Among the many migrants that pour into Mumbai, a special group makes its way here every winter. The brilliantly pink flamingos flock to the eastern coastlines of the city in thousands during this time of the year. Over the years, the marshy areas of Sewri have become a favourable point for these birds. This has led to locals establishing an informal Sewri Flamingo Point. With a small window after sunrise to watch the flamingos, a jetty at Sewri is filled with bird enthusiasts and nature lovers even on weekdays. After their visit to Sewri, Manasi Aryamne and her seven-year-old daughter Shreya made a trip to Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park to watch more birds.
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“It is important to connect with nature in the time of 24×7 television and Internet. After the trip to Sewri, my daughter knows the names of several birds that even I don’t recall at times,” says Aryamane, who visited the area through a nature trail group. Recounting her experience, Aryamane says the guides told her daughter the story of how the flamingo travels and why, handed out pamphlets and provided binoculars to watch the birds with. Manu Menon can still recall the first time he came to this area in the 2000s and approached the birds from a boat. “We went towards Sewri from Chembur, where a fisherman, Rajaram Mahulkar, took us on a motorboat and then on a rowing boat. We were very close to the flamingos. It was a unique experience,” Menon says.
Braced with a hat and dark sunglasses, Menon, like most at the jetty, was out with his professional cameras, clicking the birds silently and repeatedly. The flamingos here come from Kutch in Gujarat and stay for around six months. They arrive in November and leave by June, but the best time to see them is January to March, as they are present in the maximum number in these months.
According to Bombay National History Society (BNHS), the last season recorded more flamingos, with almost 35,000 counted. This year, till January, about 30,000 flamingos have been spotted. According to BNHS officials, the time of migration and the number that arrives in the city depends on various factors such as the weather and rainfall in Kutch, the suitability of the wintering habitat, level of disturbances, and hazards in the flying route.
For visitors, the lack of basic facilities at Sewri and the inconvenient route are problem areas. “The road is full of trucks and is about 1.5 km from the nearest railway station. It is not a safe trip to make,” Aryamane says.