Winged-guests Flock To Kashmir Valley For Annual Sojourn

Winged-guests Flock To Kashmir Valley For Annual Sojourn

18 November 2012
The Indian Express


Srinagar: In a treat to bird-watchers, migratory birds from far away countries have started flocking to the Valley's wetlands with over seven lakh winged-guests expected to arrive here this season on their annual sojourn. 'Over one lakh birds have already arrived from various places like Siberia, China and Japan as the temperature in these countries has fallen, Abdul Rauf Zargar, Wildlife Warden at Hokersar wetland, said. He said the number of birds arriving this year is expected to cross the nearly seven lakh arrivals registered last year. 'We are witnessing arrival of more birds than we used to have at this time of the year,' Zargar said. He said the department is setting up over a dozen watch towers as there are apprehensions that poachers might target the birds as they have arrived earlier than expected. Special squads will also be formed to check poachers in the area. Thousands of migratory birds from Russian Siberia, the Phillipines, eastern Europe, China and Japan fly long distances to escape extreme winter conditions in their summer habitats and search for food. They stop in Kashmir for nearly a month before they fly further south as the temperature in the valley dips below freezing point by mid-December. The birds start their return leg of their voyage by end of January. Besides Hokersar, the migratory birds flock the Wullar lake and other wetlands like Hygam, Shalibugh and Mirgund in surrounding areas, bringing cheer to bird watchers of the valley. Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon are some of the most sighted birds in these wetlands of Kashmir. The wildlife officials and locals are concerned about the sudden rise in the population of Moore and Swamp Hen. 'Presence of large number of Moore or Swamp Hen in the water body will ensure rise in their population but it reflects the accumulation of large reeds and weeds...It is not a good sign for wetlands,' an official said. The other worrying factor for the wildlife officials are the decades-old encroachments and induced willow and poplar plantation in the wetlands. 'These are fatal blows to the wetlands. If these practices continue, we might soon see a big play ground at Hokersar instead of the temporary abode for these exotic birds,' the official said. He said the government should frame a wetland policy for removing the encroachments, induced willow and poplar plantations and illegal paddy cultivation from all the wetlands of the valley. 'This is the only way of saving these places for our future generations or else these will be consigned to history books,' he added.