The fear of avian influenza or bird flu in Jammu and Kashmir is slowly fading as hundreds of thousands of migratory birds start to leave for their summer homes in Russian Siberia, China and Western Europe.
The Saltbush Migratory Bird Reserve is located 28 km north of summer capital Srinagar and there are around 50,000 migratory birds there these days waiting for the final flight to their summer homes.
The species in Shalabugh reserve include the greylag geese, mallards, teals, pochards, coots, gadwalls, pintails and shovellers.
The species of birds inside the reserve are completely healthy, showing normal behavior. Their flight patterns, feeding and mating indicators are normal, says Master Habibullah, 65, who lives in Chanduna village close to the reserve.
He has been a keen bird watcher since childhood. The good news is that Habibullah has been studying the behavior of the birds in the reserve and his observation is that the birds are in the pink of health.
I have found no unusual deaths among the bird flocks in the reserve. The birds have gained good fat content to sustain the long journeys they are about to undertake to far off lands, Master Habibullah said.
The migratory birds come to India each autumn to escape the bitter cold in places like Russian Siberia in that season.
Given the sheer numbers of birds that come here from various destinations to ward off the extreme colds, Kashmir remains an area of potential concern so far as the avian flu is concerned, said Muhammad Shafi Bacha, the Kashmir wildlife warden whose department maintains dozens of migratory bird reserves in the valley.
More and more migratory birds arrive here in the spring months from the Indian plains en route to their summer homes and therefore this period is important so far as behavioral monitoring of these birds is concerned.
But thank god, we have had no reports of any alarming mortalities among these bird flocks in the valley that could merit an alarm.
Now that they are navigating back to their summer homes in Siberia, China and Europe, the risk of domestic ducks and swans catching infection from possible carriers among the migratory birds would also vanish, said Bacha.
Villages like Chanduna, Shalabugh, Takuna, Hathbara and Haran that are located close to the natural habitats of migratory birds have large flocks of domestic ducks and swans.
These domestic water birds mingle freely with the migratory birds in the Shalabugh reserve sharing food and habitat with each other.
An infection in any of the migratory birds would definitely get manifested in the domestic water birds. And that would be serious. Thankfully, there is no such manifestation among any of our domestic water birds which is enough to give a clean chit to our avian visitors, said Bashir Ahmad War, a resident of Chanduna village who is a senior veterinarian.
While the official ban on the import of poultry birds still continues in Kashmir, the government Saturday relaxed the ban imposed on the import of eggs into the state.
It is likely that the ban on the import of poultry birds would also be lifted in the coming days, said a senior official of the animal health department here.