As a naturally pessimistic person, I do not normally use the expression “perfect” for the things pertaining to myself. But it was indeed a rare day that exceeded expectations and the good thing was that I had no part in planning the day (probably that was the reason). Old friend Alankar, who nowadays owns jumbo zoom lenses and is seriously into birds, was going to Sultanpur and beyond on that February Sunday. He’d arranged the guide too. So, I just woke up early and joined him in his car.
A Perfect Guide for a Perfect Day:
We reached the gates of Sultanpur Sanctuary by 6:30 am. The guide Sube Singh arrived soon. He proudly tells that he is 73 years old and has been doing this job ever since he could remember. He used to help the hunters in the olden days when hunting was a show of masculine traits rather than a legal offence. He was not that tall but was tough as a nail and his agility betrayed his age. This is what remaining close to the nature does to a man. I have seen far younger people who are morose, immobile and washed up. But Sube Singh was not only agile and fit but even his sensory organs seemed to be far stronger than our own. He spotted owls deep inside a bushy tree and pointed out to us. It took me several minutes to follow his fingers and spot the same. He climbed 80 feets down to a canal to scare hidden birds and make them fly so that the photographers can click them. He could see and hear things that we would have otherwise missed out totally.
As a matter of fact we never entered the sanctuaries in question. He knew exactly where to find the birds. Every tree in every village seemed to be hosting a different species and without a local guide, it is as difficult as finding affordable housing in the Indian metros. We went to a water treatment plant near Sultanpur, where the reservoir was attracting some waterbirds. Then moved to some of the nearby villages for more birds and also stumbled on Nilgais. Later on, as we still had time, we moved towards Bhindawas Sanctuary near Jhajjar, which was around 50 kms ahead of Gurgaon. Again, we mostly roamed around the lush green farmlands blooming with mustards.
Towards the fag end of end day we also found black francolins. Interestingly, they seemed to gel quite easily with the surroundings. Human habitats are nearby and they could be seen roaming very near to the people. It was a great relief as in some other places they would have easily fallen prey to poachers. It was a satisfactory day as I saw more birds that I’d ever seen in a single day. Also I think I’d somewhat underestimated the region. The Haryana-Punjab belt evokes the picture of a highly industrialized land and I hardly associated it with migratory birds and quaint villages although I was always aware of these sanctuaries. But my perceptions have been changed by this trip as well as by Sube Singh, who represented the perfect way of leaving a fulfilling life.
Kingdom of Birds
Now, I have already posted about the blackbucks and sarus cranes from that trip. This must have given a good idea about the riches on offer in the region.
Now, let me show you the rest of the birds. My knowledge is poor in this regard and I have managed to name them with the help of many people from various birding groups in the FB. But the names may still be wrong. Let me know if there is a mistake.
Long-tailed Shrike or Rufous-backed shrike
Steppe Eagles (Arriving from Central Asia)
Sind Sparrows (Arriving from Pakistan)
Indian Eagle Owl
Woolly-necked Storks, Bishop storks or White-necked storks
Red Wattled Lapwing
Indian Pond Heron
Red Munia or Red Avadavat (Female)
Brown Rockchat in flight
Pied Bushchat (Female)
Black Francolin (State Bird of Haryana)