Contrary to expectations,the number of birds visiting Pong Dam wetland,one of the largest man-made wetlands in northern India,has decreased by about 10 per cent this year.
During the two-day census of waterfowl species (birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding),119,500 birds of 103 species were spotted in the wetland in Kangra district,wildlife officials said on Thursday.
The largest influx is of the bar-headed goose (25,000),common coot (17,750),northern pintail (13,200),common pochard (10,200),tufted pochard (7,600) common teal (7,400) and little cormorant (6,800) while pied avocet (12) — a wading bird species — has been recorded for the second successive year,according to Chief Conservator of Forests,Himachal,Sanjeeva Pandey.
The falcated duck,the silvery plumage species predominantly found in China,has been spotted for the first time at Pong Dam (Maharana Pratap Sarovar) while the common shelduck (30),rarely seen in the country,was also seen with other prominent species like great-crested grebe,graylag goose,red-crested pochard,ferruginous pochard,common merganser,Eurasian spoonbill,greater white-fronted goose,garganey,sarus crane,western marsh harrier and osprey.
Spread over an area of 307 sq km in the picturesque Kangra valley,Pong wetlands,have the distinction of being one of the most important and popular winter bird sanctuaries for local and migratory species and the influx of birds can be seen at swamps near Nagrota Suriyan,Budladha and Sansarpur Terrace.
The bird count is 12,500 less than last year’s count of 132,000,and range officer (Pong wetlands) D S Dadwal attributed it to harsh winter during January. Over the last few years,the bird count had been steadily increasing.
“Some of the species of ducks have migrated to nearby wetlands,mainly in Punjab,due to continuous rain for many days in January and are likely to come back to Pong Dam during February,” he said.
The Pong wetlands are also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl,large Indian parakeet,Indian cuckoo,bank myna,wood shrike,yellow-eyed babbler,black ibis,paradise flycatcher,crested lark and the crested bunting.
During the 2010 census,144,000 waterfowl of 91 species were recorded here,whereas the number was 95,000 birds (89 species) in 2009.