Apr 5, 2010

How not to plan a bird watching jaunt

There are two main approaches to Sultanpur bird sanctuary, one that goes through the Hero Honda Chowk on NH8, and the other that goes through Bata Chowk, Bus Adda and Farrukhnagar. The last time I and a friend, who is a new birding enthusiast, took the Hero Honda Chowk route. We missed the Chowk and overshot by several kilometres, back-tracked and after a few minor detours reached Sultanpur. This time however, a very helpful gentleman at IFFCO Chowk (the crossing where the main Gurgaon Mall Road meets the NH8), advised us to take the shorter and easier route through the Bus Adda and Farrukhnagar. Both of us being terrible navigators, we felt thrilled to have found a much easier and better route to Sultanpur bird sanctuary. As we chatted excitedly about the birds we might see in Sultanpur and some that we saw as we drove along, including Indian Grey Hornbills and Indian Rollers, we suddenly found ourselves in an area that seemed extremely unlike the route to Sultanpur. A kindly gent, who proceeded to take a lift with us, informed us that we were about nine kilometres off-route, headed towards nowhere in particular.

Indian Grey Hornbills

Wood Sandpiper

We made two critical errors in our bird-watching jaunt. First, we didn’t decide beforehand where it is that we would go and do our bird-watching, and second, we didn’t bother to get detailed directions to our destination (reasonably difficult on this particular occasion as we didn’t even know where we would head out). Anyway, we reached Sultanpur at about 10.30 in the morning, whereas we should have ideally reached the gates of the sanctuary by about 6.30 am ( at this point I would like to add, that we started late, our rendezvous happened at Saket at 7.45 am, after which we had spirited discussions about where we should go birding).

Common Moorhen (Thanks to Pankaj, have corrected this!)

Disapproving Common Moorhen (Thanks to Pankaj, have corrected this!)

Naturally, I emphasise, naturally, our bird-watching results were dismal. We saw very few birds. The general conclusion was that they had all retreated to the highest branches and the most hidden parts of the most inaccessible trees
in the most inaccessible forested areas outside of Sultanpur, where our poor binocs (and much less my poor Nikon S4 Coolpix digital camera) would never be able to pick them out. Regardless, we had a rather good time, and enjoyed sitting in the shady grove of trees in the middle of Sultanpur’s dried up lake. While sitting on this raised little piece of land, we saw a funny little spider which had woven a very intricate web over the grassy ground, with a hole in the middle, and which would keep rushing in and out of this hole so quickly that it made us laugh.

Funny Spider guarding its web with a hole - the Funnel Spider as told by Sunila, thanks!

Spider waiting to dash inside

Also while watching the part of the lake where there was some water, we saw some very fishy behaviour on the part of the fish. Some, at least five of them, really huge fishes were purposely entering into the shallow parts of the water and were thrashing about with half their bodies out of the water. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and at times, in our imagination, they appeared like the backs of massive whales breaking the ocean’s surface. Was pretty weird behaviour and naturally in the absence of too many birds, I took a few pictures of them.

Acting fishy

Acting very fishy

Like a surfacing whale

To reach this raised place with trees, we had to walk through a considerable distance of the lake floor that had become covered with grass but had a very squishy squashy feel underfoot. It had a strange swampy feel, and we never knew when our next step would send our feet (in very non-outdoorsy suede shoes) straight through the grassy cover, into a few feet of mud and muck. As we walked back after sitting for a long time, we saw a Nilgai (blue bull) stepping into the raised area, my friend commented that we had been sitting in the Nilgai’s house uninvited.

The few pictures we took are carefully reproduced here. You will be glad to know that we have solemnly promised to each other that the next time we go birdwatching, it will be to the new Yamuna bio-diversity park, and we will plan everything very carefully and precisely. Well until the next time, ciao!

Purple Moorhen

Crested lark on a wire

Crested Lark on the ground

Crested Lark putting up a show

Crested Lark digging the ground?

Pond Heron with purpose

Long Tailed Shrike

Juvenile Painted Storks, Egrets and Purple Moorhen

Jungle Babbler flinging dried up leaves


Greater Coucal

Red Wattled Lapwing


Black Winged Stilt standing up

Black Winged Stilt sitting down

Caught these two in front of my house in Noida, a Yellow Footed and a Blue Rock Pigeon sizing each other up.

The haughty Yellow Footed Green Pigeon


  1. that uis the funnel spider if i am right .

  2. Great for a trip not going to plan!!

  3. We have enjoyed the trip sitting right on PC.
    The reporting & snaps are great.
    Keep it up!!!!!!!

  4. the bird labled as water cock is actually common moorhen.........pankaj

  5. Nice blog & good collection. You have beautifully maintained, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

  6. Thanks Sunila, Pashant, Aslam and Pankaj hope you enjoyed the post. Will check it out Lydia... Sanjeev