Migratory waterbirds: Encouraging trend of species diversity recorded – The Hindu

Migratory birds spotted at wetlands of Harike wildlife sanctuary in Punjab. Photo: Special Arrangement
The unconducive weather conditions in January and early February of 2022 may have made it difficult for the bird lovers this season to conveniently sight the winter migratory waterbirds, which make their way to different wetlands of Punjab and other parts of the country through the central Asian flyway. But an encouraging trend of waterbirds and species diversity has been observed from the wetlands.
Every winter, the birds make their way to India through the central Asian flyway, which covers a large continental area of Europe–Asia between the Arctic and the Indian Oceans.
Every year, the Wildlife Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab, conducts waterbirds census exercise in six major and most biodiverse wetlands, which include the Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary, the Ropar Conservation Reserve, the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, the Kanjli Wetland, the Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve and the Ranjit Sagar Conservation Reserve.
Hhowever, the census could not be done this year on account of dense fog conditions. Instead a “species richness” survey was conducted by the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation with the support from the WWF-India.
R.K. Mishra, Chief Wildlife  Warden, said a promising trend of waterbirds and species diversity has been observed from the wetlands of Pathankot and Gurdaspur district as the marshlands are full of water due to good rains and good flow into the Ravi river.
“Flocks of northern lapwings numbering up to 191 were observed in Gurdaspur wetlands which are higher in comparison to the previous three years’ average of 105. Similarly, 655 common cranes were recorded this year which is higher in comparison to the previous three years’ average of 555,” he told The Hindu.
Pointing out that 91 species of waterbirds were recorded from the six protected wetlands during the waterbird species richness survey, Gitanjali Kanwar, Coordinator — Rivers, Wetlands and Water Policy, WWF–India said: “The waterbird count was highest in the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary followed by the Keshopur–Miani Community Reserve, Ropar Conservation Reserve and Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Like previous years, the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary hosted the largest congregation and diversity of waterbirds whereas wetlands like Keshopur–Miani and Shallpattan are the only wetlands in Punjab to host the migratory population of common crane and resident population of the Sarus crane. The Ropar and Nangal wetlands host the three migratory water species of the family Podicipedidae i.e., black-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe and Greater Crested Grebe along with the resident Little Grebe.
“The year 2022 has been very difficult and challenging in relation to conducting the waterbird census exercise in wetlands of Punjab. The peak migratory bird season overlapped with the outbreak of the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Also, an unusually severe cold wave engulfed northern India in January and early February 2022 making an unconducive situation because of intermittent rains and dense fog for assessing the wetlands and conducting the field survey for waterbirds.
“However, before the onset of the reverse migration of the waterbirds, it was decided to conduct a waterbird ‘species richness’ survey in February 2022.”
She said, “The species of high conservation significance recorded during the survey include Bonelli’s Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon, Steppe Eagle, Western Black-tailed Godwit, Black-headed Ibis, Sarus Crane, Painted Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Common Pochard, Common Crane, Ferruginous Pochard, Pallid Harrier, River Tern, Indian Spotted Eagle, River Lapwing, Oriental Darter, and Eurasian Curlew,”
Ms. Kanwar said the Eurasian Coot was one of the most common waterbirds spotted in almost all protected wetlands of Punjab during the survey.
“The Eurasian Coot also forms one of the highest densities among all the waterbirds recorded from Nangal, Ropar, Harike, Keshopur–Miani and Kanjli wetland followed by Gadwall and Common Teal,” she said.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2022 12:18:01 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/migratory-waterbirds-encouraging-trend-of-species-diversity-recorded/article65198183.ece