Flying over a calm winter Yamuna, the gulls produced sounds of immense diversity. While some were nothing more than harsh, irregular chack-chacks and some resembled a cat’s purring, other calls sounded a lot like human laughter. As if the entire white-vested platoon was guffawing at some great absurdity of life! Our early-morning guide classified the calls as the “drawn-out peeeeeer,” “hoarse kra-ah,” “deeper kuke,” and “nasal gagaga.” As one of them called out, the entire lot responded with an increasingly intense orchestra of ‘laughter,’ and soon, our flock of eight odd gull-watching humans joined the cackle.
This scene was playing out not at some far-flung exotic birding destination, but within the city limits of our smoggy Indian capital. Wazirabad or Yamuna Khadar in Delhi, popular among local birders, bears witness to the section of the river where it is at its cleanest. One can easily travel there from any part of the city, preferably between 6-9 a.m. or 4-6 p.m., and pick a vantage point to witness—nay, partake in—this off-key laughter club.
As with any interaction with nature, the only way to do it is to be mindful of not taking up more space than absolutely required. Don’t visit in large groups; remember to not litter the waterfront; and maintain chink-proof silence, so the gulls can be the only ones to break it. You won’t regret it.
Wazirabad is 17-20 km from the city centre. Best months to go gull-spotting are October-March. You can go alone or with one of the many city-based birding groups.
‘How to Travel Better in 2021’ is a comprehensive list of Indian destinations worth exploring in the coming year, and has been reported by the editors and contributing writers of National Geographic Traveller India. Read all the entries on our digital forum or new National Geographic Travell India app here.