JAMMU: In a spectacular annual phenomenon, thousands of migratory birds, ranging from the bar-headed geese to egrets, have descended upon the Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve near the International Border in the outskirt of Jammu capital.
The wetland, located approximately 35 kilometres from Jammu, has become a ‘haven for bird enthusiasts’ as over 6,000-bar-headed geese and various other species from the northern hemisphere migrate to the region during winter annually.
“Every year, over 6,000 migratory birds of many species, the majority of them bar-headed geese, arrive at the Gharana Wetland. This year so far over 3,000 to 4,000 such birds have arrived here from the northern hemisphere. Their number is expected to increase,” Simple Singh, in-charge at Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve (GWCR), told PTI.
He said the number of migratory birds at this winter habitat increases every year.
“The department of wildlife is making all arrangements here for visitors. Schools undertake visits to the Gharana with their students,” Singh added.
Hundreds of people, mostly students and photography enthusiasts, throng the wetland during the winter to have a glimpse of the migratory birds.
“It is an ideal place for wildlife photography as you get the opportunity to shoot over 300 species of migratory birds, particularly Siberian cranes,” Asvina, a student of Institute of Music and Fine Arts said.
“I love to photograph birds, animals and nature. I am very happy to be here as it is a paradise for bird lovers,” Asvina said.
Similarly, Jammu University student Sakshi goes on to say that coming here is an opportunity to learn about various aspects of nature and birds.
“A good footfall of visitors was seen here. It has provided us an opportunity to come close to nature and shoot and learn about various aspects of photography,” she said.
The GWCR surrounded by wetlands of Makwal, Kukdian, Abdullian and Pargwal, has more than 170 residents living in the Gharana village and is home to migratory bird species such as bar-headed geese, gadwalls, common teals, purple swamp hens, Indian moorhens, black-winged stilts, cormorants, egrets and green shanks flock during the winter, officials said.
Rohit Kumar of Punjab’s Gurdaspur said, “I am astonished to see such a large number of bird species here. My maternal uncle had told me about migratory birds flying to Gharana so we came here to watch them,” he said.
The wetland, which is located on the Indo-Pak border, has witnessed a rise in footfall with efforts in place to protect the avian guests. Fencing and other necessary construction work are being done to protect migratory birds and their winter habitat, the officials said.
“Several species of migratory birds, such as the Siberian crane, come here from abroad. We were happy to see various beautiful migratory birds coming here and flying in this area. They don’t know about international borders. For them, this is a border-less world,” Sidharth Kumar, a member of Farmers Produce Organisation (FPO), said.
Gharana, situated along the Central Asian Flyway, holds international recognition as an Important Bird Area (IBA), declared by BirdLife International (UK) and the Bombay Natural History Society.
Conservation measures, including scientific management interventions and a five-year management plan developed in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), aim to preserve the wetland, promote eco-tourism, and enhance its status as a crucial tourist destination, the officials said.
The administration is committed to safeguarding this vital habitat for migratory birds, they added.