Record sighting of migratory ducks at Himachal’s Pong Dam

January 18th, 2010 - 11:25 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Jan 18 (IANS) Bird lovers can rejoice. Migratory birds in thousands have been flocking to the Pong Dam area of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh this year. A record number of around 35,000 medium-sized migratory diving ducks — or common pochards — has been sighted, officials said.

The state forest department, in association with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and WWF-India, started a three-day bird census Jan 15 at the Pong Dam reservoir, one of the largest man-made wetlands in the foothills of the Himalayas around 250 km from state capital Shimla.

“A record number of around 35,000 common pochards have been sighted in one stretch in the Pong Dam area during the bird census,” Chief Conservator of Forests Sanjeeva Pandey told IANS.

“The influx was remarkably too big. We were awestruck after seeing such a huge flock and that too in just a two-kilometre stretch,” he said.

Range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal, who was also conducting the census, said: “As we approached the area, they took flight. For a few minutes, the entire sky was covered with the flapping beauties. We also captured them on our cameras.”

He said around 8,000 common pochards were sighted last year in the Pong Dam area.

“The increase in the number of common pochards shows the area is emerging as the preferred destination of the migratory guests,” he added.

The common pochard, or Aythya ferina, is a medium-sized diving duck having a grey-and-black body and reddish head. It migrates during winter from Europe to Asia. It breeds in marshes and lakes with a water depth of a metre or more. They are gregarious birds often spotted with other diving ducks, like the tufted duck.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List Category of year 2009 - a compendium of species facing extinction - has placed the common pochard bird in the “least concern” category.

Dadwal said last year around 95,000 water birds of 89 species, both migratory and local, were recorded in the Pong Dam area during the census.

This time too the largest influx was of the bar-headed geese, coot, red-crested pochard, great cormorant, northern pintail, river tern and the spotbill duck, he added.

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

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