The wait for the arrival of our avian winter guests seems to be extending in Delhi and its neighbourhood. The birders are watching the skyline intently with a lot of hope. As of now, only a fraction of the birds has arrived in the lakes and ponds in and around Delhi and NCR.
Yamuna Biodiversity Park is one of the most popular spots which the migratory birds use as their winter homes since its inception, more than a decade and a half ago. Usually, 30 to 35 varieties of migratory birds arrive in Yamuna Bio-diversity park, near Burari on the Outer Ring road, every winter.
Faiyaz Khudsar, the scientist in charge of the park says, “These migratory birds come from Northern Europe and Siberia. On the way to Delhi, they pass over Rajasthan, Haryana, and neighbouring places. This year the monsoon was delayed and a hearty one too. As a result, a lot of marshes and wetlands have developed on the way. These wetlands are very rich in food. It seems a lot of birds have stayed there. We hope in the coming weeks, more birds would find their way to northern Indian wetlands.”
The park already has a huge population of greater cormorants. Some northern shovellers and other migratory ducks are there too but the numbers are far less than expected.
Is the prevalent air pollution in Delhi and NCR a reason which has made the migratory birds settle elsewhere? Jaswinder Singh Waraich, an avid Birder from Noida says, “Air pollution does not affect the arrival of migratory birds but water pollution does. Surajpur wetland is one of the major attractions for migratory birds but as of now, only 10 per cent of the birds are here for this time of the year. I think delayed monsoon and better habitats on the migratory routes could have made the birds stop early. Also, the water quality matters a lot and in Surajpur that is the main issue. The water is high on pollution and water Hyacinth is a major problem, which has not been dealt with till now. These could also be the reasons for the lesser number of birds here.”
Mukund Kumar, another birder who frequently visits Surajpur wetlands had a few good encounters with migratory birds this season. “I agree that the numbers are far less. Still, almost all the species of birds have come. Bar-headed geese, grey leg geese, northern pintails, spot-billed ducks, common coot, and common teal are all here. But yes, due to heavy rains and a delayed monsoon this year, the wading species are far less in number.” Mukund had happy encounters with some elusive migratory birds too, such as the Osprey and Blue Throat.
Najafgarh Lake, located at the other end of the city is faring much better when it comes to migratory birds. Pradyut Mitra, an avid birder has been frequenting the lake for more than a decade. Says he, “This time around, the water is very extensive in the lake and its surrounding fields. The bird arrival is also good. We have a huge presence of Bar-headed geese, Grey leg geese and northern shovelers. Almost all the species of migratory birds that visit Delhi are here. Najafgarh lake is one of the first wetlands on the migratory routes as birds move in from the northern hemisphere. The water body is in a very healthy state too. Maybe that is why we have a good bird presence now.”