New Year resolution – write more frequently! 🙂
27 Nov 2010
An impromptu decision to spend a birding weekend in Delhi (ostensibly to intersect with hubby’s holiday in the north) found me landing at Delhi airport in the wee hours of Friday night, on a flight 4 hours delayed from Bangalore. The programme for Saturday morning was set already – with a taxi hired for the day and a guide arranged to take me around Sultanpur and Basai. Armed with a goldmine of information from AMS, I crept out of Anu’s house in Gurgaon early on Saturday and was greeted at Sultanpur by Sanjay and a most promising sky. After a brief foray inside the sanctuary (where I finally managed to see a red-throated flycatcher with a red throat, and we checked on a pair of collared scops owls), Sanjay decided we should head to Sultanpur flats first to check for some of my target species – long-billed pipit, Indian courser. Both eluded us, but we did get a few greater short-toed larks, along with a flock of ashy-crowned sparrow larks; desert wheatears; bay-backed, long-tailed and rufous-tailed/Isabelline shrikes, and hoopoes as numerous as crows.
It was late morning by the time we got back inside the sanctuary, with the sun beating down and the jheel bursting with thousands of ducks, a thrilling sight for a birder from down south starved of water birds. Numerous raptors did the rounds, including juvenile and adult Steppe eagles, Indian spotted eagle, oriental honey buzzard and a lone osprey, and I watched the ducks cloud the sky, circle the lake and settle down again. A small flock of bar-headed geese circled around and flew away, while greylags floated placidly in the lake. Another futile search for long-billed pipit in the scrub around the far end of the lake, and by this time Sanjay was getting anxious to show me at least one lifer, when suddenly some black-breasted weavers in the reed bed got me excited. A rather taken-aback Sanjay concluded that a better strategy would be to look through my book and see what species I hadn’t checked off, and soon discovered that white-tailed lapwing was one of them.
We crept towards the marshy area around the lake, where white-tailed and red-wattled lapwings gave side-by-side comparisons but were wary of our presence. We also flushed a group of snipes that were impossible to ID. After spending some time watching the ducks (mostly common teals, with some shovelers, pintails, garganey and a lone wigeon), we slowly started back towards the car, adding tree pipit to the list, while I somehow convinced Sanjay that a break for lunch was necessary. The alu parathas at the Rosy Pelican lived up to their reputation, and post-lunch we started out for another location close to Sultanpur village where Sanjay was hopeful of getting coursers. Again we were disappointed, but managed to add a few species to the count, including tawny pipit.
Final stop was Basai, where literally thousands of ruffs jostled for space among smaller numbers of common and green sandpipers, again a sight to behold. Another lifer for me here was common starling – maybe a hundred or so in flight! We walked to the end of the dirt path and towards the left along the canal, where Sanjay hoped to find sind sparrow. Again this eluded us, but along the way we got a pair of pied cuckoos, and in the far fields at the back, Eurasian curlews. As we made our way to get a closer look at the curlews, a family of Sarus cranes flew in, the parents with a juvenile, and this was surely a fitting close to an intensive but very enjoyable day of birding! I wonder though how long these areas would survive – given the tree felling inside Sultanpur sanctuary, and the ever expanding concretization around the Basai wetland.