Dotted with grassy swamps, the Pong Dam wetlands- a wintering ground for the migratory birds from trans- Himalayan and central Asia region, is now fast emerging as ideal summer sojourn destination for many migratory birds.
A day-long summer avian count conducted by the wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department last month has put the numbers of residents as well as migratory birds roosting and nesting in Pong Wetland at 12,314.
"Annual summer avian race was held on June 23 to monitor the number of birds roosting in Pong Dam Wetland," said additional chief secretary (Forest) Tarun Shridhar.
In the day-long exercise, the entire Pong Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was divided into 15 segments, with 40 persons, including ornithologists, volunteers and department employees partake in the count.
Each team, comprising two to three members, scoured segment assigned to them.
"The count has put the numbers of birds, belonging to different species, roosting at the wetland this summer," said Shridhar.
The dominant species observed, Shridhar said, were Cattle Egret (3,348), Little Cormorant (2,003), Small Pratincole (1,377), Little Egret (1,305), Red Wattled Lapwing (1,024).
"Other important species found recorded breeding in the wetland were the Little Tern (194), Purple Heron (173), Yellow Wattled Lapwing (55), Gull billed Tern (46) and the Great Thick knee (43)," informed Shridhar.
Most of these birds are resident whereas the others like Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Lesser Whistling Duck, Indian Skimmer, Black crowned Night Heron and Blue tailed Bee eater are the summer migrants, he added.
These species visit Pong Lake regularly from their wintering places in Central Indian.
Over the last few years, Pong Dam Lake, also a Ramsar site has recorded a significant number of migratory birds in summer season, besides the heavy influx of winged guests in winter season.
Spread over 307 square km, Pong Lak- also called Maharana Pratap Sagar- emerged due to construction of Pong Dam on Beas River in 1960. It was declared a bird sanctuary in 1983 and was given the status of wetland of national importance in 1994 and got status of Ramsar site in 2002.
So far, 423 species of birds, 18 species of snakes, 90 species of butterflies, 24 species of mammals, 27 species of fishes have been recorded in Pong Wetland.
The avian biodiversity at wetland is attributable to the varied habitat, abundance of food and extended protection by the staff of the Wildlife Wing which has involved the local communities in this enterprise.
Around 1.35 lakh migratory birds of 93 species were recorded at Pong Lake Sanctuary this winter.