Rare bird sightings after decades in Kashmir’s Wular Lake

With conservative efforts going on in Asia’s second largest freshwater lake in Kashmir’s Bandipora and Baramulla districts, the Smew — scientifically known as Mergellus albellus and the Long-tailed Duck, a rare duck species found in European and American continents and assessed as highly vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list, were among the new sightings in the lake after 100 years.

The rare sighting of new species has enthralled bird watchers, while the authorities expressed delight.

Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA), Irfan Rasool, said: “Besides these sightings, many new migratory bird species are expected to be seen in Wular as the Wular restoration plan is bearing fruits with process going on large scale besides public awareness playing significance role in going with the mission.

“A group of five ducks were seen foraging in Wular lake on January 22 by WUCMA field officials and they recorded the details on their field book and captured camera pictures of ducks,” he said.

The pictures were shared with ornithologists for identification and it was discovered that the birds are, in fact, rare migrants known as “Long Tailed Duck”, Rasool said.

The last record of this bird was reported from Hokersar lake, Kashmir in 1939 as mentioned by F. Ludlow in a research paper published in “Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society”.

It is after 84 years that the bird has been spotted again in Kashmir and has been documented now. There are only a few sites in India which meet the “1 per cent criteria” necessary for the survival and propagation of this duck species, Mudasir, a local resident, said.

Much to the delight of ornithologists, the eco-restoration of Wular lake has created a ray of hope, as record number of migratory birds have visited Wular lake, this year, Mudasir said, adding that the rare sightings have been of common pochard, red crested pochard and long tailed duck apart from other common water birds normally seen in other wetlands.

Mudasir said the Smew is another species of duck and is the only living member of the genus mergellus. A female pair of these birds was photographed by Showkat Ahmad, a staff of WUCMA along with Ansar Ahmad an avid birder from Wular Lake, he said, adding the last found record of this migratory bird in Kashmir was in 1907.

Many internationally and nationally reputed bird photographers are thronging the lake to capture these rare sightings of migratory birds.

“Along with the long-tailed duck, common pochard, red-crested pochard, common shelduck, ruddy shelduck, and other birds which share Wular Lake’s habitat, have been sighted after long,” Ahmad added.

Recently, during the Wular Festival, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang Kundbarao Pole said that the government is going to construct a non-motorable walkway around Asia’s famed Wular Lake in Bandipora district.




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