Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Birding in New Delhi

Lodi Gardens

There is Hot, and then there is HOT, and then there is New Delhi in late April. Unless you perhaps spend a lot of time in Dubai or somewhere, then you just have no conception of quite how hot it is. I didn't, but like a fool, went out birding anyway as soon as I got there.

43 degrees centigrade. In many ways the human body is remarkable. We are able to adjust extremely rapidly to changes in our external environment. My body's initial thought was of course "FUCCCKKKK its HOT!!!!!!!!!!!! You are INSANE", but with a bottle of water and a hat, and a stack of new birds to see, it coped admirably with what I put it through, and it didn't even catch the dreaded Delhi Belly that Mrs L was certain would befall me.


If you read the wedding post you'll know that there wasn't much time devoted to birding, this really was a very short trip indeed - Sunday midday to Wednesday 10am, with a lot of wedding in between, but I managed about 4 hours at Lodi Gardens in central New Delhi, 4 hours at the Okhla barrage, just south of the city, and 3 hours at the Zoo. The end of April is not ideal for a birding trip - it is too hot to be out and about between the hours of 10am and 5pm, and most migrants and wintering species have moved through or off. Or at least that is my excuse for only notching up 76 species in the time I had, including such dross as Coot, Moorhen and Hoopoe.

But despite what seems a low triplist, I had a wonderful time just wandering about, knowing I could not be out all day (and knowing I would be up half the night), so taking it nice and slow, setting up a few photos and so on, and just letting the sights and sounds of a new continent wash over me.

As always, click on the images to make them bigger, and then if you hover in the bottom right corner, you can make them bigger again.

Black Kite

So, perspiring gently shortly after arrival in the middle of Delhi, I took a taxi to Lodi gardens. If you only have a short time in Delhi, this site is as good as any for an introduction to the species of North India, and on Sundays, to the amorous couples of New Delhi. Common Myna, Ring-necked Parakeet, Indian House Crow and Black Kite are by far the most numerous species, but a little searching reveals a lot more. The garden is centred around a few old Muslim tombs from the Mughal period, and has many shady walks and a small amount of water, which if you are lucky, might have a few Moorhen. Actually I also saw Little Cormorant, Spot-billed Duck, and White-throated Kingfisher here. Jungle Babblers scratch about in the dry scrub, and a search of larger trees produced Brown-headed Barbet, Spotted Owlet, Purple Sunbird, Rufous Treepie, and Indian Grey Hornbill. Oh and did I mention Hoopoe?

Spotted Owlet

House Crow

Jungle Babbler

Common Myna

Laughing Dove

Squirrel thing

Spot-billed Duck

Asian Pied Starling

Ring-necked Parakeet

The next day I got up early and took a car (£15 for the whole day, with a driver, Manu) out to the Yamuna barrage, near Okhla Village. The river has been dammed at this point, and has created a large wetland area. There is construction all around, and largely the area is filthy, but the main body of water is not polluted, and you can walk the entire length of the eastern side along a small road. You will get followed by locals wondering what on earth you are doing, but at no point did I feel threatened. The most disconcerting thing was having my car follow me at walking pace about 100 yards behind me, though eventually the guy gave up and just parked up.

51 Garganey

I started at 6am, when it was a cool 25C, and spent four hours (until it got too hot) walking up and down the road. I didn't have a scope, but I didn't miss a single bird. Those that I could not get enough on I used my camera on to get "closer" so to speak, the wonders of digital. This walked produced a whole host of new species, such as Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Tufted Duck, Green Sandpiper and Collared Dove. Excellent, glad I came.

Green Bee-eater

White-throated Kingfisher

Grey-breasted Prinia

Red-vented Bulbul

Shikra, like a Sparrowhawk

Red-wattled Lapwing

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Final day and off to the zoo mid-morning to shake off a bit of a hang-over. Zoos are always good for birds and Delhi Zoo was no exception. The waterbird colonies in particular were sensational - Black-crowned Night Heron's drip off every branch, huge Painted Storks stand sentinal-like mid-way up trees, and Black-headed Ibis are found in clusters. The best birding of the day by far though was a small concrete ditch that I found just next to one of the paths. Pretty unpreposessing but there was a thin layer of water at the bottom of it, and several dead braches and shrubs overhung. A steady trickle of birds came to feed and drink at the bottom of this ditch, and all I had to do was look down. Two species of Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Indian Robin, Red-vented Bulbul, Asian Koel, Oriental Magpie Lark and Black Redstart all came through at some point, and I must have spent 2 hours basically motionless just peering in. Luckily it was in the shade...

Painted Stork

Mrs Asian Koel

Mr Asian Koel

Oriental White-eye

Oriental Magpie Robin

Indian Pond Heron


Lodi Gardens
1. Pigeon
2. Black Kite
3. Common Myna
4. Ring-necked Parakeet
5. House Crow
6. Jungle Babbler
7. Purple Sunbird
8. Little Egret
9. Moorhen
10. Spot-billed Duck
11. Laughing Dove
12. Asian Pied Starling
13. Hoopoe
14. Red-whiskered Bulbul
15. Little Cormorant
16. Shikra
17. Spotted Owlet
18. House Swift
19. Brown-headed Barbet
20. Red-vented Bulbul
21. Indian Grey Hornbill
22. Oriental Magpie Robin
23. Alexandrine Parakeet
24. Large-billed Crow
25. White-throated Kingfisher

26. Whiskered Tern
27. Black Drongo
28. Indian Pond Heron
29. Cattle Egret
31. Green Bee-eater
32. Greater Coucal
33. Collared Dove
34. Grey-breasted Prinia
35. Red Avadavat
36. Plain Martin
37. Red-wattled Lapwing
38. Great White Egret
39. Indian Silverbill
40. Blyth's Reed Warbler
41. Grey Heron
42. Caspian Gull
43. Shoveler
44. Common Tailorbird
45. Tufted Duck
46. Pleasant-tailed Jacana
47. Garganey
48. Indian Robin
49. Coot
50. Black-winged Stilt
51. Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
52. Citrine Wagtail
53. Purple Swamphen
54. Purple Heron
55. Green Sandpiper
56. Wood Sandpiper
57. Little Grebe
58. White-tailed Stonechat
59. Common Babbler
60. Pied Bushchat
61. Yellow-bellied Prinia
62. Long-tailed Shrike
63. Striated Babbler
64. White-breasted Waterhen

Delhi Zoo
65. Black-crowned Night Heron
66. Indian Cormorant
67. Painted Stork
68. Black-headed Ibis
69. Stone Curlew
70. Rosy Pelican
71. Asian Koel
72. Black Redstart
73. Ashy Prinia
74. Oriental White-eye
75. Indian Peafowl
76. Coppersmith Barbet