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Dhanauri wetland thriving, census counts 6,000 waterbirds, 11 threatened species

By Kushagra Dixit
PUBLISHED ON JAN 30, 2020 07:59 PM IST

Noida: A census conducted recently at the Dhanauri wetland in Greater Noida has given birders cause for cheer. The wetland is thriving with a rich bird count and has the potential to become a Ramsar wetland site and sarus crane sanctuary, foresters said.

The first-ever Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), 2020, held by Wetlands International South Asia and the district forest department, counted a total of 6,227 waterbirds belonging to 59 species.

The day-long census, held on January 26, found a rich diversity at Dhanauri, despite the extreme weather conditions last year and the shrinking size of the wetland due to its dependence on the monsoon to remain fed.

The census found 59 species of water or water dependent birds, officials said. Of these, 11 species were those listed on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened. They included oriental darter (resident species), black-tailed godwit (winter migratory species), painted stork (resident species), sarus crane (eesident species), black-headed Ibis (resident species), common pochard (winter migratory species), river tern (Indian migratory species), black-bellied tern (Indian migratory species), greater spotted eagle (winter migratory species), spotted redshank ( winter migratory species) and Eurasian curlew (winter migratory species).

“Dhanauri is a good habitat, has rich species diversity and, compared to other parks such as the Okhla bird sanctuary, it is less disturbed. The wetland is surrounded by several villages and fields and is a good habitat for waterbirds, especially the sarus crane. However, there are also issues of concern — the wetland is shrinking as it does not have any independent water source,” TK Roy, ecologist and conservationist, AWC, said.

“We have included greater spotted eagle in the list, because even though it is not a waterbird, it is a water-dependent bird,” Roy said.

According to experts, waterbirds are one of the key indicators of a wetland’s health. A good number of waterbirds is indicative of the fact that the wetland has adequate feeding, resting, roosting and foraging spots.

Of the total 59 species spotted at Dhanauri, 21 were of residential waterbirds and local migratory birds, while 38 were winter migratory birds that flock from Central Asia and North Asia. The wetland is spread over an area of 101.21 hectares, as per a remote sensing exercise in 2015.

“Of the seven hot spots we covered in Delhi-NCR, only Najafgarh and Dhanauri had presence of mallard ducks, an uncommon species. While Najafgarh had only two or three mallard ducks, Dhanauri had 10. This is a uncommon sight in NCR,” Roy said.

Dhanauri wetland also has about 80 sarus cranes, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh, according to the last winter census held by the divisional forest office of Gautam Budh Nagar.

“Dhanauri is an important habitat and we are committed to getting it declared a Ramsar site (a site designated to be of international importance as per the Unesco’s Ramsar Convention) and a sarus crane sanctuary soon. There is a minor water inlet feeding it, but due to a number of reasons, the wetland is mostly dry and dependent on the monsoon. We are in talks with the Yamuna authority and the irrigation department to rejuvenate the water channel,” PK Srivastava, divisional forest officer, Gautam Budh Nagar, said.

Among the major winter migratory species spotted during the January 26 census were the common teal, northern shoveler, northern pintail, greylag geese, bar-headed geese, gadwal and Eurasian Wigeon.

The AWC-2020 held earlier this month at Surajpur wetland and Okhla Bird Sanctuary found a drop in the overall population of waterbirds in these places.

At Surajpur, the census (2020) counted a total of 2,092 birds comprising 39 species against 3,034 birds belonging to 42 species in 2019. At the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, the total count this time was 8,776 birds belonging to 62 species against 12,212 birds of 63 species in 2019.

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