Birdwatching in Delhi by Sakshi Singh, a student of Miranda House, DU (2016)

Sakshi’s aspirations in taking up this internship is her zeal for travel and exploring cultural aspects of a place she undertakes. She wants to contribute to the website with the experiences she have witnessed and explore a bit more, the aspects that she missed in her journey.

Prerequisites to bird watching
You might have come across people, staring blankly in the open sky, atop buildings and trees, wondering what is there to see?! 
Bird watching or birding, as a hobby, has gained and found interest in young and old alike, around the world. Bird watching is venturing out and exploring different species of birds, which is both a worthwhile experience and relaxing in itself, something that is agreed to, by many. 
Bird watching is a simple hobby, which requires bit of your time apart from some supplements, which come handy in the process. 

Where to find birds?
The best place is, garden in your vicinity or atop trees, buildings.

Best time?
Morning and evening are the best times, for bird watchers. The reason being simple, it’s the time birds go out in search of foods and similarly return back in the evenings.  Dropping by, like an unwanted guest!

Now, finally what things do you need for birds watching? So here is your answers,
Firstly you must have a pair of binoculars, top picks being Atlas, Zen-Ray, or any other of your choice, which better ergonomics and magnification, which suits your style and comfort in birding, preferably. 
Secondly, you can start off with a help guide, to help you start with adventure.
Thirdly, camera is the best companion to a bird watcher, apart from binoculars, to capture the beautiful memories and carry it back with you. Apart from that, a little tip from my side, you can use it to create your own personal list of birds and research some more to build up a compilation on the birds you see.
Fourthly most important please ask your friend who must be a bird watcher if not then find out society of bird watching. This is easy for you to go with your friends or member of the society.
Lastly, respect the birds. A beautiful creation of nature that birds are, dotting the open skies with their flights, drowning in its vastness. Bird watching ethics and etiquette, are the foremost thing that one must keep in mind:
Don’t stress the birds, with constant disturbance.
Prevent cutting of trees, which are their natural habitat, apart from attracting people, on sightings of rare birds, as it risks their habitat destruction.

Apart from this, they also help in rejuvenating the groundwater, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem for organisms abound. Delhi too has its own share of wetlands and water bodies of kind for preserving aquatic genetic resources. 

Yamuna Biodiversity Park
This park is located in Jagatpur road near bypass. Created with simulation of two water bodies in the Northern part of Delhi, ModelTown, it truly serves the purpose. Created to recreate the lost biodiversity and habitat of the Yamuna basin, it is now the home to large number of migratory birds like Greylag Goose, Northern Pintail, Red-crested Pochard, and Grey Heron, Painted Stork and many other birds, making it a perfect place for birdwatchers in particular. 

Garhi Mandu
This park is located in north-east Delhi, near Teesra Pushta Red Light. Garhi Mandu saw a record 52 bird species the wetland, both local and migratory, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature red-list categories threatened species, a delight for the birdwatchers and ornithologists alike. Species like Greylag Goose, Painted Stork, Red-wattled Lapwing and Black-headed Gull, were among the birds seen in large numbers. Formed accidently by Yamuna floods of 2008, the wetland has come as a disguise for the support to ecosystem of Delhi. 

Aravalli Biodiversity Park
Wetlands in Aravalli, an extension in Delhi, harbour large variety of local aquatic as well as terrestrial birds.  
One can approach to the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, at present, either from Vasant Vihar- Poorvi Marg gate located at about 4 km south west of Moti Bagh, and 2 km west of Jawahar Lal Nehru University (Munirka) or from the Vasant Kunj Institutional gate which is about 3.5 km north of Mahipalpur and one km west of Vasant Kunj Malls.
Best month-Winters are the best times from November to February when one gets to see a large number of migratory as well as local birds,including the regular visitors,Siberianbirds,when their homeland,Arcticzone,freeze.

Laws and trade of avian species
Birds, both terrestrial and water borne form a very important and major chunk of trade in markets, both locally and abroad. Although, for now, our focus will be exclusively on local markets of Delhi. Markets of Old Delhi, in and around Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, are well known places fir buying and selling the pet birds. According to ornithologists and traders, parrots which are sold throughout the year, constitute 50% of the bird trade. 
This bird trade flourishes despite various measures and laws in place. Many threatened and near threatened bird species can be found in the lanes of these markets. Many organizations and governments have come forward and pledged towards protection these birds. Some laws in place for the protection of birds and their habitat in India, are given below. 

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 
An Act of Parliament, enacted to protect animals and plants, applicable throughout India. This act also specifies for establishment for National Parks and other institutions, for structured protection of animals and their habitat.

Protection and Preservation Act, 1972
Forest laws basically focus on the protection of forest from the harvesting of timber and to protect the wild life. Forest covers total 22%.
Firstly Indian Forest act, 1927 under which it reserve the wildlife and the produce of the forest. It divided the forest into three categories that is reserved forest, protected forest and the village forest. 
Secondly wildlife Protection and Preservation act, 1972 includes protection and conservation of wildlife, plants and animals and ensuring ecological and environment sustainability.
Indian Penal Code and CITES protect trade, hunting, harming of birds in India. 
Taking note of rising numbers of killings of National bird, Peacock, for its feathers and other purposes, govt. brought laws into place, banning the hunting along with heavy penalties and imprisonment.
Govt. has also banned cock-fighting, making 
it a cognizable offence. 

Apart from govt. across the Globe and our country, International Union for Conservation (IUCN), an international organization towards preservation and sustainable use of habitat and environment, comes out with coveted Red List every year, notifying of the threatened species of the animals and birds. 
The latest red list released of 2015 by IUCN shows that against 173 birds last year, 180 birds species is threaten this year in India. They are Northern Lapwing (grassland bird) and four wetland birds, viz. Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, bar tailed godwit and Eurasian Oystercatcher. Horned grebe and common Pochard has been uplifted from least concerned to vulnerable. In 2014, this eight new species added to the Red List, viz. Woolly necked Stork, Andaman Teal, Andaman Green Pigeon, Himalayan Griffon, Bearded Vulture, Yunnan Nuthatch, Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, Red-headed falcon.

Commercial trade
Munias, Peacocks, Weaverbirds, Koel, Mynahs and Owls this are the native birds of India which are protected under the wild life protection act 1972. Despite stringent laws in place over commercial trading of birds, illegal trading is very much still effective and all over the place.

What makes Delhi a heaven for birds? 
Reasons and Birds Flocking Here
Winter sure is special time for birdwatchers and general people alike! Avian populations in large numbers to the delight of our eyes.

Abundant food and safe nesting sites are the precursor to the coming of birds. Birds from faraway places like Siberia and other parts of the world, in the winter period, where the freezing temperature make survival impossible. 
Diverse ecological niches in Delhi not only attract a wide range of animals’ species but also enable them to build viable populations. The wetlands and forest area in and around attract thousands for migratory ducks from Siberia, Central Asia, Europe and China in winters besides many resident and native birds.
The primary reason of high populations of resident and migratory birds is the availability of phyto and zooplankton, and other aquatic vegetation attract large range of birds and other fauna.
16 migratory water birds species like Ferruginous Pochard, Common Pochard, Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail visit Delhi every year.
Delhi is the only known wintering home for Red Crested Pochard, a spectacular bird with a red head and orange beak. It comes from Siberia and Central Asia and stays for a period of 4 long months.
Some other water species includes Spot billed Duck, Grey, Purple Herons, Oriental Darter, Little Cormorants and Indian Cormorants. 
Munias, Prinias, Francolin, parrot (tota), peacock kite , dove and ducks are also found in abundance in India.

Interview with Sameer Gautam,a Birdwatcher
An avid birdwatcher, associated with this field since last 3 years, Mr. Gautam also works as a conservator in Yamuna Biodiversity Park. 

How should one start with bird watching? Are there any particular set of qualities that one needs to possess?
One can start bird watching near their home or a park, to start with. Then a person could proceed to finding areas which are famous with the birds, for example a biodiversity park, or a park set up especially for bird watching. I would suggest to head to Bharatpur for nearest bird watching getaway. .There is no need of specific qualities that one need to possess, apart from the zeal to watch and observe birds.

Where do you watch birds?
The sky is no better for the watching the avian delights. Nevertheless, down to specifics, any place which has a habitat suitable for birds to nest and breed, particularly green areas, that may include parks, forests etc. The best time would be early in the morning, when they leave their nests for finding food.

What inspired you to start birding?
Birds have always caught my fascination since early age, hence I decided to take up my pastime a bit more seriously. The description varies with every birdwatcher you talk with, but for me it’s their aesthetic sense and the fact that they spread colors in the blue sky, its makes them even more beautiful, there is no denying that.

Are there any equipment that one needs to have in order to start bird watching?
A pair of binoculars and a camera.

Any words of wisdom that you would like to give to new birders?
See, one needs to understand, as per common notion and perception, going crazy about something and working day and night towards achieving it, makes you a genius or a millionaire. But if it is what you’re after then you are in for a big disappoint. I am not trying to discourage you, but that’s the fact one doesn’t become famous, even after doing their entire lifetime. But yes, you do gain on your mental health, which is very convincing for many people, to go for it. Apart from that, join a bird watching society for a little guidance on finding birds and knowing them. And yes, whatever you do, respect their privacy.

Are there any places which hold great space in your heart?
Yes Yamuna Biodiversity Park. There are lots of beautiful birds which come from china, Siberia and central Europe, to nest and breed here, making it a delight to a birdwatcher’s eyes.

What other places are on your hit list?
Nothing specific, as of now.

Any memorable experiences?
For me bird watching in itself, is a very fulfilling experience. Although, there are some instances of bird sightings that hold very special place. For example, Red crested Pochard,a very rare bird, came to Delhi after a very long time-gap of 15 years.

Favorite bird and why?
Red Pochard as I said earlier. But apart from that, Siberian Crane. Although, one can sight it almost everywhere, yet I find it very spectacular.

What has kept you still interested? Like, it’s not that, I am suggesting that it’s not an interesting hobby to pursue, but yet.
(Laughs). My love for birds, for starters. And then, obviously I have my work, which revolves around birds, so that’s another aspect that holds for me.

What species do you spend most of your time observing?
Nothing specific.

Best / worst pair of binoculars?
Any one which is reasonable and yes, suits your comfort level with them.

How far have you traveled to see a particular bird?
We went in search of Red Pochard, in and around Delhi, that’s the farthest I have traveled till now.

Did you discover any bird?
Apart from Red Pochard, nothing significant yet.

So, your association with bird watching has been quite long. In the line of your sight, what do you think about the preservation of birds in next 50 years? With rapid destruction and poaching, will we be losing another set of birds we see today?
I understand that it is inevitable, the extinction. But the rate at which the illegal activities are taking place, it is sure doubling the rate of extinction. The birds are not as vulnerable as we believe them to be. That are far more resilient and adaptable to the surroundings, the only thing is we support them in survival and not make it hard for them to survive even in suitable conditions.
Although, on the positive side I believe this increase in zeal to know about the birds and more and more people, especially youngsters like you and me, getting involved in bird watching, is sure to bring about a great change in the way we see and perceive the avian species, raising further awareness about them, helping in their protection and preservation.

Interview of a female birdwatcher
I along with my friend went on long trails in search of birds,so I don’t think of ourselves any less of a birdwatcher.:D Hence,a perspective from the side of females would add more dimension and colour to this field.
Perils of going all alone on trails,dangers of nature,safety first,deterrence from venturing on some places etc. are just a few of the confrontations for a female birdwatcher. Here we are in talks with a female birdwatcher,gaining few insights from her point of view.

What motivated you to take up bird watching?
Just like any other birdwatcher,their beauty and sense of freedom makes me feel drawn towards knowing them even more.

What all preparations go underway,in going for an adventure of this kind?
Going for bird watching involves a special preparation and its a kind of ritual that goes underway,before every adventure I go on. 
All the equipment like binoculars,camera and their lenses,bottles of water and food,make shift tents if you're planning to stay in the wild for long,among other life supporting stuffs ranging from knife and matchsticks,all are packed before going. 

What all problems are peculiar and restricted to female birdwatchers?
Safety is the biggest question mark,when it comes to females. This is foremost reason why many women avoid venturing into this field,apart from family deterrence. Apart from that,finding places,infrastructure and communication form the very crux of going on a trail. No proper awareness is yet another reason.

Wisdom pointers for female bird watching enthusiasts?
Let nothing deter you from your interests. Although make your safety your biggest and foremost priority,rest will just fall into place. There is no area where women can't venture into and make a mark.

Places where you can go for the bird watching in Delhi
1. Yamuna Biodiversity Park – Created to recreate the lost biodiversity and habitat of the Yamuna basin, it is now the home to large number of migratory birds which come from china, central Europe and Siberia. 
Address- close to GTB metro station, Jagatpur road.
Phone- 011 65649990.

2. Delhi Ridge – Ridge is the extension of the northern part of Aravalli range, also known as “Bonta””, in local language. Ridge is also known as green lungs of Delhi and the reserve forest of Delhi. This ridge protects from the hot waves which come from Rajasthan and it maintains the moisture level and temperature of Delhi. This ridge is also rich for birds. You will found different kinds of birds like kites, parrots, mynas, Eurasian dove, bulbul, barn owl, paradise flycatcher, peacocks and sunbirds, while birds migrating from the Himalayas include the pintails,  Brahminy duck, bar headed goose, white eyed  Pochard, common Teel and Shoveller
Address - In front of VC office of Delhi University and there are many entries of Delhi ridge.

3. Sultanpur National Park –In this park around 250 species are found. Some of them are local while others come from different countries like Siberia, Europe and Afghanistan. Every year around 100 migratory birds’ species arrive in the winter. This park is approximately 50 km from Dhaula Kuan and 15 km from Gurgaon. 
Address- Farrukh Nagar Road, Sultanpur, Gurgaon 
Phone- 8901554731.

4. Aravalli Biodiversity Park –This Park contain large variety of local aquatic as well as terrestrial birds. 
Address - This Park is bound by Nelson Mandela Marg (JNU), Mehrauli and Palam road and Southern boundary of Vasant Vihar.

5. Okhla bird sanctuary – This sanctuary is over Yamuna River. There are 302 species of birds specially water birds and 1 lakh migratory birds come from different countries in winter months. 
Address- Noida plaza, N block, sector 95, new Okhla Industrial Development Area Noida.
Phone: 0120 2425989.

6. Asola wildlife sanctuary – This sanctuary is spread in 6,874 acres and located on southern ridge and northern terminal of Aravalli hill ranges which is the oldest mountain of the world. 
Address-  Cycle route, Asola near Tughlaqabad, New Delhi.
Phone: 9654464746.

7. Garhi Mandu – There are 52 birds’ species of both local and migratory. You can enjoy bird watching in winters. This is located in East Delhi.

8. Zoological National Park- Delhi zoo is spread in 176 acre. This park contain 130 species of birds and also Siberia crane come in this park. You can enjoy birding from November to February. 
Address -Mathura road near old Delhi fort.

You can buy bird watching equipment at the following:

For online you can choose bird watchers nature shop, Ace Optics, Action Optics, Adorama, etc.

For offline sources you can go for 
Asim Navigation India Pvt Ltd
Address: Janakpuri D Block
Phone: + (91)-11-33437764
Dass Studios
Address: Inner Circle, Connaught Place
Phone: + (91)-11-33082606


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