Undeterred by the prolonged siege in Kashmir, hundreds of migratory birds are reaching this wetland reserve daily to keep their annual tryst with the Valley.
The avian visitors come to the Valley every year from far off Siberia, Eastern Europe, China, Japan and the Philippines to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes.
Despite the vicissitudes of its history, Kashmir has always provided a sanguine, peaceful environment to the migratory birds, who spend over five months in various water bodies of the Valley each year.
“Early arrivals have already started. We have over 10,000 birds in this wetland reserve these days. The birds that arrived here first are the teals, mallards and gadwalls,” Kashmir Wildlife Warden (Wetlands) Rouf Zargar says.
“By the middle of November, we will have coots, pochards, pintails, wigeons and finally the greylag geese,” he adds.
Zargar says many birds of passage, like the cormorants and sandhill cranes, also spend some time in the Valley in early winter and early spring each year.
“A bird of passage is a migratory bird that spends just a small period during its migration at a certain station,” Zargar says.
With an efficiency unmatched even by the best human navigators, the migratory birds travel thousands of miles between their winter and summer homes.
“All the arduous travel is navigated by instinct. These visitors have fixed resting spots en route to their final destinations.
“For example, thousands of these migratory birds spend a night or so at the mountain lakes of Gangabal, Vishensar and Gadsar each time they shuttle between their summer and winter homes,” says the warden.
The extreme conditions of the travel undertaken by these birds, according to experts, can be judged by the fact that a greylag goose that weighs six pounds at the beginning of migration, weighs just three pounds on arrival.
“If the travel takes longer than scheduled or if the bird’s journey is halted by a snowstorm or other unfavorable weather conditions, after having lost all fat it had stored for sustaining the travel and its energy requirements, the bird starts losing its muscle which is often fatal,” Zargar points out.
Maintaining the water bodies in the extremely difficult law and order situation is a challenge the department is finding hard to meet.
“We are doing our best to maintain the optimum conditions inside water reserves. We have to build embankments to ensure that the water level is adequately maintained. Supervision and maintenance is an essential exercise to ensure that the avian visitors remain healthy and fit to feed and fend inside the water body,” Zargar explains.
In addition to Hokarsar, the Valley has other bird reserves like Mirgund, Hygam and Shallabugh.
Besides these fully designated reserves, the migratory birds also throng the larger water bodies like the Wullar, Manasbal and the Dal lakes.
Braving the vagaries of nature and the turmoil because of the ongoing protests, the migratory birds are here with their eternal message of peace and co-existence.
If the message carried in the cackle and flutter of these migratory birds goes unnoticed, Kashmir would have played a deaf ear to its own legacy of peace and harmony.