Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flame birds of Airoli !!!

I could never imagine that Airoli could be such a visual treat - so magical. 4000 flamingos - all around you, wading, flying, swimming, diving, fishing - a pink panorama - dumb struck we were!

Flame birds - 'Agnipankh' - as Adesh calls them... a couple of hours on one fine Sunday morning - a reward of a lifetime! Shutters on job - click click click - they were all over, they were all around us - carefree of the presence of the boat - the boat went straight into the flock! Wings beating together only when you are too near! Amazing - amazing!

It was 26th April 2009 – would surely be a memorable day in my life. Hadn’t heard of such a big Flamingo base in Navi Mumbai before.
Until a few years back, Navi Mumbai wasn’t a hotspot for flamingo watch except for Uran. It was no big planning - a near weekend unanimous decision for flamingo watch in Airoli – and we all said ‘wow – would be great fun’. My long pending dream of visiting Nal Sarovar for flamingoes was seemingly getting true in the neighborhood itself.

Sewri bay and Mahul jetty has been centers of attraction for flamingo watch for years. Although Mahul, a branch of the Mithi river, is now choked and clogged with garbage – still it used to offer a good treat to the eyes of the novice bird watcher with its flocks of flamingoes in thousands during the high tides. However, after the police supervision was made stricter, after the unfortunate incidences of violence a couple of years back, Mahul was no more kept open for public for bird watching. To top it up, the disturbances in the habitat base created by the Bandra-Worli sea link apparently has caused the flamingos to shift base to Navi Mumbai and hence the pink panorama in Airoli.

There had been incidences of illegal trading of flamingo meat in Uran in the past –thanks to Nikhil Bhopale and Sandeep Athavle that the matter was finally taken to police. Both greater and lesser flamingoes are now protected under schedule 1 of wild life protection act, 1972, - this, fortunately has been addressed by some of the highly active NGOS now and as there was a great extent of decibel created in the market - such inhuman incidences were not heard thereafter.

Flamingoes migrate from Nigeria, Africa. The two sub species that migrate to Mumbai are the Greater Flamingoes with dark pink colour and pinkish beak and Lesser Flamingoes with distinct pink colour and dark pink beak. They stay here for quite a few months before they fly to Kutch for breeding.

Uran is completely destroyed. Hardly in history of ecosystem conservation, someone might have witnessed such rapid and massive avian habitat destruction due to human encroachment. A birdwatchers heaven, which used to entertain hundreds of thousands of migratory every year, would never vibrate again. As if Uran was not enough… to add on to it - with NMMC’s approval to go ahead with developing an entertainment and recreation center in Airoli creek, the new habitat base is again at stake… who knows this year could have been the last year we could see those pink beauties in Mumbai … the fate of the flamingos of Mumbai is definitely uncertain.

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