The census of migratory and resident birds at the Nangal wildlife sanctuary by the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) has come up with a figure that has been disputed by bird-watchers of the area as not being “thorough” and “under-representing” the spread and diversity of species.Sanctioned by the Punjab Forests and Wildlife Preservation department, the census held on January 21 this year by AWC’s Delhi state coordinator TK Roy showed up 3,463 birds from 22 species. In contrast, the census of January 21, 2011, showed up 6,875 birds of 39 species, while the census of February 2, 2012, threw up 6,317 birds of 18 species.
Roy attributes the decline to “global climate changes affecting migration patterns, which has also been reflected in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. This year, everywhere migration of water birds is being recorded in lesser number with lesser diversity”.
However, Nangal-based Parbhat Bhatti of ‘Jagriti’, who has been monitoring birds for 12 years, says the AWC census was not conducted properly. “Roy was the lone person to count birds at this vast wetland. He did not go into the core areas. His census shows up only three Red-wattled lapwings, which is a common bird.
Neither does it show up Northern shovelors (490 recorded in 2011 and eight in 2012). Figures for other birds are on the lower side. Birds are moving between Nangal, the flyash pond nearby, Bhakra dam and the Sutlej. I reckon there are currently between 5,500 and 6,000 birds at Nangal. We will hold a census on February 23 with multiple teams when more birds will arrive and use Nangal as a staging ground for return migration across the Himalayas,” Bhatti told HT.
“The real threat to birds at Nangal is disturbance and encroachments in the core areas,” said Bhatti. Each bird is never counted in a “census”. Punjab chief wildlife warden Dhirendra K Singh agrees there is “a need for another such exercise at Nangal to arrive at a more accurate assessment of bird numbers”.