Kashmir - Wild Life

Wild-life in Kashmir

Kashmir is home to the highest, youngest & largest chain of mountains in the world – the Himalayan range. This mountain range is one of the most fascinating and spectacular natural wonders on earth. It is one of the richest stores of fauna and almost one third of the world’s mammalian species that may be termed the true, ,mountain animals are natives of these mountains.

Dal Lake is of course very popular for its Houseboats, Shikaras and promenades and it is undoubtedly a birdwatcher’s paradise. But very few know that the birds in this lake are very approachable. The kingfishers sit on the top of houseboats nonchalantly almost within the touching distance of humans who seem to be equally unmindful of the birds.
Jammu and Kashmir with its variety of geographical regions, climates and vegetation has many delights to offer the wildlife enthusiasts. Perhaps no animal better epitomises the character and concerns of the mountain environment than the snow leopard, a beautiful and elusive survivor from the frigid Pleistocene era.
Though its range is immense, extending over the entire Himalayan range, it is most advantageously sought in Jammu and Kashmir especially in the high ranges. Another rare animal is the hangul or Kashmiri stag, one of the most endangered species of red deer in the world.
The state offers immense opportunities for wildlife tourism. The immense heritage of wildlife in Kashmir comprises of more than 6 different valleys and Dachigam National Park in particular.

DACHIGAM NATIONAL PARK

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Famous for the Kashmir’ stag Hangul, the Dachigam National Park is located 22 km from Srinagar city centre, covering an area of 141 sq km. Set in the lap of Zabarwan Range of the western Himalayas, the variation in altitude ranges from 5500 ft to 14000 ft As such the park is demarcated into an uneven region, frorn gently sloping grasslands to sharp rocky outcrops and cliffs
Bare Rock Mountains and crevices above the tree line present a mesmerising spectacle of the park from quite afar. There are alpine pastures, rneadows, waterfalls and scrub vegetation with deep gullies in Dachigarn National Park that help its luxuriant flora and diverse fauna flourish at the intended pace.

When it comes to fauna, Dachigam is famous for its population of Kashmiri stag Hangul, which is the pride of Kashmir. It is one of the two races of the Red Deer which are found in the sub-continent. Other popular animals such as musk deer, leopard, Himalayan grey langur, leopard cat, Himalayan black bear and yellow-throated marten are also found here. It is a paradise for birdwatchers. Himalayan monal, golden oriole, pygmy owlet, koklass pheasant, Kashmir flycatcher, Tytler’s leaf warbler, streaked laughing thrush and Himalayan ruby-throat can be found at Dachigam. It is open throughout the year, but the best time to visit is between April and August when the Park is at its scenic best and approachable to its remotest corners. Even during the trekking over to the upper reaches. the spectacular vistas make for a perfect camping hideout. Entry permit is needed to enter the national park. It can be obtained from the check-post at the park’s entrance or Wildlife Warden’s office.

Note: Dachigam National Park remains closed from mid -October to mid-November for the mating of Hangul Deer, However, special permission to visit the park can be taken from Kashmir Tourist Reception centre (Dal-Gate) and Wildlife Office.

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BIRD-WATCHING

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 Bird-watching is a lifetime ticket to the theatre of nature. Witness the wild birds 8, ducks of Kashmir. Girding is for everyone who is interested in enjoying nature. Bird diversity varies seasonally and as many as 554 species belonging to 13 orders have been recorded in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

Going out in the wild to identify and track birds is the essence of bird-watching. You have to spot a bird in its natural habitat and then try to discover its identity. It’s not tough to bird-watch. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Carry a powerful pair of binoculars, a notebook, a pen, and plenty of patience on your watching holiday.
Birds flock to a water source, such as lakes, rivers and all the mountain areas of Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, etc. For wild ducks (migratory/seasonal) and other waterfowl you can visit Hokarsar, Anchar, Manasbal, Wular, Dal & Nageen Lakes.

Hokarsar & Anchar
These are wetlands situated near Srinagar. Thousands of migratory birds come to these wetlands from Siberia and other regions during the winter season. Migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia use wetlands in Kashmir as their transitory camps between September and October and again around the spring. These wetlands play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering, staging and breeding birds

Hokersar

Hokersar is 14 km north of Srinagar, and is a world-class wetland spread over an area of 13.75 sq km, including the lake and marshy area. It is the most accessible and well-known of Kashmir’s wetlands which include Hygam, Shalibug and Mirgund. A record number of migratory birds have visited Hokersar in recent Years . An estimated quarter of a million birds have already been spotted at Hokersar in the current season

Birds found in Hokersar — Migratory ducks and geese which include Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.

All you really need are attentive eyes and ears. Get a powerful set of binoculars before setting out on your bird-watching holiday. Pack clothing that will help you to blend with your surroundings.

Note: 

Always venture out in the early morning when the birds are chirpiest.
Dress to blend with your surroundings.
Don’t be noisy. Sit quietly and let the birds come closer.
Don’t go bird-watching in a big group.
Half day/full day bird-watching tours can be easily arranged on request.

Migratory birds at Hokersar wetland in Srinagar on Saturday. Express photo by Shuaib Masood