Know the bird and count it too - at Pong wetlands

January 25th, 2011 - 12:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Jan 25 (IANS) Can you tell a bar-headed goose from a spotbilled duck? Himachal Pradesh will soon launch a unique drive to promote bird watching and count the exact number of flapping beauties at the Pong dam wetlands of Kangra Valley.The state’s forest department, in association with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wide Fund for Nature, India, is organising a two-day bird census from Jan 30 at the Pong Dam reservoir in Kangra district.

“The aim is to promote bird watching and know the exact status of species - both migratory and local - present at the Pong Dam,” Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Samir Rastogi told IANS.

He said local people, especially youth, would also be involved in the census. “This would help generate awareness not only about various bird species but also about their behaviour and habitat,” he said.

This year the department would conduct a census of waterfowl species only (birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding).

In the last census conducted during Jan 15-17, 2010, here, the forest department counted 144,000 waterfowl of 91 species.

A record number of around 35,000 medium-sized migratory diving ducks or common pochards and 40,000 bar-headed geese were also recorded during the census.

Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said 50 to 60 teams would be formed to conduct the dawn-to-dusk census. Each team has to record the time, place and number of birds and their species in the log book.

“In case of spotting of rare or new species, a team of professional bird watchers would again visit the spot to cross-check the new find,” he said. “Even ornithologists and bird watchers from anywhere in the country can join the census exercise.”

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

The largest influx is of bar-headed geese, coots, common pochards, pintails, cormorants and spotbilled ducks.

This year forest authorities have recorded the pied avocet - a wading bird species - for the first time.

With a wing-span of approximately 77-80 cm, the pied avocet breeds in temperate Europe and western and central Asia. It migrates during winter in Africa and Asia.

BNHS assistant director S. Balachandran, who is participating in the census, said the Pong wetlands were one of the magnificent spots in northern India. Every year, a sizeable number of birds from places as far as Central Asia, Russia, Poland and China visit the wetlands to avoid the extreme winters there.

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.

It’s also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

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