Good news for birdwatchers as Keshopur Chhamb in Gurdaspur, one of Asia’s largest wetlands, is teeming with birding visitors this winter. The number of birds turned out to be the highest in 25 years, a year after witnessing a huge drop in numbers.
The last census of birds coming from Central Asia and Siberia for this season was carried out by the Punjab Wildlife Department in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Chandigarh Bird Club on February 15. The total count recorded by expert teams was 29,480, which is the highest in 25 years. Last year, the number was just 11,458.
The number of birds from previous years was 16,800 (2014), 20,500 (2015), 25,306 (2016), 21,182 (2017), 22,691 (2018), 20,883 (2019) and 23,018 ( 2020).
Birds of 63 species have arrived
According to data shared by the department, birds of a total of 63 species have arrived in Keshopur Chhamb, which also includes surrounding areas like Shalla Pattan and Makora Pattan. The top five species are pintail (5,726 birds), green-winged teal (4,558), northern lapwing (3,634), coot (3,619) and gadwall (2,254).
Divisional Forestry Officer, Wildlife, (Pathankot) Rajesh Mahajan said: “The reason for the increase in visitation is that we have increased activities to ensure habitat improvement. For example, we remove moss and other green plants from the surface of the water. This increases the surface area of water bodies for birds. Secondly, it also depends on the personal choice of the birds to prefer their natural habitat. In this season, they preferred this place.
“Three factors – food, safety and shelter – play a crucial role in attracting birds. don’t arrive at the same time. One of their groups comes in advance to check the conditions. In their own way, they make the other birds aware of it and little by little all arrive on site.
This wetland is one of three wetlands in Punjab and 10 in the country, which have been declared Ramsar sites of international importance. Ramsar is a city in Iran, where the first Wetlands Convention was held in 1971. From 2011 to 2020, visitation has gradually increased in the wetland which spans 850 acres.