Winters in Delhi call for donning multiple layers and cosying up with tea and pakodas. The grey skies refuse to offer any excitement in the bustling city. There's one highlight. The winters bring our migratory feathered friends to our shores. Bird-watchers are on high alert as the winter months are the ideal season to bust out the binoculars and set out to catch a glimpse of rare birds. If the pollution in the city is obstructing your vision, just change locations. There are many areas around Delhi that act as perfect getaways for a memorable birding experience. Here are 6 places you can visit this winter if you are an avid bird-watcher:
Corbett National Park
Distance from Delhi: 5 hours by car
Tigers are undoubtedly the prime attraction of Corbett National Park. However, the area is home to a colourful palette of wildlife that is less explored. In fact, there are birds aplenty including cinereous vultures, rosy minivets, spot-bellied eagle owls and lesser fish eagles, among many others. Rich in its avifauna, Corbett houses around 600 species of Indian and migratory birds. You can find night birds, water birds, grassland birds and also woodland birds. Beyond birding, you can also visit the various other landmarks of the national park.
Sandi Bird Sanctuary
Distance from Delhi: A little over 7 hours by car
Some may know this place by its ancient name ‘Dahar Jheel’. Located merely a kilometre from Sandi town in Uttar Pradesh, the area was protected in 1990 for its aquatic vegetation and migratory birds. It is ideal to visit in the winter months for optimum spotting. Catch a glimpse of the purple heron, black drongo, common moorhen or the black-necked stork here. In fact, it shouldn’t be surprising if you are greeted by migratory birds even on your way to the bird sanctuary. The place has become a tourist attraction and also hosted rare species like the Siberian white crane in the past.
Surajpur Wetland and Natural Forest
Distance from Delhi: 2 hours by car
This option is ideal for birdwatchers who are too impatient to spend too much time in a car. Just a couple of hours are all you need to reach Surajpur Wetland and Natural Forest in Greater Noida. It is a birder’s paradise amidst a concrete jungle. You can spot a red-crested pochard, greylag goose or gadwall among its recorded avifauna population of 82 water birds, 99 woodland birds and 49 grassland birds. Winters also bring a flurry of migratory birds. Additionally, you get the bonus of spotting butterflies and reptiles as well.
Distance from Delhi: A little over 7 hours from Delhi
If quiet atmosphere is something you seek, the 7 hours to Pangot in Uttarakhand are worth it. The place is left natural, except only selected stores and residential structures. In fact, it might impress you to know that many of the houses were built with an additional space left for nests. The land (more specifically, the air) boasts 250 species of avifauna. You can spot six varieties of paridae, better known in the area as tit birds. You are spoilt for choice with multiple trails for you to embark. Oriental turtle doves, various kinds of woodpeckers, plum headed parakeets and spotted owls are only a fraction of the bird variety that will give you company here.
Distance from Delhi: A little over 8 hours by car
What was once constructed on the Beas river to generate hydroelectricity soon became a birder’s paradise. Pong dam in Himachal Pradesh was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1986. Home to over 220 species of bird, the reservoir lends you unforgettable views of bar-headed geese, black-headed gulls, black stors and red-necked grebe, among others. Over 1,00,000 water birds are known to migrate to the reservoir in the winter months. The area attracts birdwatchers from around the country and also offers a fair range of water sports in which one can partake. These include kayaking and water skiing.
Bhindawas Bird Sanctuary
Distance from Delhi: 2 hours and 30 minutes by car
The newbie, Bhindawas Bird Sanctuary was established only a decade ago in 2009. That being said, the area is no less memorable in the experience it offers. The same is a manmade wetland. Over 250 species are known to migrate to the sanctuary throughout the year. Like the others, winters record peak numbers here. Interestingly, the sanctuary allows for vehicles 12 kilometres in, eliminating the need to walk around. White-throated kingfishers, blue peafowl, little grebes and spotted owlets can be seen here.