Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Flamingo & Other Migratory Bird Watch At Sewri, Mumbai

The presence of a long coast line, mangrove swamps in some locations and salubrious climate, Mumbai has attracted some species of migratory birds during winter months from November to March. The birds return to their original habitat during summer months. The cycle goes on. For the past few years, there were reports on destruction of mangroves at Sewri due to discharge of solid pollutants and liquid effluents, lessening the number of bird arrivals. It was my endeavor to spot the birds at Sewri mangroves in present scenario and photo shoot the same. I had four visits to Sewri in months of February and March of 2012. The experience has been varied, some rewarding and yet some disappointing ones.

While surfing web to get some prior information on watching birds at Sewri, some interesting points surfaced. Apart from the months when these migratory birds swamp the mudflats, the tide timings for both low and high, play a significant role. Some info said, one should visit the site during low tide. Some said to visit between 2 hours before and two hour after high tide. One even recommended to visit the site one hour after the high tide. Finding tide timings in Mumbai was no big deal. And, I was ready for my first visit. It is worth while recounting it for wanna be bird watchers for whatever information provided in following photo essay. 
5th February 2012

Sunday morning being convenient time for me for this photo shoot, I set out around 10.30 am, good half an hour after the high tide. Being my exploratory visit, I just carried my Sony Handycam. I reached near rail station Sewri west in about 15 minutes, crossed over via over-bridge to arrive on the eastern side. A twenty minutes walk brought me to the Sewry jetty. The jetty is a small one with a large ship on right hand side in grounded condition and a number small abandoned fishing vessels in different states of degradation, on the left side, entrenched in mud. A few low resolution shots of Sewri jetty from frames of the video clips is as follows. 



There are mangroves on either side on the mudflat, large area of mud and slush during the low tide. With water collected in pockets Small crabs and insects were visible poking in and out of the slush. The sea water mass was some 50 ft distance on left side. The mangrove all dark green and gray covered a huge area as far as eyes could go. The extreme backdrop, visible through haze had a few multi-storied structures, the factory structure and chimney.

In the immediate vicinity, the mudflats having some water pockets with high tide water receding, a dozon of brown coloured Black Tailed Godwit birds were moving around poking their enormously long beaks rhythmically into shallow water for their feed. 

A few White Herons, long necked, stood still in shallow water of sea and waited for their kill, demonstrated an object lesson in patience. 

The small white colored Gulls at least a hundred of them at a distance of 75 ft, stood on shallow water, occasionally taking off in a group and resettling. Beyond, at a 100 ft distance, there were at least a few hundred Lesser Flamingos, inter-spaced with an occasional Greater Flamingo, moved gently poking the sea bottom, with the help of long curved beak, aided by long flexible neck, for their feed.

After good half an hour, while retracing my path on main road I located the arch with Urdu and English signage indicating  Dargah Hazrat Sayyed Jala Shah ( RA ) Hazrat Sayyed Murad Shah ( RA ). Inquiries revealed this path also takes one to Sewri Fort on the left side of dargah - yet another bird watch place albeit from elevation.

I climbed through the cement stepped path going up the slope, came to the dargah and took a left turn to arrive at the Fort.

The Fort although a simple in construction may not be a visual delight but all the same best located to get a good view of sea and the mangrove swamps.

That gave me a top view of the mangroves and the mudflat and the sea. As the tide water was receding, Flamingos, by now were advancing slowly in single file towards the mud stretch. That was surely a visual delight.  

Some video footage later, I retreated, ruing the fact that I did not bring my tripod along. Overall, I would rate, the exploration experience a good one. 

12th February 2012
When we visited the Sewri in in the morning, it was low tide time – water receded to show us the mudflats up to a very long distance. The Flamingos could be viewed faintly at a very long distance. Visitors who carried binoculars were trying to see the birds with a slight advantage. I missed taking any video footage however I caught an unknown bird in my digicam on the nearby mud flat.

We once again made it to Sewri fort and watched the Flamingos at a long distance. The video footage were not expected to be good in spite of a tripod.
19th February 2012

I arrived at Sewri around 11.15 am, about half an hour after the high tide time. I straight away made it to the Sewri Fort.
The sea water just receding - a large part of mudflats were still inundated. The Flamingos on this day much nearer into the shallow waters of the sea. Zooming to extent possible, I found, a large group of the same was bobbing on the water. The footage proved to be good subsequently, when I created the video. A low resolution frame of the scene crafted out of the video clip is given below.

As time wore on, the Flamingos were moving slowly towards the shore in an orderly fashion. I wanted to have a close view of the birds but decided against going towards the jetty, instead I was trying to figure out how to go to near mangroves at the bottom of the fort, towards the left side. After some inquiry, I took a right turn after coming on the road and another right turn brought me near the mangroves. Caught a couple of Gulls in flight.   

The new place brought newer experience of watching some Flamingo like birds with brown feather on the mudflat.

A group of Red Billed Gulls on shallow water near the ware house, jutting into the sea was interesting. It was a novel experience of watching the Gulls settling on water in group, looking for their feed and restlessly scratching different parts of their body and all of a sudden taking off in unison.

A good half an hour later, it was another pleasant experience to watch the Flamingos reaching the mangrove area, in a very orderly manner, in a queue which had bends and went very far. Following low resolution frames of advancing flamingos were crafted out of my video clip.

The Flamingos were paddling in deep water and walking as they approached the shallower water near the mudflats. The close-up of the birds could be had after another 10 minutes.

We reached the Sewri jeety, one hour after the high tide time around 10 am, but was surprised to see that water had receded much more than I had expected. The Gulls and Flamingo groups were visible at a long distance, while on the mudflats in isolated pockets of collected water, it was opportune moment to capture Black Tailed Godwit birds in a group of a dozen or so. I got down a few feet from paved jetty to land on mudflat for some close shots. Since they were not too far, I had some still images as well. These species of birds have long beaks and constantly poke at the bottom of the collected water pools to collect their feeds.

One observes the very funny characteristics of Black Tailed Godwit birds in water in one legged stance. One leg is tucked into their wings. This I reckon is not to alarm their prey of their intentions. 

At the end of this year’s experience, I feel, to capture all possible birds available at Sewri mudflat, during winter, one needs to go during high tide time and spend at least two hours thereafter, photo shooting birds, by visiting all the three spots namely a) Sewri Jetty b) Sewri Fort c) Near mangroves on left of Sewri Fort.

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