R.S PURA (Jammu), Jan 24:
From bar-headed geese to egrets, thousands of migratory birds from various countries have flocked to the scenic Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve along the International Border in Jammu, thereby turning it into a paradise for bird-watchers.
Around 5,000 to 6,000 migratory birds of different species flock to the Gharana Wetland from the northern hemisphere during the winter every year.
“Around 5,000-6,000 bar-headed geese and birds of many other species have arrived at the Gharana Wetland. Their number is expected to increase,” wildlife warden, Jammu, Shahzad Chowdary, said.
Fishes in large numbers were also put into the wetland for providing food to these migratory birds, he said.
The Gharana Wetland, located about 35 km from Jammu and surrounded by wetlands of Makwal, Kukdian, Abdullian and Pargwal, has more than 170 residents, and migratory bird species such as bar-headed geese, gadwalls, common teals, purple swamp hens, Indian moorhens, black-winged stilts, cormorants, egrets and green shanks flock to the wetland during the winter.
More than 370 bird species, including 310 water species, from the Central Asian highlands start congregating at various wetlands in the country with the onset of winter every year.
Hundreds of people from various parts of Jammu have been thronging the wetland to watch these birds and take pictures.
Wildlife officials said more than 3,000 to 4,000 people, mostly schoolchildren, have visited the place to take a look at the birds.
“It is the only spot in Jammu to watch migratory birds of different spices. We loved the spectacle. We took pictures with birds flying together,” Ravi Choudhary, a schoolteacher, said.
He said it has not only become a picnic for the schoolchildren but also live education centre for teaching them to love environment, protect and preserve it.
“I loved the birds flying. We took selfies. It was a treat for us,” Asvina, a student of the Border Security Force (BSF) school, said.
Last year, shelling and firing by the Pakistani troops scared the winged visitors so they had kept away in large numbers, the officials said.
Gharana, located along the Central Asian Flyway, is a notified wetland conservation reserve under the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act, 1978.
It has international recognition as one of the important bird areas (IBAs) in the world, declared by the BirdLife International (UK) and the Bombay Natural History Society.
Some of the steps were scientific management interventions like selective removal of weed and monitoring of birds and ‘watch and ward’ for averting hunting or poaching attempts, the wildlife officials said.
Administration has directed the deputy commissioner of Jammu to expedite the land acquisition process for the Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve on the outskirts of the city.
A five-year management plan of the wetland has been prepared by the Wildlife Protection Department through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which would help in conserving the wetland, make it an important tourist destination and promote eco-tourism, the officials said. (PTI)