Fewer migratory birds make Pong Dam their home this winter —

Bar-headed goose  (pix SShukla)

Bar-headed goose (pix by SShukla) (Representative picture)

It seems the long spell of dry winter has not only upset a large section of tourists wishing to visit Himachal Pradesh (HP), but the winged guests too. The number of migratory birds visiting Pong Dam Lake, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in north India, in Kangra district of HP has gone down slightly this winter (2017-18).

During the two-day census of waterfowl species — birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding, 110,203 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, revealed divisional forest officer Krishan Kumar, who was associated with the census.

This is around 17,000 less than last year’s figure of 1.27 lakh. “Though the number of migratory birds has dipped a bit, the number of species has gone up from 94 to 107,” the DFO added.

High-altitude bird species from China, Tibet, Mongolia, Iraq and Pakistan descend at Pong wetlands every winter beginning October.

Dominant species which visit the wetland was the bar-headed geese, which is amongst the world’s highest-altitude migratory birds. The census puts the number of bar-headed geese at 34,904 against 52,000 recorded last year (2016). The bar-headed geese are regular and prominent winged guest to the Pong wetlands. A staggering 71,800 of them were recorded in 2015.

Other species that arrived in significant numbers are common coot (15,410), common pochard (11,449), and little cormorant (10,434), northern pintail (9,187), common teal (6,678) and great cormorant (5,375).

“The dip in the number might be due to weather and region experiencing insignificant snow this season,” said the official.

The census was carried out by the wildlife wing of the state forest department in collaboration with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Himachal Bird Club Asian Waterfowl Census and Wildlife Conservation Society, involving over 100 ornithologists and bird watchers.

The lake is spread over 307sqkm. It was declared a bird sanctuary in 1983, got the status of wetland of national importance in 1994 and Ramsar site status in 2002.

The average bird count here reaches 1.5 lakh and over 425 species had been recorded so far. Eighteen species of snakes and 95 species of butterflies were also recorded in the wetland. (Times of India)

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