From October to March if you get off at Sewri (E) railway station (Harbour line), and look hesitant, chances are that the locals will give you directions to the Sewri mudflats. A small suburb on the island city’s eastern edge — Sewri has been on my route of passage from my home in Chembur to St Xavier’s College. I never stopped by until recently when I alighted at this station with two kids and two adults, with the the intention of meeting a handful of guests who visit this part of Mumbai with more regularity than most Mumbaikars.
After a 20-minute trudge through industrial surroundings, we reach the mudflats where groups of birdwatchers were already present. Flocks of flamingos land on the mangroves feeding as much as they can; and depending on the tide you can see them up close or at a distance. The flamingos are not the only visitors.
Unassuming, pale and busy, you will be astounded by other avian species that have flown in from far off lands. The Little Stint — tiny, and blending in the grey of the mangrove’s fine soil, is one such visitor. Weighing hardly 15 grams, these little ones have flown all the way from Scotland to be here. We exclaimed over little Egrets, Cranes, Bar-tailed Godwits (who fly 17,000 km at a stretch, we are told), the Brown-Headed Gull and the Plover. The birds stoically feed, ignoring the crowd ooh-ing at them.
Stalking off calmly with their long legs and beaks poking the fine soil of the mangroves, are the magnificent flamingos. Since the tide had receded, everyone had to view the majestic flamingos through powerful binoculars. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) guide tell us that the Lesser Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor), have been visiting the Mumbai coast and adjoining Thane creek, since 1990, but very little has been known about them. The BNHS plans to tag these birds and learn about their age, and the route they take each year. On the Sewri Jetty, where we stand we are astonished to see pink worms. “This is the arm of Fiddler Crab,” we are informed. Waving their arm to catch the attention of the female, these actually become prey to the wading birds. Everyone is smiling. Au revoir, pink friends. May your tribe increase!
Pics/Suresh KK, Sayed Sameer Abedi
Where Sewri Jetty, Sewri (E).
How to get there
Train: Sewri (Harbour line). It’s a 1-km walk to the jetty.
Bus: Hit the Mahul Road, and drive up to the jetty. Ample parking is available. Most Sewri residents offer directions.
best time Mornings. October till late May. The best sightings are when the flamingos come closest to the shore and the high tide recedes a bit. It’s advisable to check tide timings before your trip.
What’s good The birds. Take the kids after you’ve introduced them to these birds online or from books. Read up facts about these waders so they can see them, up close.
What’s not good Avoid taking toddlers or fussy kids. There is no place to sit, nothing to eat or drink for miles. Carry a sun hat, food and water.