Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus birders were in for a pleasant surprise when they spotted a Brown Hawk-Owl last week, the first sighting of the endangered nocturnal bird in Delhi. The bird sighting was perhaps one of the best parting gifts of 2016 for birders in Delhi.
“The sighting of the rare owl is a moment of great joy and achievement for the university, as it was the first recorded from Delhi,” said Dr Surya Prakash, Head, School of Life Sciences, JNU, and a birder for over 30 years.
The brown hawk-owl is native to tropical south Asia from the Middle East to South China. It lives in well-wooded regions. There is only one record of an individual owl being spotted in the Western Hemisphere in Alaska in 2007.
Bird experts in the national capital say the year ended on a good note for birders, with a variety of rare species showing up in the forests in Delhi NCR.
“We can say that 2016 was the year of thrushes, as lots of them showed up including sightings of the Song Thrush, that was spotted on December 12 and 14 at the Manger Bani forest in Gurgaon. That was only the third sighting of the bird in India,” said Professor Prakash.
The Aravalli ridge forests saw other thrush cousins such as Scaly Dark Throated Thrush, Orange Headed Thrush, Blue Rock and Blue-Capped Rock Thrush.
Dhanauri wetlands in Greater Noida and Manger were the most favorable birding habitats throughout the year, as most of the new and rare birds were reported from these two areas.
However, most experts believe that sightings of rarer species were not due Delhi’s habitat becoming more conducive for these birds, rather due to more people taking to birding with modern technology. “Also, various small groups monitor specific areas regularly and report their new sightings on various social media groups,” he said.
Hot birding spots in 2016
Yamuna Biodiversity Park’s (YBP) Phase ll wetlands: Stoliczka Bushchat and Grey-Headed Lapwing spotted in November last year
Okhla Bird Sanctuary over River Yamuna and Sultanpur National Park: Whistlers warblers, Blue capped rock thrush, Brown breasted flycatcher and Orange breasted Pigeon, Forest wagtail, Pallid scops owl, Griffon vulture and Oriental pied hornbill were spotted here
Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary: Grey-winged black bird, Pallid scops owl and Large Cuckoo shrike were sighted
Aravalli Biodiversity Park: Spotted flycatcher and two new woodpeckers: a streaked woodpecker from Asola and Brown capped pigmy woodpecker from Manger
Basai wetlands, Gurgaon: Grey plover
Suburban bird sightings last year
Greater Racket Tail drongo was seen
Great Pied Hornbill
Yellow legged button quail