I’d started a story from the middle when I posted about flamingos in the backwaters of Mumbai. In order to finish the story, I have to give you its beginning. We gathered before sunrise in the region between the Thane creek and the aeration ponds of the Bhandup pumping station. As The Night drove in, a flock of flamingos flew overhead. The sky was the light grey just before dawn. A coucal flew into the bushes ahead of us. As the horizon dipped below the sun, and the sky began to light up, we walked back down the canal.
An Eurasian Marsh Harrier searching for prey
White eared bulbuls
A red wattled lapwing forages above the water line
Indian cormorant, in its usual pose
A common sandpiper goes down to the waterline
The female of the baya weaver bird
Could that be a clamorous reed warbler?
This female golden oriole just refused to turn its head!
Common sandpipers foraging
Eurasian Marsh Harrier feeding
We saw several birds on our slow walk. I’d seen most of the waders, and could still recall their names. I’ve just begun to notice the warblers, and the clamorous reed warbler which we saw was a lifer. One interesting thing about birds is that they are creatures of habit. If in addition they are territorial, then they tend to appear at the same time in the same place every day. We met birders who come to this place very often, and sometimes they told us to look out for some bird or the other, because it should appear soon. It usually works. Passing on socially acquired knowledge is characteristic of our species, isn’t it?
Eventually we went on to ducks and flamingos, but those are stories I have already posted.
A city as crowded as Mumbai has barely enough space for people. When houses are needed, swamps and mangroves are easily filled in. When parking space is in short supply, green spaces will be even harder to come by. It is natural that human institutions, when unchecked, will satisfy human needs above all. As a result, birds are pushed to the periphery of the city. These are the spaces that no one likes to go to.
A long-tailed shrike (Lanius schach) against the apartments of Mumbai
An Indian pond heron (Ardeola grayii) in water with detergent
Flamingos in the backwaters of Mumbai
Flamingos over the city
Waders and water birds in the backwaters of Mumbai
An Eurasian marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) seen against high-tension power lines
Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) in a wasteland
Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla) in urban waste
If you are not going out of the city on a weekend, you might join other enthusiasts for a boat ride in the backwaters of Mumbai. The city has turned its back to these waters long ago. They are shallow tidal creeks which are not of much use to ships and trade, and the hunger for apartment blocks has not grown so acute that they need to be filled in. The refuse of the city washes in here: plastic and other garbage, chemical pollutants. The sea breeze does not disperse the smog, so the backwaters are perpetually hazy. In spite of this, life finds a toe hold. I drifted through these parts of Mumbai yesterday with The Family and friends and came back with photos which show that birds still survive just outside human spaces.