual, got the best shot and we jumped into the car bidding bye to Sultanpur.

Taoji Aaoji
Did I say our journey ended there? Nope. On the way back as we discussed the merits and demerits of each enthusiasts’ photo collection, Z screeched the car to a halt next to a road-side mango seller. Well, the mangos were not ‘fresh-from-the-orchard’ so Z rejected them. He was about to step on the gas when we were stopped by a feeble voice. “Jara Chandu tak chodenge”. The face was old, really old and the frail body seemed barely holding the weight of the turban. The eyes were misty as if they had seen all and did not need clarity now. There was no way we could leave him behind.

Once in the car he was quiet and after a kilometer or two gestured that he wanted to get off not before asking us “Main aapko kya doo?.” S in classic Ekta Kapoor script-writer style said, “Aap hame aashirvad do.” V had a better idea. “Aapka photo khechein?” Grandpa looked surprised but agreed and immediately the monsters came out of their sheathings.

The result was a truly National Geographic worthy portrait. Wasn’t that a fitting end to a day of nature and photography, our two enduring passions?
#2 Jul 4th, 2008, 11:20
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  • tasuray is offline
#2
It is a great post. I really liked it.
Thanks.
#3 Jul 4th, 2008, 11:28
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  • jyotirmoy is offline
#3
Thank you for such a good read.
#4 Jul 4th, 2008, 11:28
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  • waghobha is offline
#4
Thanks Tasuray!
#5 Dec 15th, 2008, 17:24
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  • hemantbhasin is offline
#5

road route to sultanpur bird sanctuary

Hello,
Could elaborate on the road route to sultanpur from a suitable point on NH8 highway in gurgaon?

Is the place worth the travel?
#6 Dec 29th, 2008, 15:21
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  • waghobha is offline
#6

Road to Sultanpur

Hey,

Just came back from Sultanpur yesterday. Sorry to report that the road is equally bad. We got lost on the way and wasted more than an hour going round n round in old Gurgaon.

On the way back we came via the Airforce station Gurgaon and Sohna Chowk. I think the best bet while coming from Delhi, go till Airforce station Gurgaon, continue on road till you see ugly metal sculpture on right side. Turn right at this point.
Continue straight and ask for Sohna Chowk or the road to Jhajjar.

When you reach road to Jhajjar, you will read a point where there is a rail crossing, do not go straight (National Highway stretch is under construction) because you may suddenly reach a point where there seems to be NO road at all. This is especially bad if its early morning and misty.

Instead turn right at the rail crossing and keep asking for Sultanpur.

Basically you have to take a 10 odd km diversion because of highway work.

Another way is at Iffco Chowk ask how to go to Gurgaon Railway station. Sohna Chowk is near this station in old Gurgaon. Once at Sohna ask for further directions every few minutes. Sorry I cannot post a proper route. There are no signages and this is the way I have gone both times.

Whether it is worth it is subjective. Yesterday we saw the following birds:
White-throated Kingfishers
Indian Darter
Spot-billed Duck
Coots
Eurasian Golden Oriole
2 Greater Coucals
Green Bee Eater
Babblers
Woodpecker
Siberian Cranes
Rose-ringed Parakeets
Comb Ducks
Shikra
Peacocks
Peahens
Drongos
Long-tailed Shrike
Juvenile Rufous-tailed Shrike

Caution: If you want to do serious bird watching try and reach there by 8.30 am. Before that its too misty to see anything but the park and jheel look breath-taking. Post 12pm hordes of "picnic" seeking folks land there and make so much noise that all birds go far far inside away from the main brick path. I actually saw people playing badminton inside the park! The noise and crowd and their antics including the rubbish they were throwing was making me furious. A good idea would be to carry a large plastic bag and pick up biscuit wrappers and discarded bottles on the way out. Thats what I do to help keep the sanctuary clean.

Have a great trip.
#7 Jan 14th, 2009, 23:13
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  • ranjan154 is offline
#7
@waghobha: I loved reading this post.. great writing .. I must appreciate your sense of humour.. Well I am like V, and will be going to sultanpur this sunday.
#8 Nov 26th, 2014, 16:46
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  • Brrainstormerr is offline
#8
Any clue as to when the place opens in the morning? planning to visit as early as possible to catch the birds as they leave their nests...
My photography: http://500px.com/ChandanKSingh

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