Sunday October 22, 2017
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Migratory birds keep tryst with Kashmir

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Srinagar: A riot of colour and cackle has returned to the wetland reserves of Jammu and Kashmir with the first arrivals of thousands of migratory birds from far off lands this year.

Migratory birds from Siberia, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and other areas arrive here every year to spend winter months in the Kashmir Valley to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes.

“We start receiving the first flights of the avian visitors in the first week of October. The arrivals continue till February,” Imtiyaz Lone, the Wetland Warden of Kashmir said.

“For hundreds of years, these birds have been keeping their annual tryst with the valley.

“Following the season’s change from autumn to early winter, with an almost arithmetical accuracy the migratory birds land in the Hokarsar Wetland reserve on the outskirts of Srinagar and reserves like Shallabugh, Hygam and Mirgund,” Lone added.

Already 250,000 migratory birds including mallards, common teals, gadwalls, pintails and coots, have reached the Hokarsar Wetland reserve so far this year.

Besides the reserves, migratory birds also throng the Dal Lake, the Wullar Lake and other big and small water bodies.

“We will start receiving greylag geese, wigeons, pochards, shovelers, cormorants and sheldrake ducks by the middle of next month,” the official said.

Besides the migratory birds that come to spend the entire winter in the Kashmir Valley, there are some birds of passage too.

“A bird of passage is a migratory bird like the Sandhill crane and the cormorant which arrive in the valley with the beginning of the winter and spend some time before moving down to the Indian plains.

“In the spring months, these birds of passage also spend some time in the valley before moving to their summer homes,” Lone said.

Despite giant strides in navigational technology by humans, Lone says the flight navigation skills of the migratory birds is unparalleled.

“The migratory birds fly in highly disciplined patterns. The eldest of the flock leads the flock like an experienced pilot.

“It is always the elder bird which is assigned the leadership duties during the flight because of its familiarity with the route.

“Imagine, if the leader bird falls sick or gets killed due to some reason during the migratory flight, the next in the line immediately takes over.

“It is like a co-pilot taking charge of a flight in an emergency.

“Each migratory bird species flies separately… The geese fly separately from the mallards and the common teals.

“It is because of this exclusivity of flight that we have phrases saying birds of the same feather fly together,” Lone said.

Under the existing laws of the state, bird shooting is a cognizable offence. But even then it is not uncommon to see migratory birds being sold on the sly in the Kashmir Valley.

“As far as wetland reserves are concerned, there is no question of any poaching,” Lone said.

“The problem arises because the birds leave the reserves for nocturnal feeding to other unprotected water bodies and marshes. It is then that the poachers shoot them.

“Each year, we seize weapons of poachers and charge them with poaching.”

According to Lone, the wildlife protection department is definitely understaffed, especially as far as covering unprotected water bodies and marshy lands is concerned.

Awareness to protect this fabulous legacy of Kashmir is growing fast, especially among the young.

Dozens of school children visit the Hokarsar Wetland Reserve each week to see the pageant of the migratory birds as they wade and dance in the safety of their protected environment.

“Thankfully, the younger generations of Kashmiris are not given to bird or animal hunting. They see the havoc we have wrought on ourselves by violating nature’s laws of mutually beneficial coexistence”, said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired senior veterinarian.

Lone agrees: “It is because the environment in the valley has become comparatively safer for these birds now that we have some species like the mallards whose small numbers prefer living and breeding here instead of flying back to their summer homes.”

Most wetland reserves and other water bodies continue to shrink because of the people’s greed for land in Kashmir.

The cackle of the migratory birds at night and their brilliant colours during the day beckon us to preserve this fabulous heritage.

(Sheikh Qayoom, IANS)

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Pakistani-origin Bollywood Singer Adnan Sami to Perform in Sri Nagar

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Adnan Sami
Adnan Sami. IANS

Srinagar, Oct 7, 2017: Pakistani-origin Bollywood singer Adnan Sami, who is half Kashmiri, is set to perform a musical gala on the banks of the Dal Lake here on Sunday

The ‘Rhythm in Paradise’ concert will take place at the sprawling lawns of the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) with a select audience of around 3,000 VVIPs.

The SKICC complex has been given a facelift to provide the right ambience. A deweeding and preservation operation in the Dal Lake has been speeded up so that the dazzling lights of the concert fall on clean glistening waters.

“He will perform without charging anything for the over two-hour long concert organised jointly by the union Home Ministry and the Jammu and Kashmir government,” Mehmood Shah, Director of the state Tourism Department, told IANS on Saturday.

Doordarshan will stream the concert live. The government has deployed over 100 liaison officers to ensure that the concert takes place smoothly.

A security drill was held on Saturday around the venue to ensure foolproof security.

Sami interacted with some local artists at the Taj Vivanta Hotel here on Friday evening.

Discussing his music journey and sharing experiences with the local artists, Adnan said: “Language of art is a form of communication that transcends all differences created by humans as it reaches above hate to spread a message of peace and harmony.”

On his experiences of visiting the state, Sami said the region hosted a rich culture which had art woven in its roots.

Also Read: Interview with Bhumi Pednekar: Heroines No More a Mere Tool of Glamour 

“The mysticism and Sufism found in Kashmir will continue to inspire me and influence my music so that I can produce rich melodies,” he said.

Sami tweeted on Saturday: “I really enjoyed meeting the amazing local artists. It was delightful talking with them. Felt as if we knew each other from ages. The love.”

Although he has visited the Kashmir Valley previously including for the shooting a Qawali sequence for Bollywood blockbuster “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, Adnan said about his present visit: “I am in heaven on Earth. Kashmir, Srinagar, love, peace, brotherhood and music.”

Many locals have expressed disappointment about the concert being a closed affair and not open to the general public.

“We looked forward to the concert and were ready to pay for the tickets, but we are now told it is not an open concert,” said Suhail Ahmad, 23, a university student.

According to the organisers, the initial plan was for an open concert but security concerns forced it otherwise. (IANS)

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Srinagar: Restrictions on Muharram Processions to Avoid Separatist Violence

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Restrictions imposed in Srinagar ahead of Muharram protests.
Restrictions imposed in Srinagar ahead of Muharram protests. ians

Srinagar, Sep 29: Authorities imposed restrictions on Muharram processions in parts of Srinagar on Friday, to prevent any violence in the valley. Starting from the Guru Bazar locality, the Shia procession would end at the Dalgate area.

After separatist violence started in Kashmir, authorities have not allowed the procession since 1990.

Police and paramilitary, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in full riot gear were deployed in the suspected areas to put restrictions on Muharram processions.The pedestrian and vehicular movement was also suspended.

Life in other areas of Srinagar and elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley, however, remained normal. (IANS)

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Monsoon Bliss: Drenched in Rain Kutch is a Must Visit (Environmental Feature)

The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green

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Kutch
Rann Utsav in Kutch. Pixabay

Bhuj, Sep 09, 2017: White, fluffy clouds hanging low over green hills, little pools of still water teeming with migratory birds and an omnipresent cool breeze — the semi-arid region of Kutch in Gujarat transforms into a completely different avatar during the monsoon.

And although winter — the time detailed as “ideal” to visit this region — shows you a side of hers that’s truly unique, Kutch makes for a pretty picture during the rains, perfect for a rejuvenating holiday.

Nestling on the country’s western border, close to the Arabian Sea, Kutch had recently been in the news for the cyclonic storm-induced thundershowers that lasted five days. Before that, and like the rest of the state, floods had also hit the region in July.

“Heavy showers are normal during the monsoon,” local taxi driver and long-time Bhuj resident Anwar Khatri said, indicating that the heavy rainfall was not out-of-the-ordinary. “But in the last three-four years, we have had very scanty rainfall. The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green.”

Kutch occupies an important geographical location when it comes to birds, said ornithologist Jugal Kishor Tiwari, since it falls on their migration route. His organisation, Centre for Desert and Ocean (CEDO), works on wildlife conservation and promotes nature tourism.

And although the winter is a brilliant time to spot a host of migratory birds, one can indulge in some bird-watching during the monsoon as well. CEDO, which is based out of Moti Virani village, some 400 km from Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, organises tailor-made tours of such nature.

A visit to Kutch would however be incomplete without witnessing its rich treasure trove of handicrafts. Ajrakh (block printing), camel leather craft, Bandhni, different forms of weaving, bellmetal craft, Kutch embroidery — the list is endless — and nothing beats the wonder of watching an artisan work on his or her craft.

After the devastating earthquake in 2001, several NGOs took up the initiative of supporting artisans and their art, even reviving some, and helping them find suitable markets to showcase and sell their products beyond the state’s and the nation’s borders.

There are many such NGOs within a radius of 10-15 kilometres from Bhuj — the point you will either fly down to or reach by train — and one can visit their campuses to see some of these exquisite crafts take shape and understand the story behind them from the artisans themselves. Some names to look out for would be Shrujan, Khamir, and LLDC (Living and Learning Design Centre).

About eight kilometres from Bhuj is a village called Bhujodi, which has the Ashapura Crafts Park set up for artisans to display and sell their work. Again, one can meet weavers, tie-dye artists, block printers and others here. Needless to say, it will leave you wanting for more shopping bags to fill!

From the well-known to the lesser known — a monsoon visit to Kutch would also remain wanting without a trip to one of its pristine beaches. Mandvi is the closest to Bhuj and there are many resorts close by with their own private beach enclosures. The high point of the beaches here — Pingleshwar, about 98 km from Bhuj, a hidden gem — is witnessing the marine life. Jelly fish and hermit crabs are a common sight and the multi-coloured sea weeds look extraordinary.

Also Read: History of Rigvedic river Saraswati

If the children are more in the mood for some fun and frolic, Mandvi has ample opportunity for water sports as well — which may be restricted when the weather is grey. But a ride on a camel would more than compensate for that!

With the temperature hovering on the pleasant side of the scale and a constant breeze, one can also opt for some historical sight-seeing. The Aina Mahal, with its blue tiles, Venetian-style chandeliers and walls studded with mirrors, is a must-visit. Next door is the 19th century Prag Mahal, a brilliant example of Italian-Gothic architecture.

As you travel around the place and move on the fringes of the main town of Bhuj, it is difficult to miss the vast expanses of agricultural land with acres after acres of pomegranate plantations, palm groves and cotton fields — all this thanks to drip-irrigation, which has brought about a sea-change in the region’s crop pattern. With the green hills in the backdrop, it’s a sight to behold. Soak it in, for, with the changing season, Kutch will soon reveal a different face. (IANS)