By Nari Soundarrajan
I have been interested in birds for many years, but started paying a closer look only since last year when I started volunteering at ACCA and attending various bird walks.
This winter when I traveled back home to India to visit family I kept my eyes peeled open for every bird that I could sight. I was blown away by the number of birds that I could see even in urban and semi-urban environments. New Delhi, which is one of the megacities of the world with over 15 million people has expanded over the last decade. Suburban neighborhoods and satellite cities around this city still see many of the birds that have their wintering habitat as well as fast eroding wetland habitats. Thankfully there are also many projects by local eco-conscious and bird friendly citizens that preserve and build new habitats for birds and provide green lungs for the city. Aravalli biodiversity park is one such project in Gurgaon, beginning at Delhi’s outskirts and providing nearly 700 acres of natural settings with trails for nature lovers.
Jungle babblers, Indian mynas, Indian robins, Peafowl (peacocks and peahens), Drongos, Rock pigeons, Laughing doves, House crows and Kites were spotted with minimal effort. Also seen are the occasional Ashy prinias, Oriental magpie robins, Parakeets and Shrikes. A little rare were the Rufous treepie and the Red-vented bulbul. Parakeets were seen even in the heart of New Delhi, partly due to the abundance of trees and a culture that builds sidewalks around trees than cutting them down. The highlight of my trip happened literally out of the blue. I was starting out for a morning jog near the apartments where my parents lived and spotted a bright blue Kingfisher (white throated kingfisher) perched on a power line over the road. I had my cell phone but the bird at 30-35 ft high above a busy road didn’t look very clear on my phone camera. I knew I had to take a chance, so I scrambled back to the apartment, took the elevator to the 7th floor, grabbed my zoom camera, rushed back down the steps and then sprinted back to the road, and due to the blessings of the bird Gods, was rewarded with some close-up pictures. After I had taken several pictures and was satisfied, I was again surprised, this time by a parakeet that swooped past “my bird” startling him into flight into a small thicket across the road.
I also made two short trips to southern India, the city of Chennai, which is on the coast along the sea (Bay of Bengal). I squeezed a visit to the gardens of the Theosophical Society which is in an estuarine region. This rich habitat contains banyan trees, palm trees and also some cultivated banana trees, along with several other native tropical trees of the region. Parakeets, babblers, mynahs abound here but also fruit bats can be found clustered on some trees. I also saw a female Asian koel for the first time. Egrets were also spotted but my photography was thwarted by zealous security guards who thought I was taking a video without permission. They mistook the zoo lens for a video camera but by the time I was done explaining, the bird had already gone its own way! Overall, I came out very happy to have seen and observed a large number of birds and connecting with many avid birders in India.