Dharamshala: Onset of an early winter has sightings of new bird species arriving at the backwaters of Pong Dam.
Wildlife warden and forester Krishan Kumar, based at Nagrota Surian disclosed that a bird count till 8th November had estimated a migratory bird population in the wetland at over 22,000. “In all about 144 bird species have been sighted, of which there are as many as 14 species that are being sighted for the first time,” said Kumar.
The largest number seen so far are that of Bar Headed Goose which counted 6486, followed by 3740 Northern Pintail, 3408 Common Teal and 2900 Common Coot.
About 185 migratory birds of 14 new species have been sighted, said Kumar. These include 6 Green Shanks, 8 Green Sand Piper, 6 Brown Headed Gulls and 8 Northern Shoveler.
It was in 1975 that an earth fill dam at Pong on the Beas River that created a rich wetland zone in Siwalik Hills, on the borders of Punjab, in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Named as Maharana Pratap Sagar, the man made reservoir over the years has become a favourite of winter migratory birds. Conservation of the area led to establishing of a bird sanctuary, which gained international recognitions and today is one of the 26 international wetland sites in India declared under the Ramsar Convention.
The reservoir covers an area of 24,529 hectares (60,610 acres), and the wetlands portion is 15,662 hectares (38,700 acres).
Lakhs of migratory birds make Pong Dam their winter habitat every year. These birds come from Siberia and other Central Asian countries, before heavy snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere .
Last year, the authorities had put an count of about 1,10,000 migratory birds that visited visited the wetland, which was lower than the 1.27 lakh estimated in the previous year. The bird watchers say that the expected bird arrivals this year is much more that the previous winter because of an early winter onset.