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| Last Updated:11/03/2019

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Tweets of joy: Rare birds fly into Delhi

NEW DELHI: Birdwatchers have reported a host of rare birds in the city this season. The sightings, they say, are a result of luck and the proliferation of birdwatchers with better equipment. With the environment of Delhi becoming worse with every passing season, birders say that rare birds have become even more difficult to spot which is why these sightings become extremely important. 

Kanwar B Singh, a Delhi-based birder, says that usually during active western disturbances when it snows in the hills, birds from the Himalayas migrate to the adjoining plains, which is why maybe some of these rare sightings take place in winter. 

"The state of the city's wetlands and water bodies has deteriorated over the past few years and has resulted in a fall in the number of species seen here. These sightings have more to do with the increase in number of birders, using more sophisticated equipment and better communication that help in correctly identifying birds," he said. 

One such rare bird seen in Delhi recently is the Smew, a species of duck which was last reported from the Delhi region in 1922 by Basil-Edwardes. On November 16 last year, Jagat Prakash Verma saw the bird in the Jhajjar district. Birders say it is a significant record as the bird is an extremely rare visitor to India and is a vagrant. 

Courtesy 1. Udiyaman Shukla 2. Nitin Kumar 3. Kishore Bhargava 4. Jagat Prakash Verma 4. Savithri Singh 

However, according to records of AO Hume, the bird could be seen regularly at the Najafgarh drain till the late 19th century. The Red-necked phalarope, another rare bird to be spotted in India, was recorded by Sanjay, the bird guide at the Sultanpur bird sanctuary in the beginning of February. This was the first recorded sighting of the bird in almost 35 years. The phalarope migrates from the north Arctic to the tropical seas. "It was sheer chance that it was seen here. 

There are a few records of the bird in India in the past few years but in Delhi, it is an extremely lucky sighting," said Singh. 

The Slaty blue flycatcher from the Himalayan forests was seen by Singh on January 31. "It tends to venture into the forests of the Himalayan foothills during winter. However, there has never been any sighting from the Delhi region. I was pleasantly surprised to see one blue-coloured male feeding on the ground next to the jogging track at Nehru Park on January 31," he said. 

Ultramarine flycatcher, another Himalayan species, spends the winter in the forests of Western Ghats. Its recent sightings in the Delhi region were in October 2013 at Sultanpur by Savithri Singh and then in January by at Sundar Nursery by Ratish Nanda. 

The Oriental scops owl, a very small bird, was last seen in 1925 by Basil-Edwards till it was spotted once in Palam Vihar in 2013 and then at the Najafgarh drain in January this year. 

The Smoky warbler, which is fairly common in east India, was also never conclusively seen around Delhi till this winter. Several birdwatchers saw it at the Basai wetlands this season. 

The Lemon-rumped warbler, a Himalayan bird that barely ever descends into the plains, was seen sitting on a tree by Udiyaman Shukla from his balcony near All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).