Continuing our Birding In Mumbai series, here is the second and final part where we share some other interesting spots in the city to go catch our feathered visitors this winter.
5. Sagar Upvan
An erstwhile garbage dump, now converted into a beautiful Botanical park by the joint efforts of the Bombay Port Trust and World Wildlife Fund lies just behind the colourful Sassoon Docks. A wide variety of indigenous trees can be spotted here like the Sissoo, Indian Kino, Flame of the Forest and Ironwood tree. These trees support a healthy bird life and the adjacent sea also attracts aquatic birds. Orioles, Magpie Robins, Kites, Tailorbirds, Sunbirds and Barbets are often spotted in this garden.
Barn owls and Spotted Owlets, alongwith Fruit Bats are spotted flying around after dusk. A walk in the adjacent cantonment area which also boasts of a good tree cover will lead to many sightings this time of the year. Other green zones in South Bombay including Colaba Woods at Cuffe Parade, Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill and Mazgaon Hill Garden. Early mornings are the best times to visit. Sagar Upvan is open from 6-11am and 4.30-830pm. Entry fee is Rs 2 and charges for using your camera is Rs 5.
6. Palm Beach Road
A range of ugly towers line one side of the Palm Beach Road that stretches between Vashi and CBD Belapur, while the other is surrounded by mangroves and small lakes. There are a couple of trails that one may choose to go walking around. But my favourite one is undoubtedly Talawe, it begins from TS Chanakya and goes behind the campus where a large water body plays host to a wide variety of waders. There are Caspian Terns, Plovers, Kingfishers, Gulls, Egrets, Herons, Lapwings in the waders category. It is a sight to behold when a large group of birds can be spotted on the water.
Apart from that, in the surrounding areas one may also notice Starlings, Barbets, Shrikes, Bulbuls, Cuckoos, Stonechats and Munias! Last time, I was lucky to spot many pair of Ibis in flight very close to Talawe and a purple heron standing somberly in one of the many water bodies. The lake behind the Delhi Public School offers decent sightings. If you plan to drive down, then parking your vehicle on one side of the road and walking around the area is a better way to spot birds.
7. Mahim Nature Park
Another remarkable project of the city, MNP as it is popularly known used to be a garbage dump 30 years ago. From then onward, it has been converted into a lush green area in the middle of Bandra-Sion link road with the Mithi river and BKC on one side, while the slums of Dharavi on the other. A lake within the park plays host to many aquatic species and the thousands of trees abound in not only birds but also provide shelter to other species of insects, reptiles and mammals too.
Russel’s viper has been spotted here and there is the mongoose too. Over 80 species of butterflies can be spotted here. In the winters, Laughing dove, Greater spotted eagles, Godwits, Shikra, Woodpeckers, Terns(on the Mahim creek side) are spotted. The park opens at 9 am and shuts by 6 pm. About 3-4 hours are required to explore the park completely. Best times would be in the morning when the park opens or just 2 hours before the sunset.
Tips for Birdwatchers
1. Invest in a good field guide. We recommend Book of Indian Birds – Dr. Salim Ali, Birds of Indian Subcontinent – Richard Grimmet and Birds of Mumbai – Sunjoy Monga.
2. Online groups such as Birds of Bombay group of Yahoo! is a very active online forum. Regular bird walks are also organised by certain experienced members of the group, which are almost always free.
3. Dark, muted colour clothing along with sturdy footwear, cap/hat and a pair of bincoulars along with a lot of patience are prerequisites during birding sessions.
Birding acquaints one with the treasure of flora and fauna that surrounds us. However, the sightings of several birds have dropped over the years. Destruction of habitats for ‘developmental’ projects and unplanned expansion of the city has marred the bird population. The burgeoning number of mobile towers for constant connectivity is having an adverse effect on migratory and flight patterns of several birds. Afforestation in barren patches of land, making eco-friendly choices and a sincere attempt to reduce your own carbon footprint will help to a small extent in conserving the invaluable biodiversity that surrounds us.