At a time when many water bodies in Kashmir are threatened by human encroachment and excessive pollution, Mohammad Yaseen, an ardent bird watcher has set up the Valley's first ‘forest resort for migratory birds’. He has done so in the world famous Dal lake, where he lives.

Yaseen grew up feeding birds that would frequent the lake and it was this love for his winged guests that led him to create this ‘resort’. Yaseen has created a forest resort close to his own houseboat anchored in the lake. Over time this has become a must visit for hundreds of birdwatchers, and tourists.

Yaseen told The Citizen that he feeds the migratory birds two to three times a day from the deck of his houseboat in Dal Lake. In the harshest winters, these birds face difficulties while searching for food in Kashmir freezing wetlands. That led Yaseen to innovate. “I created a sizable area of marshland in front of my houseboat where I receive a good number of migratory birds everyday,” said Yaseen.

He was inspired by his mother who used to feed birds when he was a child, and that is when it all began. Their feathery friends bravely entered the houseboat’s kitchen and would accpet the food offered. They understood that this family posed no harm to them.

Migratory are impacted by encroachment and pollution as teir habitats get destriyed. “Therefore I created a bird forest resort with the aim to restore the natural habitat of migratory birds in the Dal lake,” said Yaseen. His ‘bird resort’ is now thriving.

Yaseen also worked as a tour guide and spent most of his time away from home, in Delhi and Rajasthan. Now, his ‘bird forest resort’ is considered as the Valley's first such haven for migratory birds. “I had visited a number of countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Switzerland, and Ukraine. There I saw different bird species, and observed residents feeding the migratory birds at specific locations. That gave me the idea to build the resort in Dal Lake,” Yaseen told The Citizen.

He said that now, a number of different migratory bird species have also made their nests near his houseboat. The birds mostly come during the morning and night hours when there is no public disturbance in the lake. “Being a bird lover, it's my duty to take care of these migratory birds. I will leave no stone unturned to restore their habitat,” said Yaseen.

Another houseboat owner Ghulam Ahmed, 32, hailed the Yaseen's efforts and dedication while creating the bird forest resort. Ahmed told The Citizen it is becoming a challenge for migratory birds to find a safe space in the freezing Wetlands, “but Yaseen feeds them on a daily basis and has maintains a friendly ecosystem for them.”

Chief Wildlife Warden, Afshan Dewan told The Citizen, that the wetland authorities have been doing their best to restore the habitat for migratory birds. “The main wetland in Kashmir is being dredged for the restoration of migratory birds’ habitat”. As the machines are noisy and the of birds may get disturbed Dewan said that “appropriate measures” were being taen do minimize tha

Another official who wished to remain anonymous told The Citizen that it's not enough to just create a forest resort for migratory birds and the citizens had to take more steps. “People should stop disturbing the habitat of these birds, and illegal encroachment on the Wetlands which are their resting places. Yaseen's endeavour to restore the habitat of migratory birds is laudable, it can at least let people know the importance of birds, which are being killed by poachers in winters,” he said.

Yaseen added that he is receiving overwhelming love and support from people and tourists, but the administration should also step in to build two to three areas in the Dal Lake, where tourists can enjoy themselves at the Bird Forest Resort. “I have my own houseboat, where birdwatchers come daily to see my forest resort. But it's not enough that the government should extend their help and restore the dying ecosystem of migratory birds in Dal Lake,” he said.

All Photographs by Danish and Sameer