Take your kids for a unique bird watching experience in Mumbai

Updated: Mar 31, 2018, 09:48 IST | Vinitha | Mumbai

A Facebook post of a nature lover where she took pictures of a group of sparrows and posted it set off a conversation on the scarcity of those birds in Bengaluru

Painted stork
Painted stork

Birding in Uran (Outdoors)

A Facebook post of a nature lover where she took pictures of a group of sparrows and posted it set off a conversation on the scarcity of those birds in Bengaluru. And that's when I realised that despite the mad rush and the perennial construction that constantly changes the face of Mumbai, the city still has its birds. I've seen sparrows, even the greater coucal, owls and sunbirds in great proximity. There is something about birds that always gets me excited. So when a birding trip to Uran was announced by Wildnest and both my kids wanted to join me, we took off.

Little cormorant
Little cormorant

We left at 6 am and joined a small group of nature lovers at Chembur and headed straight for Uran, in Navi Mumbai. It lies in Raigad district, across the Dharamtan Creek, and is known primarily as a fishing and agricultural village. Because of its salt pans, wet lands and mangroves, the place used to have diverse species of birds and reptiles. This is fast depleting. It was 7.30 am by the time we reached, and still cool. The senior naturalist accompanying us knew the lay of the land like the back of his hand, and we took our binoculars and cameras and followed him.

Black winged stilt
Black winged stilt

We walked through the flatland. The mud flats were drying quickly in the summer heat. We traversed the narrow path between flatlands and then the naturalist pointed to a brown spot perched on a dried shoot. "Osprey," he said, and we trained our binoculars on the spot, nearly 1 km away, and watched the osprey sit still. What a lovely way to start the day.

Binoculars

The mudflats were dotted with tiny, pale birds that were so nondescript that it is hard to believe that these are some of the strongest flyers among birds. Some of the plovers had started their journey in Siberia and have a long way to go after their food and rest stopover at Uran. There were egrets of different kinds but the massive Eurasian spoonbills, which we watched diving in and lifting off (after forking fish), and the majestic painted stork were what the kids liked best.

We also spotted the black winged stilt, the little cormorant, the wood sandpiper, the brahminy kite, and raptors. We heard the greater coucal and the Indian koel, but did not see them. Camouflaged in the tiny shrubs were barbets and sunbirds, Ashy prinias and the crested bulbuls. Drongos darted from tree tops, while straited herons and jungle crows were what we saw in the mangroves. Later, we watched locals fish with their handmade nets, even catching some fish with their hands! We had to scout for the birds, listen for them and train our eyes via our binoculars to catch a sight of them, and this is what makes birding in Uran so special.

Safety tip: Go with a naturalist or a local. Even if the mudflats look dry, do not allow kids to step on them because the soft mud below the hardened surface acts almost like quicksand.

Fact file

Where: Uran
Best for: Boys and girls from 10 years and above.
How to reach: We drove.
Timings: Dawn to 9 am
Budget: We went with Wildnest who charged `1,500 per head for the expertise of a senior naturalist, binoculars, and breakfast.
Food: Carry.
Water: Carry.
Restroom facilities: None.
Where else to go: Uran beach is beautiful. Wonder Park at Belapur is also
close by.
Parent Poll: Enjoyed the birding session only because we went with a naturalist.
Rating: ****
Kids' Poll: Had fun spotting birds with the help of the naturalist using binoculars. The session with kids was enhanced when each bird they spotted was referenced in the birding book they had bought.
Rating: ****
What's Good: Loved the range of birds we saw. Because we had to hunt out camouflaged birds, it seemed so much more interesting.
What's Not So Good: Spotting plastic litter and garbage strewn around was such a pity.

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