Birdcount returns after pandemic break, some rare sightings delight enthusiasts


GURUGRAM: Cameras and binoculars in hand, it was an exciting end to a busy weekend for the 150-odd birders from across Delhi-NCR.
Divided into 20 groups, these birders toured the wetlands in the region to participate in the winter bird count on Sunday. Among the areas they visited were Basai, Sultanpur, the Aravalis, Najafgarh, Jhajjar and other areas of Delhi-NCR.
Each of them carried a logbook that had a list of species spotted in the region in the past 20 years or so. Every time they spotted a particular bird, they noted it down in the logbook.
Some of the birders were in for a pleasant surprise in the Aravalis, where a few rare species could be spotted.
“We saw the white-tailed iora and the Verditer flycatcher, which are rare species for Mangar. These were the two unique sightings during our birding. We went beyond the Mangar trail and also spotted the Olive-backed pipit. The weather, however, was not conducive as it was not very sunny. Although bird activity was less, we could still spot many species,” said Pritpal Panjeta, a member of the Delhi Bird Society.
Among the rare sightings made this year were Eurasian griffon at Yamuna river, great bittern at Najafgarh lake, Marshall’s iora, and white-bellied drongo at Mangar village and Bhondsi forest. Marshall’s iora and the white-bellied drongo are endemic to the Indian subcontinent and found in the forests.
Experts pointed out that the Chandu-Budhera wetlands and the neighbouring Najafgarh canal were important bird habitats for the region. “Wintering ducks are beginning to arrive here in good numbers,” said Kanwar B Singh, also from the Delhi Bird Society. Key wintering ducks include greylag geese, northern pintail, common pochard, northern shovellers, gadwall and Eurasian coot.
Asked what he spotted, Singh said, “Various raptors were seen. They included greater spotted eagles, imperial eagle, osprey, hen harrier, marsh harrier and booted eagle. A flock of two dozen Eurasian cranes and great bitterns were sighted in Chandu.”
According to him, the Sultanpur National Park had a good variety of wintering and resident waterfowl. After several years, he said, three nestlings of black-necked storks could be spotted at the national park. “Yes, it was a good day for birding. All the data we have recorded would be uploaded on the e-bird site for documentation. There were a number of winter migratory birds. Sultanpur, Mangar and Chandu have a good concentration of winter birds,” said Pankaj Gupta, a birder. ML Mallik, the conservator of wildlife in south Haryana, said, “At present, there are more than 35,000 birds in the Sultanpur sanctuary. Also, there is a floating population of birds as well that is flying further to the south.”
The winter bird count is an annual event where birders travel to different locations across Delhi-NCR and spot various species. This practice helps in maintaining data for an analysis of the diversity in the region in the future. In 2019, around 250 species were sighted at the winter birdcount, while the number was 241 in 2018 and 252 in 2017. However, the annual exercise was not conducted in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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