Watching stunningly beautiful birds, making a splash on the water, chirping and foraging for food, in pleasant natural environs is fast catching up.
The Capital's growing interest in birds was evident on February 24 when scores of people set out with binoculars to count and gaze at these feathered friends, as part of an event called Big Bird Day. A total of 222 species were spotted. Adding to the birders' delight was the first-ever bird count at Garhi Mandu, one of Delhi's new forests on the left bank of the Yamuna in north east Delhi, which found 90 species, including 26 migratory species and many threatened ones.
Ecologist TK Roy, who was part of the counting, says, "Birdwatching has registered a 30% increase in the last 10 years, at least at prominent sites such as Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary and Sultanpur National Park. This is due to greater awareness and emphasis on biodiversity protection. Even if you are not an aspiring ornithologist, this outdoor activity is fascinating. "
Dr Sudhir Oswal, a naturalist and avid birder, says, "In the last 5-6 years, there has been an increase in bird watching groups in the city, with youngsters taking interest. Guided walks and bird-ing trips are reasons behind this. Bird-watching, apart from being a passion, can also be channelised into ways of conservation, like identification of spots, spreading awareness, tracking species ."
There's some concern, too. "In the Yamuna floodplains, construction activity is destroying natural habitats or endemic bird species," he adds. Roy, who is also the Delhi state coordinator of Asian Waterbird Census, says, "Since the wetlands are unprotected, the condition of the habitat has deteriorated. Fishing and garbage dumping are a big concern."
JM Banarjee, range officer, Okhla bird sanctuary, says, "The rosy-white, long-legged Greater Flamingoes returned to our sanctuary this winter after two years. Such developments attract birders." The sanctuary has introduced bikes on hire for visitors and binoculars for students.
The annual Asian Waterbird Census, done in January this year, shows the number of species that visited the sanctuary this winter has gone up from 57 to 63. Nearly 35 species have registered an increase in number. "Delhi has very diverse bird life. If you are interested in birds, you will certainly find them at unusual places. I have recorded about 20 species at Jantar Mantar Road, which remains perpetually disturbed due to protests, rallies and loudspeakers. Some birds I observed include the Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Red-vented Bulbul, Eurasian Collared Dove, Jungle Babbler, Black Drongo, Prinia and Kite."