Posts tagged with “Bar-headed Goose”

Pong – a migration hotspot

Wednesday, 3 April, 2013

By Devinder Singh Dhadwalbirds-2 238 cropped

Situated about 250 km from Shimla and 190 km from Chandigarh and nestled in the picturesque Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Pong is one of the largest manmade wetlands of northern India. This huge wetland came into existence in 1974 after the construction of Pong Dam across the River Beas. Fed by waters from the Dhauladhar mountain range, the reservoir – also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar – forms a lake that is 42 km long and 19 km wide. It has a catchment area of 12,500 sq km that extends over the districts of Kangra, Mandi and Kullu. The area of the waterbody varies seasonally – ranging from about 125 sq km in summer to around 220 sq km in the monsoons.

DSC_6537 croppedPong has a variety of habitats in its fold – ranging from deep waters to marshlands. This, together with its geographic location in the foot of the Himalayas, makes Pong a very important wintering ground for migratory birds – including some rare species – from Central and Northern Asia. This wetland is the first major stopover reserve for birds migrating from the trans-Himalayan zone during winters when the wetlands in the Europe and North and Central Asia become frozen. Flocks of waterfowl that breed in the northern areas arrive during winter (October–March) to Pong to winter to more congenial climatic conditions.

Till date more than 400 species of birds have been recorded from Pong. The latest addition to the list (418th) is also one of the rarest birds to be seen in the Indian Subcontinent: On 29th January 2013, a pair of Whooper Swans was sighted and photographed. It may be noted that the last IMG_4405 copy croppedrecord of this elusive swan from India was way back in 1900 by E H Aitken (on Beas River) and Gen Osborne (at Talwara). Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland (also featured on the Finnish 1-Euro coin), is a rare migrant to India from Central Asia and Europe. Like Sarus Cranes, the Whooper Swans are known to pair for life and are one of the heaviest flying birds with an average body weight ranging from 8.2 to 11.4 kg. The news of the Whooper Swan, drew tremendous interest from ornithologists all across the country. Another interesting bird that was recently sighted at Pong was the Ruddy-breasted Crake in the periphery of the Pong Dam wetland for the first time.

Pong also has the distinction of being the first Ramsar site of Himachal. It is, without doubt, one of the most critical sites for bird migration in India. An estimated 1.50 lakh migratory birds visit Pong to roost and feed every winter! The scale can be judged by a recent survey wherein huge numbers of species such as the Bar-Headed Goose (34,000), Northern Pintail (21,000), Common Pochard (12,000), Tufted Pochard (8,000), and Common Teal (6,800) were observed.

DS Dhadwal photo_cropped1MigrantWatcher Devinder Singh Dhadwal is an Assistant Conservator of Forests with the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department. He is a passionate ornithologist who has been working on conservation efforts in Pong for more than 10 years in his capacity of Wildlife Warden. Also a keen photographer, DS Dhadwal has authored a book titled Wild Wings: Pong and its Birds.



For more details on Pong please write to DS Dhadwal at dd123.singh[at]gmail[dot]com

Female Bar-headed Goose “NU” four years in a row

Saturday, 3 December, 2011

Text and photos by Tarun Balpande

Born in Pandhurna (M.P.) and settled in Nagpur, Tarun Balpande works as an Area Manager in the Oncology division of a pharmaceutical company. He was drawn into the excitement of birding five years ago, when he took part in a Great Indian Bustard census. After observing migrating Bar-headed Geese, he now concentrates on migratory birds. He also works on the importance of planting fruit-bearing trees, and on getting a bird-feeder in every home in Nagpur.

In 2008, I came to know through the nagpurbirds e-group, run by Tarique Sani, that several Bar-headed Geese had been collared in Mongolia. In November of that year, Raju Kasambe and I started searching around Nagpur for Bar-headed Geese to check for a collar. At one point, Raju Kasambe spotted “something” yellow on the neck of a goose, but our limited optics didn’t allow us to see it clearly.

But the big day finally came!! On 19 January 2009, my wife Rakhee, son Chaitanya and I, together with Kishor Khandekar were watching a group of Bar-headed Geese, when I suddenly noticed a goose with a yellow collar around its neck. Through my binoculars I could read the letters “NU”, and I was able to click a few images with these letters clearly visible. But what did “NU” mean?

With the help of Raju Kasambe and Tarique Sani, I came to know that black lettering on a yellow collar meant that the goose had been marked in Mongolia. Martin Gilbert informed me that NU was an adult female, captured on 17 July 2008 in the Darkhad Valley, Hovsgol province of Mongolia.

Many Bar-headed Geese had been collared there to understand the migration of this species. These birds were collared by a team led by Martin Gilbert, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Mongolia. A number of species have been marked using different techniques appropriate for each species. The Bar-headed Geese were marked with a neck collar inscribed with a unique alphanumeric code.

All this happened 4800 km away! The Bar-headed Goose we sighted was at Paradgaon lake, which is situated on the Umred road, around 28 km from Nagpur. The entire season myself and other fellow birders were looking for a collar other than NU, but no one find another collared Goose. At the end of the migration season, we were all looking forward to the next season — NU had left us with wonderful memories.

Next season, on 5 November 2009, Raju Kasambe recorded the first arrival of a flock of 300 Geese at Paradgaon lake. 0n 12 December 2009, I clicked a photo of my old Mongolian girlfriend NU! This affair continued in 2010, when I photographed her again on 26 November. I emailed a message to Martin Gilbert, and he replied: “How good to hear from you again, and thank you so much for sending your sighting! …it is indeed great news that you have been able to relocate NU once again, and I believe this is the first time that we have had any bird resighted in three consecutive years!”. This is the best appreciation for any birdwatcher.

This year, 2011, I started monitoring the lake from 10 November. On 24 November 2011, Rakhee, Chaitanya and I, together with birdwatcher Avinash, saw a flock of 275-300 Bar-headed Geese. I started searching the flock for NU. Euphoria !!! she was there !!! As usual I clicked a few photos.

I am proud to report that NU visits Paradgaon lake for the fourth consecutive year! The exact location of the lake is: 20°92’58.06″N 79°22’24.14″E

You can see all of Tarun Balpande’s reports on MigrantWatch.

For other reports of marked birds from Mongolia, look at this page on Birds of India. And a copy of a message from Martin Gilbert is here.

For more information about Bar-headed Geese, including some recent information on their migration, take a look at this species profile on the MigrantWatch blog.