Many people are of the view that Mumbai is the financial capital of India and a city of high rising building competing each day and converting into a jungle of concrete .. When there is no space for the homo sapiens, how can little birds survive or for that matter think of getting space .But you will be surprised to know that about more than 200 species of birds have been recorded in Mumbai with ample of spots for birding in and around Mumbai….
My first visit to Mumbai (earlier known as Bombay ) was in 1969 when as a N C C cadets were going to Belgaum on the Karnatka and Maharashtra border ,for N C C camp in May 1969 . We were hardly for a few hours and I distinctly remember seeing the Gateway of India and the Marine Drive . Later on we stayed in Mumbai as a probationer in Indian Customs and Central Excise Service in 1983 . Thereafter my first posting in the department as Assistant collector of Central Excise for more than 2 years at Kalyan, Thane district . I left Kalyan in December 1986 and came to Delhi. The jurisdiction comprised inter alia Kalyan, Murbad , Ambarnath ,Badlapur and Ulhasnagar. During visit to the Head .Quarter at Dadar ,Bombay , I had to pass the green hills near Sheelphata in Kalyan and Navi Mumbai. At that time I was much concerned in acquiring the technical and field knowledge of the department and not bothered about the greenery and denizens living in them . Now I realize that some time spent at that time would have been better. None the less the knowledge about the places visited then is still helpful.
As a birder I started from the mud flats at Sewri in Central Mumbai in 2011. This is the most talked birding site for watching flamingos in Mumbai. I followed it in 2012 and 2013. However in Feb, 2016 I went to Mumbai for assisting my daughter Nitya Goel Aggarwal as she had started flamingo watching tours at Sewri . In addition I thought of visiting the following places during my stay for a week or so.
On account of more time spent at the mudflats at Sewri , Sagar Upvan at Colaba, Marine drive , Bhandup Pumping Station and the famous gardens at Malabar hills , other locations or places could not be covered during that trip. I hope to cover the same in my next visit to Mumbai.
1.Sewri Mudflats : –On Saturday and Sunday from December to May , many people come down to this place for watching the flamingos at the appropriate time of the day. The best time to watch flamingos near to the shore is 4 hours prior to high tide. Apart from flamingos one can observe birds including Eurasian curlew , black headed ibis , stints, common red shank , broad billed sandpiper, common sandpiper ,little heron ,western reef egret ,brown headed gull ,sand plover, painted stork etc.
2.Marine Drive : The best known place of Mumbai. Who could believe that it is the best place to observe the brown headed gulls from a distance of one meters or so when they are vying with human love birds , for space on the pavement .It was a nice experience to see gulls in such a large number in the month of Feb.
3.Sagar Upvan park :- This park is maintained by the Bombay Port Trust from 1873 A.D. The residents of Colaba knows the importance of lovely green space in the heart of Colaba where they can destress at any time of the day. A wonderful place for observing birds and some exotic varieties of plants and trees . During my two visits for two hours each on different days I observed cattle egret, Asian koel ,white throated fan tailed ,copper smith barbet , golden oriole ,purple rumped sunbird ,tailor bird , house crow , common myna. One can even observe birds on the sea shore such as brown headed gulls and Pallash gulls and terns.
Entry fee of Rs 5 is charged and the same amount for the still camera. I could capture some beautiful shots of purple rumped sunbird as they were coming to the flower for nectar.
4.Kamla Nehru Park and Hanging Garden at Malabar Hill :-There are old and big trees on the periphery but nothing in between. Inside there are seasonal plants and flowers. I could observe black kite , house crow , slaty pigeons ,common myna, Asian koel ,brown headed barbet , purple rumped sunbird, tailor bird and silver bill in these gardens…
5.Bhandup Pumping Station : One of the best kept secret for observing birds . It has a grassland, salt pans , a lake and mangrove forest and a creek .The creek was a boon for us as we could take a boat ride with two birders who were visiting the creek for some study. Efforts are being made to make this boat ride open for public. During the ride we saw a large number of lesser and greater flamingos. Other birds observed were northern pintail, Rudy Shelduck , Plover,Whimbrel, Black tailed godwit, purple heron and lesser whistling duck. Even if the boat ride is unavailable, nature trail in this area offers a great opportunity for birding.
6.Sanjay Gandhi National Park:- This park has the distinction of being most visited park in Asia and existing within the metropolis limits. One can enjoy a wide spectrum of fauna and flora through out the year. This forest houses more than 1000 plant species, 200 species of birds , 40 species of mammals ,more than 150 varieties of butterflies including the second largest butterfly BLUE MORMON of India. Birds found in the park include jungle owlet, racket tailed drongo , golden oriole ,magpies, robin , hornbills, sunbirds, peafowl, woodpeckers etc..
Kanheri Upper Trail and Silonda Trails at SGNP are preferred by the birders as major birds are found in those areas.
This year one could see the blooming of Karvi flower inside the park after a gap of 8 years . A Nature’s Miracle. Last time it bloomed in the Western Ghats in 2008.
7.Maharashtra Nature Park at Bandra Sion Link Road : A must visit for nature lovers being the green lung of Mumbai. Once upon a time a garbage dumping ground of Mumbai opposite the biggest slum of India , now a paradise for the nature enthusiasts. The mangrove green forest houses many species of birds , insects and butterflies. This was developed by WWF India .The lake inside the park invites a lot of birds during winters and provides home for resident birds too. You are likely to observe greater coucal , sunbirds , dove ,black kite , drongos, gulls , egrets , shikra , koel ,barbet ,bee eaters , plovers etc.
8.Karnala Bird sanctuary:-Not only on account of old fort inside the sanctuary but also for a good bird count ,this small but significant bird sanctuary hardly 50 km from Mumbai is very popular among the bird community . It is home to about more than 150 species of resident birds and about 37 species of migratory birds . Birds such as Asian paradise flycatcher, racket tailed drongo , golden backed woodpecker ,pied crested cuckoo., Brain fever , Asian koel ,Indian pitta ,white rumped shama may be observed depending on the season.
9.Elephanta Caves: –Most of the tourists to Mumbai generally try to visit the elephant caves not only being a historical place but at the same a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the reason the Cave No 1 has the most impressive statutes of Lord Shiva in his various forms and manifestations. Being on an island the place has lot of greenery undisturbed by the residents of the island. It has a rich ecosystem . We can say it has a ecological treasure. It is home to a large number of species such as kingfishers, plovers, magpies, kites, drongos, minivets and Asian paradise flycatcher.
10.Mumbai Byculla Zoo :-I heard a lot about this place for birding as it is full of old and large trees. Although I went to the zoo and came to know that the zoo was closed being a regular weekly off. I would advise the people to visit the place as you are going to see many varieties of animals and birds for the first time in your lifetime.
11.Uran :I was told that this is a good place for observing flamingos and other sea birds. No doubt it is true. The waterbodies in Uran attract birds including flamingos ,purple heron ,grey heron ,avocets etc. I could some of the birds near JNPT area and in the lake.
12.Barvi Dam at Badlapur : A few months back a movie namely BADLAPUR made headlines wherein actor Varun Dhawan played a good role. I came to know about Badlapur as an industrial town way back in the year 1984 when I was posted as Assistant Commissioner of Central Excise Kalyan Division having jurisdiction over Kalyan, Ambernath , Ulhasnagar , Murbad and Badlapur. We often visited Barvi dam as a picnic spot via Murbad or Badlapur . The forest cover just beyond Century Rayon unit at Shahad towards the famous temple of TITWALA was lush green and captivated whenever we passed through it. This place plays a important role for Mumbaikers as it is a lifeline for them as the dam provides drinking water to the nearby towns including the Navi Mumbai.