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High-flying ducks cross Himalayas

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WASHINGTON —  A high-flying species of duck reaches altitudes of up to 6,800 metres (22,000ft) to cross the Himalayas, a new research from a British university has revealed.

Ruddy shelducks are known to breed north of the Himalayan mountain range, but spend their winters at sea level south of the Tibetan Plateau.

They need to fly over the Himalayas in the spring to get back to their breeding grounds, a huge challenge that sees them cross terrain higher than 4,000 metres, where oxygen levels are halved.

Scientists from the University of Exeter used satellite tracking to discover that they fly through valleys in the mountain range avoiding massive peaks like Mount Everest.

“This is the first evidence of extreme high-altitude flight in a duck,” said lead researcher Nicole Parr, of Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“This species has probably evolved a range of adaptations to be able to cope with flying so high, where oxygen levels are half those at sea level. We don’t yet know the nature of these adaptations.

“Our research also shows that the ruddy shelduck has a faster climb rate than the bar-headed goose – the only waterfowl known to fly even higher.”

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Dr Lucy Hawkes, the supervisor of the work at the University of Exeter, had previously tracked bar-headed geese to 7,290 metres altitude near Everest in 2014.

They were long thought to be the world’s highest-flying bird based on flapping flight (some birds soar higher on thermals), but the new research suggests that the bar-headed geese may not be the only species flying at these high altitudes.

However, more research is needed to find out whether ruddy shelducks reach similar heights to bar-headed geese.

The scientists used satellite data collected from 15 ruddy shelducks from two populations spending their winter south of the Tibetan Plateau.

They found the birds, which take a “circuitous route” to avoid mountain peaks, regularly fly above 5,000 metres and sometimes go as high as 6,800 metres.

The researchers suggested that ruddy shelducks wintering further east in India may fly even higher, given the higher terrain that lies north of India.

The is research published in the Journal of Avian Biology.

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Shree Panchami today

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KATHMANDU — Shree Panchasmi also known as Basanta Panchami or Saraswoti Puja, was observed across the country by worshipping Saraswoti, the Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, art, music and culture, on Monday.

Shree Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh every year according to the Nepali calendar.

The festival is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright half of the Nepali month of Magh. People from the Hindu and Sikh communities mainly in Nepal and eastern India observe this festival.

The festival is taken as the symbol of an advent of the spring season as plants start sprouting; winter crops like barley and wheat plants and plum, pear and peach trees start yielding and many flowering plants start blooming with this.

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The day is very special for students and new learners. Students take early bath, observe the mass Saraswati Puja in schools and visit temples and listen to the Basanta Shrawran. Goddess Saraswati is worshiped with various names such as Bharati, Sharada, Jagatmata, Bageshwari, Kaumari, Baradayani and Kamdhenu.

It is believed that from this day, the sun starts moving to the northern hemisphere, causing longer days and signalling the beginning of spring season.

Marriage ceremonies and other religious functions are also performed on this day as the day is believed to be auspicious. Legend has it that reciting and listening to verses about goddess Saraswati on this day enriches knowledge.

The festival is considered as the best day of starting something new in human life and make a commitment to good causes.

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