On a misty January morning, I started my journey from Delhi to Greater Noida accompanied by my fellow birders to participate in the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), 2023. Coming from a quiet town in Himachal Pradesh, the chirping of birds in the morning had been a cherished part of my life growing up. During my college years I developed bird watching as a hobby. Thus, having since moved to the capital city, I was enthused by the idea of going to the countryside for bird watching after a long time. After travelling for two hours, passing the concrete building complexes and riding over bridges, we reached Dhanauri wetland. As I stepped outside the car, I could spot egrets, herons, ibis and many others right there on the village fields. On reaching the wetland, I was bedazzled by the number of waterbirds present there and could foresee a great bird watching experience ahead of me.
After a brief from the State coordinator for AWC – New Delhi, we began our bird watching journey equipped with our binoculars, cameras and data sheets. From the brightly colored waterbirds like Purple Swamphen, Common Pochard and Painted Stork, to the tall and magnificent Sarus crane, the avifaunal diversity was wondrous to see. We saw many migratory visitors like the Northern Pintail, Mallard, Greylag Goose and a few more feeding together in a small pool in the middle of the wetland.
A chance encounter with a small herd of Nilgai was an added bonus to the visit. Walking around the wetland, evidence of human disturbance was noted. A new road construction, use of fertilizers and garbage dumping adjacent to the wetland was also observed. Sharing previous census experiences, Mr. Roy stated that there was decline in diversity this year owing to the above threats. After traversing the wetland for three hours we concluded our visit and compiled our datasheets. In total, we recorded 35 species and over 1850 individuals of waterbirds in the wetland.
The bird watching and knowledge sharing was a splendid and delightful break from the hustle and bustle of the city. This was my first bird watching experience in the Delhi NCR region and I am awaiting many such experiences in future with my new team.