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Feathered friends on homeward rush

15th April, 2013, The Pioneer, New Delhi

They still take the traditional Silk Route. Only, unlike ancient traders and travellers, they take wings. The feathered guests that descend on various water bodies across India with the onset of winter, after crossing national and international boundaries to avoid the extreme chills of their native habitats in Tibet, Central Asia, Russia and Siberia, are now set to make their annual return journey.

A migratory bird in the Kangra Valley’s Pong wetlands in Himachal Pradesh, which was tagged with a global positioning system (GPS) transmitter last winter, has returned to its native China.

A few other bird species are currently in lakes in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, after their winter sojourn in Pong’s man-made wetlands, in the Himalayan foothills, about 250 km from State capital Shimla.

A few “holidaying” birds remain though, in Pong. “A pintail that was tagged with a satellite transmitter in Pong was recorded last week in China. Another bird of the same species has reached Kyrgyzstan,” Chief Wildlife Warden AK Gulati told IANS.

He said that migratory routes of the birds stretched from India to China, with brief stopovers at key wetlands in the Himalayas and the trans-Himalayas. The State wildlife department, in association with the Mumbai-based Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), under a central government-aided project to track their migratory routes through satellite, tagged 14 migratory birds of different species for the third consecutive year in Pong.

BNHS assistant director S Balachandran, who installed the GPS chips on the birds and monitored their movements, said a common teal, tagged in Pong, was recently recorded in Pakistan. Two birds — a greylag goose and a shoveller — were recorded in Srinagar and Harike in Punjab, respectively, this month.

“They might be on their return journey from Pong to their native habitats,” he said. Balachandran said that a tagged common teal and a shoveller are still roosting in Pong.