Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Delhibirding at Okhla

I was in Delhi over the weekend on work and I was able to catch up on some Sunday birding with Delhibird members. Just thought of sharing my experience with them, this being my first birding outing in Delhi. Due thanks to Gopi Sundar, Anshu, KB Singh and a diverse group of members from Delhibird well represented in age, gender and profession!

A particularly hot Sunday morning, the stench of the Yamuna and the recent disquiet from yesterday's tragic blasts did not deter the Sunday outing of Delhibird to Okhla Bird Sanctuary, geographically in Uttar Pradesh, but only about half hour drive from the national capital.

A chance meeting with Gopi Sundar who studies Sarus Cranes and a co-incidental phone call from Anshu of Delhibirds regarding the outing made it possible for me to join the group to Okhla. We left Delhi at 5.40 AM and reached Okhla at 6 AM. The twitching of the Lesser Whitethroat and the ammoniacal odours of the Yamuna welcomed us (For those who think I am overstenching the Yamuna, see quote of the day below). We parked within Okhla and walked down the trail with agricultural fields on one side and dry marsh land with tall grass on the other with the 'pie' of male bushchats every few metres apart. A lone Common Babbler on the trail ahead excited me quite a bit, we southerners not having this 'common' cousin of our babblers.
We reached the end of the trail overlooks the Yamuna waters with tall grass, a few settlements and stray cattle separating us from the water. Somebody pointed out a large bird perched at a distance and the day started. Even as the scope was being set up, several binocs went up and a tentative diagnosis of a hepatic female cuckoo was announced. The barring on the upper tail, its
large size and the very fine nature of the barring on the underparts was bringing Eurasian Cuckoo in my mind. The scope brought some clarity - the yellowish bill and the plumage indicated that it was a juvenile. The throat had relatively lesser streaking and the underparts were also quite dark with the fine barring. With a lingering doubt in everyone's mind, we settled for juv. Greybellied Cuckoo. A few record shots from the photgrapher friends will settle the id soon perhaps.

A courageous group of delhibirders turned waders and waded through some water, vegetation and whatnot to reach the water. They were rewarded with Blacktailed Godwits, Ruffs and several other waterbirds. Just then, we all had seen a female Marsh Harrier and even as I was about to mention Migrantwatch, KB Singh informed me that he would be logging it into MW
today! The other group which stayed put were witness to an Rufousbacked Shrikes, an oriole in flight, red munias and black drongos. On the other bank, meanwhile were over a hundred terns, mostly whiskered with some river terns fishing. As we returned, Gopi scoped a few Spotted Owlets roosting in a Banyan tree nearby. A Greater Spotted Eagle and a Pariah kite circling
together as we walked back was another highlight of the morning.

It was a great opportunity to meet some birders from Delhi. It's amazing how many of them have heard so much about BR Hills. The recent photographs from BR Hills had made it even more of a top destination for many of them. Between the harriers and the munias, the conversation moved from Migrantwatch to the top-ten photographers announced by Kolkatabirds and slowly strayed away to idlis and dosas, and at some point, we all dispersed
to Sagar restaurant in Noida, where I gulped down the most expensive idlis of my life. As all breakfast convos go, this one too was unmatched in its width of topics - conservation policy, judiciary, ethics, choice of 'spirits' and what not!

A morning well spent with delhibird members and I look forward to birding again with them whenever I visit Delhi.

Quote of the day (Heard over breakfast :)

"I saw a Small Blue Kingfisher once. It dived into the Yamuna.....it then turned Pied"

List of birds seen

1) Grey Francolin - Francolinus pondicerianus
2) Lesser Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna javanica
3) Spotbilled Duck - Anas poecilorhyncha - Hundreds!
4) Northern Shoveler - A. clypeata - 2 females among the spotbilled ducks
5) Green Bee-eater - Merops orientalis
6) Juv. Cuckoo - Possibly Greybellied?
7) Greater Coucal - Centropus sinensis
8) Roseringed Parakeet - Psittacula kramerii
9) Spotted Owlet - Athene brama
10) Laughing Dove - Streptopelia senegalensis
11) Eurasian Collored Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
12) Yellowfooted Green Pigeon - Treron phoenicoptera 3 different flocks of
approx 12-15 pigeons
13) Whitebreasted Waterhen - Amaurornis phoenicurus - heard only
14) Purple Moorhen - Porphyrio porphyrio
15) Ruff - Philomachus pugnax - 4 in flight
16) River Tern - Sterna aurantia
17) Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybridus
18) Pariah Kite - Milvus migrans
19) Marsh Harrier - Circus a. aeruginosus
20) Greater Spotted Eagle - Aquila clanga
21) Little Cormorant - Phalacrocorax niger
22) Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
23) Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
24) Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
25) Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
26) Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
27) Painted Stork - Mycteria leucocephala
28) Rufousbacked Shrike - Lanius schach
29) Rufous Treepie - Dendrocitta vagabunda
30) House Crow - Corvus splendens
31) Eurasian Golden Oriole - Oriolus oriolus - seen in flight
32) Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus
33) Whirring call of Common Iora?? Aegithina tiphia - Not confirmed
34) Redvented Bulbul - Pycnonotus cafer - outnumbered its whiskered cousin
35) Redwhiskered Bulbul - P. jocosus
36) Ashy Prinia - Prinia socialis
37) Lesser Whitethroat - Sylvia curruca
38) Tailorbird - Orthotomus sutorius
39) Common Babbler - Turdoides caudatus
40) Purple Sunbird - Nectarinia asiatica
41) Red Munia - Amandava amandava
42) Silverbill - Lonchura malabarica
43) Scalybreasted Munia - L. punctulata


Sheetal said...

Prashanth, hello - we'd met during this birdwalk. I came to this blog following a search for info on sholas and then recognised you from the okhla post.
How have you been? All well in BR Hills?

Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas said...

All mighty well here! :)