Chandigarh buzzes with migratory birds

December 13th, 2008 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Dec 13 (IANS) Thousands of winged visitors have come flocking to this bustling city from foreign shores. And forest officials are leaving no stone unturned to make them feel at home around the Sukhna Lake and adjoining water bodies.As many as 8,000 to 10,000 winged visitors have already arrived. The number is expected to go up to 15,000, as the biting cold climate in Siberia, China, Afghanistan and other places forces the birds to look for more hospitable abodes.

“The pleasant weather conditions and a good number of reptiles and fish in the water bodies here attract thousands of migratory birds during this season,” Ishwar Singh, Chandigarh’s conservator of forests and chief warden of wildlife, told IANS.

Migratory birds start arriving here in early November and stay till March or April, depending on the climatic conditions.

Grebes, geese, shell ducks, marsh ducks, diving ducks, rails, coots, stilts, hill kingfisher, mallard, pintail, Siberian ducks, cranes, storks and sandpipers are some of the migratory birds that come visiting every year.

These birds come from Siberia, China, Afghanistan and the Himalayan region. Hosting them is a lot of hard work.

“These birds are very sensitive in nature and usually stay away from human beings. To make the environment congenial for them, our officials make sure there is no playing of loud music or bursting of crackers in the surrounding areas as it may disturb their lifestyle,” said Singh.

“We also conduct regular checks at the places where migratory birds normally rest and breed to detect if they have any symptoms of infection and check if there is any mortality. Our officials put in their best efforts to maintain the natural surroundings and avoid any kind of littering in the area.”

There are over 190 water bodies in the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary and these wetlands provide migratory birds the perfect environment for breeding. The government of India has declared the Sukhna Lake and these water bodies a protected national wetland.

“Migratory birds have been coming to Chandigarh in winter for the last 25 years. In the last few years, we have seen an increasing number of birds like the mallard, pintail, coot and hill kingfisher gathering at the Sukhna Lake and other water bodies at the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary every year.”

“Last year over 12,000 migratory birds came here - that is a record number till date. However, this time we are expecting the number to surpass previous records. Hopefully by the end of December we will see them in full strength,” stated Singh.

Every year countless bird watchers, school students and families come here to observe bird antics and enjoy the natural beauty. On an average, around 200 visitors visit the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary every day during this season.

“To promote tourism, we have made proper watch towers and hideouts for the tourists who want to closely observe the various activities of the birds,” said Singh.

Rohit Ruhella, an environmentalist, who has been observing the arrival of these birds for the last many years, told IANS, “They travel thousands of miles for several weeks in search of more hospitable homes and reach here as the chilly cold weather in their original homes shortens the duration of daylight and harsh weather conditions and snow all around lead to the shortage of food.”

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