I am not an avid birdwatcher. Yes, that’s right, NOT an avid birdwatcher. However, I still like to go out with my camera and my binoculars every so often and spend time watching these amazing and beautiful creatures. While the charm of going out to national parks and remote jungles is something else, it is not very practical to do on a regular basis. So, you have to figure out the local haunts.
Here’s a list of some places that I have been to personally – this list is a small subset of birding places around NCR. I have also included some photos that I took at these spots.
Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary
This is the most well known birding spot in NCR. Within 30 minutes of driving distance from most places in Gurgaon, it is also one of the most convenient to get to. Infrastructure wise also, it is one of the best developed birding spots. There is a hotel/restaurant by the name of The Rosy Pelican right next to it. The flip side is that because it is so close and well known, this place is also sort of a picnic spot. You can be sure of huge crowds during the winter months and over weekends. As one can imagine, that makes it not a bird watchers paradise.
But all is not lost. Most of the picnic folks come after 9:00 am. And the sanctuary opens at around 6:00 am. That’s when you should visit. There are several resident species in Sultanpur, but the place is best known for it’s winter visitors. Anytime between October and March is a good time to visit. Here is a shot taken at Sultanpur:
Okhla Bird Sanctuary
This is a place which is also a great place for bird watching and does attract a lot of migratory birds during the winter season. There is a large water reservoir here due to the Yamuna river barrage, and a nice motor-able road that goes around this area. This place is more of a bird-watcher’s spot and not many people got there for picnics. That makes it great. From Gurgaon, in the early morning it is about 45 minutes of drive (since you won’t meet any traffic).
The only flaw with this location is that you have to get lucky with it sometimes, since there are times when you won’t find too many birds here. There is a not a lot of resident population either. Here are a couple of shots taken at this location:
This place no one knows about – other than the birders. It is within 10 minutes of Sultanur Bird Sanctuary, and is on a narrow road leading into the fields. However, during the winter season, you can find the most amazing migratory populations here. The whole of wetland has been created through water getting stalled in these fields and attracting thousands of migratory birds. Since the place is pretty remote, with almost no people movement in the area (only farmers going back and forth), it is an ideal spot for the birds.
This is a must visit during winters and is one of the only places nearby where there is a good chance of catching the resident Sarus Cranes (you might mistake them for people working the fields from far away). Here is a shot of Sarus that was taken a few weeks ago at Basai:
This place is a little bit of a drive. It would take you almost an hour and a half from Gurgaon. The place is further on from where Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is (so, it is possible to go to Bhindawas in the morning, and visit Sultanpur at Sunset on the way back). This place was a revelation (We only went there last weekend for the first time). It is a huge lake with a 15 km track around it. It is not at all crowded (we met about 5-10 people on the road across ALL of the 15 km). I would rate it the best destination for bird watching around NCR.
Also on in the vicinity are areas called Matanhali and Khaparwas – both of these place are very promising wetlands – with Khaparwas being absolutely beautiful. Here’s a quick list of species that we saw within the four hours that we were there: long-tailed and bay-backed shrikes, brahminy starling, indian robin, blue throat, black-shouldered kite, booted warbler, black-breasted baya weaver, sindh sparrow, greater coucal, common redshank, white-breasted waterhen, marsh harrier, peafowl, ashy prinia, pied bushchat, pied myna, pied kingfisher, white-breasted kingfisher, red-vented bulbul, purple heron, grey heron, pond heron, night heron, eurasian eagle owl, common honey buzzard, shikra, egrets, darters, cormorants, ruddy-breasted crake, ruddy shell duck, comb duck ,pintailed duck, purple swamp hen, brown-headed gull, common coot, common moorhen, mallard, grey-leg and bar-headed geese, jungle babbler, spot-billed duck, northern shovelers, sarus crane, common hoopoe, common stonechat, red-backed dove, black-winged stilt, and the list goes on.
If you counted, that’s over 50 species. Not bad at all for a half-a-day of birding. Highly recommended. Here is a shot I took at this place:
There are other areas that are worth visiting as well – most doable within a day trip:
- Dadri Wetlands
- Delhi Zoo
- KG Wetlands
- Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
And many others. One good source is the Delhi Birds Group. Try and contact someone there and find the best places to go to at a given point in time. If you would like to know any information about the places I have been to, please feel free to leave a comment or drop an email. Enjoy your bird watching.