It was a little difficult, after having got home from a Sangeet ceremony for someone’s wedding, and gone to sleep at past 2 am, to leave at 5.30 am…so we sort of managed at 6 am instead. We followed AMS’ excellent directions and found AMS, Hassath and Ammu waiting for us on the Jaipur highway, and proceeded to the Sanctuary.
On our way there, we found several BLACK DRONGOS flying and occasionally settling on the telephone/telegraph wires adjoining the road.
The Sanctuary charges....wait for it...the sum of Rs. 5 for entry! AMS informs me that even their present budget is not fully spent, but I couldn't help wishing that they would charge more and use it to maintain the sanctuary....but for all that, the sanctuary was relatively plastic-free. Almost immediately, we heard the notes of HUME'S WARBLERS, though we were not able to spot them. A flight of LESSER WHITETHROATS brought us to a standstill as we watched them raptly.
There was a brick pathway, which goes around the sanctuary, and which goes past the small water body that the sanctuary has. Sultanpur is mainly dry grassland, and is the only place in the area, where INDIAN COURSERS breed in the wild, according to Abhijit. We were not lucky enough to see any, though!
Some SIBERIAN STONECHATS and the PIED BUSHCHAT
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further arrested our progress, and we tried to get a photo of them...the poor light put paid to our attempts though. A few RED-WATTLED LAPWINGS flew overhead with their characteristic call, as did several flights of ROSE-RINGED PARAKEETS.
<IMG height=333 alt="IMG_0288 Rose Ringed Parakeet" src="http://static.flickr.com/101/291041742_0c87ab6949.jpg" width=500>
These are birds which can be found in Karnataka, too, but none the less interesting for that!
We slowly neared the small pond that is central to the sanctuarly, and our hopes of seeing winter visitors were rewarded with the sight of several COMMON TEALS, COMMON COOTS with their characteristic white "forehead" spots, SHOVELLERS, and SPOT-BILLED DUCKS, on the water. At this point, someone who thought he was a birder, went too close to the birds and the skittish creatures immediately lifted off in a body of alarm! However, we skirted the water body and were still able to see some POND HERONS
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GREAT CORMORANTS, GREY HERONS, a solitary PURPLE HERON, and some PAINTED STORKS too. And here's a CATTLE EGRET:
<IMG height=500 alt="IMG_0278 Cattle Egret" src="http://static.flickr.com/109/291042911_2b35cc379a.jpg" width=363>
But we were thrilled to see some beautiful SARUS CRANES amongst the reeds...and watched, fascinated, as they actually chased away a stray dog! I didn't know birds could be so aggressive towards mammals! Meanwhile we also spotted several NILGAI, with their young and some of them galloped across the landscape, to our delight.
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<IMG height=500 alt="IMG_0126 Nilgai calf on the run" src="http://static.flickr.com/109/291039486_73f13ae2fe.jpg" width=499>
There were also some BLACK-WINGED STILTS around. We spotted some PURPLE MOORHENS, too, wading in the water and looking for food.
Several varieties of DRAGONFLIES, which I cannot even begin to identify, zipped in the air in their zigzag, join-the-dots fashion.
We moved away from the waterbody and would certainly not have been able to see some birds without Abhijit's help: the GREY PARTRIDGE,which was so supremely well-camouflaged that when we took our eyes away from the bird for a second to look into the camera or binoculars, we couldn't spot it again! We were also happy to see both the INDIAN BUSHLARK,singing away
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and the CRESTED LARK. We watched the bushlarks doing their flight displays, fascinated. Such small birds and such lovely songs! No wonder Shelley wrote his ode to the Skylark!
We passed a few trees festooned with cobwebs, almost making cocoon-like structures like this:
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I don't know the reason for these kind of cobwebs...must ask Karthik about them.
We spotted a GREATER COUCAL in a nearby tree and I remembered the times I would spot this bird in the empty piece of land adjoining my apartment building (it is now becoming either a software building or a shopping mall.) AMS said he could hear the BLACK-RUMPED FLAMEBACK, but we couldn't see it. Several BARN SWALLOWS swooped and hawked in the air above us.
Though I cannot remember the exact order in which we saw them, we watched ASHY PRINIAS, PLAIN PRINIAS, LONG-TAILED SHRIKES,
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BAY-BACKED SHRIKES,PADDYFIELD PIPITS, and LONG-BILLED PIPITS in the grassy reeds around. A flight of INDIAN SILVERBILLS
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delighted us with their hopping around the reeds; and then we saw, sitting by itself on a long reed, one JUVENILE RUFOUS-TAILED SHRIKE,
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with the mask just beginning to form, and the first hint of reddishness in the coverts. Some LARGE GREY BABBLERS hopped around, too, giving their characteristic calls. I wanted to stop and observe the ANTHILLS...very different from the circular structures I had seen in Bheemeshwari:
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but on we went, being careful, like the Jains, not to stomp on any of these industrious creatures, who were foraging all around. The lovely bug below also caught Hassath's eye, and we took a photo:
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We heard the tweeting calls of the PURPLE SUNBIRD and saw a few in the distance; AMS pointed out a EURASIAN WRYNECK but I didn't get more than a glimpse of it. He also saw a WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW which I have seen in Bannerghatta National Park.
I did wish I had someone to identify more plants and trees for me, such as a plant which had natural "velcro" seeds that Ammu delighted in attaching to AMS's tee shirt!
Finally,as we moved back towards the gate, we had a lovely sighting of a WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER
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sitting on a tree looking to see where breakfast would come from; and right overhead on a tree, a HOOPOE
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looking for all the world as if he was posing for us, turning his head this way and that but remaining still in spite of the garrulous youngsters around!
I must really thank Abhijit, without whom we might not have spotted so many birds, or even been able to identify them until we came back and sat with our Inskipp (or as he calls it, the Grimskipp)….he made sure that our morning was really productive and that we learnt a lot. Little Ammu tagged along gamely though towards the end she was quite hungry and thirsty!
Sultanpur, in Haryana, is an hour’s drive from Delhi, on the Jaipur Road, making for a great morning’s outing. The range of sightings was so satisfying!