On 8 Jan 2018, the Centre for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES) received a group of enthusiastic students from Loras College, Dubuque who were here as part of a ‘study abroad’ course titled “Sustainable India: The interface of nature, economy and society”. During this tour, they are visiting Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Bharatpur as part of this course.
At Dheerpur Wetland Park (DWP)
The day began with the students paying a brief visit to Ambedkar University Delhi, after which, the CUES team accompanied the students to the DWP project site. At 11 a.m. the students reached the site by bus from Ambedkar University Delhi where they were welcomed by the CUES team. There was an introductory session on the history of the Yamuna Floodplains and the restoration project of the Dheerpur Wetlands. The first half of the visit was spent at DWP spotting birds with the CUES Research Team – Ajay, Amit, Sonali and Vijayalakshmi, and planting indigenous plant species with Shashank and Vipin in the park area.
Fortunately being a sunny day, even though we were a little late for birding, the group managed to spot several species of avifauna like the Green Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis), Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola), Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus), Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus), White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), Common Lark (Alaudidae), Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Silverbill (Euodice malabarica), Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus), Sandpiper (Scolopacidae), Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). Next up was the plantation drive by Loras’s students, where they planted saplings of Indian native plant species like Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) and Jamun (Syzygium cumini). The students engaged in discussions with the research team on everyday realities of the restoration project, and challenges faced by the team in operationalising various facets of the project.
After lunch, the team headed to Sanjay Van for a nature walk and session on ‘forests in the city’.
At Sanjay Van Reserve Forest
After lunch at the DWP, the group took a bus to Sanjay Van to learn about how the presence of a ‘forest’ in the heart of this megacity also creates contestations of on rights to nature in the city. The group assembled at the Aruna Asaf Ali entry gate where they spotted a wandering feral pig and several Warblers on their way to the Sanjay Van watch-tower. The watchtower offered them a skyline view of south Delhi of the major institutions/residential colonies and monuments like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Qutub Minar, Bhul Bhulaiya and Kishangarh residential colony. Besides infrastructure, view of the canopy of the forest and a few faunal species like Peacock-Peahen and Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) were spotted from the watchtower. Later on way to the Neela Hauz lake (restored water body) within Sanjay Van, we spotted a male Nilgai (Blue Bull) which is the largest Asian antelope and the only antelope found in Delhi.
The treatment tanks and wetlands inside Sanjay Van were also good spots for birding where we spotted waterbirds like Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra), White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). On reaching the recently restored Neela Haus lake, our last stop, we saw a large assemblage of Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and Spot-billed Ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha) and a few White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) in the backdrop of a scenic sunset down the city horizon.