Avian guests keep date with Kashmir

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Srinagar- Navigating by the aid of stars, moon and peaks and maintaining an age-old rendezvous with the valley of Kashmir, migratory birds began arriving here from distant lands to ward off the extreme cold from their summer homes. for their transitional habitat, Kashmir.

Each year, these hardy souls undertake a journey ranging from 3500 km to 5300 km to migrate from their breeding grounds in Siberia, northern China, the Philippines and northern Europe to winter in relatively less harsh wetlands. of Kashmir.

By speaking with Kashmir Observer, Regional Wildlife Warden (Kashmir) Rashid Naqash, said these migratory birds have already started arriving in the Kashmir wetland and their numbers have reached over 2 lakh.

“So far, more than 2 lakh of migratory birds have reached the valley. Their numbers are expected to increase dramatically in November and December, as that is when most of these avian souls escape the extreme cold of their summer residences. summer,” Naqash said.

Having the upper hand over other states in India, Kashmir has some 400 water bodies, of which officials and bird watchers observe birds in some 25 notified major water bodies. Currently, the valley has nine wetlands out of a total of 13 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Wular Lake, Dal Lake, Hokersar Lake and Mirgund Lake are among the few significant wetlands in the valley where these migratory birds have temporarily taken shelter during the winter months.

“….these are the transitory homes of different types of migratory birds. Greylag Goose, Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Pochard, Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck and Green-winged Teal are some of the migratory birds seen in the wetlands of Kashmir during these winter months,” the Regional Wildlife Warden said.

“Every winter, more than 23 species of ducks and other migratory birds arrive in Kashmir,” he said.

The official said that at present Kashmir has around 1.5 lakh of migratory birds in Dal Lake and small flocks in Hygam, Shallabugh Bird Sanctuary, Chatlum and Lake Wular.

In addition to these winter dwellers, certain bird species called “birds of passage”, such as cormorants and sandhill cranes, also spend time in the valley during early winter and late spring. flying to and from the Indian plains.

“In Kashmir, in extremely cold weather, the water bodies inside the bird sanctuaries are frozen. This sometimes causes migratory birds to fly over other water bodies. That is why our department has to arrange food for the birds inside these water bodies,” Naqash said, adding that these birds live here from late October to late April.

Notably, as the annual arrival of these winged visitors begins in the valley, the threat of them being poached and hunted by ongoing human intervention has also increased.

Wetland Wildlife Warden Ifshana Dewan said the department has increased patrols this year to keep hunters and poachers at bay. “We had already set up 24×7 control rooms in and around various lakes to stop bird poaching last year. However, we have increased patrols this year and whenever we receive information about a poaching incident, our teams will immediately reach the place,” Ifshana told Kashmir Observer.

She added that bird sanctuaries like Hokersar, Hygam and Shallabugh, where the department’s permanent staff are stationed, there is no threat from poachers. “The real threat of these birds falling prey to poaching becomes a problem in unprotected and isolated wetlands,” she added.

It is pertinent to mention here that the killing of these migratory birds was an offense under local J&K laws, enacted in 1978, which were later repealed and replaced by the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, when the J&K’s special status was repealed and the former state was downgraded to two union territories.


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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is special envoy to the Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir


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