Himachal gets new feathery guest

January 17th, 2011 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), Jan 17 (IANS) The Pong Dam wetlands in the Kangra Valley have got a migratory guest - the pied avocet - a wading bird species that forest officials say has been spotted here for the first time.”Of course, spotting of pied avocets in Pong is a new record. Eight birds were seen roosting between Guglara and Dhameta area last week,” Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) Satish Gupta told IANS.

He said the pied avocets, a white wader with bold black markings and long black bill, could be seen in marshy areas around Dhameta.

They have covered thousands of miles from the trans-Himalayan region. With a wing-span of approximately 77-80 cm, the bird breeds in temperate Europe and western and central Asia. It migrates during winter in Africa and Asia.

Currently, the wetlands are home to more than 120,000 migratory birds of more than 85 species.

Range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal said the influx of birds can be seen in the Nagrota Suriyan, Sathana, Sansarpur Terrace and Rancer Island areas.

He said this time too, the largest influx is of bar-headed geese, coots, common pochards, pintails, cormorants and spotbill ducks.

The migrants that started to arrive in the last week of October 2010 will be here till March.

The state forest department, in association with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the World Wide Fund for Nature, India, conducted a three-day bird census during Jan 15-17, 2010, here and counted 144,000 waterfowl of 91 species.

A record number of around 35,000 medium-sized migratory diving ducks or common pochards were also recorded during the census.

The bar-headed goose, the world’s highest-altitude migrant, is a regular winter visitor here.

Chief Conservator of Forests Sanjeeva Pandey said that 40,000 bar-headed geese were recorded during the last census and that was a record in itself.

Around 23,000 and 28,160 bar-headed geese were recorded respectively in 2009 and 2008 by the wildlife department at Pong.

This year the annual three-day bird census would be conducted from Jan 29.

Built in 1976, the Pong Dam reservoir, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, is the only place in the country after the Bharatpur sanctuary in Rajasthan where the red-necked grebe descends every year.

Forest authorities in 2009 found a great cormorant that was earlier ringed in Russia.

The Pong sanctuary also supports wildlife, including barking deer, sambar, fox, boar, fishing cat, blue bull, porcupine and leopard, and a variety of reptiles.

According to a book written by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India, Handbook on Indian Wetland Birds and their Conservation, every year nearly 350 species migrate to India.

The most abundant winter migrants are ducks and geese. Both constitute about 85 percent of the population of the migratory species.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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