Saturday 3 August 2013

Kalindi Kunj, New Delhi, August 2013

Went birding, had curry. ‘Nuff said.

A typical day in New Delhi during the monsoon is likely to involve intense rain at some point. The sky was overcast, but the clouds didn’t look too heavy as we arrived, so I grabbed a cab straight away and took a drive out to Kalindi Kunj while it was still dry.

There is a hooked spit that is built upstream of the bridge over the Jamuna River at Google Earth ref; 28 32 57N 77 18 56E. It must have been built with a specific purpose in mind, but I have no idea what that purpose might have been. It has stone clad banks and steps by the bridge which give access to the waters of this Ganges tributary.
The bridge marks the border between New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh (UP). Taxi drivers will be charged a toll and a border tax for crossing, so they are understandably reticent to drop you at the hook spit. I was dropped on the Delhi side and had to walk half-way across the bridge to get there. In the distance upstream I could see a feeding throng of Great White Pelicans, Greater Flamingos and Painted Storks.

Indian Pond Herons stood on the bridge supports and amongst the mats of floating weed. The river was flowing quickly from the rains, but the levels are managed by a set of barrages under the bridge.

It took about 15 minutes to walk to the spit and the madness of the traffic on the bridge faded quickly behind me as I looked out across the river. A movement caught my attention  and I looked down to see a Three-striped Palm Squirrel facing down a young Shikra. I clumsily reached for my camera and broke the spell. With less to lose, the sparrow hawk blinked first and flew off leaving the squirrel puffed and pumped. It alighted not too far off and was still available for a picture, but a good chance had been missed.

The steps by the bridge lead down to the water’s edge where the floating weeds got caught up in the bankside vegetation. A Purple Swamphen looked up from the weeds and a Lesser Coucal peered out from the reeds. Delhi is very close to the edge of the Lesser Coucal’s range, but fits well with the Greater Coucal’s distribution. I only got a very brief look at the bird, but decided to go with Lesser as they prefer damper conditions in my experience.

River Terns and Whiskered Terns patrolled the river. I took a decision for Whiskered despite their status as a winter visitor. On the first day of August, the more likely sternid should have been the resident Black-bellied Tern, but I preferred the markings of the Whiskered.

A mud path runs the length of the spit though it was stitched closed by spiders’webbing today. Obviously no-one had been along the path for a while except for a family of Common Mongooses which leave their footprints on soft parts of the path and must pass beneath the silk strands.

A pair of Jungle Babblers looked down from a high branch, but soon lost interest and turned their attention back to each other.

Further along the spit, the trees become taller and come together overhead to form an arch and the feeling of being in a leafy cavern. The view out onto the river is blocked by the foliage and the House Crows had gathered to berate me. At first I thought that the crows were mobbing another Shikra that had just flown in, but they followed me for the rest of the walk and drowned out any other sounds with their cawing.

I wanted to get a closer look at the pelicans that I had seen from the bridge and had to clamber down the overgrown bank to find a viewpoint. A White-breasted Kingfisher perched on a snag surrounded by floating mats of weed. Stakes and posts had been driven into the riverbed and the mats were catching on them and forming larger rafts. The stakes may have been installed for just this reason, or perhaps they were to anchor fishing nets. The river is very polluted, but recent initiatives have been ordered to try to clean it up. Judging by the fishing activity below the bridge, there is still plenty to catch.

The birds appeared to be actively feeding. The Great White Pelicans formed a flotilla and corralled fish into a tight shoal before plunging their beaks in to scoop some up. The Greater Flamingos sieved as they moved slowly and quietly along.

A Common Tailorbird sang for me as I returned to the start of the spit.
Back on the bridge, I crossed the traffic and took a look downstream. The sandbanks move around and had migrated downstream compared to my last visit. I wanted to see if any River Lapwings might be found, but the small Vanellus shapes were too distant to identify.

Back on the Delhi shore, I found that it was possible to cut along the bank and followed it downstream hoping to get a closer look. It looks as if the Metro is extending its influence to here as a boarded work-site seems to indicate. Unfinished pilings in the water suggest that it may eventually even cross the river.

As I got closer, it became clear that the distant shapes were those of the sought after River Lapwing and I was also able to add Red-wattled Lapwing and Ashy Prinia before heading back to the road.

Birds seen; 34

Indian Spot-billed Duck 40, Greater Flamingo 45, Painted Stork 16, Great White Pelican 18, Grey Heron 1, Purple Heron 10, Cattle Egret 8, Indian Pond Heron 20, Black-crowned Night Heron 2, Red-naped Ibis 3, Black Kite 15, Shikra 2, White-breasted Waterhen 2, Purple Swamphen 2, River Lapwing 6, Red-wattled Lapwing 5, Whiskered Tern 10, River Tern 30, Eurasian Collared Dove 2, Lesser Coucal 1, White-throated Kingfisher 2, Green Bee-eater 8, Indian Roller 1, Black Drongo 2, House Crow 60, Red-vented Bulbul1, Common Tailorbird 1, Yellow-bellied Prinia 1, Ashy Prinia 1, Jungle Babbler 2, Bank Myna 30, Common Myna 40, Asian Pied Starling 2, Purple Sunbird 4. 

Taxi (around IR300) or private car is the only way for a visitor to Delhi to get to the bridge at the moment, though the Metro may reach there in the future. To return, it may be worth considering asking the driver to wait for you.

Taxis do not cross the bridge without a fare, so the ones coming in my direction were all full and there were not many punters who wanted to be dropped at the end of the bridge. There is a car park where tuk-tuks gather (upstream of the bridge on the Delhi side at Google Earth ref;  28 32 45.46N 77 18 26.46E), but I had difficulty finding a driver that knew the way back to my hotel and the one who did, demanded three times the price for the outbound journey in an air-conditioned car!

For a previous post from Kalindi Kunj, follow the link below;

Visit the dedicated India Page for more posts from Delhi including Tughluqabad Fort and Sultanpur.


  1. I nearly always enjoy reading your posts, and this is no exception. You certainly make the most of your time in the different places your job takes you to.

    It's amazing that there is wildlife left so relatively close to the city.