Man-made wetland gets winged visitors from Russia

December 19th, 2008 - 11:19 am ICT by IANS  

Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh), Dec 19 (IANS) Conservationists are thrilled to have found proof that migratory birds from Russia are visiting this man-made wetland. The change of habit brightens their chances of survival as they lose more and more of their traditional roosting sites to urbanisation.”In the first week of this month, our staff at Pong Dam reservoir found a migratory bird that was earlier ringed in Russia,” Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) S.K. Guleria told IANS.

The reservoir is one of the largest man-made wetlands in the foothills of the Himalayas. Ringing is a technique used to study the migratory habits of animals.

“It was just a chance discovery. The staff noticed a great cormorant flapping wings desperately on the surface of the reservoir. They found that the bird was trapped in the fishing net, rescued it and took it to the rescue centre. On examination, they noticed a metal ring on the left tarsus (leg) of the bird,” Guleria said.

The ring carried a number - G005111VI,MOSKWA-VEHTP-KONBUB-144480. That showed the place and the date where the bird was earlier spotted and ringed.

These bird-banding techniques help generate information on their breeding sites, migratory routes, habits and important stopovers during migration.

“It’s for the first time that we are able to scientifically prove that avian species are visiting these wetlands from Russia too,” an elated Guleria said.

The use of these man-made wetlands by migratory birds is important because many of their traditional winter nesting spots in India are now being covered by concrete. Now they have an alternative habitat which appears to be to their liking.

Range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal, who rescued the bird along with other staff, said the great cormorant injured three people during the rescue exercise.

“The bird, whose length was 35 inches with a 53-inch wingspan, was later released,” Dadwal said.

The great cormorant is a large voracious dark-coloured long-necked water bird whose eyes are equipped with crystalline lenses to adapt to the vision under water.

According to Dadwal, these days more than 70,000 migratory birds of 65 species are roosting and feeding at Pong wetlands. These included nearly 2,500 great cormorants.

The largest influx is of bar-headed goose, coot, common pochard, red-crested pochard, great cormorant, pintail duck, river tern and the spotbill duck.

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

Last year four new species - the slender-billed gull, common snipe, white-tailed lapwing and the ferruginous pochard - were recorded in the Pong area.

Bombay Natural History Society scientists ringed more than 400 migratory birds of various species here in 2004.

Himachal Pradesh, known as a storehouse of biodiversity, hosts 36 percent of India’s bird species.

Of the 1,228 species of birds that have been reported in India, 447 have been recorded in the hill state alone by the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology and Environment in its biodiversity report.

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