Himachal’s Pong wetlands have over 1.25 lakh birds

Shimla, Jan 31 (IANS) Over 1,25,000 feathered guests from 119 species were spotted in Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam wetlands, among them the osprey, the buff bellied pipit and the Indian skimmer, which are rare in other Indian wetlands, an official said Friday.

During the two-day census of waterfowl species — birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding — that concluded Thursday, 128,200 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in northern India, state Principal Secretary (Forests) Tarun Shridhar said in a statement.
The largest influx is of the bar-headed goose (43,000), northern pintail (21,500), common teal (13,800), common pochard (10,000) and common coot (9,000).
The common shelduck (six), sarus crane (nine), osprey (six), buff bellied pipit (four), Indian skimmer (one) and the little gull (one), which are rarely observed in Indian wetlands have also been recorded at the Pong wetland, he said.
The Eurasian skylark (340) has probably the highest density in Pong. The other noticeable species were the great crested grebe, greylag goose, red crested pochard, ferruginous pochard, common merganser, Eurasian spoonbill, greater white fronted goose, garganey, water pipits and the gull billed pipits.
In the last census conducted at the Pong wetlands in the first week of February last year, around 123,000 waterfowls from 113 species were recorded.
The Pong Dam reservoir, around 250 km from state capital Shimla, is one of the largest man-made wetlands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
With the onset of winter, thousands of migratory birds from central and northern Asia start arriving for their annual sojourn.
Built in 1976, the Pong Dam reservoir is the only place in the country after the Bharatpur sanctuary in Rajasthan where the red-necked grebe descends every year.
The influx of birds can be seen at swamps near Nagrota Suriyan, Budladha and Sansarpur Terrace.
The Pong wetlands occupy an area of at least 18,000 hectares and extend up to 30,000 hectares in the peak monsoon season. An area of about 20,000 hectares within a radius of five kilometres has been notified as a buffer zone dedicated to wildlife.