Srinagar, Nov 16: As winter sets in, the wetland reserves of Kashmir valley have become a vibrant refuge for hundreds of migratory birds from Europe and Western countries.
This annual migration, deeply rooted in centuries-old patterns, marks a significant event in the ecological calendar, showcasing the enduring appeal of Kashmir as a winter haven.
Last year witnessed a staggering twelve lakh migratory birds undertaking the arduous journey from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to the wetlands of Kashmir.
This migration, originating from diverse locations such as Siberia, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and Japan, commences around October as these winged visitors seek respite from the harsh winter conditions in their native habitats.
An official of Wildlife Department said that Kashmir’s wetlands, including renowned sites like Hokersar, Wular Lake, Haigam, and Shalbugh, transform into bustling habitats for these migratory birds, offering a haven of relative warmth and sustenance during the colder months.
He said that the migratory period extends until March, when the birds return to their distant homelands, completing a cycle that has played out for centuries.
He further said that the recent influx of migratory birds, numbering in the thousands, has infused the wetland reserves of Kashmir with vibrant hues and melodious sounds. The official attribute this surge to the conducive day and night temperatures in certain parts of the valley, providing an inviting environment for these avian visitors.
In Wular Lake, the official said the arrival of Black-headed Gulls. These migratory birds breed in various regions of Europe and Asia, choosing Wular Lake and other parts of South Asia as their wintering grounds.
He said that their migratory behavior is influenced by seasonal changes and the availability of food resources. During the non-breeding season, many black-headed gulls migrate to warmer regions in search of food and more favourable weather conditions.
“Known for their diverse diet, these gulls feed on fish, insects, small crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. They exhibit impressive skills in catching flying insects and foraging for food in shallow water bodies,” he added.
“Measures, such as maintaining sufficient water levels in all wetlands, have been implemented to create a conducive environment for these avian visitors,” he added.
“Among the myriad bird species gracing the wetlands are the Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Brahminy Duck, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon,” he said, adding that their presence creates a captivating spectacle, attracting bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
However, the beauty of this annual migration is not without its challenges. Over the years, the threat of poaching has been a cause for concern, posing risks to the well-being of these migratory birds.
The Wildlife Department has, nevertheless, intensified its efforts to curb illegal activities and protect the avian guests. “We have heightened our vigilance and are conducting regular checks in and around these wetlands to prevent the illegal hunting of migratory birds. Also, we have established highly active squads to actively curb this illicit practice of killing migratory birds,” the official added.
The official added that the conclusive count of these birds will be available by the end of next week.