Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bird Watching in Pakistan

I am not an avid bird watcher. But a few years back, I happened to have visited areas south of Rahim Yar Khan and there in an artificial canal, near the villages of Sandh and Gabber,  created to divert the saline water, I for the first time in my life came across millions of migratory birds over the deep blue water of the canal. Black Swans flew majestically over head. And then I started reading about birds, specially those who are indigenous to Pakistan and those who are migratory and visit us each year in abundance, especially from Siberia.

I also got a chance to see the Houbara Bustard, in the coastal area near Jhampir/Thatta of Sind province when I was detailed as a conducting officer with the royalties of a friendly country. They royal guests had come for the falcon-hunting of Houbara Bustard. I also came to know then the Houbara Bustard has been declared as one of the endangered species. 

Pakistan’s diverse weather and varied land attracts some of the rare and exclusive birds of the world to its wetlands and lakes that are stretched all over the country. The migratory birds, besides native birds in their natural habitat in the jungles and mountains, provide an excellent opportunity to the bird watchers around the world. Western Tragopan pheasant (Tragopan melanocephalus - pictured above) is one of the rare species that exists in the northerly mountains and the Macharia National Park , where it is being bred and chances are that this beautiful bird will be able to be saved of its near extinction in Pakistan.

Besides Siberia, birds from Europe and Central Asian states also fly to the Pakistani wetlands for winter. They said that migratory birds flew over Karakorum, Suleiman Ranges and Hindukush along the Indus River, which is called the Indus Flyway or Flyway Number 4. It may be added here that there are seven flyways all around the world followed by the migratory birds every year in the search of warm waters during winters. The volume of birds on Indus Flyway ranges between 700,000 to 1,200,000 birds each year.
Some of the many birds that one comes across include Lammagier and Griffon Vulture, Laggar Falcon, Kestrel, Black-tailed Godwit’ Dalmatian Pelican, Mallard, Northern-Shoveler, Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), Imperial Eagle (Aquila Heliaca), Indian Skimmer (Rynchops Albicollis), Brooks's Leaf-warbler, Spectacled Finch, Ruddy Shelduck, my favourite Flamingos and many other species.

The mangrove forests along the Arabian Sea coast also attracts 30,000-50,000 migratory birds. Among the birds that visit mangroves are gulls, coots, terns, dalmatian pelicans, flamingos, osprey dowitchers, dunlin oystercatchers, waders and duck. Birds that are permanent residents of the mangroves are herons, egrets, black-winged stilts and cormorants.

For the bird watchers, Pakistan and its wetlands await them to come and see some of the rare and beautiful birds of the world. The time-in of the birds flow is between September to November, while the time-out is between February to March, when finally it is warm enough back home for the birds to fly back.

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