Delighting ornithologists, the Pong Dam wetlands in Himachal Pradesh's picturesque Kangra Valley are hosting a rare migratory visitor from the Scandinavian region.
The lesser white-fronted goose, found in Fennoscandia, comprising the Scandinavian peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola peninsula, and a migrant in regions around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in southern Russia and Kazakhstan, has been recorded at Pong Dam for the first time.
"A lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) was spotted at the swamps near the Nagrota Surian area on February 20. It was a chance discovery," assistant conservator of forest (wildlife) Devinder Singh Dhadwal said. He had managed to photograph the bird.
"This bird's sighting brings the total number of species that have visited the lake to 422," said Dhadwal.
Closely related to the greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), the adult lesser white-fronted geese have a striking yellow ring around the eye, and the white facial blaze goes up to the crown.
Both white-front species have a very conspicuous white face and broad black bars which cross the belly, but they differ in size and other physical features, said Dhadwal.
(In pic: lesser white-fronted goose )
The lesser white-fronted is globally threatened, being recognised as 'vulnerable' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The bird is a long-distance pale arctic migrant, currently breeding discontinuously in the sub-arctic zone from northern Fennoscandia to eastern Siberia.
Information about wintering grounds and migration route of the lesser white-fronted goose was partially known until 2005 when satellite telemetry studies were conducted to get an insight into its migratory pattern. The species departs from its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia and arctic Russia in late August to early September.
The bird is extremely rare in India and was also sighted in Little Rann of Kutch earlier this year. The global population of the lesser white-fronted geese has declined rapidly. These birds are seen regularly in at least 22 states in the European Union. This species breeds in low-lying bogs, scrub-covered tundra and taiga-forest edges close to wetlands.
The Pong wetlands, spread over 307 sq km, have the distinction of being one of the most important winter grounds for some rare species
from central and northern Asia.
Last year, a ruddy-breasted crake, a bird species usually seen in marshy areas of northeastern India, was recorded at the lake for the first time, while the whooper swan was sighted in the region after a gap of 113 years.
In the annual census conducted in January this year, 1.28 lakh waterbirds of 119 species were spotted in Pong.
Year Bird count (in lakh)