GUWAHATI, Dec 1 – The long distance travellers have landed on schedule and what a sight they offer! Deepor Beel is witnessing the arrival of migratory birds, and as the mercury drops more would be touching down on the biggest wetland west of Guwahati. Many of the birds have travelled thousands of kilometres from their summer homes which are beginning to freeze and where food has become scarce at this time of the year. Some have travelled over the Himalayan ranges revealing their ability to fly in high altitude and extreme cold condition.
Nature lovers are enthused, many embarking on languorous walks by the shores of the Ramsar Site to spot the vast array of birds. Even as the wetland faces threats to its existence due to human intervention, it has somehow managed to play host to a diverse species of resident as well as migratory birds.
According to bird watchers, there are some special guests this season. Six great white or rosy pelicans have been photographed north of the water body. Photographer Manas Paran, who along with his friend Biju Boro was able to photograph the birds, described the encounter as “a rare opportunity to watch the graceful birds in a wild environment”. Not a single pelican was observed last year, although infrequent sightings were reported till a few years back.
The great white pelican is one of the species covered by the Agreement on Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, an international treaty under the auspices of the UNEP’s Convention on Migratory Species. The large-sized bird with its peculiar feeding habit is an excellent flyer and leaves its roost in the morning to seek food, at times making a journey of nearly 100 km.
Noted bird watcher Lakkhan Teron, who spoke to The Assam Tribune said that a good number of species have been spotted, including the gadwall, northern pintail, tufted duck, great grebe, black headed gull, plover, among others. A large number of ruddy shelduck with their distinctive bright plumage have also been documented this year.
However, according to bird watchers, some species are yet to make their presence felt. Yet to arrive in Deepor are common pochard, spot-billed duck and bar-headed goose, which were spotted in previous years.
Teron revealed that bird numbers will soar as winter really sets in. “From experience we can say that their numbers increase when fog becomes more dense. It is during the days with high concentration of fog that the migratory bird population peaks on the wetland,” he noted.
At present from the southern flank of Deepor, some birds can be watched without the aid of binoculars. But many have taken refuge in the small highlands and marshy areas not accessible from places like Pamohi. Boat rides offer some possibilities of watching birds as reported by recent visitors to the wetland.
The Ramsar Site, meanwhile, continues to be threatened by a number of factors. Experts have repeatedly warned that further degradation of Deepor will impact on the crucial ecosystem services which it offers.