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1.23 lakh migratory birds recorded at Pong Dam lake this year

 

The bird census at the Pong Dam wetland has revealed that 1.23 lakh birds arrived this year. The census was conducted on January 31 and February 1. The Wildlife Welfare of India, the World Wildlife Federation, the Chandigarh Bird Club, the Delhi Bird Club and other wildlife activists took part in this annual exercise.

Members of the team were imparted special training for counting migratory birds.

The birds had been coloured and fitted with transmitters last month. Assistant Wildlife Conservator DS Dadwal said the lake was divided into 23 sections and 80 persons participated in the census.

He said participants were divided into groups of between three and five persons and sent to various parts of the lake to conduct the census. He said as per the data collected, it was found that about 1.23 lakh migratory birds arrived at the lake this year.

Bar-headed geese coming from Tibet and Mongolia dominated the number of migratory birds. It was found that about 34,000 bar-headed geese arrived this year, which was the highest number of the species in the entire country. Scientists had attached radio transmitters to the geese last year to track the migratory routes. A few birds that were ringed last year returned this year.

Other bird varieties recorded in the census included the northern pintail (21,000), the common coot (14,000), the common pochard (12,000), the tufted pochard (8,000), the little cormorant (7,700), the common teal (6,800), the common shelduck (35), the ruddy breasted trake (1), the grey legged goose (50), the red crested pochard (110), the white fronted goose (60), the sarus crane (7) and the osprey (7).

Among the birds of prey following migratory birds, five western marsh harriers and a variety of falcons were also recorded. Last year, 1.19 lakh migratory birds were recorded at the Pong Dam lake. This year, there was a marginal increase in their number.

Principal Conservator of Forests-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden SB Islam confirmed that 1.23 lakh foreign migratory birds of 113 species visited the lake this year. He said a pair of whooper swans was spotted at the lake after a gap of 113 years.

He said it was earlier recorded by General Osborne near Talwara in Punjab in January 1900 and there was no record of this exotic bird in the country after that. He said the birds migrated from their breeding areas in the trans-Himalayan region in Tibet, Central Asia, Russia and Siberia.

The Pong Dam lake, a man-made wetland, was declared as an international wetland during the Ramsar convention.

Over the years, the calm and quiet waters had provided an ideal habitat for migratory birds during winter. Many birds had made the lake their permanent habitat.

Encroachment along the lake by local residents poses a threat to migratory birds. Local residents grow crops on the banks of the lake when water recedes during winter. Migratory birds feed on these crops and farmers sometimes poison those to save their crops.

Wildlife authorities and the Fisheries Department are at loggerheads over fishing in the lake. While wildlife authorities maintain that fishing should not be allowed, the Fisheries Department auctions the fish wealth of the lake every year and issues licences to local residents to fish in the lake.

 

The Tribune (03-02-2013)