New species among lakhs of migratory birds bring cheers in Kashmir

The valley received widespread snowfall in December and January attracting the winged guests from Europe and Central Asia
More than 3.5 lakh birds are currently present at Srinagar’s biggest wetland, Hokersar while the number will be 2.5 lakh at Hygam wetland in north Kashmir’s Baramulla. (AP Photo)
More than 3.5 lakh birds are currently present at Srinagar’s biggest wetland, Hokersar while the number will be 2.5 lakh at Hygam wetland in north Kashmir’s Baramulla. (AP Photo)
Published on Jan 19, 2022 10:18 PM IST
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ByAshiq Hussain

SRINAGAR: Lakhs of migratory birds have arrived in the wetlands and lakes of Kashmir including some 10-20 new or rare species bringing cheer among the wildlife experts and bird watchers.

The valley received widespread snowfall in December and January attracting the winged guests from Europe and Central Asia who keep their date with the Himalayan region by and large every winter.

Wildlife warden, wetlands, Ifshan Dewan said that more than 3.5 lakh birds are currently present at Srinagar’s biggest wetland, Hokersar while the number will be 2.5 lakh at Hygam wetland in north Kashmir’s Baramulla.

Last winter the water level at Hokersar reduced to alarming levels owing to excavation of a flood channel drying up a large part of the wetland.

“Last year the arrival of birds was affected owing to lower water level at Hokersar but this year we made timely intervention by doing necessary work on bunding and breaches which helped in retention of water,” Dewan said.

Kashmir has some 400 water bodies, out of which the officials and avian watchers observe birds in some 25 big and notified water bodies. Presently, the valley has nine wetlands out of the total 13 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Shalbough, located in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, is the biggest wetland spread over 16 sq km while Hokersar on the city outskirts is around 13.5km and Hygam wetland in north Kashmir is spread across 9km. Chatlam wetland is in south Kashmir’s Pampore.

Dewan said that the water level at Shalboug was good but the number of birds arriving was less so far.

“The birds have a habit of arriving late at Shalbough, mostly by January end and February. In Pampore also, the number of birds is good,” she said.

The birds traverse from the colder areas of the world flying over continents in flocks. They come from Europe, Central Asia, China and Japan to spend the winter in the waters of the Himalayan valley. Mostly the birds which arrive here every year are Mallards, Greylag Geese, Pochards, Common tails, Shovellers, Pintails and Gharwals which visit the region between October and April.

Dewan said that they have sighted some new species this year. “This year we have reports of sightings of some 10-20 new species especially Whooper Swan and Waders. Last year also we had some new species,” she said. “These would be sighted very rarely here,” she said.

She said that the department is going for a census by the end of February. “We are going for the annual waterfowl census in February to determine the exact type and number of birds. That will clear the picture,” she said.

For the past two years the department’s census reports are pegging the number of birds at 8-10 lakhs who arrive here annually.

The wetlands in Kashmir witnessed large scale encroachment and poaching of migratory birds during the early years of militancy but now the vigilance has been stepped up and the encroachments have also come down to a large extent.

Dewan said that they have established control rooms in various lakes to stop poaching of birds.

“Poaching does happen but we have established control rooms at Hokersar, Wular, Dal and Shalbough which work 24 × 7. There is constant patrolling and whenever we get information of any poaching incident, our teams reach the spot,” she said.

“The birds don’t stick to wetlands only, they keep on moving from one water body to another,” she said.

The official wants people in Kashmir to prove their hospitality to these birds like they are famous for their behavior towards tourists and visitors.

“These migratory birds are also our guests and we should respect them as well as we are known for hospitality towards humans. We tend to throw our solid wastes in these water bodies making it difficult for the birds as well as the caretakers to clean the mess,” she said.

“These are our assets and should be protected for our future generation”.

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Saturday, May 28, 2022