Winter migratory birds are being sighted farther away from Delhi-NCR as the region’s own wetlands shrink into nothing. This stands true for Haryana’s Sultanpur and Basai, Uttar Pradesh’s Surajpur and Dadri, and Delhi’s own Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Sanjay Jheel and Yamuna Khadar – former rich habitats of winter-roosting avians.

Dr. Surya Prakash, a renowned biologist from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), indicated towards this in a retrospective of rare birds seen in Delhi and NCR in year 2017, on Sunday.

Wild birds are natural indicators of a healthy ecosystem. They thrive only in peaceful habitats and pollution-free environment.

Dr. Prakash said, “This year was good for birding primarily due to rains. Dhanauri wetlands in UP remained on top in number of birding trips being a ‘Sarus crane paradise.’ For many birders, Najafgarh jheel attracted due to its Greater flamingos and Common cranes.”

“Birders enjoyed Sultanpur National Park (SNP) flats to witness Stoliczka’s Bushchat’s mesmerising ‘puff-n-roll’ display. Indian Pitta and Cuckoo Shrike showed up as usual at Mangar but the highlights were Jungle Bush Quail and Greater Rackettail drongo seen at SNP and Mangar forests each,” he said.

Sohail Madan of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) reported Eurasian Griffon and King Vulture from Asola Bhatti Mines along with the second sighting of Brown Hawk Owl from the same area, Dr. Prakash added.

One Gyps species of vulture was reported from Okhla Bird Park also and a birder, CB Maurya, reported 40 Black Storks from RK Puram, that’s the highest number till date in the history of Delhi. One of the most interesting sightings from NCR cities was that of six Slavonian grebe ducks from Dighal in Haryana by birding enthusiast Rakesh Ahlawat.

Veteran birder Anand Arya said, “We have lost about 150-200 rich and healthy bird habitats over the past decade. Basai wetlands in Haryana were fed by a canal in arrangement with the irrigation department, which has now reduced to about onefourth its size. Sultanpur and Okhla Bird sanctuaries are dying due to bad management. The Yamuna Khadar has been lost to illegal agriculture and mining while Dadri and Hasanpur have gone to construction. Ponds in villages Mandkoula and Mandnaka in Palwal, Haryana, are also lost.”

Bird lovers are now venturing farther to Haryana’s pristine Dighal and Yamunanagar wetlands, which are still unspoilt by development, he said.

But interestingly, Dr. Prakash noted that forest-based raptor birds, previously seen in forest areas mainly, are now being spotted in Delhi more often, thanks to the explosion in population of feral pigeons and common mynas that serve as easy prey.

“We are spotting more of Common kestrel, Perigreen Falcon, Booted Eagle, Bonalese eagles, large owls and shikras than before – most of them with pigeon kills,” he said.

“This is besides the scavenging birds – black kites, vultures and common crows – which frequent landfills. This is quite notable for town planners and civic authorities too as pigeons are believed to be a big nuisance and carriers of diseases, believe some experts,” he informed.”


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