Last Friday began very ordinarily for me. Though it was a holiday, I had to go in to work. I finished around 4 pm and headed to Sewri, where I met up with 2 friends. Sewri is on the eastern shore of what was once Parel Island, one of the seven islands of this city, and fringed by mangroves that are home to a variety of bird life all through the year.
We were there to see the Sewri Fort, one of the Mumbai’s 8 forts, and once there we first spent time looking around and discussing its rather unique architecture (more about that in another post). Only then did we get around to exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fort.
When I peered through an opening in the wall, this is what I saw.
And I squealed, “I see flamingos, pink flamingos, a bunch of flamingos… ” (I’m pretty sure I must have jumped up and down, but I can’t recall that.). I think I went a little incoherent after that.
But the thing is: I. Saw. Flamingos. Live ones. Outside of a TV screen or a glossy magazine or even a comic book. I. Saw. Flamingos. And my camera wouldn’t stop clicking. They were quite some distance away and I had to zoom in to see them even half-way clearly. 🙂
The flamingos first moved that way…
And then this way…
We decided to walk down to the Sewri Jetty, which is a short distance from the Sewri Fort to take a chance at seeig more flamingos from there. But flamingos were even further away from the Jetty, but at the same time presented a rather dramatic photo-op of dots of pink against urban highrises.
While we were still looking around and wondering if we should leave, 3 flamingos arrived almost as if to make us stay. To my delight, they proceeded to delicately pick their way in the mud, feeding, pausing, looking around, walking a bit, feeding… I was mesmerised by them, and in the light of the setting sun their colours glowed sometimes pink, sometimes a deeper pinkish red, and once even a hint of orange.
These are the Lesser Flamingos who migrate to Mumbai from the Kachchh region of Gujarat during this season. The reason they come here is that the water here is extremely alkaline and breeds the kind of food they eat – the Spirulina algae. These flamingos are born white and turn pink as they grow on a diet of this algae !
There were other birds in the Sewri mudflats that evening, but I had eyes only for the flamingos. Shy, quiet and unassuming, their flashy pink colour notwithstanding, they were the star attraction for the many people who had came to the jetty by the car load just to see them.
Though I was aware of the presence of flamingos at Sewri for years now, I had never seen them before in their natural habitat. To be honest, even that day I had only hoped, but not expected, to see the flamingos. The reason was the tides were not right — for the flamingos to be present, the mudflats/feeding ground have to be exposed and that happens only during low tide. That day, low tide wasn’t until 7.30 pm.
Perhaps it was luck or perhaps the birds were hungry as they appeared as soon as the tide started receding. Or perhaps they were there for me. Whatever the reason, to see that flash of pink for the first time is a sight that is going to remain with me for the rest of my life.
If you find this to be a rambling or disjointed or incoherent post, blame it on me. If you find it to be an interesting and good one and loved it, the credit goes to the flamingos. 🙂