Birding in a metro

- April 18, 2022
| By : Patriot Bureau |

In the rapidly growing Noida, lies a green spot of solitude for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, where one can discover several joyful, chirpy birds.

Celestial Garden, Noida Biodiversity Park. Credit - Ambica Gulati

As the breeze rustled my hair, I gaped at the parrots partying on top of the tall eucalyptus trees. How I wish I had a giraffe’s neck to enjoy a close view of the party! I think the parrots knew that my pitiful human figure could not come close and they paid no attention to my curious gaze. 

Now, I had to buy a good pair of binoculars. My wish list has been growing since I started realising the power of a green world. For long, common birds like the parrot have been limited to my digital world. But now, the power of the greens has turned me into an avian lover. 

I could hear the parrots chatter as I continued my daily walk in Noida Biodiversity Park – the biggest park to my knowledge in the city.  The lush greens of the park opened amid the silence of the pandemic in 2020, becoming the lungs of this skyscraper laden concrete jungle. 

My daily walk in this 75 acres of greenery is about reconnecting with myself and finding some fresh air and enjoying an hour with winged friends. Green belts and spaces are like ether; they rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. 

This is my 30th year in Noida and I have seen it change from a dusty, nonchalant, boring town to a busy metropolis with haphazard growth, unlike many cities abroad which are beautiful – such as Sharjah in UAE. In the 1990s, at the city’s entrance was a heavenly park with fountains. A cool breeze hit us when we crossed the Delhi border near Mayur Vihar. 

This park was a favourite with the residents as it had a slightly wooded area. Weekends were about picnics and walkers loved the morning with birds and trees. Peacocks could be spotted. But then, the park became the ticketed Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal in 2001. 

Bird in flight
Credit – Jivitesh Singh

The birds from the neighbouring Okhla Bird Sanctuary began to vanish and the peacocks were no longer seen. There were no more morning walkers or Sunday picnics. The memorial wears a desolate look. 

Scientists have long been warning us of rapid and rampant urban development leading to depleting flora and fauna, and climate change. So, while the old parts of Noida are crowded and busy, the communities along the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway offer some respite. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find sunbirds, doves, robins, sparrows, kingfishers, and butterflies when I moved to this part of the city four years back. The pandemic was a blissful time for these winged ones—every morning they would chirp, and their chirps did not get lost in the noise of cars and humans. And then, I discovered Noida Biodiversity Park in 2021.  

I am amazed to find a murder of crows living here. With concrete replacing greens, even the ugly black crow with its shrill ‘caw caw’ seems like a novelty. Their home is a tree in one corner. Their routine is eating and making merry with the families coming for picnics on the weekends. On a hot evening, I see them playing in the pools of water that are formed by the water pipes. And here I am thinking this creature is on the verge of extinction. 

I saw crows daily during my childhood. I was warned to keep my food in a safe place during lunch at school or the crow would take it. And four decades later, I smile as I see this bird famous for being a thief. 

As I enjoy my 2.5 km walk daily, I see hoopoes with their distinct feathered crown. I gasp as I spot a peacock that runs away from me. I spot sunbirds of all colours and I revel in the colours of the floral beds. My favourite spot here is the bamboo garden where I walk barefoot. 

Another spot I really like spending time in is the wooded area with eucalyptus trees, home to the eagles and kites. Egrets hop along with me, as butterflies flit around. There are coucals too. It seems the avian beings have begun to find a new home, and I hope no one disturbs their world. 

A rosy pelican swims across the lake
Credit – Prasanna Bhat

With dedicated walkways and cycle tracks, the park is popular with walkers from the neighbouring societies also. Amid the many skyscrapers that are found along the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway, this one big park is a soothing realm of birds, butterflies and flora.  

There are two water bodies spread over an area of two acres each and an open-air theatre. There is also a celestial garden here with information about the planets, the nakshatras, and even trees related to the planets. A 35-acre medicinal park is also being developed in the vicinity. A super cool musical fountain show unfolded a colourful journey of Ayurveda during the latter part of 2020, but only for a few weeks. 

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

For city dwellers, birds, flora and fauna are a fascinating experience. Even though the Okhla Bird Sanctuary has seen a depletion of migratory birds, it is still popular with nature lovers. A business technologist and an IIM Bangalore alumni, hobbyist, wildlife and nature photographer, Prasanna Bhat loves his visit to the sanctuary. 

“Birds represent freedom, aspirations, and dreams. A couple of years while travelling in the Delhi Metro,  I saw a metro station named ‘Okhla Bird Sanctuary’. So, when I travelled to Noida in March 2022, I stayed close to the sanctuary and planned a visit. I have also visited Noida Biodiversity Park and Botanical Garden”, he says.

Bhat spotted migratory and resident birds–Rosy Pelican, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Garganey, Brown shrike, Citrine wagtail, Black-winged Stilt, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Pied Starling, Black Redstart, Greater Coucal, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Little Grebe, Sandpipers, Large grey Babbler, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Red-wattled Lapwing, Red-Whiskered bulbul, Indian Peafowl, Marsh Harrier, Pied Bushchat and more in a span of three hours.

The brown shrike
Credit: Prasanna Bhat

To Simarjeet Chadha, a cost accountant who lives in Noida, birding happened by chance. “A couple of years back, I went for a bird walk that was organized by the India Habitat Centre, along with my son, to the Yamuna Biodiversity Park. It was sheer fun to observe the feathered friends. Okhla Bird Sanctuary, roughly four square kilometers, is extremely rich in bird life. I have seen a wide variety of birds there such as Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Red Crested Pochard, Coppersmith Barbet, Brown-headed Barbet, Green Bee-eater, Asian Koel, Spotted Owlet, Common Sandpiper, Common Coot, Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Shikra, Common Buzzard, Great Cormorant, Painted Stork, Rufous Treepie, Indian Silverbill, Scaly breasted Munia and more”, she says.

During the lockdown, Chadha spent her days observing birds from her balcony, spotting a pair of Indian Grey Hornbills, Purple Sunbird, Red-vented Bulbul, Coppersmith Barbet, Rufous Treepie, Indian White Eye, Common Tailor Bird, Common Mynah, Black Drongo, even the house sparrow and many more.

Catch Them Young

The love for nature is best inculcated at a young age. Dr Vikram Singh is a wildlife enthusiast and spreads awareness about saving the birds and conserving nature. “Being in nature is good for physical and mental health. My 15-year-old son, Jivitesh Singh, became the youngest wildlife photographer at the age of 11 and started photography at the age of 4. Some of his photographs have been displayed at the Home Ministry too. He was also invited as a speaker at the Indraprastha University on World Photography Day.” The father and son duo gift the photographs to many people and clubs to spread awareness about the feathered ones. 

So, have you discovered your green neighbourhood?

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