In a treat for bird lovers, winged guests from as far as Siberia have turned up at the Harike wetland. With the peak winter season, 55,000 migratory water-dependent birds from 87 species started arriving at Harike Wildlife Sanctuary in late September. A preliminary water bird count was conducted jointly by the Wildlife Division and World Wildlife Fund-India.

Migratory birds like the eurasian coot, common pochard, gadwal, greylag geese, spot-billed duck, little cormorant, pied avocet, great cormorant, ferruginous pochard, common teal, northern shoveler, black-tailed godwit, steppe gull and brown-headed gull have been spotted in good numbers.

“The migration of water birds is still ongoing and looks good for this year. Exact estimates and comparison with last year’s water bird count will be completed in January 2021 when the arrival of new migratory birds is completed,” said Coordinator, Aquatic Biodiversity, WWF-India, Geetanjali Kanwar. “Birds fromas far as Siberia have turned up, a rare phenomenon. We have a number of such birds that are being observed by experts,” she added.

Experts said the turnout of water birds in Punjab was one of the highest as compared to previous years. “Flocks of rare birds like northern lapwing and black-tailed godwit were sighted at Harike. Species include jerdon’s babler, rufous-vented prinia, moustached warbler and short-eared owl,” they said.

So far, 21 species of mammals, 384 birds, seven turtles, four snakes, six taxa of amphibians, 16 fishes, 189 invertebrates and 38 plants have been recorded at Harike. The wetland is spread over 86 sq km.

Jaskaran Sandhu, member, Punjab State Wildlife Advisory Board and a wildlife photographer, said it was encouraging that such birds had started visiting Punjab wetlands. “We should now ensure that their habitat is conserved so that the numbers increase every year,” he said.

Source: December 22, 2020, The Tribune