Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tracking Flamingos’ Journey Through High Seas To Sewri Mudflats, Mumbai

This account of my experience of tracking Flamingos’ journey on 24th February, 2013, was not as per my intent but due to circumstances and some amount of luck. In my earlier visits to Sewri mudflats resulted in some videos and images of Flamingos and other migratory birds. For the present trip, as usual, I noted the high tide timing in morning to be at 11.15 am and decided to reach the jetty at 12.15 pm when Flamingos were expected arrive on mudflats with tide water receding. However, after reaching the site at 11.45 am, I realized that something had gone awry. The mudflat was fully engulfed with seawater with no birds at sight. There were a few first time visitors who came with anticipation to watch the Flamingos but disappointment writ large on their faces. The security personnel there informed me that in the morning around 7.30 am many visitors were at site and it was like mela. For me, there was no alternative but take shelter from hot sun in shade of security enclosure and mount my tripod and watch the Flamingos in high seas in LCD screen of my Handycam in maximum zoom setting. As time wore on, Flamingos advanced towards mudflats with tide water receding. In following photo essay, images are given frame by frame in different stages of Flamingos’ advance from high seas to mudflats. 

Frame 1 Time: 11.45 am
Flamingos congregated in deep sea, as seen through gap between two dilapidated fishing trawlers which are stuck in mud very close to jetty. In middle of the frame lies the pink colored band from end to end, with few hundreds of the lesser Flamingos packed very close to each other, swimming towards the shore.

Frame 2 Time: 11.46 am
A zoom image of a cluster of Flamingos in deep sea shows the Flamingos bobbing up and down on gentle sea wave and swimming towards the shore. Their long curved prominent red beak and pink body is conspicuous. The timing of their progress is so very calculated that they reach the mudflats when a large patch of it is devoid of tide water, making the place ideal for feed.

Frame 3 Time: 12.23 pm
It was rather boring for next 40 minutes with nothing to do but wait patiently for the Flamingos to advance. A high zoom shot at this point, the individual Flamingo could be seen distinctly and clearly, swimming in one file with Gulls flying overhead.

Frame 4 Time: 12.25 pm
As with anticipation we waited, something bizarre happened and Flamingos made an about turn to retrace their path towards deep sea.  We just realized a lone fishing boat with a lone fisherman had gone too close to the birds and frightened them away.

Frame 5 Time: 12.25 pm
The Flaminos take off from the water surface in unison, the sight captured in my Handycam will remain as my one of the most memorable footages.  The big birds at the moment of take off shows all the radiant pink and black color in their wings, the long legs fully stretched and body glistening by reflecting the harsh sunlight post noon, causing mini – turbulence in the seawater.

Frame 6 Time: 12.25 pm
The Flamingos make a semicircular turn in air and head towards another spot to enable them to take fresh positions in water to resume their routine of moving towards the mudflats.

Frame 7 Time: 12.26 pm
As the Flamingos moved out of range of my Handycam LCD, the fisherman who caused the exodus made his brief appearance with one of the last Flamingos to leave the scene. I mused, ‘The Flamingos will surely find a new location to settle dawn on sea water and continue with their ritual of moving towards the shore but it is not everyday one sees such a large number of Flamingos taking off in unison in mid-sea.’ I felt immensely lucky today and offered my silent thanks to the lone fisherman who unwittingly caused these flying moments to happen. 

Frame 8 Time: 1.09 pm
Having seen the Flamingo party disturbed, it was again a test of patience, waiting for the Flamingos to settle down in sea in new locations to commence their journey, which was getting delayed to our dismay. The two groups of Flamingos settled at two different locations and the one with a ‘Y’ formation looked attractive.

Frame 9 Time: 1.13 pm
It was few minutes later that I caught up with the Flamingos  who were moving pretty fast to make up for the lost time. They were into shallow water and no longer swimming. From their movement, one could say, they were walking although their body sans legs were only visible.

Frame 10 Time: 1.17 pm
A few minutes later the first batch of Flamingos reached very close to mangroves in mudflat with some of the birds flying overhead to keep up the pace with the group. The pink birds were now visible in full for a closer look.

Frame 11 Time: 1.20 pm
Zooming revealed, the Flamingo bunch was not the only species at the mudflats. There was a swarm of unnamed small birds and a Black headed Ibis busy with the same activity of picking food at regular intervals.

Frame 12 Time: 1.26 pm
Flamingos finally moved much closer and arrived at a spot where best possible view is available to the visitors. A final parting shot before we called it a pack up for the day.

* Author regrets that most of the images have been created from the frames of video clips and hence the clarity is lacking. The intent of this photo essay was to share my experience. Those readers, who desire to see this incredible Flamingos journey in best possible clarity on full computer screen need to click the following video link. Rest assured, they will not be disappointed. 

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