With their homeland far north freezing under intense cold, over 34,000 migratory birds from Central Asia and the Trans-Himalayan region have descended on to the Pong Dam wetland, their home for winter.
As per the fortnightly estimation conducted by the wildlife wing of Himachal forest department, a total of 34,465 birds have been recorded at the Pong Dam till November 15. The number of species recorded is 78, of which more than 20 are migratory species.
Fifteen teams of forest officials and volunteers were deployed to conduct the census.
“Among the winged visitors who have descended on to the Pong Dam wetland in large numbers are the world’s highest-flying bird, the bar-headed goose,” said Rahul Rohane, divisional forest officer (wildlife), Hamirpur. So far, their number is estimated to be around 8,345 and will further increase as the winter advances, he added.
Amur Falcon has been spotted in the wetland after eight years. Earlier, three birds of the species were reported here in 2013. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China.
Other species having considerable population that arrived at Pong Dam wetland are Common Coot (7,127), Northern Pintail (3,621), Little Cormorant (3,130), Common Teal (2,728), Common Pochard (1,601) and Ruddy Shelduck (1,149).
The Gadwell, Spot-billed duck, Northern Shoveler, Common Moorthen, Purple Moorthen, Black-headed goose, River Tern, Tufted Pochard, Eurasian Wigeon, Black-winged stilt, brown headed gull and river lawping have also arrived in good numbers, besides and impressive number of other species,” says Rohane.
The number of the migratory birds crosses 1 lakh mark at the peak of the winter.
The birds return in March to their native land such as Siberia, China, Tibet, Mongolia and Iraq.
More than 1,08,578 birds of 96 species were counted last year at the Pong Dam Lake Wildlife sanctuary.
Of them, water dependent migratory birds were 1,01,431 of 51 species and water dependent resident birds were 6,433 of 29 species. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. Since 1988-89, more than 430 species have visited the wetland.
Alert for bird flu
The wildlife authorities have also put its teams on alert for any eventuality in case of bird flu outbreak. Rohane said no bird has been found dead in the wetland area as of now. People in the peripheral areas have been told to inform the authorities if they notice any fatality. More than 5,000 had died in Pong Lake Wetland area due to the avian influenza last year. Most of them were bar-headed geese, the bird that arrives here in maximum numbers.
Apart from it, the department has also stepped-up vigil against the poachers.