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Rare winter migrant bird spotted in Himachal

Rare winter migrant bird spotted in HimachalShimla, Jan 31 - Much to the delight of ornithologists, the Pong Dam wetlands in Himachal Pradesh's picturesque Kangra Valley have got a rare winter migrant, the whooper swan, a wildlife official said Thursday.

"A pair of whooper swans was spotted in the Nagrota Suriyan area Wednesday. It was a chance discovery," Assistant Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) D. S. Dadwal told IANS.

He said the whooper swan was a new record in the Pong wetlands.

"The whooper swan is a rare migrant to India. It normally migrates from Central Asia and Europe."

Dadwal even captured the birds on his camera.

The Pong wetlands, spread over 307 sq km, have the distinction of being one of the important winter grounds for some of the rare species from Central and Northern Asia.

The Pong Dam reservoir is some 250 km from state capital Shimla and 190 km from Chandigarh.

The presence of the whooper swan, with distinctive long thin neck and yellow bill, at the Pong wetlands attracts the attention of ornithologists.

"As the news about the sighting of the swans flashed, we got a number of enquiries from bird lovers across the country," he said.

The Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature - a compendium of species facing extinction - has put the whooper swan in the least concern category.

It has an extremely large range and prefers shallow freshwater pools, lakes, marshes and swamps.

Last month, the Pong Dam authorities spotted a ruddy-breasted crake - a bird species usually seen in marshy areas of northeastern India - for the first time.

Meanwhile, a two-day census of waterfowl species -- birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding - began Friday in Pong.

More than 100 bird watchers and staff of the wildlife department are participating in the dawn-to-dusk exercise, said Range officer (Pong wetlands) Sangeeta Chandel.

She said as per initial estimates over 100,000 feathered guests of 60 species are holidaying in Pong wetlands.

This year again the largest influx is of the bar-headed goose, common coot, northern pintail, common pochard, tufted pochard, red-crested pochard, common teal, little cormorant, great-crested grebe and the greylag goose.

The influx of birds can be seen at swamps near Nagrota Suriyan, Budladha and Sansarpur Terrace.

In the census conducted in January last year, 119,500 waterbirds were spotted in Pong, while the bird count was 132,000 in 2011, 144,000 in 2010 and 95,000 in 2009. (IANS)