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Delhi’s wild side: Birding around city & its suburbs

Delhi-NCR is home to a multitude of birds, including several fascinating migratory species which fly to the capital each year. With a keen eye and a good guide, birdwatchers can spot a number of them.

Joydev Sengupta

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A few months ago when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit and the lockdowns were enforced, social media was awash with stories of wildlife walking the empty streets vacated by man. The nilgais, the peacocks, and even the occasional leopard were seen within city precincts, to the wonderment of many. What is probably not obvious to many, therefore, is that even in a city like Delhi, wildlife in various forms, including some exotic visitors, does co-exist with its human population, though not always harmoniously.

At the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi lies the Delhi Ridge, a protected reserve forest, arguably the lungs of the city. While the dominant image of the roads snaking past the ridge is its profusion of monkeys, sightings of the Indian grey hornbill and kites are also commonplace. They are more likely to be seen early morning before the traffic starts plying. Some stretches, like the road behind the New Delhi Kali Bari which is relatively less disturbed, are clearly better. The proximity of the Ridge has one big advantage for the surrounding human habitat. Bird species like barn owls and barbets sometimes find their way to the nearby colonies, to the consternation of local bird populations. The barn owl in the picture, for example, being a bird of prey, was attacked mercilessly by local crows for intruding into their territory, as is the law of nature. The other remarkable occurrence is centred in the Delhi Zoo, when come winters, it notably plays host to painted storks in large numbers, a bird classified as “near threatened” worldwide, and an immensely important part of Delhi’s wildlife heritage.

Painted storks are just one of the many species of birds which flock to Delhi and its surrounding areas in winter. Some of the important birding areas in and around Delhi are the Okhla Barrage near Noida, Sultanpur, the Basai Wetlands and Jhajjar district near Gurgaon. A few winters ago, the marbled duck and the Baikal teal made their way across to the places around Sultanpur and Jhajjar, travelling hundreds of kilometres from their breeding sites. The Baikal teal breeds in Siberia and winters in the less harsh climes of eastern Asia. A few of them make their way into India as well and are seen in these parts for a few weeks. The marbled duck, classified as “vulnerable” and globally threatened, similarly breeds mostly in Europe and Asia, and is known to visit India in very small numbers. It may be worthwhile to follow bird sightings reported in the media or connect with expert birders to get to know when these species come during a year and have them arrange the sightings.

The National Capital Region is not just about the headline-grabbing painted stork and the marbled duck, but about species, numerically larger in numbers, but seen seldom. One wonders how many people know about the Spanish and the Sind sparrows, worthy members of the sparrow family but different from the house sparrows one would see so often in Delhi. People across the country often see red-wattled lapwing within the city limits, but the less common yellow-wattled one also exists in this area. The pratincoles also lie unseen among ploughed fields, flying off when one comes too close. Come the month of September, the Eurasian hobby, a bird of prey from the falcon family, will also inhabit the trees around Sultanpur for a few weeks. Meanwhile, the cattle egret will imbibe spectacular hues during breeding time. All these and more will unfold over the next few months as migrating birds start coming in.

 Given their distances from Delhi, all the birding sites are a drive away and can be covered as day trips. While one can find the birds within the confines of the sanctuaries, oftentimes the birds are located outside the parks, and here a bird guide is required. Most sanctuaries have guides associated with them and they can be found at the entry gates. The commitment, knowledge and spotting ability of a lot of them is unfortunately suspect, but the better ones are worth the fees paid to them. A crucial part of the expert guide’s role is the area survey that the guide does beforehand, identifying species over a geographical area and its adjacencies, the preferred habitat, behaviours, and identification parameters, all of which elevates the bird watching qualitatively. A bird-watching guide popular in the NCR and its surrounding areas is Sanjay Sharma, who can be contacted beforehand for visits. (His number is 09812470521.) Be prepared for riding over a lot of unpaved and broken roads, and also hiking to specific spots when necessary.

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Environmentally Speaking

Intense rains in Delhi NCR to continue says IMD

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Delhi NCR is witnessing intense rainfall for the last two days and it has brought a noticeable change in the temperature. The rains will continue in the coming days as per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India.
The continuous showers have waterlogged many areas causing traffic jams in Delhi, Gurugram, and Noida regions.
The minimum temperature in Delhi, on Friday is supposed to be 23 degrees and the maximum temperature is predicted to be 28 degrees.
Concerning the waterlogged roads and intense traffic jams, the Gurugram administration issued an advisory asking private and corporate offices to work from home, while schools and colleges remained closed on Friday to avoid the hassle.
There has been a dip of seven degrees in the temperature in the NCR regions, making people feel the chill, especially during the night.
Even the air quality has improved so much in the city, according to the data from the Central Pollution Control Board. The AQI on Friday morning stood at 50, which is considered ‘very good.’

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Massive landslide occurs in Achham district of Nepal; 22 killed, 10 injured

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Due to a landslide in Nepal’s Achham district, about 450 km (281 miles) west of the capital city of Kathmandu, many homes were destroyed and many people have fallen victim to it as some of them are injured and some have lost their lives. Officials said on Sunday that the rescuers in Nepal battled against the torrential rains and pulled bodies from the wreckage of homes buried because of the landslide, and it has been reported that 22 people have lost their lives while 10 have been injured so far.

According to the official data, at least 70 people have been killed and 13 have gone missing across the country in flash floods and landslides this year alone.

The police, military and volunteers are still looking for the missing people in Achham district. Authorities have recovered the body of a fisherman who was swept away due to the landlide and reached the Kailali district due to the overflowing Geta river.

Yagya Raj Joshi, an official in Kailali, said about 1,500 people displaced because of the floods were sheltered in public buildings.

Local media broadcasted images of swathes of farms inundated by flood waters, a destroyed suspension bridge and villagers wading through chest-deep water.

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Light to moderate rain and gusty winds are expected to hit the national capital on Thursday

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Heavy rain lashes Delhi as roads waterlogged

Delhi has seen a marginal dip in the temperature on Thursday morning as the national capital has witnessed light to moderate rain and gusty winds with a speed of 30–40 km/h. This even resulted in an improvement in air quality, which was classified as satisfactory.

The maximum temperature is expected to be around 30°C while the minimum is to be 25°C, which when compared to Wednesday was 33.6°C and 26.4°C respectively.

RK Jenamani, India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist, said a depression that formed over Odisha and moved towards northwest India sent easterly winds with moisture towards Delhi-NCR and led to a three-day spell of rain. He said, “As this depression has moved closer, we are seeing the effect of these strong easterly winds, which has led to an increase in the speed of surface winds locally. The moisture is also leading to cloudy skies, which has led to a drop in the mercury. “

The intensity of rain will reduce from Friday evening, with no rain expected from September 17 to 20.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 63 on Thursday morning at 7 a.m.

The monitoring agency, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, said on Wednesday that the satisfactory level of AQI is expected to last till Saturday. They said, “For the next three days, peak wind speed is likely to be around 14–29 km/h, causing moderate dispersion and AQI is likely to be within the range of’satisfactory’ due to expected light/trace rain spells.”

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IMD predicts heavy rainfall in isolated locations

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In its most recent weather update, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated locations across Uttarakhand, east Rajasthan, West Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, Konkan, and Goa on Wednesday.

The weather service also forecasted isolated heavy rains, thunderstorms, and lightning in Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday, Jharkhand on September 18, and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on September 15 and 16.

East Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of central Maharashtra, and Konkan, as well as Goa, may see rain over the next five days.

On September 14 and 15, the Met Department warned of isolated very heavy rainfall over West Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat, and Konkan and Goa from September 14 to 16. According to the IMD, isolated extremely heavy rainfall is expected over ghat areas of central Maharashtra on September 15.

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UN Secretary pays a visit to the flood areas of Pakistan

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On the final day of a two-day trip to raise awareness of the disaster, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited several flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan.

Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains and glacier melt in the northern mountains have killed over 1,391 people and destroyed homes, roads, railway tracks, bridges, livestock, and crops.

Huge areas of the country have been inundated, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. According to the government, nearly 33 million people’s lives have been disrupted. The damage in Pakistan is estimated to be $30 billion, and both the government and Guterres have blamed the flooding on climate change.

The UN Secretary-General arrived in Sindh province on Saturday before flying over some of the worst-affected areas on his way to Balochistan, another badly affected province.

“It is difficult not to feel deeply moved to hear such detailed descriptions of tragedy,” Guterres said after landing in Sindh, according to a video released by the office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“Pakistan needs massive financial support. This is not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”

Guterres was seated next to Sharif in a video released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, looking out the window of an aircraft at flood-damaged areas. “Unimaginable,” Guterres said as he looked around at the devastation.

In July and August, Pakistan received 391 mm (15.4 inches) of rain, nearly 190% more than the 30-year average. The southern province of Sindh has received 466% more rain than usual.

Guterres stated on Saturday that the world needs to understand the impact of climate change on low-income countries.

“Humanity has been waging war on nature and nature strikes back,” he said.

“Nature strikes back in Sindh, but it was not Sindh that has made the emissions of greenhouse gases that have accelerated climate change so dramatically,” Guterres said. “There is a very unfair situation relative to the level of destruction.”

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Cloudburst in Pithoragarh district, at least 50 houses submerged

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At least 50 houses were submerged in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district after a cloudburst in Dharchula. A person was killed in a cloudburst that occurred near the India-Nepal border at around 1 a.m. on Saturday.

The aftermath and the Kali river in the area were captured on video. Pithoragarh Police shared a video clip on Twitter and stated that about 50 houses in Khotila village had been submerged. The video posted in the post showed the river in full rage.

In another post, the police warned residents against going near the river and advised them to avoid the river bridges. “It is very important to act with caution with the river reaching the danger level,” the post read.

According to Pithoragarh district magistrate Ashish Chauhan, one woman died. Water was said to have entered several homes. Another video shared by the Uttarakhand Police Fire Service showed a house collapsing into the river. Rescue efforts are underway, according to the fire department, the State Disaster Response Force, police, and administration.

Such incidents occur frequently in Uttarakhand, a hill state known for its pilgrimage sites, raising questions and concerns about climate change.

Several other states, including Karnataka and Maharashtra, are also dealing with flooding in various parts of their respective states. Recently, videos from Bengaluru showed flooded streets and helpless residents, reminding us that even metro cities are vulnerable and lack a mechanism to keep the civic system running in emergencies.

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