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 recognized 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 Asan Conservation Reserve (also known as Asan Barrage), near village Dhalipur 38 km from Dehra Dun, is located at the confluence of the Yamuna hydel canal (from Dak Pathar which was built in the mid 1970s) and river Asan (a small rainfed tributary of the Yamuna). It is under the control of the Irrigation Department and has an area of 250 ha. When the water level is low, it provides good habitat for waterfowl. The dominant aquatic vegetation comprises of Potamogeton pectinatus, Typha elephantina and Ceratophyllum demersum. The
southern side of the barrage is surrounded by agricultural fields. Further south, there is mixed forest typical of the Siwalik hills, consisting chiefly of Shorea robusta, Anogeissus latifolia, Lannea coromandelica, Dalbergia sissoo and Bombax ceiba. Some parts of the reservoir are covered by weeds Eichhornia crassipes and Ipomea fistulosa (Kumar and Porwal 1998).
This IBA has a 30-year old nesting site of the Vulnerable Pallas’s Fishing Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus. During winter, it is not unusual to count up to 5,000 waterfowl, with high species diversity, as Asan Barrage has both shallow and deep water and the River Yamuna flows close by. Brahminy Duck Tadorna ferruginea, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Red-crested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina, Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Tufted Pochard A. fuligula, Wigeon Anas penelope, Northern Shoveller A. clypeata and Common Teal A. crecca are commonly seen. It is one of the best sites for large congregations of Brahminy Ducks and other birds. On 12 February, 2003, more than 2,000 were seen. The 1% threshold for this species is 500 (Wetlands International 2002) so the population in this IBA exceeds the threshold four times, thus this site also qualifies A4i criteria. Raptors recorded in this IBA include the Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus and Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus. Being located towards the northwest and serving as a halt for Trans-Himalayan migratory birds, the Asan Barrage receives waterfowl migrants which are rare elsewhere. These include the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and Great Crested Grebe P. cristatus. Other rare records include Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus, and Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda. Altogether, more than 150 species have been recorded in this IBA, including many globally threatened and Near Threatened ones.
State: Uttarakhand, India
Nearest City: Dehradun, Paunta Sahib (Himachal)
Famous for/as: Water Birds, Migrated Birds, Lake
Languages: Hindi, English
Best Season: 15th Nov – 28th Feb (for migrated birds), rest all the year except rainy season (July to September)
Weather: Summer 32 to 45°C, Winter: 15 to 25°C
How to Reach:
First you reach to Dehradun and it is well connected with road, train and Air.
Chandigarh to Asan 123 km
Delhi to Asan: 252 km
Shimla to Asan: 184 km
Dehradun to Asan: 43 km
Haridwar to Asan: 95 km