My Latest Visit To Sultanpur National Park February 2019
Why I am writing a post about a visit to Sultanpur National Park that I did in February 2019 in April? Trust me this is not due to my recent lazy traveler avatar ( actually it is more of a lazy blogger as I am traveling a bit only not writing that much )
I have totally lost track of the number of times I have been to Sultanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and in last few years each trip has been more saddening than the last one. From the winding road shrouded in mist in the early winter mornings now, you go through a concrete jungle of high rises that have eaten away the Sarson Ke Khet that one encountered on the way. This time, not even a single field had mustard blooming, in fact, there were no fields left on the way to the sanctuary.
A few years ago when I visited Sultanpur, I predicted that Gurgaon will be the next major city in India to have urban floods, and my Kalee Zubaan proved to be right when we had Guru Jam after a couple of hours of rains in the millennium city. You see all these wetlands that surrounded Gurgaon like Sultanpur, Damdama Lake, Basai Wetlands, Badshahpur Jheel, etc. were the reservoirs that will fill up with the runoff water of rains and will slowly recharge the groundwater. A win-win situation both during the rains as well as the dry season. Now, most of these wetlands are filled with filth, construction debris and they have been cut off by roads, malls, flyovers, etc. from there natural water channels that filled them. So most of the rainwater now literally goes down the drain.
Read here the post where my Kalee Zaban predicted Floods In Gurgaon 🙁 🙁 🙁
Anyways let me talk about this last visit I made to the Sultanpur Wildlife Sanctuary in the last week of February 2019.
First, let me give some good news. The good news is that there were lots of young birders at the sanctuary who were part of various groups may be from there school, housing society or various birdwatching trips like the one I was with. It is always good to see young naturalists, concerned about the environment on a field trip rather than enjoying a late morning at home on the weekend. Another good news was that the authorities that manage the Sultanpur Wildlife Sanctuary have cleared a lot of weeds like Mexican Acacia from the precincts of the Sanctuary, Congress Grass ( Parthenium hysterophorus ), etc. This must have been a lot of effort. Although it is a continuous battle as these weeds once they take over the leftover seeds in the soil will keep on sprouting for years to come. But the good thing is I noticed much lesser Mexican Acacias inside the sanctuary than a few years ago.
Now the bad news about the Sultanpur National Park
With more and more people coming to the national park and many colleges opening in the nearby areas the park has actually become a picnic spot and the authorities seem to be more than happy to encourage the same. The narrow winding path the circled the water and offered a slightly higher vantage point to you to watch the birds is now being widened and made into a concrete road so that Golf carts can run on the path. Yes, you read it right, the forest department is making a cemented path in the National Park to run Golf Carts to give joy rides to tourists in the national park. I am not sure what they were smoking when they took this decision, but Sultanpur National Park has shrunk to a much smaller area compared to just ten years ago and I am not sure why you need Golf carts and cementing of paths. The famed Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur Rajasthan is much bigger and you are allowed to go there on manual rickshaws and bicycles to do birdwatching. Why this small national park in Gurgaon needs Golf carts is beyond my comprehension. Every inch of widening of the path in the park leads to the destruction of grass/trees, shrubs that are home to countless critters and may be hosting small birds and reptiles. Plus it is a myth that the battery operated Golf Carts are eco-friendly. Well they need to be charged with electricity and the electricity has to come from somewhere and it could be coming from fossil fuels. I am pretty sure in a few years these Golf Carts will be lying in the junk for lack of maintenance etc.
The Birds We Saw In Sultanpur National Park Gurgaon
Though this last visit was fairly late in the birding season I was happy to see many birds in there though mostly they were locals but also a few migrants.
Here is a partial list of birds that I was able to spot and identify in this visit to Sultanpur National Park
- White Breasted Kingfisher
- Purple Moorhen
- Cattle Egret
- Pond Heron
- A group of Greater Flamingos ( could not get half decent images )
- Painted Storks ( they regularly nest at Sultanpur National Park )
- Northern Shoveler
- Red Wattled Lapwing
- Purple Sunbird
- Little Cormorant
- Spotted Owlet
- Eurasian Collared Dove
- Jungle Babbler
- Coppersmith Barbet
- Roufus Treepie
- Magpie Robin
- Greater Coucal
- Rose Ringed Parakeet
- Indian Peafowl ( Peacock – National Bird of India )
- Purple Heron
- Common Hoopoe
- Black Ibis
- Common Eurasian Coot
Besides this, we spotted many a Nilgai ( Boselaphus tragocamelus) which is the largest Antelope found in India/Asia and is actually not a relative of Gai or cow, but more than any other mammal the park is full of stray cattle, mainly bulls who have discovered that the green juicy grass in the National park is too good to resist and have made the National Park their permanent home. We could see bulls of all ages some very old and some very young in the park, it seems that the local villagers are leaving their stray bulls in the park who soon realize that this is a great place to live. Now since the park has high walls and fences all around I wonder how these bulls enter the precincts? Well, your guess is as good as mine but one thing is sure that the bulls are enjoying the grass in the National Park and have no plans to leave anytime soon.
I hope this last refuge of birds in the Gurgaon area stays like this and there is no further deterioration in the habitat of the birds. It will be a shame if we lose Sultanpur National Park to human greed just like we have lost the Basai Wetland that has housing societies right upto its boundaries.
Where is Sultanpur National Park
Just outside of Old Gurgaon on the Farrukhnagar Road you can reach Sultanpur National Park in about 40 minutes in the morning.
Please follow this Google Map To Sultanpur National Park
Opening Time: The park opens at 7 am and closes around Sunset. Trained naturalist guide is available at the entrance after paying a fee. The park is closed on Tuesdays.
Other things to see in Sultanpur National Park:
There is a small museum of natural history that kids should enjoy watching but most of the time I find that it is closed on one pretext or other.
Best time to visit Sultanpur National Park: Visit in winters from November to early March for best sightings and migratory birds. Local birds stay here year round but summers are too hot to visit.
Here are earlier posts about Sultanpur National Park based on my various trips over the years
- A visit to Sultanpur National Park: Birding With Kids
- Nilgai in Sultanpur
- Birdwatching with Kids at Sultanpur National Park
- The Last Sarson Ke Khet of Gurgaon
Overall this visit fo Sultanpur National Park left me with mixed feeling, while on one hand I was happy to see lots of water in the lake, as well as removal of invasive species like Mexican Acacia and Congress grass on the other hand projects like Golf Carts in the Sultanpur National Park, left me wondering why they need to do this. The total area of Sultanpur National Park is only around 1.4 KM Square and much bigger national parks like Bharatpur visitors explore on cycles and cycle rickshaws so I am not sure why we need Golf Carts here and need to make cemented paths for them. Only time will tell us. Till then hoping that the park will stay in good shape during the coming years.