Context & Culture

Kabul Duck Alert 2: Pictures of birds and birdwatchers at the Kol-e Hashmat Khan wetland


Birdwatchers in the tower 2016 (Photo source: Najeeb Azad/UNEP)

Birdwatchers in the tower 2016 (Photo source: Najeeb Azad/UNEP)

The springtime migration of birds over Afghanistan is in full swing. The Kol-e Hashmat Khan wetland in south Kabul is an internationally important site for tired waterbirds to stop and rest, and build up their strength. Soon, they’ll be heading north again, crossing the Hindu Kush mountains to reach their summer breeding grounds in Central Asia and western Siberia. In early April, AAN’s Kate Clark joined other birdwatchers at the wetland to take part in the Asian Waterbird Census, a continental count of waterbirds. Here, she brings you some of the photographs of birds and birdwatchers.

For more detail on the birds, the site and the threat Kol-e Hashmat Khan faces, read the accompanying dispatch by Kate, “Kabul Duck Alert: Afghan capital still important stopover for migrating waterbirds”.

For waterbirds flying thousands of kilometres north from southern Pakistan or India to Central Asia or western Siberia, the site of Kol-e Hashmat Khan is a welcome one. It is the equivalent of an oasis in the middle of a largely dry country, on the outskirts of a city of five million people. Every year, thousands of birds stop here on their spring migration. 93 species of birds were identified on the lake in a four year survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society (2007-2010). That is a quarter of the total number of species seen in Afghanistan.

Afghan ornithologists are concerned that water levels are dropping and the number and variety of birds is falling. The Kol-e Hashmat Khan wetland is under threat – because of water taken off for irrigation, land-grabbing of land on the lakeside, encroaching of housing (which did stop in 2012), pollution and global warming. However, plans are afoot to protect the lake.

For now, the birds are still coming and for birdwatchers that is a delight. Do click on the photo gallery to see some of the photographs taken of the lake!

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Thematic Category: Context & Culture