Healthy forests and wetlands stand sentry against the dangers of climate change, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away in plants, root systems and soil.Frances Beinecke
A pocket of sheer abundance at the fringe of a major metropolis, Sultanpur National Park is treasure trove of avian riches which is often missed out by the inhabitants living in India’s capital city, Delhi. Yet it has the pull and the power to attract many different kinds of species that seek refuge in this oasis. The habit here is conducive for resident and migratory birds alike as it serves zooplankton, aquatic vegetation, vertebrates and invertebrates on a platter. It is therefore no surprise that scores of species like the the Bar Headed Goose, Greylag Goose, the Common Teal, Eurasian Widgeon, Common Moorhen and many more can be seen in this haven of 1.4 sq kms.
Conservation and the Importance of Such Wetlands
Having been subjected to poaching in the early 20th century, the protection of this wetland came in the form of an ornithologist by the name of Peter Jackson. It was he who convinced the then Prime Minister of India (Indira Gandhi) to protect this geological abode. The park was initially established as Bird Reserve in 1971 but was subsequently upgraded to the status of National Park in 1991. These crucial measures have kept poaching at bay while also simultaneously encouraged its conservation by fencing it from cattle, supplying it with water from the Yamuna river and inviting hordes of tourist year round to create a deeper appreciation for it. The birds that inhabit the land, play a highly significant role too. Their persistent feeding frenzy ensures insects and molluscs are kept in check which prevents this haven from turning into a desolate piece of land. Migratory birds flying in from around the world act as key components of this ecological system by bringing in seeds from other wetlands. This cycle renews the area and sustains life which has its benefits for us human beings. When it rains or floods, the aquatic plants are critical for chemical detoxification as they absorb pollutants like a sponge soaks in water. They also release copious amounts of oxygen back into the atmosphere serving as our second pair of lungs. It is this ecological homeostasis happening around the globe that breathes life into our planet without which our very survival would be in peril.
A Paradise Teeming with Birdlife
The moment one set foots in this tranquil outback, the first scans of the scenery and the wildlife instantly turns into an invigorating experience. The forested trail encircles the watery glades where one can see large congregations of water fowl with antelopes moving amongst them. The park has numerous habitats to offer, and wherever one sets their gaze there are fascinating beings going about their daily tasks. In the reed beds, there are species like the Grey Headed Swamphen and White Breasted Swamphens skulking about as they look for insects and worms within the damp soil. Closer to them, Herons like the Purple, Pond and the Grey tread carefully, with their eyes fixated at the prey in the water with Zen like stillness. Coots, Common Teals, Common Pochards, Northern Pin Tails and Shoverlers can be seen swimming gracefully while Greater Flamingos, Glossy and Black Headed Ibises probe the shallow waters for sustenance. Watching the sky, flocks of Wire-tailed, and Red Rumped Swallows glide are seen gliding across swiftly, hawking on insects. Overhead, the park also has its fair share of raptors like the menacing Marsh Harriers that often swoop down in their attempt to catch their target. Jungle Crows and Black Drongos don’t take to this very well as they begin to chase these birds of prey in hot pursuit. On the acacia dotted Islands in the center, Tawny Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater and Indian Spotted Eagles can be either soaring above or perched on tree tops. As you walk along the periphery keeping a close watch on the wooded country is highly rewarding too. Woodpeckers are in good numbers as you can see likes of the Black Rumped Flameback, Yellow Crowned and Brown Capped Pygmy climbing up tree trunks in search of insects and termites. Rose Ringed Parakeets are seen in bright colored flocks in the midst of drier trees preening and chattering way raucously. Perched below in the denser trees, you can see Spotted Owlets roosting, clamped up to one another with Black Redstarts moving about wagging their tails rapidly. Along the reed beds, there’s also fine chance of seeing the Bluethroat, Ashy Prinia, Yellow and Citrine Wagtails, Common Stonechat and the Pied Bushchat.
Mammals too have a strong foothold to these lands. The most formidable clandestine predators here are the Jungle cats, which can be seen at distance usually scurrying about, keeping watchful eye on the waterfowl. Nilgai numbers are plenty as they seem relatively comfortable around the visiting guests. You can see them gracefully feeding on the drier reeds and grasses and at times swim across from one acacia island to another. Sights like these are wonderful highlights of the being in the park that one rarely misses.
A Photgrapher’s Delight
Being a wetland blessed with medley of habitats, Sultanpur has plenty of photo opportunities. Its best to navigate the park in the clockwise direction as the sun will be in your favour to capture some we lit shots. With a staggering bird count and a diversity of species, there’s motion in every corner. The woodlands along the circumference provide some of the most splendid visuals in the shrouded misty mornings of winter, and the first morning light piercing through canopies will leave most enchanted. The scrublands of the park are also ideal for birds such as the Indian Courser which is rarely seen. A new addition to the protected area is a Gazebo with inlets in the wall so that photographers can get their best shots without disturbing the ducks paddling in the water. It is factors such as these that work in your favour to spend hours in this avian sanctum without missing out on the action.
Best Time to Visit Sultanpur
The best time to visit the park for resident birds is between August to November. And if one wants see passage migrants then December to March is ideal. However, if you plan to visit during winter then you get the liberty to stay in the park longer as the weather is pleasant and therefore conducive for extensive excursions.
How to Get There
By Air –
The closest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport followed by the (located 35 km away) in Delhi. Taxis/Ubers are readily available at these airports to take you to Sultanpur National Park
By Rail –
The Gurgaon Railway Station is in close proximity to the park (located 14 km away) that is connected to major cities like Delhi, Rajasthan, and other places in Haryana. Taxis/Ubers and Auto rickshaws can easily be hired from this point to take you onward to this birder’s paradise.
By Road –
The park is well connected with Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida with a network of roads. It’s rather very convenient to drive down to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary from all the nearby (as well other cities like Agra and Jaipur). Taxis/Ubers are again available at all Train/Metro stations and Airports in this area. One can also travel by state-run buses and shared taxis if they chose to.