For many years now, the arrival of flamingos at the Sewri mudflats during the winter has been a calendar event for Mumbai’s bird enthusiasts. Besides the mangroves, the city also has green spaces such as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Aarey Colony that shelter diverse species of flora and fauna besides playing generous hosts to seasonal guests.
One such biodiversity hotspot, popular among local nature enthusiasts, is the Bhandup Pumping Station. Located along the Eastern Express Highway, in the stretch of salt pans one passes heading towards Thane, is what has come to be recognised as one of the best birding spots in the city. Besides the commonly spotted species such as the common egret, pond heron, coppersmith barbet, oriental magpie robin, weaver bird, golden oriole, common kingfisher and common cormorant, one can see species such as the painted stork, greater and lesser flamingo, black-headed ibis, eurasian spoonbill, black-winged stilt, pied avocet, spot-billed duck and garganey duck. Many of these, such as the garganey duck, pied avocet and flamingos, are migratory and the main attractions for birdwatchers who begin to flock here from November.
A combination of factors makes the Bhandup Pumping Station a birding hotspot. “A pumping station is where sewage and waste water are treated, so when I first heard that this was a great place to spot migratory species, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But the proximity of the Thane creek, mangroves and mudflats offers a range of habitats that can support many different species of birds, and over the years I have had the joy of spotting migratory species such as flamingos, brown-headed gulls and once even a marsh harrier,” says Airoli resident Parag Ranade. A nature enthusiast, Ranade first visited Bhandup Pumping Station a few years ago, on a trip organised by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), and since then has made it a point to come here as often as possible during the birdwatching season.
“Since I first came here four years ago, more and more people have started visiting Bhandup Pumping Station during the season. Not everyone is an avid birder, but as long as they don’t damage the eco-system and scare the birds by being loud, I think it’s good that it’s slowly becoming a well-known birding spot. Everyone in the city needs to know about this spot, so that they can appreciate what we stand to lose if we don’t preserve our wetlands,” he says.