The number of water bird species flocking to Sultanpur National Park from foreign and domestic locations has doubled this year. Around 12,000 species were spotted till March 2016 compared to 6,000 last season.
A number of rare duck species — gadwall, mallard, ruddy shelduck and common pochard were spotted in the park this year, an official said.
There is also an increase in the numbers of domestic and tree birds by 70% compared to a 46% increase last year. The waterbody in the 352-acre park spreads across 180 acres.
“Every year, we conduct an assessment of winter birds and this year it was remarkably high. In Jan-Feb period, the park had 22,000- 35,000 birds and it was only 14,000 – 16,000 last season,” RK Bhatia, district forest officer (wildlife), said.
Apart from regular visitors, dozens of rare birds such as pallid scops, Asian brown flycatcher, Cetti’s warbler, Tickell’s leaf warbler, ashy-headed green pigeon, grey-headed fish eagle, smoky warbler, grey-hooded warbler, jungle nightjar, spotted crake and lesser florican were spotted. Birds from Europe, China and the Middle East are spotted every year.
The new visitors made Sultanpur National Park a favourite destination among birders in the National Capital Region.
Pankaj Gupta, a birder, said, “Normally, in Sultanpur, we find aquatic birds. In 2015, there were rare sightings of spotted crakes. The last record of its sighing was in 1979.”
“This season, there was a rise in winter migratory birds and we have recorded various rare species from different countries,” Abhisek Gulshan, another birder, said.
The wildlife department is planning to take steps to ensure that the numbers remain high next year too. “We will build small islands and are planning to create a shallow area that is ideal for water birds. These birds include waders (water dependent birds), ducks (require slightly deeper water) and warblers (prefer reeds),” he said.
This rise in number of birds is because of three reasons -- visitors were not allowed beyond the ‘duck point’, the trail and watchtowers were sealed to ensure that people do not disturb the birds, and CCTV cameras and the solar panel that disturbed birds last year were removed, an official said.
Currently, the park is closed for visitors as it is getting ready for the monsoon. “We are cleaning the lake and taking efforts to prevent silt from being deposited in the lake. We will also fill the lake with fresh water for the birds,” Bhatia said.
Researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) are also conducting studies in the park.
“The season has been a hit with large number of water birds coming from various parts of the world. Apart from the regular visitors, some rare birds were also spotted. Pallid scops owl was spotted for the first time along with Asian brown flycatcher, which was sighted after 60 years,” a biologist from BNHS said.