They almost seemed like a mob – advancing towards us at a steady pace. But, we didn’t blink an eye because they were calm, fixated on a spot near their feet and…. pink. The flamingos were in Sewri Creek in Mumbai as they generally are during this time of the year and focused on them were 10-12 cameras – few really big, telescopic ones announcing ‘I am sending these pictures to xyz wildlife magazine’, others saying ‘I am a serious amateur photographer’ and still others chiming in with ‘I will just take a few shots for fun’.
The Greater and Lesser Flamingos migrate from other parts of India to the Sewri mud flats in Mumbai city during October to March, purportedly for breeding.
Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewri
The Sewri jetty is definitely not a place one can put on India’s regular tourist map. Its mix of slums and industrial surroundings, derelict boats looking as if keeled over in a drunken stupor and the fact that all you hear are sounds from barges being hammered and welded in the course of repair do lend it a kind of eerie feel. If the bird watchers weren’t around, I don’t think I would venture here alone, especially being a woman – if you know what that means in India.
Unmindful of all this, the flamingos were looking for something very basic – food. I wondered what they were digging their beaks into because in the morning light shimmering off the water, we couldn’t see very clearly. An internet search later revealing they eat ‘invertebrate animals like crustaceans and molluscs as well as blue algae and small fish’ took me into the past – seated on an uncomfortable wooden chair in biology class.
Anyway, we had reached early and could faintly see just about something white/grey in the distance. You will find people who have read up on the ‘best time to view flamingos’ here around an hour after low tide – as the tide begins to come in, the birds start moving towards the spectators perched on barges or standing around on the rocks jutting out of the mangroves. We had apparently reached earlier than we should have, so we waited and trained our cameras on anything else remotely interesting.
Then, a few of us decided to don the ‘Survivor’ spirit and ventured out into the thick vegetation, washed up clothes, plastic and what-not to try and find a closer vantage spot.
Meanwhile, it was getting warmer. With the sun already beating down on us, we perched ourselves on boulders and waited some more. Finally, somebody shouted “Look, they really are pink” and we saw them stretched across the horizon – bent over, pale pink birds that would occasionally raise their heads, walk over to another patch of mud and stick their filtering bills right in to enjoy their meal some more. Low tide had revealed lots of writhing, ugly looking creatures that were being annihilated in slow, military precision.
It was truly a sight worth committing to memory – a wall of pink, not making a sound and moving in complete harmony. Seeing so many of them together really makes you feel small and wonder how many such things happen every day in this world that we are not lucky enough to witness.
For information on bird watching organised by BNHS, you can visit the following url-