On my second visit to India, this time in 1999 and again on business, we began our trip in northern India, in the capital New Delhi. Dehli is very polluted and the air is pretty poor but some good birds were seen. As expected the ambient temperature was high (for someone from the UK) averaging low 30s °C.
View from the hotel window in Delhi
We arrived at the Indira Ghandi International Airport at about midday local time and so had the opportunity to watch for birds as we were taken into the city to the hotel. First birds seen in the airport were Common Myna, House Crow and Rose-ringed Parakeet.
The terrain varied between open scrub near the airport to wooded areas and then typical cityscape. During the half an hour drive I saw loads of Black Kites (numers increasing as we got into the city), more Rose-ringed Parakeets, two Red Collared Doves, a few Spotted Doves and a Streak-breasted Swallow (near the airport).
At about 3pm a colleague and I went for a walk for about an hour. Rose-ringed Parakeets were very common as were House Crows and Black Kites. Birdwise things were a bit dull until we found a quiet road. It looked nothing special other than it was quiet. Walking down here we soon found a tree with up to seven White-rumped Vultures in it, plus a couple of Black Kites. The vultures also showed well as they flew over our heads around the nearby railway tracks. Further on I had my first Eurasian Collared-dove for India plus a close Red-vented Bulbul, a party of about six Common Babblers, a single White-breasted Kingfisher and a few Spotted Doves.
We again reached the busy streets and soon decided the quiet road was the best so retraced our steps. This was a good move! As well as seeing most of what we saw before we added a group birds comprising Common Mynas, six Brahminy Starlings and four Asian Pied Starlings. A peculiar call from a bush added a close Ashy Prinia, a bird I didn't expect to see in a city.
Two days later we were driving to the nearby town of Noida during which time I spotted Dusky Crag-martins flying around the hotel, a Black-bellied Tern over a river, two Pallid Harriers on adjoining telegraph poles and a Lesser Spotted Eagle. Wire-tailed Swallows were again seen as were the very common Black Kites and Common Mynas. Spotted Doves were quite easy to see and the dove list was boosted by a single Oriental Turtle-dove.
In 2002 I was back in Delhi and managed to spot a few interesting species around the hotel and one highlight as we drove through the south of the city. I did notice that the air quality has improved since 1999, thanks a lot to the legal requirement for all public vehicles to be powered by natural gas.
So, the birds. Nothing really surprising: Black Kite, House Crow, Common Myna, Yellow-billed Babbler, Dusky Crag-martin, Oriental Turtle-dove, White-breasted Kingfisher and Large-billed Crow. I was pleased to see a single Indian Grey Hornbill as we drove around the south of the city.