Adding colour to Punjab wetlands

CHANDIGARH: Escaping the biting cold of Siberia, Central Asia and the Himalayas, thousands of birds have flown down to the warm, hospitable plains of Punjab, adding colour to its wetlands.

The onset of winter marks the arrival of these migratory birds, which are in search of warmer habitats and food. Suitable climatic conditions, rich biodiversity and less noise and water pollution are the reasons why thousands of birds arrive in the region each year. According to UT chief wildlife warden Ishwar Singh, over 12,000 migratory birds were recorded at Sukhna Lake and over 55,000 in Punjab last year.

The fields, reeds and marshes around Sukhna lake, which has been declared as a protected national wetland, becomes a riot of colours with over 12,000 feathered guests ‘holidaying’ here. Honouring their annual winter date with the city, the birds congregate at the far end of Sukhna, where an abundance of water, weeds and cover ensure the birds the safety and comfort they need.

According to Punjab’s chief conservator of forests Jitendra Sharma, “The number of pintails, black-necked grebes, red-necked grebes, large cormorants, mallards, coots, moorhens, darters, river terns and ruddy shell ducks has been on the rise over the years.”

In order to ensure a better habitat for them, the wildlife department has made several changes. “Sukhna Lake has been cleaned of dirt and polythene to ensure that the guests don’t catch infections. The field officials keep a vigil to ensure that they are not harmed,” Deputy Conservator Saurabh Kumar said.

At present, Punjab has five wetlands of national importance, including Nangal water reservoir, Harike, Ropar and Kanjli.

It was only in 1973 that Sukhna for the first time attracted 30 migratory birds. Presently, it is home to thousands of birds, including geese, ducks, rails, coots, stilts and sandpipers. The wetlands of Punjab are also an abode for the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank Myna, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, Bareheaded Goose, Dabchick, Grey Heron, Shoveller, Coots, Pochards, Cranes, Pintail, Grey Leg Goose, Mallard, Spotbill and Crested bunting. The Brahminy ducks are the most vigilant of all, putting entire flocks to wing at the first sign of danger with their distinctive call.

 

published on Saturday, Dec 13, 2008

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