September to February is a good time to visit for birdwatching. Days will be pleasant, though nights may be cold. In north India, indigenous species of water birds are normally known to feed and nest around September-October, while the migrants visit around November. At Sultanpur, both varieties may be seen around November, which is the ideal time for a visit. The jheel is partially filled during these months, and the birds find adequate food in the shallow waters.
Accommodation is available at the Rosy Pelican complex run by Haryana Tourism at the edge of the lake. There are family cottages as well as air-conditioned individual rooms. A restaurant and bar is located within the complex. For details, contact: The Manager, Sultanpur Lake, Gurgaon, Haryana. Tel.: 01272-85242.
Another option is to stay at one of the numerous hotels, lodges or guesthouses in Delhi and plan a day trip to the Sultanpur jheel.
By Air: Delhi airport (46 km.) is the nearest to the sanctuary.
By Rail: Sultanpur railway station is only 4 km. from the lake.
By Road: You may take the Haryana Roadways bus from Delhi to Gurgaon, from where you can get a Chandu bus to Sultanpur. The jheel is located on the Gurgaon-Farrukhnagar road, a short drive away from the Delhi-Jaipur highway. Taxis are also available from Delhi or Gurgaon. The place is well connected with major towns on NH 56.
Herds of grey or blue-grey nilgai may sometimes be seen grazing on the grasses at the banks of the lake. This often occurs at dawn. They may also visit the lake to quench their thirst.
Zooplankton and various aquatic species like fish thrive in the lake. Frogs may sometimes be seen around the lake.
Sultanpur is however essentially a bird sanctuary. Sultanpur is the birdwatcher's paradise. About 255 species have been reported here. Winter migrants flock in from as far away as Siberia. Ducks and geese (probably from Europe) are some of the main migrants. The Demoiselle Crane is one of the most fascinating migrants that visit this lake. The graceful Demoiselle Cranes, one of the star migrant species, are the smallest of all cranes. Their tinkling calls resound through the lake, as they take to the air in a long formation as if strung like beads on a chain. They usually visit the lake late in the evening, having spent the entire day feeding in the surrounding fields. The White or Rosy Pelican and the Greylag and Barheaded geese visit the reserve as also ruddy shelducks, mallards, pochards, gadwalls and teals. Flamingos and numerous waders and shore birds like the plovers or sandpipers also arrive at the lake. Large parties of coots also join in.
Residents form an equally fascinating array of species. Darters, egrets, shovellers, cormorants, kingfishers and lapwings are all found at Sultanpur. The Grey Pelican, Grey Heron and the pond heron and a crowd of spoonbills are often seen at the lake. Parties of Painted Storks may be seen chattering together along the banks, maybe along with the pelicans. Spotting the White Ibis, or the occasional gaunt Black-necked Stork would not be a surprise either. The striped snipes and the big Brahminy duck may be seen in winter. Summer skies are full of purple sunbirds flapping about or small melodious skylarks. The Devil-tailed Drongo in its shiny black coat may be seen hidden amidst the leaves. Red turtledoves appear briefly around May-June. When the spoonbills arrive at the lake, they have already shed their nuchal crest after the breeding season and are seen feeding gregariously. They rest on one leg with their heads buried in their feathers. Look skyward and you may see the Crested Serpent Eagle and the Lesser Spotted Eagle peering down from their perches atop the acacia trees.
The Sultanpur jheel is a small, pocket-sized 144 ha. shallow, brackish lake surrounded by acacia trees. It is situated very close to Delhi, on the Gurgaon-Farrukhnagar road in Haryana. The marshes have been transformed into a water body, set against refreshing greenery that attracts diverse species of birds throughout the year. Numerous reeds and aquatic plants border the jheel and there are also some small mud-spits in the water. The lake is surrounded by grasslands and agricultural lands. Some shrubs, small trees and huge bunches of bougainvillea are found around the lake. Some acacia trees also occur along the perimeter of the lake.
Since the lake is an open stretch without too many tall trees on the fringes, there is a clear view of the various water birds wading in the lake or taking to the air, even from a distance. Some of the flight formations are spectacular sights and since boating is not permitted, the birds are fairly undisturbed in their natural surroundings. There are watchtowers and hideouts located around the lake for easy viewing. Some pairs of resident Sarus cranes may breed in the reeds surrounding the lake. Swallow plovers may be seen on the mud-spits and the Painted Stork and pelicans may be seen on the edge of the shallow waters.
Sultanpur is an ideal getaway as it is situated so close to the busy capital at Delhi. Even if this seems like a picnic spot, easily accessible from the city, revere it as a sanctuary. Don't litter the place with leftover food or packaging. And don't make loud sounds or play loud music, as these will frighten away the birds. Boating or swimming in the lake are strictly not permitted.
Any visitor to this bird sanctuary must carry a good pair of binoculars and a bird book. Carrying a camera will be rewarding even for the amateur. You must visit the museum and the library in the reserve, since it provides a lot of interesting information.
Divisional Inspector, Wildlife, Sultanpur National Park, Gurgaon. Tel.:0124-6322057.
Sultanpur, which was originally marshy land, was declared a bird sanctuary by the Haryana government in 1971. A buffer zone comprising 13,500 ha. that includes 17 villages, agricultural fields and jheels has been recognised besides the core area of 144 ha. Two decades later, in 1991, Sultanpur was upgraded to the status of a National Park.