By Mohd. Salman

The best thing about living in Delhi is that there’s always an outlet for any hobbies or pastimes you may have. I like to get rid of the ‘city feeling’ every now and then, and to my delight, there are many wildernesses hidden in Delhi’s recesses for a long and peaceful walk, replete with the sights and sounds of all creatures great and small.

Sandwiched between Delhi and Noida, barely five kilometres from where I stay, is the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. It’s a wetland habitat that is home to migratory birds by the the thousands in the winter months. You cross the gate and you know that the concrete jungle is peripheral for a few hours. A faint hum reminds you it’s there, but it’s in the distance, it’s unintrusive.

If you’re travelling from Delhi, take the route to Kalindi Kunj, via Jamia Millia Islamia or the Apollo hospital; cross the Okhla Barrage and just as it ends you will see a signboard proclaiming the Okhla Bird Sanctuary to your left.

Grumpy Dharam Singh will greet you at the gate, issuing your tickets from a bare wooden cabin. Very bare cabin, actually, especially if the word ‘sanctuary’ makes you expect binoculars-on-rent, or merchandise.

What is good though, is that there is a great walk to be had over a large expanse of wetland to your left, and you begin to settle in to the atmosphere with every step.

{Long and winding road… More like a rickety bridge. But this picture reminds us of the Beatles song}

{“Delhi Eye”}

{Nesting boxes}

Once you’ve got your eye in, you will begin to see the nesting boxes strung on every other tree in the hope that the quickly-dwindling sparrows will make homes there. There is also the excitement of seeing a rather exotic migrant that you thought only existed in the illustrations on-site.

And the birds start turning up one by one. Some wade in the shallows, some scurry among the reeds. Others dart over and under the wiggly little bamboo bridge that takes you off the road and into the wetland proper. Look for the purple moorhen among the reeds,for the spot-billed ducks and gulls in the placid waters of the reservoir. Spend a quiet moment on the little lip of the sandbank that juts out into the water. I was once doing just that and very unexpectedly, a family of nilgai stepped out of the foliage twenty feet away, wading across the water to the opposite side.

{Purple Moorhen}

{Black Kite}

{Red Wattled Lapwing}

Herds of buffaloes are often part of the local wildlife, so don’t get nervous if you spot them. All they want is a leisurely stroll and a good supply of the green stuff. Oh, and chewing the cud. What would cattle be if not for cud?

Looking for the two watch-towers tucked away 3 kilometres into the park is the fun bit. They let you see a broad stretch of the landscape. It is truly marvelous, during the winters especially, to see the birds launching in their hundreds and circling the place. Sit there in peace, and once you’re done admiring what you see, you may want to make a few notes or reach for the refreshment tucked in your bags. Look for the blue-grey shikra, a little hawk that is the terror of all the little birds in the place. Look also for the white-throated kingfisher and for the painted storks, large and majestic in their flight.


{Gulls in flight}

Try not to be upset by the occasional trash strewn around, the sarkari vehicles zooming by, or by the college kids sitting by their cars, with their subwoofers playing trance music as they seek solace in spirits or tobacco. Try also to ignore Mayawati’s monument to bad taste built next to the sanctuary.

Oh, I’m sorry I forgot. The golden rule for all trips of a birding nature | Notes in our {Little Black Book}

  • wear comfortable walking-shoes,
  • dress not in bright colors {birds have good sight, the shy ones will scram},
  • carry a good pair of binoculars {if you worry too much about photography on your first trip, you will miss the birds},
  • carry a small field guide and a notebook, and some refreshments to keep you hydrated.
  • best time to go- between 5 & 9 am
  • Take a couple of friends along, it’s a fun group outing & different from the usual!

 Enjoy, Dilliwaalas!

About the Author | Though originally a ‘Lucknow-ite’, Mohd. Salman is a journalist by profession who’s living and working in New Delhi. He loves literature, wildlife, photography, writing and, evidently, long walks! He pursued English Hons. as an Undergrad degree from Hindu College followed by a course in Mass Communication from MCRC Jamia. Read more from Salman here

Image  Courtesy: All images are the property of the author

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Ankita says:

wow….thats where my office is….quite motivating to know of such an amusing place nearby….thanks:)

Megha says:

Very nice post. unusual and interesting