29 Jan 2014

29 Jan 14 - Searching For A Sparrow

The last day in India got off to a slow start. Woke early as I had an early taxi booked from the hotel near the airport to go to Sultanpur Bird Reserve, about 25 miles away. However, I wasn't feeling right after something I had eaten the previous night & ended up changing the taxi time by a couple of hours. Fortunately, the problem cleared up a bit & by 09:00 I was on my way. The main target was Sind Sparrows which look like a small House Sparrow & it's a fairly recent addition to the areas list, having arrived by following irrigation ditches from Pakistan. So this one time Pakistan goodie is now possible to see within an hours drive of Delhi. Not surprising, there was a lot of early morning haze & it never really cleared up, so perhaps partly pollution related given Delhi's proximity.
The lake was packed out with wildfowl as well as a few Nilgai, Water Buffalo & cattle 
The lake was even more impressive when viewed from the tower hide
Lunch was in the Rosy Pelican hotel next door: Shame the owners didn't bother to engage somebody who knew what they were doing, as half the big hotel signs had American species, instead of celebrating the local wildlife next door
Sultanpur is a much smaller reserve than Bharatpur & it would be possible to walk around its perimeter in a couple of hours at a slow birding pace, if it wasn't for the presence of a couple of high gates stopping you. It is a reasonable sized lake which has survived in a mass of cultivated fields & human habitation & judging by the numbers of birds, it must be the only decent sized lake for some distance. Initially, I walked clockwise around the lake, until I got stopped by the 4 metre high gate. In the trees around the lake edge, I had another Brooks's Warbler which was good to see. Unfortunately, the wet fields on this side were all dried out & planted with oil seed rape. This was where Bill had seen the Sind Sparrows on a previous visit & I assume their presence at Sultanpur is probably seasonal. Perhaps I should have tried contacting a local guide as he would probably have had other sites. Later I walked anticlockwise around the lake & found the other gate, but this time it was possible to just walk around the fence as the water level was so low. After walking around 3/4 of the lake, I reached the initial gate & rather than back track I ended up climbing over it.
Dabchick: Breeding plumage  
Dabchick: Non breeding plumage
Painted Stork: Bushes on islands in the lake provided safe nesting for Painted Storks & other tree nesting species
Black-necked Stork: There were a few nests amongst the larger numbers of Painted Storks
Grey-headed Swamphen
White-tailed Plover
Hoopoe: This is the orientalis subspecies which replaces the Southern ceylonensis subspecies that we saw in Western Ghats
 Red Avadavat: Male. Surprisingly these were the first Red Avadavats for the Indian trip
Red Avadavat: The females keep their dull plumage, unlike the males which moult into the bright plumage for the breeding season
Nilgai: Male
Nilgai: Females or immatures
Finally, it was time to head back into Delhi & start packing for the early am flight the next morning.
An Indian approach to traffic jams: This car wasn't changing lanes, it was just creating an extra lane to drive in
Just have to hope George Osborne doesn't see this: A 20 lane toll booth on our main road. The Tories could have a lot of fun with the UK motorways
The Indian solution to cross rail: Like a lot of big cities, the new tube & trains are going in above the main roads. How much cheaper would crossrail have been for Londoners?