Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
To think that an extremely rare bird like an Eye-browed Thrush could be seen in the heart of an urban sprawl is unbelievable. It only becomes possible when little patches of green like Valley Park are protected and nurtured.
Even as our country’s urban sprawl engulfs surrounding wilderness like giant hundred-tentacled octopuses, there are still little pockets of paradise that hold out against the concrete invasion. These beautiful city forests have much to offer; not only to the local residents and wildlife but also to wildlife enthusiasts from afar.
One such little pocket of paradise is Green Valley Park in Navi Mumbai. This 50 hectare (1/2 sq. km.) patch of woodland is tucked away amidst a leafy street, barely half a kilometer from one of the country’s busiest highways. It is beautifully maintained by the local administration and lovingly tended by the local people, for whom this is not just a green lung but also a walker’s paradise. They also put out birdbaths from late winter, when natural sources start to dry up.
Our interest in this place stemmed from its birdlife, with this small area playing host to 40+ species of birds, both resident and migratory. Local birders have done a fantastic job in documenting species and behaviour and offering their sightings to a wider audience.
Over the years, I have made a few trips to Green Valley Park and have always come back enchanted, with sightings of Red Spurfowl, Flycatchers, Orange-headed thrush and a few warbler species. The one winter visitor that always evaded me was the Tickell’s thrush, which seemed to oblige everyone else!
In late January 2021, one of Mumbai’s leading birders spotted a rather unusual visitor at Valley Park – an Eye-browed thrush (Turdus obscurus), very uncommon even in its winter range in the North East, and probably never seen in this part of India, and definitely not recorded in recent memory.
This caused many birders to congregate at Valley Park over the next few weeks. We all squatted near the walking track and waited, much to the amusement and curiosity of the local walkers, who supported and indulged us. When a couple of friends and I visited, the Eye-browed thrush not only obliged with a grand sighting, but the trip also yielded sightings of my old adversary, the Tickell’s thrush.
To think that an extremely rare bird like the eye-browed thrush can be seen in the heart of an urban sprawl is almost unbelievable. It only becomes possible when little patches of green like Valley Park are protected and nurtured. Heartfelt thanks to the local administration, residents and birders, who not only do a wonderful job of keeping it going but also open up their little piece of paradise to visitors like us.