Migratory birds make beeline for Chilika

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Berhampur: Winged guests have started flocking to Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon in Odisha, to feed and breed in its waters, officials said on Friday.

The arrival of the migratory birds has been sighted in the second week of October, about a week later than the previous year, according to Sarat Chandra Mishra, assistant conservator of forests (ACF) of the Chilika wildlife division.

Several birds were seen flying near Chilika without swooping down on the lake. They might land once the water level recedes in the lake, the official said.

Migratory birds like northern pintail, gadwall, shovelers, common coot and several others were found in the lagoon, which is connected to the Bay of Bengal through a narrow sea mouth, and is spread across Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts.

It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian subcontinent, according to the Chilika website.

An estimated over 22,000 birds of 62 different species have been spotted at the 1,100-sq-km lake so far. More than 5,000 of them have swooped down in the 15.69-sq-km Nalaban bird sanctuary inside the lake, he said.

We expect they might arrive in larger numbers by the end of this month, the forest official said.

The water level of the lake is high due to prolonged rain in September and October. Migratory birds may find it difficult to get food in the submerged water body, ornithologist U N Dev said.

This might be one of the causes for the delay in their arrival to the lagoon, Dev added.

As many as 12.43 lakh birds of 190 different species were enumerated in the blue lagoon in the previous winter, ornithologists said.

The winged guests, mostly from central and southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Siberia, and remote areas of Russia and neighboring countries visit Chilika every winter and start their return homeward journey before onset of summer.

Ornithologists believe that non-availability of food and cold weather conditions up north prompt birds to migrate to warmer water bodies, including Chilika.

The Chilika Wildlife Division has set up 21 camps to prevent poaching during the season. An additional 60 locals were hired to work in the temporary camps, which will function till March, the ACF said.

In the last migratory season, 15 poachers were arrested from the area, he added.

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