Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delhi birds: Yamuna Biodiversity Park

A visit to the Yamuna Biodiversity Park has been on my agenda for a long time - the opportunity finally came with an India Habitat Center organized guided walk. It is luckily a bright warm Sunday in what has turned out to be an unusually cold January.
A Northern Shoveller pair
There is a large group of perhaps 20 people - quite a few belonging to the Center for Science and Environment - who have gathered for the walk. We meet at the Gurudwara at Majnu ka Tila and then drive down to the park.

The park is not on the Yamuna river as I had expected it to be, though the river must be flowing not too far from the park boundary. Dr Sudhir Oswal, an experienced Delhi birder, leads the walk. It is a pleasant surprise for me to find Ranjit Lal whose books I have on my shelf among the walkers. Sudhir Oswal introduces him as his Guru.

As we enter the park, Sudhir explains to us how the park has been come up through the initiatives of Delhi University botanists. Ranjit Lal adds that the area of the park had the appearance of a battle tank
Tufted Ducks (?) 
testing ground before the work to rehabilitate the land started. What we witness is a green area, fairlywooded - as much as the Kamala Nehru ridge, perhaps - with many types of fruit trees and tall grass.

We walk along a path bordered by numerous baer trees filled with fruit until we come upon a large freshwater lake. The waters are not from the Yamuna, we are told. The lake was initially filled with pumped water and now gets recharged by the rains.

The lake has several types of water birds. Darters and Cormorants populate trees around the lake and on a small island in its midst. Common and Redcrested Pochards, Northern Shovellers, can be seen in the lake in fairly largenumbers. The cormorants occasionally take flight, pick up prey from the water and then return to their perches. Sudhir explains that these birds do not have waterproof wings - so they need to dry their wings after a dive into the water.

My take of the day is this brilliant White-Throated Kingfisher that patiently posed for us in a section of the park devoted to medicinal plants and was unruffled even with a large group close by.

The park has a second smaller water body with an island in the middle. This rakish Purple Heron sat secure on the island not moving an inch during the hour we must have spent walking around this lake. These are only some of the birds we saw - those on which I got to point my camera at.

Getting the chance to have a word with Ranjit Lal, I ask him  if he still walks in Kamla Nehru Ridge. I gather that he still walks there. The large population of monkeys has disturbed the nesting of birds ...."monkeys are as needlessly destructive as human beings" he remarks. 
Indian Silverbill

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