Birds that migrate from Yakut in Siberia during winters have started arriving at Chilika Lake in Orissa and local wildlife authorities have started setting up several camps to protect them from poachers, a senior official said Tuesday.

“Nearly 1,000 migratory birds have arrived in Chilika. We spotted several Northern Pintails and Flamingos on Monday,” Chilika Divisional Forest Officer Bimal Prasanna Acharya told IANS.

“We have already set up 12 camps in villages near the lake to protect the birds from hunting. We have also planned to set up eight more camps during next few days. Each camp is led by a forest official,” he said.

“Last year, we had deployed only 17 forest guards but this year 18 more forest guards recruited recently by the government have also been deployed to take care of the birds,” he said.

The 1,000-sq km lake, about 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, is spread over the districts of Puri, Khordha and Ganjam along the eastern coast and is home to some of the largest congregations of migratory birds in the country.

An estimated 165 species of birds are found in Chilika during winters. Of these, 93 species are migratory and 72 residential. About 500,000-600,000 migratory birds visit the lake every winter and this is the best season to spot the birds.

Migratory birds come from as far as Yakut in Siberia. Species like the Pintail Duck come from the Caspian region of Siberia, the red-crested Pochard Duck comes from Lake Baikal, the common teal from Aast in the Kirghiz steppe and the blue-winged teal from the Kiev region of Ukraine.

A total of 8.928 lakh birds belonging to 168 species were counted in the lake last year and wildlife officials say they are hopeful a similar number will visit this year.