Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

Tag: nature

Yellow-throated Marten

The yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula) is an Asian species of marten. M. flavigula, sometimes also known as the kharza, is the largest marten in the Old World, with the tail making up more than half its length. Its fur is brightly colored, consisting of a unique blend of black, white, golden-yellow and brown. It is an omnivore, whose sources of food range from fruit and nectar to small deer. The yellow-throated marten is a fearless animal with few natural predators, because of its powerful build, its bright coloration and unpleasant odor. It shows little fear of humans or dogs, and is easily tamed. (Source: Wikipedia)

Picture clicked in October 2017 at Malla Ramgarh, Nainital, Uttarakhand, INDIA.

#TravelDiaries – Sultanpur National Park

“Cultivate the habit of early rising. It is unwise to keep the head long on a level with the feet.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Northern Shoveler (Migratory)

Our interest in Wildlife, especially birds, started when the firstborn was about five years of age. Unlike other children who were hooked onto cartoon channels (courtesy the house-helps or us, parents), this girl used to watch wildlife documentaries on Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic. Her thoughtful father observed her interest in wildlife and encouraged her by gifting her various books/encyclopaedias on animals and birds. Our vacations also meant travelling to various forests within India.

And then a few years ago we watched this beautiful documentary together as a family. Do watch it. You can thank me later.

This little girl of ours could identify almost 60% of the birds that are discussed here. That was the turning point in my life as well. I did have an interest in nature photography, but my interest in birds is all thanks to this daughter. An early riser I am and hence my rendezvous with these winged creatures dates back to my school days. But I never bothered to find out what their names were, what they fed on, how they differ from each other and why some of them were visible only during certain seasons. These I started noticing only now.

Purple Moorhen or Western Swamphen (Resident)

Common Moorhen or Common Gallinule (Resident)

Bird watching is indeed a beautiful hobby for people like me who prefer solitude than company. I can gaze at them swimming in the lake or flying in the vast sky for hours and hours.

Spot-billed Duck

It is indeed the most refreshing thing to do in case you’re feeling down. Walk along the lake and watch these winged friends fly without inhibitions. No borders, no fences, no characterization can make them stop. They are just themselves. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, water birds or field birds, residents or migratory, they coexist and share the resources provided by nature.

Purple Heron (Resident)

Painted Stork (Resident)

We, humans, have a lot to learn from them. Most importantly symbiosis and coexistence. Nature has provided us with enough to survive if only we learn to respect and value it.  These creatures in the wildlife teach us how to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both parties.

Painted Stork

Painted Stork

Sultanpur Lake Bird Sanctuary is located about 15 km away from Gurgaon, Haryana. Established in 1972 as the Sultanpur Bird Reserve, this place was upgraded to a National Park in 1989. Spread over an area of 1.43 sq km, this bird sanctuary is inhabited by over 250 species of birds.

Little Grebe

Spoonbill

After our first visit to Sultanpur National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise, on day two of our stay at Golden Creepers Farm Retreat, I was not very happy because the foggy day spoiled almost all my photographs. The birds were all very close yet the pictures were far from good. And in between the husband injured his ankle while playing with the children. He said it was just a sprain and so we continued our stay. The next day I visited the sanctuary again with the sun still playing hide and seek. The daughter, my got-to-person for wildlife information, gladly joined me ‘for my protection’. Such fun this date was!

Spoonbill

Darter or Snakebird (Resident)

With Li’l Love, my younger one, a visit to any place is fun yet crazy. She’s still too young to enjoy such places. She’s fine for some time but starts acting cranky almost at the same time when I start clicking. So this trip with just me and A was not only fun but absolutely perfect for my photography craze. She kept guiding me by spotting birds and identifying them while I clicked them. One of the few things we have in common is our love for photography.

Northern Pintail (Migratory)

Bar-headed Geese

Hand in hand, we kept walking around the lake, climbing on top of the watch tower and spotting various birds. This kind of individual time is very important with each child as it brings us closer in indescribable ways and also is a reassurance for the child that he/she can count on us for anything at all times.

Black-headed Ibis (Resident)

Blackwinged Stilt (Resident)

The park is right now abundant with lots of resident as well as migratory birds. Breeding has been extremely good this season and hence you have a good chance of witnessing a fairly good number of species.

Intermediate Egret (Resident)

Greylag Goose (Migratory)

I’m sure these pictures and my extempore around the trip has made you envious. And that’s why I need to share this incident. Wildlife is beautiful, peaceful and rejuvenating. But wildlife is also full of dangers from unexpected corners. The daughter and I were almost lost in the wilderness clicking non-stop when we saw a pair of Nilgais and started clicking.

 

She started recording them when she saw another pair a little farther. As I turned to click the other pair I saw about five more running from behind an island in the lake. It looked like once in a lifetime shot. But within seconds we realized that almost seven-eight of them were running fast towards us. The daughter was almost in tears as we were standing just a foot or two away from where they crossed us. It was not their fault at all. Some miscreants in the park were pelting stones at them. Trust me when I say that ‘we humans are the most disgusting species on planet earth‘.

Nilgai or Blue Bull

Not just the animals, these anti-social elements were passing lewd remarks on almost all of us and it took some of the professional photographers to warn them and get them out of the park with the help of the authorities. A forest is not a place for picnic. Unfortunately most of our people are not aware of it. It is a protected area. It is the home of these birds and animals. We are only visitors who must graciously exit after visiting them.

I have tried my best to leave you with the best shots possible. Yet I can vouch for the fact that what my eyes witnessed can never be caught on camera. Such is the grandeur of nature.

#TravelDiaries – Golden Creepers Farm Retreat, Gurgaon

The school was to close only for a week starting New Year and the man had to take his leaves before year end which would otherwise lapse. That’s when we spoke to the teachers and got their nod for taking two days off without much pending work stress for the daughters.

As always the man gave me three choices and asked me to check out the reviews and get back to him with a few hotels and their reservation charges. From Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to Udaipur to Jaipur, we finally zeroed down on Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. Why? Only because of Golden Creepers Farm Retreat which the husband had noticed on some of his friends’ timelines.

We stayed for three nights at this boutique property near Gurgaon. Just 12 kilometers from Gurgaon and about 4 kilometers to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is this lush green farm spread over 45 acres of land.

A farm by all means. Don’t expect the luxuries of air-conditioners and electric water heaters. Room heaters are provided in the tents and hot water is provided as and when requested.

They have a few rooms and a good number of Swiss Style cottage tents to make your stay cozy, comfortable as well as adventurous. Though we love staying in tents, late Decembers in Delhi can make anyone change plans. Daljeet was thoughtful enough to offer us their lavish cottage which they refer to as Baithak (Lounge in English) because we were accompanied by kids. 

That’s Baithak, their ancestral remain that they are still preserving. Hygienic linen and clean bathrooms are a must for us and we were not disappointed at all.

Farm stay is something we enjoy as a family. The commotion of the city is extremely chaotic. So this was the perfect place for a family like ours who wanted to spend the new year away from the mayhem.

As you can see there’s enough to keep the children busy and active. And there’s enough for a budding photographer to sharpen their photographic observations and techniques. You’ll slowly know what I mean.

I was telling Daljeet that he should get the farm declared as a mini bird sanctuary. They have resident owlets  (about five of them) and a resident peacock family.

Apart from these resident family members they also have many guests that grace their farm with their beautiful presence.

Indian Grey Hornbill

Pied Bushchat

Fork-tailed Drongo

Red-wattled Lapwing

White-throated Kingfisher

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Indian Roller

White Wagtail

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

Red-vented Bulbul

Black Redstart

Indian Peafowl

Food is another concern while travelling. You can imagine our delight when we munched on this farm fresh organic meal.

 

A perfect balanced diet. That salad says it all. Juicy and pure organic stuff. And what’s not to like about those three different kinds of hot chapattis (wheat, corn and maize) that my namesake served me with.

We just kept hogging on all that delicious food plus the finger-lickingly delicious snacks that were served around the bonfire in the chilly winter breeze in the evenings. These angithis used to keep the food warm took us back to our time with our grandparents when natural resources were still used for cooking and cooking ranges, LPG and CNG were unheard of.

But the best thing about our stay was what the girls learnt. Going Back to Basics. Advancement has been misused and health has been taken for a ride. It is in these farms that you learn why you should promote organic. The fresh produce that is grown organically is something we city-dwellers miss. And thus our health has gone for a toss.

Be it milk, veggies, cereals, pulses, eggs or poultry, everything is organic. What I love about farms is that it is a ‘Zero Waste’ project. Absolutely eco-friendly. Something we want our children to learn. The touch of soil is so soothing and refreshing.

Kitchen waste goes into composting or as fodder. Paddy, Wheat, Carrot, Cauliflower, Radish, Turnip and other leaves get consumed by the rabbits, cows and buffaloes. Milk, ghee, Paneer, Dahi and all from home-fed cattle. Dung used for manure and dung cakes for cooking and bonfire.

And such a huge setup will not function effectively enough without personal involvement. That’s where Daljeet and his parents, Mr.& Mrs. Ajit Singh Kataria, play a vital role. Their energy, enthusiasm and determination is what is behind the warm hospitality that you enjoy in this serene village-like atmosphere. I was mighty impressed by the way both uncle and aunt kept themselves busy in the overall functioning and maintenance of the farm. Their hard work and positive outlook towards life is infectious.

Daljeet and his lovely family made our stay absolutely homely and  our New Year a memorable one. The children bonded so well that I was free enough to enjoy my stay around the place.

Stay tuned for the next post on the migratory birds at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. A Birwatcher’s paradise indeed.

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