The famous bird sanctuary of Harike Pattan on the confluence of Sutlej and Beas rivers, has seen lesser winged visitors this year and the ones reached the wetland didn’t stay till the time they usually do due to comparatively above-normal temperature in February.
The wetland was formed after the construction of headworks across Sutlej river in 1953. Since then, the wetland, spread over 100 square miles, becomes home to rare varieties of avi-fauna which arrive here from different parts of Europe and northern Asia in winter.
Every year, thousands of migratory birds, from Siberia, Russia, Kazakhstan and other cold regions, start arriving at the bird sanctuary in the first week of November. They usually stay here till March.
In 2016, the count of winged guests was put at little over 1 lakh , which came down to 93,000 this year, said Baljit Singh, range officer of Punjab forest and wildlife department, who looks after the wetland. “Hundreds of species of migratory birds such as greylag geese, spoon bills, Siberian gills, rudi, shell duck, snake bird, river tern, common pochard, gadwall were spotted this year,” he said.
He said flemingo was spotted here after around three years. “However, sudden rise of temperature in mid-February forced them to leave early. Normally, they stay here till mid-March. But this year, almost all the migratory birds have returned by now, which is a matter of concern,” he said.
The officer said all other bird sanctuaries were facing a similar situation. “The birds will stop coming here if the phenomenon of global warming is not addressed to properly,” he said.
On whether increase in human footfall following amphibious bus project could be a reason behind lesser winged guests, he said, “The amphibious bus project is being executed after proper research. This does not create any disturbance for the winged guests. Special care is taken to not to disturb the birds and the conditions they live in.”