Hokersar and other wetlands of Kashmir look effervescent at the moment in the company of over 12 lakh migratory birds. As the temperature dips in October every year, birds from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Japan start a marathon flight to Kashmir in search of food, which becomes scarce in their natural habitats. Bilal Bahadur captures the aerial visitors.
Lakhs of migratory birds have thronged wetlands across Kashmir. Officials say, they are expecting the highest number of avian visitors this winter.
Brahminy Duck, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Northern Shoveler, and other migratory birds have showed up in the valley’s wetlands.
These birds feed on insects, worms and fish in these water bodies and return to their habitats by the end of January.
“There are over 12 lakh migratory birds in various wetlands and water bodies of Kashmir at present,” Mohammad Maqbool Baba, Wildlife Warden said.
The other prominent bird reserves of the Valley are Shallabugh, Mirgund and Hygam.
Besides, migratory birds also spend the winter months in over 120 other small and big water bodies including the Wullar Lake and the Dal Lake.
Some rare species, including brahmani ducks, have been spotted in the reserve this time.
Of late, the government has initiated several measures to curb the trend, including banning conversion of agricultural land — which also acts as feeding area for migratory birds — for residential or other purposes.
For many years, tufted ducks and cotton teals that are highly endangered species of migratory birds have been rarely sighted in our reserves.
‘We have around 25,000 greylag geese, over 100,000 mallards, nearly 150,000 teals, over 50,000 shovellers, pintails, gadwalls, wigeons, coots and purple moorhens in the reserve time and with each passing day, more birds are arriving,’ Baba said.
Baba said wetland reserves were notified as winter homes for migratory birds and declared protected in Kashmir in 1945 by the erstwhile Dogra Maharaja, Hari Singh, even though bird shooting as a sport was banned in Jammu and Kashmir only in 1995.
‘Nobody can shoot a migratory bird of any species in the state anywhere. This law is applicable to both the bird reserves and all other water bodies where these birds are found,’ Baba said.
‘Poaching like other crimes would always be there. We are trying our best to check this and ensure the safety of the birds,’ he said.