New Delhi is a huge city of over 21 million souls. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “intense.” The colors dazzle, the horns blare, and the food can sear your taste buds. We were there in early November, when farmers in the surrounding states burn their fields. The air was thicker than pea soup, visibility could be measured in tens of feet, and schools and factories were closed. I only had a few days to explore, while Pete was in meetings, so of course I went birding. Breathing is highly overrated.
Having walked for hours through the Oklah Bird Sanctuary the day before, my 20-year-old companion and I were hoping for more convenient location closer to downtown and our afternoon meetings. Someone suggested Lodhi Gardens, so off we went.
Lodhi Gardens was a surprise; I didn’t expect to see so 90 acres of greenery so close to downtown New Delhi. Being Saturday, the park was filled with people enjoying the flower beds and ponds, taking photos of the ancient tombs and other structures, and practicing yoga on the expansive lawns. In addition to being a protected archeological site, the gardens are a nature preserve, with signs identifying the birds (some incorrectly) and butterflies and explaining how to “go green.”
Along with some other structures, the gardens contain four tombs from the 15th and 16th centuries—those of Mohammed Shah, Sikandar Lodi, Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad, all leaders of the Lodi dynasty, which ruled much of northern India and Pakistan from 1451 to 1526.
Delhi is home to a thriving population of Rock Pigeons, House Crows (below, left), and Common Mynas (below, right). I had to laugh when my new friend explained that before meeting me, she thought those were the only species to be found in the city. I’m happy to report that there’s more diversity than a non-birder would realize.
For example, a substantial flock of Black Kites soared overhead, filled the branches of the taller trees, and picked through trash on the ground searching for anything edible. They fill the same niche as vultures in providing an essential clean-up service.
Another easy-to-find bird was the Large Grey Babbler. They rummaged through the grass and leaf litter much like an American Robin, climbed tree trunks looking for bugs, and sorted through the leaves high in the treetops.
I happily searched for birds, taking photos for later ID confirmation. Photos are a huge help when birding an unfamiliar area, and they helped me identify both this Asian Kohl and this fast-flying Glossy Ibis.
It wasn’t all birds; we enjoyed the antics of these Indian Palm Squirrels.
I recognized the Whiskered Bulbul from our time in Australia, where it has naturalized after escaping captivity. It was strange to see a Eurasian Collared-dove since I’ve gotten so used to them at home in Colorado. Here both of these birds were in their native habitat.
I had a bit more trouble identifying the large, green parrot-like birds crawling through the crenulated tombs. After much deliberation, with frequent reference to my photos, I decided they’re Rose-ringed Parakeets, but I’m open to correction. To further confuse the issue, I also saw what I’m sure is an Alexandrine Parakeet sitting in a tree (bottom).
As we walked back through the courtyards, we came to a small man-made pond, the remains of a canal that brought water from the nearby Yamuna River. The “exotic” geese turned out to be domestics, but a few wild birds were also present. An Indian Cormorant rested on some pipes while a Little Egret hunted along the edge of the water. An ever-hopeful White-throated Kingfisher kept watch from a nearby tree branch.
We were getting ready to leave when I spotted one more bird high in a tree. Could it be? Yes—an Indian Grey Hornbill! I had hoped to see a hornbill but somehow it seemed impossible for one to randomly land in front of me—yet here it was.
It was time to grab some lunch and meet up with my husband at the conference we were attending. My eyes were burning and my throat was sore, and I was looking forward to the indoor air conditioning. The next day we were scheduled to fly south to Hyderabad, and another chance to go birding in India.