Winged guests throng Chilika

Berhampur: Winter is yet to set in Orissa but the winged guests have started thronging Chilika,the biggest waterfowl habitat in the country. Wildlife officials have spotted a number of migratory birds in Nalabana Island, the bird sanctuary inside the 1,100 sq km lake, during their field visit over the weekend as part of a training programme on bird identification.

The training programme was organised by Chilika Development Authority in collaboration with Mumbai-based Bombay Natural History Society to train forest rangers, guards and bird watchers to identify different bird species.

"During their visit to the sanctuary in the blue lagoon, they have spotted a number of migratory birds of different varieties," DFO (wildlife division) B P Acharya said. Migratory birds including northern pintail, gadwall, yellow wagtail and pratincole were spotted in the 15.59 sq km Nalabana area, he said.

The wildlife division has taken steps to protect the feathered guests. "We have set up two camps in Nalabana area to keep strict vigil against poachers. More such camps would be set up in other parts of the lake in the coming days," he said. He, however, said migratory birds were yet to be spotted in large numbers in other parts of the lake. "We are hopeful that in the coming days a large number of migratory birds will visit Chilika," he said.

In the last winter, around 8.04 lakh birds of 169 different species had visited the blue lagoon, officials said. "Their arrival is not too late, but in time this year," the DFO said. "Snowfall in their native countries might have prompted the winged guests to come to Chilika to escape the biting cold," DFO added.

Availability of food and favourable weather are some of the reasons for lakhs of birds flying towards Chilika as their winter abode, the ornithologists attributed.

The winged guests mostly from beyond the Himalayas in the Northern Eurasia, Caspian region, Siberia, Kazakh, Lake Baikal and the remote areas of Russia and neighbouring countries visit the Chilika every winter and start their homeward journey before onset of summer.