By:Mohan Lal Verma
The state wildlife authority counted more than 130,000 birds of 93 species in the Pong Dam wetlands of Himachal Pradesh. On world bird day that was celebrated yesterday waterfowls census was made open claiming that bar-headed geese are most prominent winter migrants.
During the two-day census of waterfowl — birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding — that concluded on Sunday, 135,000 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in northern India, an official statement said. The largest influx was of the bar-headed goose (71,800), followed by northern pintail (11,800), common coots (9,500), common teals (8,100), common pochards (6,900), little cormorants (5,700), tufted ducks (2,800), ruddy shelduck (2,800) and great cormorants (2,400).
Other species found in the lake were the greater white-fronted geese (53), pied avocet (42), osprey (nine), sarus crane (five), black-bellied tern (five), common shelduck (two), buff bellied pipit (two), water pipit (two) and little gull (one). Some other noticeable species were the great crested grebe, graylag goose; red crested pochard, ferruginous pochard, common merganser, Eurasian spoonbill, and garganey and long billed pipits.
In the last census conducted at the wetlands in February last year, around 128,000 waterfowl from 119 species were recorded. The Pong Dam reservoir, around 250 km from state capital Shimla, is one of the largest man-made wetlands in the foothills of Himalayas. With the onset of winter, thousands of migratory birds from central and northern Asia start arriving here for their annual sojourn. Built in 1976, the reservoir is the only place in India after Bharatpur Sanctuary in Rajasthan where the red-necked grebe descends every year.
The influx of birds can be seen at swamps near Nagrota Suriyan, Budladha and Sansarpur Terrace. The Pong wetlands occupy an area of at least 18,000 hectares and extend up to 30,000 hectares in the peak monsoon season. An area of about 20,000 hectares within a radius of five km has been notified as a buffer zone dedicated to wildlife.