Himachal holds two-day annual census of waterfowl species in Pong wetlands
A band of ornithologists armed with binoculars and logbooks on Tuesday set out for a unique race -- to count and identify feathered guests from the trans-Himalayas holidaying at the famed Pong wetlands of Kangra Valley, officials said. This dawn-to-dusk exercise will culminate on Wednesday.
The bird watchers in association with the state Forest Department are organising the two-day annual census of waterfowl species -- the birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding. Conservation (Wildlife) Pradeep Thakur, who is associated with the census, told IANS the Pong wetlands have been divided into 26 sections by involving 90 bird watchers.
Each team has to record the time, place and number of birds and their species in the logbook. On Thursday, the data will be compiled. "For the first time, an expert from the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority is participating. Researchers and even locals have been involved. Our aim is also to create awareness about these visiting birds and know their exact status of species -- both migratory and local too," he said.
In the last census conducted in Pong in January 2018, the Forest Department counted 110,203 waterfowl of 107 species. The largest influx at that time was of the bar-headed goose (38,530), common coot (12,632), northern pintail (9,470), common teal (9,284) and common pochard (7,764). Thakur said there is an estimation of over 100,000 birds this winter in the Pong wetlands. Again the largest influx is of the bar-headed goose, believed to be 35,000-40,000.
Flying thousands of kilometres from their native habitat in high-altitude lakes in Central Asia to avoid the extreme winter chill, the elegant shaped bar-headed geese, an endangered migratory bird species, regularly descend on India. The Pong Dam wetlands have been emerging as their preferred wintering ground. A record 71,800 bar-headed geese were spotted in Pong in 2015.
Listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the global population of the bar-headed geese is believed to be around 130,000, wildlife experts say. Built in 1976, the Pong dam reservoir, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, is the only place in the country after the Bharatpur sanctuary in Rajasthan where the red-necked grebe descends every year. It's also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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