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Sikkim:  Greater Scaup, Greater Creted Grebe sighted at Karthok Lake

Recognized as a birding hotspot recently, the Karthok Lake in Sikkim’s Yuksam reinforced its repute with a recent sighting of two rare birds.

Recognized as a birding hotspot recently, the Karthok Lake in Sikkim’s Yuksam reinforced its repute with a recent sighting of two rare birds – Greater Scaup and Greater Crested Grebe.

Following verification, it has been confirmed that this was the first sighting of Greater Scaup bird in Sikkim.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) is a rare diving Duck found in India and in Sikkim it is considered extremely rare to spot one. This could be the first concrete evidence of its occurrence in Sikkim because there is no record of previous sightings.

The birds spend their summer months in Alaska, Siberia, and the northern parts of Europe. It is also found in Asia and is present in the Aleutian Islands year round. The summer habitat is marshy lowland tundra and islands in fresh water lakes.

In the fall, Greater Scaup populations start their migration south for the winter. They winter along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, The coasts of northwest Europe, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the coast of Japan, Yellow Sea and East China Sea.

Rare duck sighted at Karthok Lake

During the winter months, they are found in coastal bays, estuaries, and sometimes inland lakes, such as the lakes of Central Europe and the Great Lakes.

In India it has been seen in the lowland freshwater during winter. There was no previous documentation or evidence of their migration route. This documentation proves that they do use a route through Sikkim to their summer ground.

Meanwhile, Several migratory birds have been recorded over a period of time including Common Teal (Anas crecca), Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina), Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), Gadwall, (Anas strepera), Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), Eurasian Wegion (Anas penelope), Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), Greater Crested Grebe ( Podiceps cristatus).

Karthok Lake in Yuksam, is considered sacred and is protected due to its religious significance. Every year in the month of February-March purification rituals are conducted by the monks and locals at this lake.Apart from the religious value, the lake is very important for migratory birds as well. It works as a stopover to many migratory birds during their summer migration to far North.

The migratory birds take a halt in the lake for couple of days or more, take a proper rest and regain energy before they continue their journey to their breeding ground in Tibet or Russia.

Karthok Lake is a stopover for most of the migratory birds including these two. They migrate from lowland lakes of India, heading to China and Russia in the months of March-April. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila ) is one of the rare diving duck. In Sikkim, it is extremely rare to see one.

First Published: 22nd June, 2022 16:54 IST

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