Where birders like me from Delhi can go and see rare cranes and more

The petite bird was spotted in Dhanauri, a bird-watching hotspot about 50km from Delhi.

 |  3-minute read |   22-04-2016
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At nine in the morning, the sun was already blazing down and the birders were ready to call it a day when they saw something petite and white from the corners of their eyes. For a moment they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Unwilling to trust their own eyes, they blamed it on the heat.

But then they reminded themselves that they were in Dhanauri, a recently-discovered wetland, and a birding hotspot. How could they go without identifying the species?

After a few moments, the possibility of what they might be witnessing dawned upon them. It was then that the cameras were taken out and the birding book hastily flipped, and everyone forgot about the heat.

Flipping through pages and pages, the bird was finally ID'ed as the magnificent Demoiselle Crane. Dhanauri, yet again, had put its best "birding" foot forward.

bird-bd_042116090609.jpg The petite Demoiselle among a flock of larger cranes. (Image: Jaswinder Waraich)

A group of birders from east Delhi and Noida, also a part of the East Delhi Birding (EDB) group, were delighted to find this single Demoiselle Crane in the sarus haven for Dhanauri near Greater Noida. This lone Demoiselle Crane was observed feeding with a large flock of non-migratory sarus cranes, which are more than double the size of a Demoiselle. It is not clear how or when this sociable bird got separated from its flock.

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Demoiselle is named so for its delicate and maiden-like appearance. This migratory crane is a winter visitor to India, mainly to the western part of the country. It is a rare find in Delhi-NCR but has been spotted here in the past too.

Visiting Dhanauri is like walking into a fairy tale - witnessing nature in all its opulence, with an abundance of awe-inspiring birds, the kind only seen in a Disney movie. A haven for sarus cranes, it was discovered recently as a good location for bird-watching by a group of Delhi birders.

Located about 50km from Delhi, it is home to the sarus, and a few migratory birds, including the European Roller, Northern Lapwing, Bristled Grassbird, Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Desert Wheatear.

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It is a raptor kingdom too and bird-watchers have spotted the Bonelli's Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle and Peregrine Falcon in the past.

Jaswinder Waraich from the EDB spotted the Demoiselle and is both puzzled and amused with the discovery.

According to him: "I was quite puzzled because in the group of towering sarus cranes, you had a petite bird moving around, maybe as tall as their legs. The cranes were about 200 metres away, roughly. I kept looking at the smaller bird through my binoculars, making mental notes about its features. Two of my fellow birders, Arshad and Shiv, were busy setting up their video equipments, while our fourth mate, Sunil was scanning a different area. The bird in focus was neither a spoonbill, nor a heron, nor an egret or an ibis. So what could it be? And then it struck me. Could it be a Demoiselle crane? I had only seen pictures of them and this bird resembled the one shown in the guide too.

"So I turned around to Arshad who is an experienced birder and politely asked him to take a look if there was a Demoiselle ahead. He was busy with his video and I got no reaction from him. Excited and frustrated, I rudely shook his hand, pointed out the location to him and literally planted the binoculars on his eyes. He took one look at the bird and then at me. We looked at each other in disbelief and then there was jubilation all around. After that we hugged, shook hands and quietly celebrated what we knew was a very special sighting. Whatever be the reason for him being stranded in Dhanauri, we hope and pray that this beautiful bird makes it through the harsh summer."


Amrita Talwar Amrita Talwar @amritatalwar

The writer is a bird watcher and a travel freak, who prefers offbeat locations. At present, she handles pr and marketing at a publishing house.

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