PONG DAM - With the lengthening of daylight hours, thousands of migratory birds have left this wetland in Himachal Pradesh for their summer habitats north of the Himalayas.
Nestled in the Kangra valley, the Pong Dam wetlands are among the favourite winter grounds of migratory birds.
‘Almost 90 percent of the migratory birds have embarked on their long journey back to their native homes,’ wildlife range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal told IANS.
‘Some of the birds prefer to stay here a little bit more after the recent snowfall in the higher reaches of the Dhauladhars and trans-Himalayan areas. With the rise in temperature, their return journey will again speed up,’ he said.
This year a record number of migratory avians had visited the Pong wetlands.
According to the census of waterfowl species (birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding) conducted by the state forest department from Jan 30 to Feb 1, around 95,000 birds of 89 species were spotted in areas along the Pong reservoir.
Divisional forest officer (wildlife) S.K. Guleria said the largest influx was of the bar-headed geese, coot, common pochard, red-crested pochard, great cormorant, gadwall, northern pintail, river tern and the spotbill duck.
This year five local migratory species were recorded for the first time. These are the Nordmann’s greenshank, the pied avocet, the spoonbill, the jacana and the greater scaup.
Guleria said now flocks of the resident birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank myna, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting could be seen here.
The Pong wetlands, one of the largest man-made wetlands in northern India, were formed with the construction of a dam across the Beas river in 1975. The dam resulted in the formation of a huge reservoir. The length of the reservoir is 41 km with a maximum width of 19 km.
According to ‘Handbook on Indian Wetland Birds and their Conservation’, written by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India, of the 1,230 species found in the Indian subcontinent, nearly 350 are migrants.
The most abundant winter migrants to the Indian subcontinent are ducks and geese. Both constitute about 85 percent of the population.
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.