Migratory birds flock to Kashmir

Srinagar: With winter setting in Kashmir, over six lakh migratory birds from Europe and Central Asia have flocked to Hokersar bird reserve and other wetlands in the Valley.

Every year, thousands of migratory birds from Siberia, the Philippines, eastern Europe, China and Japan fly long distances to escape extreme winter conditions in their native places and search for food.

Besides Hokersar, the winged visitors flocked to Wullar lake and other wetlands like Hygam, Shalibugh and Mirgund in surrounding areas.

"Over six lakh birds have already arrived in the Valley and 4,000 to 5,000 winged visitors are coming daily...If this trend continues, we might have an all time high arrival of migratory birds in the wetlands this year," Wildlife Warden Abdul Rauf Zargar said.

Last year, nearly eight lakh winged visitors arrived in Kashmir.

Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon are some of the most sighted birds in the wetlands.

Meanwhile, wildlife officials and locals are concerned about the sudden rise in the population of Moore and Swamp Hen in Hokersar.

"Rise in the population of Moore or Swamp Hen reflects growth of large reeds and weeds in wetlands...It is not a good sign," Ishtiaq Ahmad, a local resident, said.

The other worrying factors are encroachments and induced willow and poplar plantation in the wetlands.

"These are fatal blows to the wetlands. The government should frame a policy for removing the encroachments, induced willow and poplar plantations and illegal paddy cultivation from wetlands in the valley," a wildlife official said.

Meanwhile, the wildlife department has formed special anti-poaching squads to check bird hunting, banned in 2001 in the state, inside and outside the wetlands.