Migratory waterbirds: Encouraging trend in recorded species diversity


Peak season coincided with outbreak of third pandemic wave in Punjab, official says

Peak season coincided with outbreak of third pandemic wave in Punjab, official says

Inauspicious weather conditions in January and early February 2022 may have made it difficult for bird watchers this season to easily see winter migratory waterbirds, which head to different wetlands in Punjab and other parts of the country through the Central Asian Flyway. . But an encouraging trend in waterbird and species diversity has been observed in wetlands.

Every winter, the birds make their way to India via the Central Asian Flyway, which covers a vast continental area of ​​Europe-Asia between the Arctic and the Indian Ocean.

Every year, the Punjab Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Department conducts a census of waterfowl in six major and most biodiverse wetlands including Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary, Ropar, Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanjli Wetland, Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve and Ranjit Sagar Conservation Reserve.

However, the census could not be carried out this year due to dense fog. Instead, a “species richness” survey was conducted by the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Conservation with support from WWF-India.

RK Mishra, Head of Wildlife Warden, said a promising trend in waterbirds and species diversity has been seen in the wetlands of Pathankot and Gurdaspur districts as the swamps are full of water due to good rains and a good flow in the Ravi River.

“Flocks of northern lapwings numbering up to 191 were observed in the Gurdaspur wetlands, which is higher than the previous three-year average of 105. Similarly, 655 common cranes were recorded this year, which is higher than the average of the previous three years. of 555,” he said The Hindu.

Highlighting that 91 species of waterbirds were recorded in the six protected wetlands during the Waterbird Species Richness Survey, Gitanjali Kanwar, Coordinator – Rivers, Wetlands and Policy Water, WWF-India, said: “The number of waterbirds was highest in Harike Wildlife Sanctuary followed by Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve, Ropar Conservation Reserve and from Nangal.

“As in previous years, Harike Wildlife Sanctuary hosted the largest congregation and diversity of waterbirds, while wetlands like Keshopur-Miani and Shallpattan are the only wetlands in Punjab to host the migratory population of common cranes and the resident population of Sarus cranes The Ropar and Nangal wetlands are home to the three aquatic migratory species of the family Podicipedidae, namely the Eared Grebe, the Horned Grebe and the Great Crested Grebe, as well as the resident Little Grebe.

“The year 2022 has been very challenging and challenging for the conduct of the Punjab Wetland Waterbird Census exercise. The peak migratory bird season has coincided with the triggering of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic In addition, an unusually severe cold spell engulfed northern India in January and early February 2022, making the situation unfavorable due to intermittent rains and dense fog to assess the wetlands and conduct the field survey for waterbirds.

“However, before the reverse waterbird migration begins, it has been decided to conduct a waterbird ‘species richness’ survey in February 2022.”

She said: “Species of high conservation importance recorded during the survey include Bonelli’s eagle, spotted eagle, northern lapwing, peregrine falcon, steppe eagle, godwit western black-tailed, black-capped ibis, sarus crane, painted stork, woolly-necked stork, common pochard, common crane, rusty pochard, pale harrier, river tern, Indian spotted eagle, lapwing river, eastern darter and Eurasian curlew”,

Ms Kanwar said the Eurasian Coot was one of the most common waterbirds seen in almost all protected wetlands in Punjab during the survey.

“Eurasian Coot also forms one of the highest densities among all waterfowl recorded in Nangal, Ropar, Harike, Keshopur-Miani and Kanjli wetlands, followed by Gadwall and Green-winged Teal,” said she declared.


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