Species of migratory birds wintering in Pong Wetland, a Ramsar Site, is growing by the year with ornithologists sighting new species at the annual waterfowl estimation that put the avian population in the large water body at over 123,000 this season.
“The annual waterfowl estimation carried out at Pong Dam lake wildlife sanctuary by experts from various institutes and voluntary organizations on January 31 and February 1, has put the number at 123,000 waterfowls belonging to 113 different species,” said a spokesman of the wildlife department.
The dominant species sighted was the Bar-Headed Goose that numbered at about 34000, followed by Northern Pintail at about 21000, the Common Pochard at about 12000 and the Little Corromrant at about 7700 who have been wintering at Pong Wetlands.
After a gap of 113, a pair of Whooper Swan was sighted by Devinder Dhadwal, a warden in the wildlife department and an accomplished ornithologist, in the wetland.
The last record of the elusive Swan, shot on River Beas, is by EH Aitken in 1900. General Osborne has also left a record of the bird spotted at Talwara in January, 1900 and earlier notes of AO Hume, founder of the Congress Party in India, have recorded the bird in 1878.
Incidentally, the Whooper Swan is the national bird of Finland and is featured on the Finnish 1 Euro coin.
Most of migratory birds fly down to the wetland from the Trans-Himalaya region in Tibet, Central Asia, Russia and Sibera.
Damming of River Beas at Pong with an earth fill dam in 1975 created a 24,529 hectare reservoir with 15,662 hectares of wetland portions.
Rich in fish fauna, such as Mahseer, Catla, Mirror Carp, Singhara, catfishes and mirror carps, the water body soon turned into a watering hole for migratory birds that the Himachal government declared it a wild life sanctuary in 1986 before it got international recognition as a one of the 25 international wetland sites by the Ramsar Convention.