Birdwatchers in Delhi, these days, are noticing a strange phenomenon.
Migratory birds, who make the City their home during harsh winters in Siberia and Central Asia, and leave by March-beginning, have overstayed well into warm April.
These include not just the more populous migratory birds such as Northern Shoveler, Woolly-necked Stork, Gadwal, Ruff, Coot, Greater Flamingo and Bar-headed Geese, but also the ‘International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red-listed near-threatened species’ like Black-necked Stork, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis and Black-tailed Godwit.
Importantly, these are to be found only in and around the Najafgarh drain in Southwest Delhi which has become the birds’ preferred roosting spot in the city, after the degeneration of other habitats such as Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Yamuna banks, Bhalaswa Lake and Sanjay Jheel.
Ecologist TK Roy, who is also the Delhi coordinator of Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), informs, “I have recently visited all the major bird reserves in North India, such as Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh, Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in UP, Sambar Lake in Rajasthan and Ropar wetland in Punjab. As expected, all migratory birds have flown out of these places with the onset of summers. Surprisingly, they have overstayed only in Najafgarh in Delhi.”
The ecologist adds that these birds, strangely, also came in earlier than usual last year.
While such birds come in normally around October-end/November-beginning, in 2013, they started checking in as soon as early September.
“One could look at it as a sign of climate change being observed around the world,” he says, “Birds are most sensitive to changes in weather pattern. When they see winter setting in earlier in their native countries, they move out immediately. Also, when they see a delayed onset of summer in their guest countries, they stay on till late.”
Delhi has seen a cooler-than-usual climate all through early 2014.
Intermittent rains and unseasonal snowfall in the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh have also ensured a continuation of winter-like low temperatures.
TK Roy points out, “Even the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report underlines the relation between climate change and alterations in migratory birds’ movements.”
Noticing this phenomenon, birdwatchers are keen that the Delhi Government makes adequate arrangements of food, water and security for the winged guests.
“Recently, some incidents of poaching were reported from Najafgarh drain. I have myself spotted carcasses of migratory birds which signal poisoning. The Government must make sure that this relatively-new habitat thrives well and does not become a poaching haven,”
TK Roy adds.