SUBJECT : Biodiversity

Plummeting mercury as a result of the unseasonal rains over the past two days could stretch the season for migratory birds at Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Although it is already time for most migratory birds to leave, ecologists who surveyed the sanctuary over the last few days noticed several species still present. As a result, the annual emptying of the Okhla barrage will be delayed.

"The migratory season has been stretched. It has suddenly turned cold and lots of birds are still holding out here as a result. So we requested the irrigation department not to empty the barrage yet," said K K Singh, DFO, Gautam Budh Nagar.

Migratory species that are still present in the sanctuary include bar-headed geese, grey-legged geese, northern shovelers, common teals, pochards, Eurasian widgeons, black-headed ibis, white-tailed lapwings, black-headed gulls and flamingoes, among others.

"Though March is the time when these birds begin to leave, many are staying back longer than usual, probably because the weather is cooler now. When the weather turns warmer, it would be breeding time for many species here. It is thus imperative that the Okhla barrage water is retained for some time so as not to affect the habitat," said T K Roy, ecologist.

The Okhla habitat is largely dependent on the water retained in the Yamuna river by the Okhla barrage, which is opened annually to drain water and carry out repairs. The barrage has not been opened since migratory season began in October 2014. Water was retained upon the forest department's request, to encourage more migratory birds to roost here.

Source: 3 March, 2015, The Times of India