Dharamsala: Bringing delight to bird-watchers, over 1.5 lakh exotic winged visitors are
expected to flock the Pong Dam lake in Himachal Pradesh this year.
Nestled in the sylvan surroundings of the Kangra Valley, the sprawling Pong Dam wetland has emerged as a major habitat for migratory birds, bringing cheers to bird lovers.
So far around 25,000 birds have arrived and they will continue to descend on the wetland till late December, Conservator of Wildlife of the area Sameer Rastogi said.
Last year, over 1.43 lakh birds of 91 species were sighted, he said.
The Pong Dam lake, built in 1960 on the Beas river in the lower foothills of the Himalayas, attracts more than 220 species of birds belonging to 54 families.
Known as the Maharana Ranjit Singh Lake, it offers a winter abode to birds like black-headed gulls, brahminy ducks, bar-headed geese, plovers, grebes, cormorants, daters, herons, moorhens, egrets and storks.
The wetland, popularly known as Ramsar site, is the only place in the country after the Bharatpur Sanctuary where the red-necked grebe descends every year.
It has been recognised internationally as one of the finest and largest manmade wetlands of North India.
In the last few years, there has been an increase in the numbers of winged guests arriving at the lake during the annual migration, which is keenly awaited by tourists and bird-watchers in particular.
In 1997-98, 35,499 migratory birds were spotted at this wetland which increased to 43,933 the next year. The number doubled to 70,555 in 1999-2000 in comparison to 1997-98, and further increased to 81,848 in 2000-2001 before touching a high of 1,14,082 in 2001-2002.
Rastogi said a water storage reservoir created at the lake has attracted a large number of Siberian birds who find the huge water body calm and undisturbed.
The size of the Pong Dam lake and its situation in the extreme northwest of the Indo-Gangetic plains makes it a suitable habitat for migratory birds entering the plains of
India from Central Asia, he said.
However, the authorities are worried about killing of the birds due to the use of poisonous fertilizers and pesticides in crops of the catchment area, which mix with the water.