THE PRIDE OF HARYANA: SULTANPUR BIRD SANCTUARY
-A.S Bishnoi and Shakti Bishnoi
1. The Haryana state of North India has 2 National Parks, 8 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 2 Wildlife Conservation Areas, 4 Animal & Bird Breeding Centers, 1 Deer park and 50 herbal parks which are managed by the Forests Department, Haryana. Wildlife and forest
areas of Haryana lies mainly in the foothills of Shivalik hill range in the north and Aravalli hill range in the South Haryana. Aravalli mountains in Haryana are part of the Sariska to Delhi leopard wildlife corridor (including "Western-southern Haryana spur"
which entails Satnali-Dadam-Tosha hill (ranges).
Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary
2. Sultanpur National Park is located at Sultanpur village on Gurugram-Jhajjar highway. Approximate area is 142.52 hectares.
The area was declared a Bird sanctuary in 1972. On 13 July 1989 the reserve was upgraded to a National Park. Visitors can observe the birds on foot, hence it gives peaceful interaction of humans with the birds and animals.
4. Among approximately 9 migratory bird species, nearly 3 species migrate to India due to seasonal changes, namely Amur falcons, Egyptian vultures, plovers, ducks, storks, ibises, flamingos, jacanas, pochards and sociable lapwing. Some of them have become
residents and enjoy Indian tropical weather, while others love to scale the earth their ancestor’ way. And travelling done for survival always enriches us.
5. In winters the sanctuary is full of numerous bird calls.
7. We both wanted our daughter to learn about nature and spend time in observing birds and their behaviors. So we visited the sanctuary often on weekends from our house in Delhi. Most of the time we stayed overnight in forest guest house in the sanctuary
to be with the wildlife. It is just an hour drive from Delhi’s hustle –bustle to the world of serenity and tranquility. December fog started conquering Delhi, and this encouraged us to run away from the concrete jungle. The sanctuary is the nearest gateway
for exploring nature and we packed binoculars, cameras and winter ladoos by my mother for our journey. Nothing can be replaced with the delight of waking up with migrant birds’ song. We reached in the afternoon to make the most of our trip. We could go in
the sanctuary and watch the birds. One has to walk through the sanctuary to see the birds, so one has to have stamina for exploring entire sanctuary. Fog was playing game of hide and seek. But everything was like a dream. Fog added the magic to the entire
landscape. We could appreciate the birds mostly with eyes and that is our favourite way to learn about wildlife. After our walk in the sanctuary we headed for our room sharing the wall of the sanctuary. Our daughter loves to collect twigs in winter evenings
and asked us to make fire. We roasted sweet potatoes , potatoes, tomatoes and ate to our hearts content. After the day’s hardwork we slept as soon as we reached the bed.
8. Our daughter jumped out of the bed at dawn. We could not keep up with her enthusiasm throughout the day. Next we headed towards the watch tower as per our plan. Winter was showing its true colours, cool breeze was taking away heat from our body. All
were packed with winter clothing. Our daughter was now bahubali and wearing white dhoti and agreed to wear jacket on top. I was thankful to her choice as before bahubali she was mowgli and adorned the chaddi. And as we know her, she is true to the character.
With the silver ankle band, she was joyfully watching everything around her with utmost attention, the fog, trees, water, insects, fallen leaves, flying birds, sitting birds, swimming birds, chatting birds, sleeping birds, fighting birds, snacking birds, neelgai
splashing water while running. the arrowhead formations of gargeny was wonderful in the fog playing peek-a-boo. Later they jumped splashing cold water on each other. The best part of being pelagic birds is water proof wings. It reminds us of the power of
creation. What is needed for survival is given to all living organisms whether animals or plants. Only humans has problem of accumulating.
if the water is deep enough on few areas in Sultanpur jheel, the common pochards visit, as they are the diving rather than dabbling ducks. If you are lucky, you can also spot the ferruginous ducks, also called fudge-ducks. Both the species of geese,
greyleg and bar-headed visits here which are often spotted wandering the national park all night, and enjoying the morning sun by the lake. Big battalions of cranes and great white pelicans surprised our daughter by flying with the huge body they possess.
Her smile was a signal that she too would fly soon. She was constantly comparing her body size with the pelicans, painted stork and other large birds which were 20 metres away from us. I could see her alternately watching her body and the distant bird and
smiling with joy.
Little stints chirping near the lake shores and were enjoying the company of common red-shanks, sandpipers and white-tailed plovers. Large flocks of ruff use the water body only as a transit halt on their way further south, and then on their way back
north in spring. South of the park is full of larks and wagtails, scuttling after insects. The acacia woodlands of Sultanpur National Park also play host to black redstarts, canary-flycatchers. If the rainfall is good, the sanctuary has recorded a headcount
of around 20,000 birds from October–March, while in those with scanty rainfall the figure did not even cross 3,000.
Spoonbill was the first recognized bird with its name by our daughter who was then 2 years old. As the name is true to the distinctive feature of the bird.
when we were going further , we heard sarus crane call. We looked at each with joyful eyes. We started walking towards northern side of the sanctuary as the call was emerging from there. As we walked fast paced, our daughter had to run to keep up with
us. She was joyfully running in the jungle like little bahubali.
As we were nearing the cranes, the calls were becoming louder. And in a clearing we saw red head shining with the first sun rays on a foggy winter day. Sarus crane pair is very popular in sultanpur jheel and nearby villages because it goes to the fields
around the sanctuary. We could see it distinctly now standing 5.11 feet tall. They are the tallest flying birds in the world. What a sight it was to see them talking loudly with each other. Entire sanctuary was coming to life with their calls. My daughter
was not blinking after seeing them. She sat on the slope of the walking path in the sand and and observed the bird attentively. We too sat with her and felt content with our life, having watched all the selfless creatures that day. We also understood how important
it was for us to live in sync with nature. We too are one of the creatures and blessed with tremendous potential to revive the planet we have been exploiting and destroying for centuries. And if we observe, we will know what is needed to be done. And we should
do it, rather than wasting our time in futile conversations regarding the same. Sarus crane was calling to each other very loudly, but great egret was standing still undeterred by their voices near them. It focused on its goal of catching fishes. Each bird
gives us wonderful life lessons, but all we need is to observe them without causing disturbances.
We watched the mighty sarus crane for half an hour. Then the pair which will remain pair till they live took to flight. On seeing this, our daughter’ eyes opened bigger and she looked at them laughing and started flapping her hands like them. She gradually
lifted her heals was standing on her toes flapping her hands, ready to take off. We were so happy to see this and our dream of flying was awakened resulting in imitating our daughter. We all were ready to take off on toes but could not. After the flight of
sarus crane, many other birds flew too except us. But the joy of trying was tremendous. Morning sun gave warmth to the water and cool breeze started giving us the simulated feel of the open sky. Our camera was watching us from its tripod but could not press
its record button. We kept flapping with our eyes closed. And suddenly my daughter hugged me and laughed loudly to express how wonderful her maiden flight was.
We all rejoiced and kept looking at the open sky full of golden sunlight.
But the real feather in the sanctuary's cap has proved to be the large number of rare species spotted this season, includes the endangered Osprey, the Lesser Flamingos and even the Saker or Cherrugfalcon.
Our memories were full of the migratory birds from November to February, when March reminded us of their return journey from here. Once winter ends, the esteemed avian guests start preparing for their journey back home. The atmosphere in the park changes
considerably in spring (March–April). There are songs which reverberate in the jheel. The return journey of gypsies starts, it looks like the interaction amongst them increases manifold, may be discussing the route map and plans ahead. The frequency of meetings
increases and so is the duration as there are many heated discussions regarding departure dates and precautions to be taken based on the feedback given. It seems all are in hurry and an air of urgency. Few Migrants express heartfelt gratitude towards the resident
birds for sharing their land, water and food. Resident birds were expressing how much they enjoyed their stories. Difference between a bird which will migrate and stay back is very simple. The ones who have put on weight will migrate and the ones with normal
size will stay back. The birds start dividing themselves in groups like troops preparing for war for the final assault. The waterfowl practice sorties overhead, preparing for their journey back north. On the lake bed, the red-wattled lapwings and black-winged
stilts want this to end quickly, as they are constantly calling loudly, circling around and showing signs of irritation. Sarus crane is nowhere to be seen as they have option to find peace in fields nearby. Few resident birds starts targeting perfect places
for nesting. Coppersmith barbet excavates nesting holes. Tailorbird looks for raw material to build a perfect nest to impress his counterpart. And the grey shrike with its eye mask looks around with its detective instincts to observe the territory. The birds
start their journeys and fly in large flocks in the sky. It’s a sight to see them so disciplined and systematic to cover the journey of hundreds of miles. Reminded of the song a hundred miles ‘When you hear the birds fly … for hundred miles.”
10. Summer commences in May and lasts till the end of June. The time for the resident birds to enjoy open spaces and solitude. They now have responsibility to raise their chicks. Although few birds show signs of missing their winter friends. Red-turtle
doves start building their nest on the acacias. The lapwings and stilts still have space conflict. July to September are Sultanpur’s most crucial months, for the amount of rainfall determines the extent to which the lake will remain filled in winter. It has
been sought that this dependency be reduced by bringing water from a nearby canal via a pipeline.
11. Monsoon starts and first Rainfall was forecasted on early hours of Saturday morning, so we headed for the sanctuary on Friday night to stay there to soak ourselves in pure water on the next day. First rainfall fills the sanctuary with the fragrance
of wet sand and we just sat there for three hours without moving. Blades of new grass with shades of green were awake after summer break. After the scorching heat of four months the birds are not running away and hiding themselves but, perched on a place
where they get fully drenched. The state bird of Haryana, the black francolin was calling loudly in joy. By the end of September, the skies are clear and resident birds await the arrival of migratory birds. With all the responsibilities of nest building and
rearing of chicks is over, the sanctuary echoes with constant chit chat of free birds.
(a) Water. The water levels in the sanctuary is receding due to less rainfall. The low levels of water is threat to lives of both migratory as well as resident birds.
(b) Real Estate Business: Because of real estate development and rapid urbanization, the area has been converted into concrete jungle choking not only wildlife but humans too. Earlier as per the government guidelines, no constructions were allowed in the
range of five kilometers, however now it has been reduced to 300 meters. What has made the matter worse is a large number of illegal colonies that have sprouted around the area. Lot of residential school and rampant construction is happening as we write.
(c) Bunds Destroyed: The water embankments not only used to drain out the water but also brought rich silts into the region from the annual flooding in the Yamuna River.
Most of the bunds that have now become extinct were set up during the British times. The ones that are surviving continue to remain in a neglected state.
(d) Extinction of Ponds/Rise of Borewell. In over 460 ponds spread across Gurugram district, 208 have dried up, 186 are dirty. Even as there has been ban by the court to dig illegal bore wells, there are over 15,000 illegal bore wells that have been dug
up in the city. In most of the areas in the city, the groundwater has fallen to levels of 500 meters. The alarming decline in water levels in the city will affect the Sultanpur Bird sanctuary unless replenished by regular rain water and river. But that is
not possible due to climate change and in return monsoon varies.
(f) Pesticide It is understood that agriculture fields surrounding area of Park, use pesticide for high yield to generate instant income from crop. Although there is demarcated boundary wall /fence to separate sanctuary from cultivable land. But for
birds there is no boundary, they can fly outside the perimeter of park in search of food. These birds feed on seeds, insects, fish and grain. They often fly to agricultural fields nearby for food and this can led to poisoning and might kill them. Efforts should
be there to minimize the usage of pesticide and farmers be encouraged to go nature friendly.
(g) Climate Change(Global) and Pollution. We the humans are responsible for climate change and it is time to accept it and take corrective measures at individual levels, household levels, community level and revive the bruised planet earth for our survival,
else our time is up.
Covid-19 is result of human greed. Many viruses lay under permafrost to clear the problematic human population. This is the beginning of our end.
Corona Virus has locked humans in their houses and wildlife is making visits to see the dominating human race scared and struggling to survive peeping out of their pigeon holes. This year post pandemic the pollution is less, no fishing, rivers are
clean, good vegetation growth surrounding lake, humans are yet to come out of hibernation due to corona virus. Earth healing and everything which is in sync shall survive.
Here is a short video on Sultanpur National Park in Haryana