You could call it a bird lover's paradise. Nearly 900,000 migratory birds of 158 different species have been sighted this winter in Orissa's Chilika Lake in this eastern Indian coastal state.
"Of the 900,000 birds, 450,000 birds were sighted in Nalabana, an island in the lake," Abhimanyu Behera, divisional forest officer of Chilika Lake, told IANS.
"In 2007 nearly 840,000 birds visited the lake, of which 198,000 were spotted in Nalabana," he said.
On Jan 5, a bird census for 2008 involving 85 wildlife officials was conducted in the 1,000 sq km lake, which is said to be Asia's largest salt-water lake. The Chilika, nearly 100 km from here, is spread over Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts of Orissa.
"We removed the weeds from the sanctuary and that might be the reason why the lagoon has attracted more birds this year," he said.
Chilika offers the largest congregations of migratory birds in the country. It was declared one of the six wetlands of international importance at the Ramsar Convention on Migratory Species of Arctic and Central Asian Waterfowl.
Besides Chilika, migratory birds also flock to three other spots in the state - the Hirakud dam in Sambalpur district, the Nandankanan biological park and the Bhitarkanika national park in Kendrapada district.
"The migratory birds, mostly from Siberia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and from the Himalayas arrived here early this winter," Behera said.