Our first full days birding was an excursion to Sultanpur National Park – now a RAMSAR wetland, situated 50k from Delhi, on the outskirts of the adjacent city of Gurugram. The area was previously associated with salt extraction until the beginning of 20th century and later a popular hunting ground for colonial and military personnel from Delhi. Sultanpur is situated along the Central Asian fly-way and plays host to around 250 bird species – 70 are resident, while others come from distant regions including Siberia, Afghanistan and Europe. The designation of Sultanpur as a nature reserve is largely credited to British ornithologist, Peter Michael Jackson, former honorary secretary of the Delhi Birdwatching Society. It was his letter in 1970 to the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, which led to the recognition of the site, first as a bird sanctuary then later a national park – with subsequent designation as an internationally important RAMSAR site. Sultanpur covers approx 150 hectares, with water levels in the main lake maintained by a pipeline connected to the Yamuna River. With its close proximity to urban centres it is a popular destination for school parties and general visitors – even so it remains a great location for birding.
But soon it was time to go and we joined the increasingly busy commuter traffic heading for Delhi. This is not a carpark as you might at first think but the queue to get through the motorway toll-booth! Welcome to India!