Ahiron Beel

 
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Wetland area symbol © Sumit Sen
                Ahiron Lake, Murshidabad, West Bengal

 


© Sumit Sen
Black-tailed Godwits, Ahiron


Introduction

© Sumit Sen

Ahiron is a freshwater lake and is located between 24°31'44.45"N 88° 1'50.89"E and 24°31'17.60"N 88° 2'2.17"E about 260kms north north-west of Kolkata city and 30kms south south-east of Dhulian town in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal, India.

It is a perennial wetland placed at 22 meters over m.s.l. which grows to cover 68 ha when it is flooded during the monsoons and shrinks to about 30 ha in the dry season. The recovered land is put to seasonal agricultural use. Intensive fishing operations continue round the year though large parts are not disturbed during the peak migratory season.

The lake is elliptical in shape and placed strategically along the very busy National Highway 34 connecting Kolkata with North Bengal and North-east India. It is fed by the floodwaters of the Ganges river and a tributary of the Ganges. Ahiron is close to Farraka Barrage – an important wintering ground for waterfowl and a recognized IBA. Many birds seen at Ahiron appear to also use Farraka Barrage as an alternate habitat. There is a stretch of low-lying area opposite the National highway from Ahiron – this area serves as a resting place for many of Ahiron’s avian residents and should be brought under the same level of protection as Ahiron.

Habitat

© Sumit Sen
Ferruginous Pochards

Large parts of Ahiron seem to be shallow with water depth varying from 60 – 100 cms. Its clear waters are filled with submerged vegetation of which the dominant species appeared to be Ceratophyllum sp. – an important food plant for a variety of ducks including Red-crested Pochards and Ferruginous Pochards. Wet paddy is cultivated at the edges and the area under cultivation progresses as water recedes due to usage and evaporation.

Survey

A two-day field survey initiated and sponsored by Directorate of Forests, Office of the Divisional forest Officer, Nadia-Murshidabad Division was carried out at Ahiron Lake by Birds of India on 23rd and 24th January 2008. The survey attempted to document the status and distribution of wintering waterfowl in the lake with the aim of laying the foundation for a more detailed assessment of the importance of the waterbody as a wintering area for waterfowl.

Birds

© Sumit Sen
Red-crested Pochards

The Red-crested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina were found to be the dominant ducks on the waterbody and numbered around 600. This represents 0.6% of the estimated world population of the species. The population of the Near–threatened Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca was estimated at 52 individuals – this is a significant number for this species in a wetland in India. Waders included a large flock of 105 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, a few Grey-headed Lapwings Vanellus cinereus and a lone Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga was also of interest. 60 species were recorded in and around the lake and this included 3 threatened species.

Locals report the presence of Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus (also reported in 2003 AWA Report), Osprey Pandion haliaetus and Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus though none were sighted during our visit.

© Sumit Sen
Greater Spotted Eagle

Survey Results

Ahiron Beel Survey 23rd and 24th January 2008

Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica 50
Gadwall Anas strepera 154
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 2
Northern Pintail Anas acuta 4
Garganey Anas querquedula 250
Red-crested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina 580

Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca
52

Common Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Stork-billed Kingfisher Halcyon capensis 1
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis 10
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis 6
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 1
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 2
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio 6
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 8
Common Coot Fulicata atra 7
Jack Snipe Gallinago minimus ? 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 105
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 2

Common Sandpiper
Actitis hypoleucos 2

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus 35

Bronze-winged Jacana
Metopidius indicus 8

Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus 10
River Tern Sterna aurantia 2
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus 3
Black Kite Milvus migrans 2
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus 1
Shikra Accipiter badius 1

Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
1
Little Grebe
Podiceps ruficollis 70
Darter Anhinga melanogaster
5

Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger 60
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 3
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 2
Great Egret Casmerodius albus 20

Cattle Egret
Bubulcus ibis

Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
Asian Openbill
Anastomus oscitans 25
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 2
Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda 1
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 25
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra 100+
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus 10
Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus 8
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Many
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer 2

Jungle Babbler
Turdoides striatus 6

Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus 1

© Sumit Sen
Grey-headed Lapwing

How to reach:  Ahiron lies between Berhampur, West Bengal and Farraka and is about 260 kms north north-west of Kolkata city and 30 kms south south-east of Dhulian town in the Murshidabad district. There is regular train service to both Berhampur and Farraka and both towns can be used as a base to visit Ahiron (Berhampur - Ahiron 60kms). NH 34 connects Ahiron with Kolkata and driving time is 7 hours. Various buses on the North Bengal route also run past Ahrion Beel.

Places of interest:
Farraka Barrage is an important birding area attracting many winter visitors. The area has restricted access. Boat rides upstream from
Farraka can be undertaken.
Murshidabad town, to the south-east of Ahron is a place of historical interest and has many attractions for the visitors. It is a 2 hour drive from Ahiron given the poor road conditions.

Best time: November to March

Sumit K Sen
Kolkata, India

   
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