Pong Dam: It was an experiment that worked. Four migratory birds in the Kangra Valley`s Pong wetland, which were tagged with global positioning system (GPS) transmitters last year, have returned to their wintering grounds this year after travelling thousands of miles.
"All the four migratory birds that were tagged with satellite transmitters have returned to the Pong wetlands this month after stopping along the way at key wetlands. Their routes stretched from China to India," Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said.
The state wildlife department, in association with Mumbai-based BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society), had tagged the migratory birds for the first time in Pong as part of its work to track and monitor them.
The three bar-headed geese and one Ruddy Shelduck have enabled ornithologists to gain an insight into their migratory routes and stopover sites.
During the study, officials of the wildlife department noted that the Ruddy Shelduck took a nonstop flight of 735 km, the maximum among the four studied birds.
"The chip was tagged on the Ruddy Shelduck on March 14 this year. It returned to its native land, China, on May 2. After spending its summers in the Ku`er Mamai Li-cum-Yixiao Dui and Kareqi Lan`ai Rike wetlands in northwestern China, the bird has returned to Pong," said Gulati.
Likewise, one Bar-headed goose returned from Kailash Cora lake in Tibet and the other two geese from Pangong Tso lake in Tibet and Tso Moriri in Ladakh respectively.
Interestingly, two wigeons, a migratory duck species, that were also tagged along with the four others preferred to stay at Pong even during summer.
BNHS assistant director S. Balachandran, who installed the chips on the birds, said the scientists now have a better understanding about the Pong birds - from where they come and their flyway regions.
Balachandran, who also did bird banding this year, said a common teal ringed in Pong on March 27 was spotted in Russia on May 6.
"In less than 40 days, the bird has travelled a distance of 3,197 km from Pong to Staritsa town," he added.
Balachandran said each chip costing around Rs.250,000 is installed under the wings of birds. It sends signals till four years and the batteries are recharged through solar energy.
He said the BNHS would fit 18 solar-powered transmitters on migratory birds this winter.
As per the latest Asian Waterbird Census coordinated by the Wetlands International, the population of threatened migratory birds in the entire flyway region, which includes Central Siberia, Mongolia, the Central Asian republics, Iran, Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent, is either decreasing or stable.
Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan informed the Lok Sabha last month that the central government is working to protect the migratory birds during their sojourn.