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Home >> Birding Banter >> A day's worth of Delhi Birds

A day's worth of Delhi Birds

Apr 19, 2006 at 01:30 AM
A Day’s Worth of Delhi Birds - Peter Jackson
Here is my account and records of a 24-hour Delhi bird count at the beginning of March 1970.
I am not a “tick-hunter” a compiler of lists of birds seen, just
for the sake of it. But there were many times when I took friends out around Delhi during the winter when we did tot up our score. We often found that it was more than 100. Inevitably, I began to think of how many birds one could see in a day. From our Delhi checklist I reckoned that it should
be possible to top 150. The day was constantly put off until, on 1 March 1970, I awoke with the realisation that I was leaving India in July, the winter was passing, and the chance might be lost for ever.
I got off to quick start as I left the bedroom our resident house
sparrow sped across the living room to feed its nestlings on top of the almyra. Before I was in the car I had the house crow, green parakeet, common and brahminy mynahs and the pariah kite. As I turned down Prithviraj Road, heading for Mehrauli, blossom-headed parakeets flew alongside. I
wished I had taken a portable tape recorder to note birds while driving, but I had to keep the list in my mind for the next stop. The first halt was at Mehrauli, where the dry, stony landscape, the rocks and the ruins produced some 20 more species, including the rufous-fronted wren warbler, the blue rock thrush, brown rock chat, yellow-throated sparrow and dusky crag martin I had relied on others noted could have been picked up elsewhere.
My route went on to Gurgaon, noting pale harrier, white-necked stock, white-eyed buzzard and steppe eagle, among others, on the way. From Gurgaon I turned west, taking the old Farrukhnagar road via Dhankot to Sultanpur, a magnificent jheel. All along the road I had to stop to write
down what I had seen whenever the list was getting too long to remember.
All those interested in birds in the Delhi area regretted the
draining of the huge Najafgarh jheel. But in fact this probably led to the concentration at nearby Sultanpur. Although shot over to some extent, its bare margins provided little cover for hunters and the water birds were relatively undisturbed. The flocks of rosy pastors and flamingoes were unmistakable and I sat down happily under a shady tree with a telescope to
work over the various species of duck, geese, waders, herons and storks. By lunchtime my list was going well at 87. I would have liked to remain enjoying myself, just watching, at Sultanpur, but the Yamuna had to be covered. I went back to Gurgaon by the same road, but this time took the road to Palam, where I turned east and crossed my morning route at
Mehrauli, going on past Tughlakhabad to the Mathura Road. From Madanpur a road runs down to the river at a point where the market gardens south of Okhla end. This was a good place to pick up species, such s various terns,
striated weaver, pied mynah, purple gallinule and, as a bonus, a spotted dove, which is very uncommon in the Delhi area.
My plan to follow the cart track by the market gardens to Okhla, which can be very productive, was foiled by some earthworks in progress and I had to speed round by the Mathura Road. I was now conscious that the pied
kingfisher, which I had reckoned one of the easiest to find, was not on my list. Surely, at Okhla…no, not for me today.
A look at the ridge as the sun set yielded little, except one
“chuck”, immediately noted as a nightjar. But no more “chucks” followed, and I reluctantly crossed it off my list as uncertain. It was dark passing through Chanakyapuri, but I paused at the crossroads near the American Embassy. I shone my spotlight into a tree - one of my spotted owlet friends did not let me down. He was at his nightly
And now a confession. My leap from bed that morning had not been as the first light of day spread over Delhi. I have to confess that it had been nine a.m. when I set forth - a shameful time for a birdwatcher. 1 claimed the right to a full 24 hours for my count, giving me until nine a.m. next
morning. This time I was up with the dawn, with a prepared list of species to get, and raced to the zoo. Not cheating! Delhi zoo attracts a fine selection of wild birds, and I was able to add several, including stone curlew, large pied wagtail, night heron, coucal, and white-breasted waterhen. I was up to 141.
A visit to the Ridge again produced the golden-backed woodpecker, woodshrike and white-cheeked bulbul - 144. The minutes were ticking away. I was desperate. My garden still should have something. It did - I ticked off the magpie robin, and as the second-hand nudged up to nine a.m. I closed with the red-whiskered bulbul.
I had failed - four short of my minimum 150 target. I cannot say I sank back into depression. It had been an exhilarating chase, and I don't think anyone would say 146 represents a bad day's birding anywhere in the world.
In retrospect it seemed ridiculous not to have seen such common Delhi birds as the darter, pied kingfisher and white-eye, and even the coppersmith, which regularly nested in my garden. On the other hand, species such as the spotted dove and pale harrier were not to be expected, and so it probably
worked out about right in the end. Even so, I am sure that the 150 mark could be reached reasonably easily, and perhaps pushed above 160,
especially with more than one pair of eyes working together.
Was it my most exciting bird watching day while India? No, not really. I have had so many blissful days birding in India. I could not really select one occasion, but I felt it worth recording, as a mark for others to challenge. But I hope that “tick-hunting” in some will not become in India the obsession it has become in some parts of the world birds have more to
offer than just being marks on a list.
24-hour Bird Count in Delhi Region
1. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
2. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
3. Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis)
4. Brahminy Mynah (Sturnus pagodarum)
5. Green Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
6. Blossom-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala)
7. Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicata)
8. Pariah Kite (Milvus migrans govinda)
9. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
10. Grey Partridge (Francolinus pondicerianus)
11. Common Babbler (Turdoides caudatus)
12. Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
13. Little Brown Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
14. Ring Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
15. House Swift (Apus affinis)
16. Crag Martin (Hirundo concolor}
17. Neophron (Neophron percnopterus}
18. Blue Rock Dove (Columba livia)
19. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
20. Pled Bush Chat (Saxicola caprata)
21. Rufous-fronted Wren Warbler (Prinia buchanani)
22. Tailor Bird (Orthotomus sutorius)
23. Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striatus)
24. Masked Wagtail (Motacilla alba personata)
25. White-backed Vulture (Gyps benghalensis)
26. Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
27. Yellow-throated sparrow (Petronia xanthocollis)
28. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
29. Red-winged Bushlark (Mirafra erythroptera)
30. Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
31. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
32. Bank Mynah (Acridotheres glnginianus]
33. Ashy Wren Warbler (Prinia socialis)
34. Brown Rock Chat (Cercomela fusca)
35. Black Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis)
36. Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
37. Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
38. Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
39. Large Grey Babbler (Turdoides malcolmi)
40. Red-vented Bu Ibu I (Pycnonotus cafer)
41. Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus)
42. Pale Harrier (Circus macrourus)
43. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
44. Black-bellied Finchlark (Eremopterix grisea)
45. Painted Stork (Ibis leucocephalus)
46. White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa)
47. White-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus)
48. Crested lark (Galerida cristata)
49. Short-toed lark {Calandrella cinerea)
50. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
51. Bluethroat (Erithacus svecicus)
52. Stone Chat (Saxicola torquata)
53. Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
54. Sarus Crane (Grus antigone)
55. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo ruffinus)
56. Indian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae)
57. Common Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
58. Dusky Redshank (Tringa totanus)
59. Temminck's Stint (Calidris temmincki)
60. Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
61. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
62. Rosy Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
63. Indian Sand Martin (Riparia paludicola)
64. Black Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa)
65. Shoveller (Anas clypeata)
66. Skylark (Alauda arvenis)
67. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotlca)
68. Stilt {Hlmantopus himantopus)
69. Teal (Anas crecca)
70. Black-necked Stork (Xenorhynchus asiaticus)
71. Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
72. Pintail (Anas acuta)
73. Bar-headed Goose {Anser indicus)
74. Gadwall {Anas strepera)
75. Wigeon (Anas penelope)
76. Grey {Ardea cinerea)
77. Coot (Fulica atra)
78. Indian Pratincole {Glareola lactea)
79. Brahminy Duck (Tadorna ferruginea)
80. Spotbill {Anas poecilorhynca)
81. Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
82. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
83. White Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephala)
84. White-tailed lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)
85. Marsh Harrier (Circus aeroginosus)
86. Red Turtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica)
87. Marsh Sandpiper {Tringa stagnatllls)
88. White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
89. Whiskered Tern {Chlidonias hybrida)
90. Black-tailed Godwit {Limosa limosa)
91. Avocet {Recurvirostra avosetta)
92. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
93. Spotted Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
94. Redshank (Tringa totanus)
95. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba dukhunensis)
96. Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)
97. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
98. Yellow-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus)
99. Pond Heron (Ardea grayi)
100. Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
101. Tawny Eagle (Aquila clanga)
102. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
103. Lesser Egret (Egretta intermedia)
104. Striated Weaver (Ploceus manyar)
105. Indian Wren Warbler (Prinia subflava)
106. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
107. Pied Mynah (Sturnus contra)
108. Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
109. Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus)
110. Black-bellied Tern (Sterna acuticauda)
111. Sandlark (Calandrella raytal)
112. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
113. Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithi)
114. Little Sky-lark (Alauda gulgula)
115. Masked Wagtail (Motacllla alba alboides)
116. Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunicephalus)
117. Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger)
118. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
119. Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos)
120. Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio)
121. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
122. Common Pocharc! (Aythya ferina)
123. Nukta (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
124. Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
125. Large cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
126. Green Barbet (Megalaima zeylanica)
127. Tree Pie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
128. Rufous-backed Shrike (Lanius schach)
129. Peacock (Pavo cristatus)
130. Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)
131. Large Egret (Egretta alba)
132. Black-eared Kite (Milvus migrans)
133. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
134. Little Grebe (Podiceps ruficollis)
135. Coucal (Crow Pheasant (Centropus sinensis)
136. Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
137. White-breasted Waterhen (Amauronis phoenicurus)
138. Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
139. Shag (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)
140. Large Pied Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)
141. White-throated Munia (Lonchura malabarica)
142. Golden-backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense)
143. Woodshrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus)
144. White-cheeked Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucoides)
145. Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)
146. Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Route 0900-1900hrs/01/03/70
27 Prithviraj Road to Mehrauli to Gurgaon, and via Dhankot to Sultanpur jheels, return to Gurgaon. To Palam, Mehrauli, Tughlakabad, Mathura Road, Madanpur to Yamuna bank. Via Mathura Road to Okhla, to Ridge and return to 27 Prithviraj Road.
Route 0600-0900hrs/02/03/70
27 Prithviraj Road to Zoo, to Ridge, and return to 27 Prithviraj Road
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