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Rare and elusive duck species visit Kashmir after 116 years
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Rare and elusive duck species visit Kashmir after 116 years

Post by ANI on Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) employee Showkat Ahmad first reported and captured the duck species on camera at the iconic Wular lake on January 22, 2023, which were later identified as long-tailed ducks (globally vulnerable) and were five in number.

These ducks were spotted in Kashmir after 84 years, and the last time they were sighted in Hokersar was in 1939 by F Ludlow. After Showkat Ahmad spotted the ducks, the news spread like fire among local birders and ornithologists .

Only after three days, another rare duck species called smew was spotted and captured on camera. This time, a single female smew was first spotted by Bilal Nasir Zargar (Director, Wildlife Conservation Fund, YPJK), Umer Nazir, Sheikh Harris, Irfan Ul Shamas, and Showkat Ahmad, followed by Ansar Ahmad.

To the ornithologists' surprise, these duck species have been spotted in Kashmir after a period of 116 years. This means the last record of this species in Kashmir was in 1907.

Apart from this, other rare bird species, such as common shelduck, ruddy shelduck, white-tailed eagle, imperial eagle, tufted duck, Northern lapwing, etc., can also be seen at Wular Lake. Wular Lake (a Ramsar site), one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, is located at Haramuk Mountain's base. Its length is over 24 km, and its width is 10 km, for a total area of 200 sq km. It is located close to Baramula Road, between Sopore and Bandipora, and the river Jhelum is the primary supply of water for the lake.

Long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis) occur all the way around the Arctic and Antarctic. Their breeding grounds in North America span the Canadian tundra and the Arctic coastline from Alaska to Greenland. They are slim, colourful sea ducks with long tails. They fly quickly and low, often forming and reforming tight clusters. The long-tailed ducks migrate all the way to British Columbia on their way west from Alaska and Russia.

Smews (Mergellus albellus) are medium-sized ducks that are part of the Anatidae family. The smew is a species found in both Eurasia and Europe. They rarely visit different parts of the Indian subcontinent. They are among the most migratory birds, with arrivals at breeding grounds beginning in April.

Wular lake has changed considerably during the last few years. Facing the serious problems of willow infestation and silt, some serious approach was needed. This is why the removal of willows and the excavation of silt is being continuously carried out in the Wular Lake. It is believed that out of a total of 27 square kilometres, only 4.5 square kilometres have been restored.

The UT government approved a Rs 200-crore Wular Action Plan for the lake's preservation and management in 2018.

Although WUCMA is trying its best to conserve the area and its species, the area so big to manage even for a larger force, and tens of villages are either directly or indirectly dependent on Wular Lake for their livelihood. Since many people are depended on Wular lake for their livelihood through fishing, there are times when the birds get stuck in fishing nets and die. So, proper cooperation from local people is needed for the protection of Wular Lake. (ANI)

The pic used in this story is a file photo


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