Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh) The Pong dam wetlands are playing home to an estimated 40,000 migratory birds right now, once again turning into a paradise for the flapping beauties from central and northern Asia.
The coot, common pochard, bar-headed goose, common teal, northern pintail, tufted duck, shoveller, great cormorant and the ruddy shell duck are all adorning the area in Kangra Valley. The Pong dam is some 250 km from state capital Shimla.
Crossing national and international boundaries, millions of migratory birds descend in India to avoid the extreme winter chill in their native habitats. And the Pong wetlands are one of their favourite grounds where they will stay on till March next year.
“Over 40,000 migratory birds of 10 species are roosting and feeding in and around the Pong dam these days,” chief wildlife warden A.K. Gulati said Monday.
He said their arrivals would pick up as the mercury plummets further. “By December-end, their number is expected to cross the 100,000-mark,” he added.
Range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal said this time the influx of the greater white-fronted geese is quite impressive.
“Over 120 greater white-fronted geese have been spotted in Pong so far. Their number is quite large,” he added.
The maximum flock sightings can be seen at marshes near Nagrota Suriyan, Budladha, Guglara, Sansarpur Terrace, Nandpur Batoli, Chatta, Jambal and the Rancer island.
During sunrise and sunset, ‘V’ formations of birds in the sky delight bird lovers.
The Pong dam 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.
The bar-headed goose, the world’s highest-altitude migrant, is a regular winter visitor here.
During the last census by the wildlife department at the Pong reservoir, over 132,000 migratory waterbirds of 95 species were recorded. The pied avocet – a wading bird specie – was spotted for the first time.
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.
Similarly, the arrival of gulls, a seashore species, on this lake also makes the Pong dam an exception.
A redshank was spotted in Pong in January this year that was earlier ringed in the Point Calimere forests in Tamil Nadu.
Wildlife authorities in 2009 also found a great cormorant that was earlier ringed in Russia.
Pong wetlands occupy an area of at least 18,000 hectares and extend up to 30,000 hectares at 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.