This present piece is a photo blog depicting some of the bird species that have been sighted at the Dheerpur Wetland Park (DWP) during the bird surveys undertaken by the Centre for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES) over the past several months.
A Common Stonechat ( Saxicola torquatus) in breeding plumage sighted in March 2018. Presently, a portion of the Dheerpur Wetland Park area is contested, where some powerful farmers grow several crops throughout the year using sewage water. In March, it was harvest time for the wheat crop. Our first sighting of the Common Stonechat was in the wheat fields, where the bird perched on a wheat stalk for a brief moment before quickly flying away.
A male Red Avadavat ( Amandava amandava) or Red Munia. Although this bird is commonly found in the Dheerpur Wetland Park these days, careful observation is required to spot it. Much like other species of Munia, the Red Avadavat is found foraging in a flock. The males have a distinctive red plumage in the breeding season. These species prefer wet grassland areas, marshes, and agricultural fields.
The Pheasant-tailed Jacana ( Hydrophasianus chirurgus). Although it is widespread in South East Asia, and is a resident bird species, the Pheasant-tailed Jacana could be spotted only once in the Dheerpur Wetland Park in the post-monsoon season of 2016. The habitat of this bird species consists of freshwater wetlands with floating plants. The Centre for Urban Ecology and Sustainability is in the process of creating freshwater wetlands at the DWP, and we are hopeful that, very soon the park will become a perfect breeding ground for species such as the Pheasant-tailed Jacana.
Rosy Starlings ( Pastor roseus) are passage migrants in Delhi. Just before the summer, they were found all over Delhi NCR, feeding mostly on fig trees. Their calls are chirpy and incessant and will most surely draw your attention, leaving you wondering, “what birds are these?”
Purple Sunbird ( Cinnyris asiaticus). You might have seen this bird in a nearby park, or perhaps in your garden. This bird is also fairly common at the Dheerpur Wetland Park. It can be seen feeding mainly on flower nectar. While the colour of the male is metallic blue-green and purple becoming blacker on belly and vent, the colour of the female is a lot more mellow as can be seen in this picture.
The fast and furious Paddyfield Pipit ( Anthus rufulus). Known for its agility, the paddyfield pipit can be found in open grasslands, scrublands and agricultural fields. These birds forage mostly in open scrub, looking for insects and worms.
Streaked Weaver ( Ploceus manyar). The bird was recently seen at DWP for the first time ever! The bird flew from one reed patch to another in a jiffy and couldn’t be seen after that. This made us realize how observing birds is full of surprises. Although this bird can be found all over the South East Asian region, its distribution is patchy. The Streaked Weaver can be confused with the Baya weaver ( Ploceus philippinus) which looks similar but has less distinct streaks and a more yellow belly.
Black-headed Munia ( Lonchura Malacca). It was seen for the first time in the Dheerpur Wetland Park in May 2018, foraging with several other Scaly-breasted Munias. This bird prefers marshy areas with tall grass or reeds. Although the marshes in the DWP have dried up to a certain extent in the scorching heat of this year’s summer, substantial areas continue to be occupied by grasses and reeds. Owing to their striking similarity in appearance, the Black-headed Munia is often confused with the Chestnut Munia [ Lonchura ( Malacca) atricapilla]. However, the Black-headed Munia has a distinct white breast and flanks, something that is not present in the Chestnut Munia.
Purple Heron ( Ardea purpurea). Found generally in dense aquatic vegetation with shallow water, the Purple Heron is mostly a calm solitary forager. The bird was seen in the DWP at the onset of summer this year.
Graceful Prinia ( Prinia gracilis). The Graceful Prinia is a resident of North India and can be seen in Delhi. It can be found inhabiting tall grasses and shrubs. A defining feature which sets it apart from warblers and other Prinia species is its streaked sandy grey-brown and whitish underparts.
In the face of rapid urbanization in Delhi, spaces such as the Dheerpur Wetland Park serve as an important habitat for several bird species. While some are resident species, others are species which stop over at the DWP to take advantage of conducive habitat conditions. Habitats such as the DWP not only provide resources in the form of food but also serve as an important breeding ground where some of these birds can nurture their young.
All images are by Amit Kaushik