More water birds spotted at Himchal’s Pong Dam in 2018-19 —

Common or Eurasian coot and Common pochard; (pix SShukla); Chandigarh; (Decemeber 2013) (5) (small file)There has been an increase in water birds – resident and migratory – at Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam wetland with 5,026 more from the avian species being spotted in 2018-19 over the previous year, wildlife officials said.

The wetland areas of the dam is home to 29 species of resident waterfowls and is a stopover for 62 types of migratory waterfowls from regions in Russia, Central Asia and Tibet. The count of these birds was recorded at 1,10,203 in 2017-18, they said.

The increase was found in the annual waterfowl estimation exercise for monitoring the numerical size of bird’s population during 2018-19 at the wetland, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PPCF)-cum-Chief Wild Life Warden, Himachal Pradesh, Savita, said.

“The survey recorded 1,15,229 birds of 103 different species at Pong Dam Lake this year (for 2018-19), this includes 1,04,230 migratory waterfowls of 58 species, 10,231 resident water birds of 29 species and 768 birds of 16 other local species,” the wildlife official said.

Experts from various organisations and state officials participated in the survey. The area was divided into 26 sections and about 110 persons participated in the exercise. Each section was thoroughly traversed on land and water by a team of three to six members, she said.

The overall sighting of water birds is expected to increase when the migratory ones on their return journey to Russia, Tibet and regions of Central Asia make a stop at the dam’s wetland area, the PCCF said.

They fly back to their breeding grounds from North-West, Central and South India, she said.

The dam, about 100 kms from Dharamshsala, is known as Pong Reservoir, Pong Dam Lake and the Maharana Pratap Sagar. It was created in 1975, by building the highest earth fill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Shivalik hills.

The dam is a well-known wildlife sanctuary and one of the 26 international wetland sites declared in India by the Ramsar Convention. The reservoir covers an area of 60,610 acres, and the wetland portion is 38,700 acres.

“Over the last few years, the Pong Dam area and the Ramsar site have become ideal destinations for winter sojourn for many species of migratory birds,” the PCCF said.

Savita said though four species of migratory waterfowls – mew gull, water rail, ruff and godwit – could not be seen this year, there were sightings of the great crested grebes, red crested pochards, ferruginous pochards, mallards, tufted ducks, Eurasian spoonbills, curlew sandpipers and species of larks and pipits.

In general, 425 species of birds, including terrestrial and summer migrant birds, have been sighted at the Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary. The birds are drawn to the area as it provides varied habitats and food, she said.

The intervention done and protection extended by wildlife staff and active involvement of local communities are also reasons of the wetland area turning into a haven for these birds, Savita said.

She said the dominant species are the bar headed geese (29443), northern pintails (17934), common pochards (17742), Eurasian coots (16313), common teals (7918), great cormorants (5600), Eurasian wigeons (1481), gadwals (1408), greylag geese (1249) and ruddy shelducks (1164).

Other uncommon bird species recorded during the survey are the common shelducks (52), northern lapwings (39), common mergansers(31), greater white-fronted geese (24), water pipits(22), pied avocets (6), ospreys (5), black-bellied terns(2), sarus cranes (4), Eurasian curlews (2) and white-tailed lapwings (2).

One each of the lesser white-fronted goose, common ringed plover and hen harrier species were also spotted, Savita said. (Press Trust of India)

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