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On an accidental landing at A not-so-familiar bird sanctuary

When my friend, Mr Prasad, the ‘dancing’ Photographer (dancing because, he mostly captures dancers in action thro’ his magical lens….) called me over phone… “Hi Rajan, could we plan a Bird watching trip?”  I just couldn’t believe. Well.. I also wanted a break from my dry “Banking & Finance lectures”… I rang up to Murali, the born trekker, who always accompanies me, but this time, he said that he would not make it… due to his “Vigilance assignments” in his Bank! Sadly I had to miss him…  So Prasad & I planned it for Sultanpur on 26th Dec 2011. It was a Monday and we loved to brave the biting cold…

I waited at Airport Metro, Sector 21 Dwarka, near my home,  to receive Prasad. As expected, he came out of the station with his paraphernalia i.e., Camera, Tripod, hiding his round, barren head inside the typical Birder’s cap with a beaming smile. I was in my winter jacket covering inside a sweater, a shirt and an innerware, hoping to protect reasonably form an expected cold wave. My Wagon R was happy to have an outing…away from Delhi… After Manali in March, he could not go for along drive…. Poor guy.  With the typical mood for a Nature Trail, we wanted to venture into old rural road leading to Gurgaon but alas, from the beginning we were lost. Somehow we reached the Basai road and reached Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary … alas… the locked door welcomed us. There was none to receive us as guest. The In-charge came to say that the sanctuary was closed on Mondays. We cursed the Wild life Authorities….. for we were not told this earlier. Why could you not visit the website before starting… pat came the reply.  In fact I tried the official website…. But as usual the message was “The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.” If you have doubts you try http://www.sultanpurbirdsanctuary.com/ .  If you are lucky, you may perhaps get the server open... try your luck before you go....

But thanks to Anna, now no tips will work here, it appears.... Oh No Doubt me not... I did not try any tips, but a tourist ventured this to get a good “barking” in return.

I was disappointed... and obviously Prasad too…I thought... but he was cool as he offered a home-made Sandwich and So we walked to the Haryana tourism restaurant.. it was not closed.. and.. so was the park  adjacent to the lake... We had a superb pot-tea inside the well maintained restaurant...Now I wondered as to what to do... Suddenly  I recollected my earlier visit a decade ago in a scooter with my son on the pillion to a nearby not-so-known bird site. Yeah... but I forgot the name.. what should I do? But god.. I too have memory.... It was.. I got it... Bhindhawas Lake Bird Sanctuary... about 15 Km away...? Yes. Prasad tried the browsing in my 2G mobile and he got it, but we were unable to track it. Passing old Haryanwi’s never knew having heard such a name. Driving ahead, we travelled about 25 Kms to reach Jhajjar because, a faint memory instinct told me that we did cross Jhajjar during our last trip a decade ago. Good... the villagers near Jhajjar told that it another 15 kms away. It was 1 pm by then... anyway we are going to reach Bhindhawas.... I raised the gear and the road was perhaps a State High way from Jhajjar.. and was smooth. Kudos to roadways in Haryana.... roads are far better now. Hurray.... there is the sign board. “Take a diversion to Bhindhawas.. just 4 kms from here”..it read. Prasad clicked the board, perhaps the photo might help if lost... i just enjoyed his work and started driving tho a smaller but a reasonably good road which lead us to the Sanctuary.. Before reaching, there is a small village and a pond. My goodness... I spotted a Black winged Stilt in the pond... and a pleasant surprise was there was a migratory duck also. Going closer, I referred Salim Ali to confirm that it was a pair of Scaup Duck... I swear, it can’t be tufted Pochard for the simple reason that it did not have the conspicuous tuft on its head.. And look at Prasad’s pictures which would perhaps vouchsafe it.....

Inspired by the sighting, we further proceeded to reach the Forest rest House under the care of an Inspector. At the entrance we were greeted by a tastefully constructed Bungalow which we later on came to know is a museum in the making. In the forest camp site, there was one Mr Ajit Singh, the peon who welcomed us and directed us to the lake bund. He said that we could drive the entire lack which extends to about 12 kms around the lake spread over an area of 1017 acres. Later on, he handed a brochure written in Hindi, which has show cased a checklist of 190 birds, both resident and migratory. Thank god… there is no holiday. We were lucky this time. Ajit also said that there are plenty of migratory birds.

Encouraged, we started driving on the bund. What a scenic bund it was!. We were thrilled to go ahead, feeling the closeness to nature. Suddenly a huge flattering of the wings made us stop. We realized that a group of migratory ducks have taken off, hearing the strangers… probable hunters?!?! Then this was my turn.. I cautioned Prasad… Look.. you had been shooting the dancing beauties so far… now these are flying beauties…. Let us walk silently paring the car. Believe us… we had a great feast to eyes that day. Yeah…. Purple moorhen, Indian Moorhen, dabchick, coot, kingfisher-white breasted. I wondered which one I should see thro my binocular? A crow Pheasant just crossed the road. Now… the challenge is … the lake is very big, how to cover the same? We did one thing. We parked the vehicle… Prasad got down with tripod… I drove ahead, parked the vehicle ahead a reasonable walking distance, then came back and accompanied Prasad. Like this we covered a major area. Prasad was so curious to go on shoot.

We reached a place which is a 2 way feeder from the lake… While Prasad was busy viewing thro’ his lens, I had to remind him about Lunch, since it was already 3 pm. We sat on the parapet wall of the shutters through which the water was flowing out to the nearby agricultural fields perhaps and the soft rhythm of the water was amazing when we mixed it with the sweet voice of the chirping parakeets. The Alexandrians were more in number and there were a few, rose ringed parakeets too. I was keenly looking for a Blossom headed one, but I was only unfortunate. But yeah.. I had the dharshan of my favourite DID HE DO IT BIRD Red-wattled lapwing, without which I feel sad. I do not know, but I love this little speaker, who always appear as if it asks the homo sapiens as to what he did for them, for their safety and for their survival. Prasad captured it thro’ his lens of course. We took our Lunch, the le meridian Christmas Plum cakes by Prasad and our South Indian rice cakes “Iddlies” thanks to my better-half. Filling the belly at this point definitely energized and we forgot the mistakes committed from morning…. When we drove further, we had a wonderful sighting of Spotbills and Shovellers. Good we also had a view of Wigeon, and a pair of Gadwall

Moving further, we were driving slowly towards an end of the lake where we had to take a turn. Left .. I said and Prasad said… it should be right. We decided to move right which let us into a nearby village. The sleeping village was beautiful…. And we enquired a old villager as to how to go back to lake. We were again on the lake road. Now it was slowly getting darker. The evening warmth of the sunshine was slowly going away. But we never gave up our hope for further sighting… yeah ! here it is.! A gorgeous Purple heron was standing tall as if it was looking for a yummy evening snack. And this was again our time to shoot…. The bird cooperated nicely. We had good many photographs of Egrets, purple herons and a few cormorants.

Prasad, I thought, was tired as he had to carry the tripod again and again from car, position him and shoot. But I think that I have created in him some interest in Bird watching. He appeared fresh and wanted more food for his magical lens.

We had half mind to leave since we were so fascinated with the rich bird population , scenic beauty of the lake and the rural backdrop surrounded by the yellow green mustard everywhere… but time to go…. We had miles to go… so did I raised the engine and came out to the highways. Now this was time for us to have a chai on the road side tea shop. Imagine … I never loved tea, but believe I took tea twice thanks to the ginger flavor in the hot paper cup that too in the foggy evening. Now the sunset on the backdrop of tall standing eucalyptus canopy from the lake side inspired the camera person to catch the sight of the evening sun. What a wonderful sight it is, we have been seeing this, ever since our school days… everytime you watch the sun… it is a  great natural phenomenon… never we get bored… with this last click, we started our travel back as we had to reach Najafgarh from Jhajjar.. after crossing badli then Dhansa border. The return journey was not that much confusing, but the road from Jhajjar till badli was under construction and this delayed our travel time.

We  were cherishing our experience and decided to visit again and again, but you know… we never get back to the same place as we think… attribute many excuses for that.

But I wish to visit again and camp there for at least two days .. let me hope to do it positively

 
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