The dainty Stonechats, characterised by an orange body, black wings and white tufts on the neck, are absent. The yellow/peacock blue. Warblers and white-necked Peregrine Falcons have also given it a miss.
Okhla Bird Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is devoid of its tourists. But you can’t blame the downturn for that.
From September to March, thousands of migratory birds and waterfowls begin arriving from places as far as eastern Europe, Central Asia and southern Russia at the Okhla address. Over 300 species make the annual visit, say local avian enthusiasts.
“The score so far is zero,” said avian researcher Anand Arya who has been a regular visitor to the facility for “over 10 years”.
When HT visited the sanctuary, it saw a few resident species like ducks and Pheasant Coucals, but no migratory birds.
Divisional forest officer (Chambal, Agra) Neeraj Kumar, in-charge of the park, said: “It could be that the migratory birds have delayed their arrival at the sanctuary…. The most probable reason could be the fact that it is still unusually hot/warm in Noida and other parts of north India.”
Kumar’s optimism is not shared by the likes of Arya who said the non-arrival of birds can be because of two reasons.
“A lack of maintenance of the sanctuary’s habitat and the 24/7 construction at Ambedkar Memorial Park that lies right next to it,” he said.
At thr sanctuary, HT found water hyacinths, which should occupy only a fringe portion of the water body comprising of the Yamuna waters, straddling a major portion of it — denying the birds the space to stand and prey on the fish, insects and algae. The reeds, also called elephant grass, cover the swampy portions to an inch and stand almost 15 feet tall.
The narrow mud pathways/walking trails, the sole concrete road and even the wooden benches meant for visitors have unclipped shrubberies close by.
Kumar said the annual maintenaince could not be carried out due to lack of funds. But central funds were expected in a couple of weeks.
The park project, worth Rs 685 crore, runs contiguous to the sanctuary.