Asan Conservation Reserve: A Winter Tale

As winter sets in at the high northern latitudes, birds of a myriad species begin their long journey southwards to escape sub-zero temperatures. This annual phenomenon is a remarkable feat of endurance as some birds fly as much as 7000-8000 kms to reach their wintering grounds in tropical climes . Imagine a bird, scarcely larger than the common sparrow, battling jet stream winds, starvation, waiting predators and the numbing cold and hypoxia of high altitudes to fly over the Himalayan chain to reach the warmth and plentiful food of South Asia. It is perhaps one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.

One of the best places to witness this phenomenon is in our very own Doon valley. Built at the confluence of the Yamuna and Asan rivers, the Asan Barrage and the resultant reservoir have, since their completion attracted wetland birds in the thousands. The mudflats, reedy banks and inflow of nutrient-rich waters here, ensure that birds arriving for the winter have food in plenty. From the onset of the winter chills in late October onwards, the area gets quickly populated by Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Bar-headed Goose, Common Coot and Indian Moorhen, among many other species. Asan Conservation Reserve, as the area is now classified, is a globally recognised Important Bird Area (IBA)* for its significance in the preservation of wetland species.

This winter, wrap up warmly, grab a pair of binoculars and a field guide to birds, and spend a morning or two seeking out some of the several hundred species of birds that call Asan home during the winter. You will not be disappointed!

* (The Doon valley is host to three Important Bird Areas (IBAs)- Asan Conservation Reserve, New Forest Campus and Rajaji National Park).

Article by: Suniti Bhushan Datta (Consultant Wildlife Biologist)

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