Pong wetlands hosting over 100,000 feathered guests (Feb 2 is World Wetlands Day)

February 2nd, 2012 - 3:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh), Feb 2 (IANS) Over 100,000 feathered guests of 103 species are holidaying in Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam wetlands and among them falcated duck, the silvery plumage species predominantly found in China, has been spotted for the first time.

During the two-day census of waterfowl species — birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding — that concluded Wednesday, 119,500 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in northern India.

Sanjeeva Pandey, the state’s chief conservator of forests, told IANS that the largest influx is of the bar-headed goose (25,000), common coot (17,750), northern pintail (13,200), common pochard (10,200), tufted pochard (7,600), common teal (7,400) and little cormorant (6,800).

Pied avocet (12) - a wading bird species - has been recorded for the second successive year. The common shelduck (30), rarely seen in the country, is also seen. The falcated duck, the silvery plumage species predominantly found in China, has been spotted at Pong for the first time.

The other prominent species are the great-crested grebe, greylag goose, red-crested pochard, ferruginous pochard, common merganser, Eurasian spoonbill, greater white-fronted goose, garganey, sarus crane, western marsh harrier and osprey.

Pong wetlands, spread over an area of 307 sq km in the Kangra Valley, have the distinction of being one of the important winter grounds for local and migratory species.

The influx of birds can be seen at swamps near Nagrota Suriyan, Budladha and Sansarpur Terrace.

This year’s bird count is 12,500 less than last year’s count of 132,000.

Range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal attributed the decline to harsh winter during January.

“Some of the species of ducks have migrated to nearby wetlands mainly in Punjab due to continuous rains for many days in January. In this month, they are likely to come back to Pong,” he said.

The Pong wetlands are also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank myna, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.

During the census in 2010, 144,000 waterfowl of 91 species were recorded here as compared to 95,000 birds of 89 species in 2009.

The Pong wetlands occupy an area of at least 18,000 hectares and extend up to 30,000 hectares in the peak monsoon season. An area of about 20,000 hectares within a radius of five km has been notified as a buffer zone dedicated to wildlife.

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

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