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Okhla Bird Sanctuary offers rare summer delights

cities Updated: Jun 13, 2019 21:53 IST
Kushagra Dixit
Kushagra Dixit

Noida: The Okhla Bird Sanctuary, a much celebrated winter sojourn for birds, is also throwing up some summer treats, allaying the misconception that the summer, heat and pollution keep away birds.

Some summer breeders such as the rare bitterns, stonechats and a few other winged species were spotted at the sanctuary in peak summer.

According to birders, the strength of summer roosters and breeders has dropped over time, primarily due to disturbances – city lights, high tension power line and roads. However, nesting of many rare species has been found — birders have spotted about 72 species of summer birds at Okhla earlier this month.

Of these, some species like white-tailed stonechat were seen only at the Okhla sanctuary. Birders say pairs of the sparrow-sized bird and their call suggest that the species is breeding.

Summer is also the breeding time for many migratory and resident birds, Okhla officials said.

While nesting of the beautiful Eurasian golden oriole surprised a few birders as they breed in the Aravallis and central regions, the presence of species like the blue-winged bee-eater that breeds only in the Aravali is also a visual treat to watchers.

“Summer is the only time when you can see three types of bitterns in Okhla. Other species include white-tailed stonechat. Also, with monsoon around the corner, species like Jacobin cuckoo and yellow bellied prinia have started arriving,” said eminent birder Ananda Banerjee, who recently spotted a forest raptor and called it “a good sighting” since they had become rare over time.

Seen mostly in the reeds or marshes towards the northern end of the sanctuary, the shy bitterns – yellow, black and cinnamon in colour — are sub species of the heron family with stripes of colours on the crown, wings and neck. They have now started flying low in a circular pattern to attract potential mates, experts said.

An early morning visit to the park will treat one to territorial calls — a low pitch ou-ou (yellow bittern), the kok-kok (cinnamon bittern) and a loud booming of the black bittern.

“They are not particularly threatened but extremely rare to sight because of their stealthy nature,” author and bird expert Bikram Grewal said.

Ashwani Patel, the nature guide at Okhla sanctuary, points out that the sightings of certain rare species and summer breeders have increased.

“We are now spotting the nesting of species like Asian paradise flycatcher, Eurasian golden oriole, bristled grass birds, common stonechats, and Indian spot whistling duck, which is a summer migrant,” Patel said.

According to birder Kanwar B Singh, who led a large group to spot over 200 species in May for the summer bird census across various hotspots of Delhi, Okhla is becoming a much favoured spot of many migratory and resident birds.

“Unlike many others habitats, it’s relatively protected and because it’s a Yamuna bed, many rare sightings are happening there — ruddy-breasted crake, greater panted snipe, bronze wing jacana, to name a few,” Singh said.

According to Noida birder Anand Arya, the roosting and breeding of birds in Okhla started dropping from 2009, primarily due to several disturbances. However, sighting of species like white-tailed stonechat building nests is a good sign.

“Many birds, including seagulls, stop there but don’t roost at night due to disturbances. There used to be innumerable birds in the park around 1987. Therefore, controlling the disturbances is important,” Arya said.

The sanctuary is home to for over 300 species of migratory and residential birds.

“Our prime focus is to rejuvenate the sanctuary by minimising the disturbances, marinating the waters, increasing the green cover and checking all kinds of intrusions. This winter season hosted maximum birds in the past few years,” PK Singh, divisional forest officer, said.

First Published: Jun 13, 2019 21:53 IST