By Yogesh Sharma
Jammu: Every year in the months of November and December, January and February the bird-watchers from across the region start visiting the famous Gharana wetland located along the Indo-Pak International Border in Jammu & Kashmir’s R.S. Pura area around 30 kilometres towards south from Jammu city.
The Gharana Wetland is named after the village, where it is located and the parts of this marshy wetland are also located in across the border in Pakistan. Ghrana hosts a large variety of migratory birds that fly in from Central Asia, Siberia and other parts of the world. While the birds congregate here every year, the number of species spotted this time has gone up to around 40 from the usual 25.
One of the main reasons for this according to wildlife officials is peace at the border between India and Pakistan.
The absence of cross-border firing since February 2021 due to the reiteration of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the bordering nations has made the wetland a haven for birds.
While the Bar-headed Goose, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Black-winged Stilt and Grey Heron are among the usual visitors, the new species spotted at the Gharana Wetland include the White-breasted Ibis, Pied Kingfisher and Eurasian Wigeon. Woolly-necked Storks, rarely spotted in Gharana, have this time flown to the wetland in large numbers.
The Gharana Wetland hosts a population of nearly 25,000 birds of different species every winter season, most of which are migratory, according to the wildlife department. A census is currently underway to get an estimate of the number of birds that have arrived this time.
As per the wildlife officials the migratory birds start reaching the Gharana wetland between the last week of October and first week of November. The maximum birds flock to the area in December and January, and they start returning to their native lands between the end of February and first week of March.
According to initial estimates of the ongoing census, nearly 5,000 Bar-headed Geese have been spotted at Gharana and surrounding areas this time. Bar-headed Geese also migrate to Ladakh to breed in the summers.
Apart from aquatic vegetation and insects, the migratory birds that come to Gharana also feed on agricultural crops in the nearby fields, which sometimes contradict the respective interests of the local farmers and wildlife department. As an effort to avoid this, the wildlife department also makes available the fish in the wetland as food for these birds.