In photos | Migratory birds arrive in Kashmir’s wetlands amid shrinking spaces

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The December chill ends most excitement in Kashmir. A few remaining leaves cling to the mighty Chinars that can be spotted from a distance due to the rusty orange hue on an otherwise dull, hazy winter day. It also marks, however, the time when remarkable birds from faraway lands flock to the region.

There are scores of bird species that enter the land of Kashmir from the central Asian region, China and places as far as Siberia in Russia. They are treated as winter guests by many while some see them as games for the next three months.

Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

The migratory birds have been coming to the valley for as long as one can remember. They stay for a while mostly near lakes, marshes and wetlands. This year, so far, an estimated lakh have already arrived at the Hokarsar wetland just outside Srinagar city.

This is the first time in the last two years that the ‘guests’ are witnessing some good spots to stay. The challenges for them have mounted over the years with shrinking space and threats from poachers but, the officials from the department of wildlife protection believe this year they will have a record number of arrivals.

Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

The wildlife department carries out a census of these migratory birds every year in February. Last year, over 11 lakh birds visited the region while in 2020 a total of 8.13 lakh birds visited the region belonging to as many as 39 species, according to the data from the wildlife department. More than half of these birds are spotted in Hokersar, a wetland area of about 13.55 sq km.

According to the department, it is a safe roosting and feeding ground for migratory birds. The wetland is also significant as it acts as a breeding and nesting ground for both migratory and resident birds. This year, so far, around 1 lakh birds have already arrived.

The dredging, however, has been distracting the discreet birds looking for food and silence in the wetland.

Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

These birds come from Siberia, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and Japan to the valley and stay here for about five months.

These birds include Tufted Duck, Gudwal, Brahminy Duck, Gargantuan, Greyleg Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal and Eurasian Wagtail.

Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

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