Birds-eye view: Winged visitors’ count waning at Chandigarh’s Sukhna sanctuary
At the onset of last winter in November 2016, 1,086 birds of 53 species flocked the lake. While the number rose to 4,127 by February 2017, this year the decline is visible.punjab Updated: Jan 15, 2018 11:56 IST
This winter has come as a disappointment for bird lovers as their winged friends have not arrived in the usual large numbers at Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary.
Every year, with the onset of winter, hundreds of migratory birds flock to Sukhna Lake and other water bodies in the sanctuary.
“Last year, over 4,000 birds visited the lake, but this winter less than 1,500 birds have been counted,” said UT chief wildlife officer Santosh Kumar.
Chandigarh is on the flight path of many migratory birds, which fly from Himalayas and even far-off places such as Central Asia, Siberia, Europe, China and Japan. These winged visitors start arriving here as early as November and can be spotted till March. Ruddy shelduck, common pochard, ferruginous pochard, tufted ducks and greylag goose are the most common visitors.
The water level at the lake was 1,160 metre in November 2017, as compared to 1,155 metre the previous year.
At the onset of last winter in November 2016, 1,086 birds of 53 species flocked the lake. While the number rose to 4,127 by February 2017, this year the decline is visible.
In November 2017, only 696 birds of 91 species were spotted. The bird census will be conducted in February, which will give the exact number for the season.
“There are three types of migration – latitudinal, altitudinal and breeding,” said Chandigarh Bird Club president Mitinderpal Singh Sekhon. “Latitudinal migration means movement of birds from northern latitudes when it starts snowing there. Altitudinal migration relates to birds who flock the foothills from Himalayas in winters. The breeding migration takes place in summers.”
The club counts the number of birds at Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary twice a year – November and February.
‘High water level, activities at lake are to blame’
“High water level in the lake is one of the reasons for the drop in number of migratory birds visiting the sanctuary,” said Santosh Kumar. “These waterfowls survive on weeds, fish and grass. It is easy for them to feed when water is shallow.” The water level at the lake was 1,160 metre in November 2017, as compared to 1,155 metre the previous year.
“There is too much disturbance at the lake side,” said Sekhon. “People play music and talk loudly. Water sports during morning and evening also disturb the birds.” Sekhon, who has been a birdwatcher since 1983, said the administration even dredged two mini islands that attracted migratory birds.
“The number of migratory birds has dropped drastically over the years. Earlier, over hundreds of red-crested pochard and mallards used to visit the lake, but now there are hardly half a dozen pairs.” Sekhon said there should be a separate area in the lake with shallow water level and two to three mini islands to keep attracting the winged visitors.