Winged guests flock Chilika

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Bhubaneswar: Migratory birds have started thronging Odisha’s Chilika Lake, the country’s largest brackish water lagoon.

The forest department officials here are expecting the numbers to increase manifold in the next few weeks.

“Their arrival started early this month. Approximately around two lakh birds have been sighted so far. The number is going to rise steadily in the coming days,” Divisional Forest Officer, Chilika Wildlife Division, Bikash Ranjan Dash said.

The arrival of migratory birds in the lake region was delayed this year due to climatic conditions, the DFO said, adding that they usually flock to the lake during the second half of October.

Heavy rain triggered by low pressure continued till mid-November, making the weather unsuitable for the feathered guests, he said.

“Recurrent rainfall led to submergence of high patches and vegetation areas of the lake, which probably prompted the birds to delay their landing,” the forest officer said.

Dash said the forest department has made elaborate preparations to provide protection to the migratory birds.

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“We have set up 19 temporary bird protection camps at Nalabana sanctuary and its adjacent areas. Patrolling has been intensified to prevent poaching,” said the DFO.

Daily wagers have also been engaged in the camps apart from forest staffers to look after the birds till March, Dash added.

The 15.59-sqkm Nalabana was declared a bird sanctuary almost two decades ago as the winged guests were found congregating in that area in large numbers.

No boats, except for the ones used by the forest department, are allowed to enter the sanctuary, said a forest department official.

The birds are now perching on areas with comparatively low water level and mud patches. Pintails, gadwals, shovellers, rudy shelducks, pratincoles and waders have been spotted in and around the lake so far, the larger ones are yet to arrive, he said.

Unbearable cold during the winter months forces these migrant species to temporarily leave their original habitat.

Apart from Chilika, the Bhitarkanika wetland spots in Odisha also happen to be a favoured destination of the migratory birds as it offers ample food and less human interference, officials said.

Considered the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent, the Chilika attract avian guests from north, central and east Siberia, China, Mongolia, west Asian countries, and the Himalayan region every year.

Last winter, as many as 9.47 lakh birds of 176 different species were spotted at the lake, Dash added.

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