Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Kangra’s Birding Den: Pong Dam Wetlands

The winter migratory avifauna are here and what better place to see them in huge numbers than the Pong Dam Wetlands. Pong Dam Wetlands, which straddles the Beas River in the Shivalik foothills, is a Ramsar site that is located in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.

The unique combination of shallow and deep waters, mudflats, stony ground, village groves and cultivated wheat and mustard fields attract hundreds of thousands of winter migratory birds from Europe and Central Asia in addition to the terrestrial varieties. It is here that you will discover some of the world’s most vulnerable species of water fowl that congregate here between October and February.

Here you can see the melee of diving ducks, migratory gulls, terns, pipits, wagtails, larks, swallows, storks, ibis, and the Eurasian curlew on the waters and in the fields. The birds that call Pong Dam a favourite are the bar-headed geese. They can be seen here in huge flocks during winter before they head back to their breeding grounds in the Tibetan plateau.

Nagrota Surian, Pragpur and Rancer Island are the three main bird watching spots along the wetland, but if you are looking for the highest concentration of birds, then you should head to Nagrota Surian. Apart from great bird watching opportunities, the place, Nagrota Surian in itself looks like nature’s paradise. The golden wheat fields, the mustard tracts and the shimmering Pong dam waters in the foreground, the small Shivalik hills and the Dhaula Dhar range of the mighty Himalayas in the background together look like they came straight out of a painting.

If you are a birder or just a simple nature lover, this place will definitely appeal to you as it is pure and pristine nature. Do remember to pack in a good pair of binoculars, a sturdy set of shoes and a reliable book on the ‘Birds of the Indian Subcontinent to ensure you get to enjoy every moment of it. P.S. If you have some time to spare, do remember to check out the home land of the Dalai Lama at McLeod Ganj, which is not far away from here.

Recommended Places to stay:
Lodge at Pong, Kangra 
In Pragpur: Judge’s Court, River View Resorts, Megha’s Heritage Inn (Budget Option)
In Nagrota Surian: Forest Rest House (Fairly comfortable option with basic amenities)
In Rancer Island: Forest Rest House

Food options are limited to the place you are staying at.

How to get here: Jeeps and cabs can be hired from Amritsar, Dharamsala and Chandigarh. The nearest rail head and airport would be Dharamsala (Gaggal Airport) or Amritsar.

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