Saturday, April 23, 2011

Birding trip report: Sultanpur and Basai Wetlands

Delhi has been unusually cool this year; and even in the last week of March and first week of April, it felt as if summer was far, far away. I therefore decided to make a birding trip to Sultanpur in the hope that some of the winter migrants would still be there. What a great decision it turned out to be!

We left Delhi at 6:00 a.m. with tea in a thermos flask, and biscuits.

About 1.5 hrs from Delhi, just before Sultanpur, we stopped at Basai Wetlands and walked around. The sighting was excellent! In the brief 30 minute visit, we saw so many birds that I kept oohing and aahing and jumping around like a child at a birthday party I almost didn't want to go further to Sultanpur!

I had only my point-and-shoot camera, so I just got some scenery shots and some long-range pics. So please someone else go get some awesome ones and send them to me!:

Basai Wetlands

Here is a list of birds we saw at Basai:

1) Long tailed Shrike

2) Sarus Crane (3 gorgeous cranes)

3) Grey heron

4, 5, 6) Three types of ibis, all in one place, single camera shot, I loved this! We saw the glossy ibis, the black ibis (with the red head and small white patch on shoulder) and the black headed ibis (with the white body)

7) Dunlin in flock - did you know that in this bird the female often deserts the nest and the male looks after the brood?

8) Drongo

9) Either Citrine Wagtail, or Yellow Wagtail, I'm not sure which!

10) White wagtail (what's the right name for this?)

11) Praticole

12) Pied starling

13) Ashy crowned sparrow lark (adorable)

14) Pied bushchat

15) Asian laughing dove

16) Common redshank

17) Spotted sandpiper

18) Common sandpiper

19) Purple swamphen

20) Spot billed duck

21) Black winged stilt

22) Godwit

23) Pied Avocet

24) Marsh harrier (gorgeous big bird, excellent sighting, we saw three of them!)

25) White breasted kingfisher

Most of the waders were in flocks, so the sighting was very good. By this time, we were hungry, so we drove to the Sultanpur sanctuary (another 30 minutes); where we stopped and had an excellent breakfast at the tourist centre. The centre is called "The Rosy Pelican Tourist Complex"; and they served us very good alu-parathas with excellent curd and pickle. They also served very soft bread and butter, and omlettes. The tourist complex has accommodation as well, in case you want to stay overnight. They also offer groups the facility to cook your own meals for a charge. At the restaurant, I went to look for the toilet to wash my hands, and the old man took me to the men's loo because the other one was being repaired Anyway, I decided to "hold it" until return to Delhi!

Like all government complexes, the Rosy Pelican is blessed with a great location and surrounds. It was green and beautiful, perfect for having chai outdoor under the shade of a tree. However, the restaurant was shabby; the old man who served us wore a white shirt and black trousers that had clearly seen better days. The curtains were old looking, the plug points were a joke. Basically I came out feeling like I was in some 1970's movie set - which in some weird way was actually quite a nice experience.

Haryana Tourism board that made me smile

I grinned at this signboard by Haryana Tourism, which tries very hard to prove how amazing and popular this sanctuary is. It says with great earnestness:

Migratory Birds Comes From: Indian Sub-Continental, Central Asia and Europe

Tourist Comes From: USA, England, Russia, China, Swidan, Switzerland, Australia, Taiwan, Nepal, Hong Kong, Malaisia, Indonesia, France, Germany etc.

(he he he he he)

Anyway, fortified by tea and breakfast, we were ready to set off for more.

We walked around the pathway of the sanctuary. Tall trees on both sides gave us good shade, and to our left the water in the wetlands was still there. The park authorities maintain water levels by pumping water into the lake, we saw the pumps merrily at work while we were there. I was glad there was water, because it meant we would have better sighting even late into the season.

Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

I had to get back to Delhi for meetings, so we spent only about 45 minutes here; but some of the birds we saw are below:

26) Magpie robin

27) Common coot

28) Northern shoveler

29) Comb duck (very interesting looking bird!)

30 ) Greater egret

31) Pond heron

32) Alexandrine parakeet (a tree full of them!)

33) Greater coucal (strutting around as if he owned the whole lake)

34) White breasted water hen

35) Peacock

36) Painted stork (a big group of them, all standing looking very sleepy)

37) Rusty flycatcher

38) Green bee-eater

39) Jungle babblers, doing their usual noisy thing!

40) Spotted owlet (three adorably cute ones, all in one tree but different branches, just inside the Rosy Pelican)

In search of the Indian Courser:

After this, we set out with a hope and a prayer to a village nearby to find the elusive Indian courser. Three of these birds had been spotted a few weeks ago near a farm, but we weren't sure if we could find them. We drove through small but prosperous looking villages, and finally came to a large open farmland area. Here we had to spend nearly 20 minutes hunting for these birds. Instead of the courser, we found red wattled lapwing and the more uncommon yellow wattled lapwing. Then after we almost gave up, we found four coursers in a field. It was my first sighting, and the birds were small, sleek and very graceful. We spent 10 minutes watching them and carefully following them on foot. Finally we returned to our trusty Innova and turned our car homewards to Delhi.

The return journey to Delhi seemed much longer, because of the traffic (although I think it didn't take more than 2.5 hours). Having left Delhi at 6:00 a.m., we were back in Delhi by 1:30 p.m. for lunch, feeling very happy with ourselves.

I can only imagine how lovely this place must be in the winter season. I am quite certain I will go back again if I get the chance. This time, I went with a very poor camera; next time I will fix that!!


Rajan said...

Nice Report Deepa. You are well on your way into Ornithology. Believe me, addiction is an assurance and it is just a question of time when those long lenses feature on your shopping list . . . . unitl then . . happy birding.

hotels in delhi said...

Thanks for sharing beautiful snaps and interesting details on Sultanpur.
I will never forget the hospitality offered by India , specially by the hotels in Delhi and Mumbai.

goabirder said...

Nice report Deepa. Am planning a trip to Sultanpur in end-Nov. Hope I get to see as many or better yet, more birds than you did. Any tips?

goabirder said...

Hi Deepa,
Fun report also making for informative reading. Hope to see as many if not more birds when I plan my visit toDelhi and Sultanpun in Nov. Happy birding!

techsethi said...

Hi Deepa

Could you share the directions to Basai Wetlands ?