Friday, January 4, 2013

Birding at Gandheri - Kalyan

Start of winter season in Mumbai and the island city becomes home to numerous migratory birds, some come as far as Central Asia. With so much awareness about conserving nature, conserving forest cover in & around city, it in turn helps in making sure that these visitory birds continue to come and excite us. It also helps in numerous people taking up birding as one of their hobbies, some even go to extent of organising free trips to places which are heaven for migratory birds, providing their expertise in birding to others. Every year HSBC bank also organises "Bird Race" which is now become a famous event, eagerly awaited by bird enthusiast across the city, providing them a common platform to reach out to like minded people and also to explore different places around Mumbai to see and watch these famous and beautiful visitors. Popular birding spots in and around city being S.G.National park, Aarey milk colony, Uran, Karnala bird sanctuary, Sewri for flamingos to name a few.

One such event was recently organised by Pravin Subramanian (one of the famous bird enthusiast in Mumbai) and his group and I was invited by Dr Ajay to join him and be a part of exciting trip. Half day event to watch birds at Gandheri. It was first time for me to join such a group, honestly I had no clue what was in store for first timer like me. Excited I was, hoping to explore a new place which I had not heard of. Gandheri - at Kalyan. I and Ajay boarded 4.30am local train for Dadar as meeting place was decided at Kalyan near bridge at Ulhas river and it was at 7.30am in the morning. One of Ajay's friend joined us at Kalyan station. We managed to reach much early at the spot and with winter having set in, it was quite chilly and foggy in the morning. Waiting for others on the bridge, we easily managed to spot couple of birds. Ajay and one of the our colleague, have been doing birding for quite sometime and were quick to spot birds like Sandpiper, common pond heron, Black kite to name a few.

By 7.30am we saw three cars full of bird enthusiast who joined us and we were off to explore the place. The other side of bridge on river Ulhas was more of forest area close to the river and wilderness.  We followed our leader with quick round of introduction, a group total of 20. As soon as we moved passed some small houses, the entire stretch of land was pure wilderness and dried grass land. The leaders with their keen eye for birds started spotting and showing everyone birds which I had never heard of and also never seen. to name a few beautiful ones that we saw were Eurasian color dove, Eurasian marsh harrier, Black drongos, common kites. It was amazing to spot such beautiful birds and it was just within 30minutes of we entering the area. The group had people who even had done bird watching in Himalayas and was amazing to get their share of knowledge about various birds and how to spot them and distinguish them from their very close cousins. Wow !!!

As we moved deeper, the forest cover became more dense and the list of birds that we spotted continued to increase and became even more exotic.The highlight of the trip for me was the Kingfisher in its natural habitat and proudly showing its true and rich colour. It was more than 3hours into the event of bird watching and group was dead hungry. We spotted one comfortable open space covered in shade of trees were the entire group had the snacks which each and every one had got. Everyone enjoyed the snacks as it was as exotic and varied as the birds that we had spotted. Dhoklas, khakras, fruits, biscuits and list would just go on.....

Walking in the forest, we even found rich flora which included "hari patti" which is put in paan and sweet in taste, also one of group members enlightened us by showing the colourful seeds of the tree which are all equal in weight and was used in ancient times to weigh gold. Also found one wild fruit which looks like tamarind but when touched would make ensure the person would have itching for couple of hrs on touched body part. One cannot stop thinking how nature surprises us with such exotic flora as well..

We started our return journey as it was around 12.30pm now, some of group members managed to actually spot more birds and the list end of the event was total of 51 different species of birds in one area itself. Luckily for Ajay and me, We had a couple who stayed close to Borivali and had enough space for Ajay, me in their car and we joined them on our way back home.It was just amazing to be part of such group of people who had so much of knowledge about birds and best part was they all came from different fields and industry. It was one such wonderful memory for me to be a part of such amazing event. As I pen down my blog I am also including the list of birds that we spotted during this event and hope to be a part of such events in the future as well. I also came across someone who has meticulously penned down the birding sites in & around Mumbai and I am taking the liberty to include this here, hoping to be a part of awareness creation for conserving nature and in turn would help us in watching these amazing visitors to our island city called Mumbai.

Sr #
Name Of Species
Ashy Pirnia
Common myna
Green beater
Black Drongo
Red vented bulbul
Asian pied starling
Open billed stork
Black kite
Pond Heron
Common Stonechat
Yellow wagtail
Spotted dove
Paddy filed pipet
Indian robin
Grey Heron
Scaly breasted munia
Red advent
Palm swift
Eurasian color dove
Little Cormorant
Copper smith barbet
Red collared dove
Short eared owl
Little egret
Laughing dove
Eurasian golden oriol
Rufous  tailed lark
Plain pirnia
White breasted kingfisher
Asian Koyal
Purple sunbird
Purple rum sunbird
Common Iora
Tailor bird
Common Blue Kingfisher
Common sandpiper
Wood sandpiper
Eurasian marsh harrier
Yellow billed river turn
White eye buzzard
Blue tailed bee eater
Wire tailed swallow
Barn swallow
Indian roller
Sparrow hawk
House crow
Jungle crow
Cattle egret

Sunday outing to Devkop lake

It was long since my last outing with Wanderlust adventurers, one due to my personal commitments and also mostly due to my work commitment. So last when I met Ajay for birding at Gandheri, It was again decided to do some outing on Sunday. The place was Devkop or Devkhop lake near Palghar.

Devkop is not a popular destination but its like offbeat place close to Palghar, approx 5kms from Palghar station on Manor road. A very small sleepy village of few tribal mud huts on banks of Devkop lake. The lake water on clear blue sky reflects the sky colour and turns blue. A serene surrounding which is sure to bring the poet and your creative poetry out of you !!!! The place is surrounded by hills on three sides with thick forest cover on the hills and beautiful lake water with small village on it bank. A perfect place to be at on a winter Sunday.

We decided to catch the a slow local from Borivali at 7.25am for Virar from where we would catch the  Dahanu shuttle and get down at Palghar. A group of seven, lead by Dr Ajay. Virar Dahanu shuttle unexpectedly was crowded on Sunday morning also but we managed to get a seat. Its a mere 4 station - 40min run to Palghar from Virar. Something not to be missed at Palghar station are its sweeter than sugar chickoos and vadapavs bang opp station. I didn't miss both !!! Piping hot vadapav surely taste more better on chilly winter morning. Checking with some rickshawalas for a trip to Devkhop and they asked for Rs100 for a single trip. Ajay who had been to this place before suggested to check state transport bus as the place was close by and one way fare in ST bus was mere Rs 4/-. Surely that was the best way as we found that buses to Manor as quite frequent and they all stop at Devkhop. A run of 10 - 15min and we were standing at entrance of Devkop lake.

As we walked towards the lake from the main road, we passed this small sleepy village, made of straw huts plastered with mud. A tribal village and we didn't notice even a single shop in the village.The first sight of lake was like wow, clear & still water with reflections of mountains covering three sides,sun rising on winter day, water dam built at far end, village ladies washing clothes. Instantly we just stood capturing the beautiful sight in our lens. There is nothing much to do at the lake but we had come to explore so it was decided to do a full circle of the lake, capturing and enjoying the moments and the place. As we walked on not so dry & dry banks of the lake we could see empty sea shells or lake shells , indicating rich habitat for migratory birds.

Cormorant was the first bird that we could sight. It was a real pleasure to see the bird flying low on the lake and then jumping in the water to catch the fish. We also spotted small ducks swimming in middle of lake and Black Drongo which is very common during this part of the year.

One of the best thing about the lake was its clear water and it really gave a perfect reflection of its surroundings. To capture the beauty of the place and to have a good view we even climbed a small hillock and spend some time there. Some of the pics of reflections really turned out to be good.

Sun was now almost on the head so we decided to walk along the dam built to conserve the water and find some shade for our packed brunch that we were all carrying. Walking on the walls of the dam one gets a amazing view of both sides. one side was lake and other side was like a heaven, few huts and chickoo, coconut trees as far as eyes could see. It was like a ideal place to have a house amidst green trees and then just a climb on the dam wall and one can spend hours together watching the lake and its surroundings in the evening or early morning. It was such a beautiful sight that it just came rolling in front of my eyes while I pen down my memories of the place.

We had our brunch under a bridge over a well which served the purpose of realising water from the lake to other side of the dam in controlled manner, while we walked around the lake we came across some villagers fishing shell in shallow lake water.

Sun was now at its prime and it was now turning out to be too hot to walk, we decided to quickly complete a full circle of the lake as turning back would mean walking more in the open sun. It was like a walk of around 3hrs coming full circle of the lake.

We reached the village back and from the main road got into state transport bus to Palghar. Bharti -  one of my colleague was full red faced with heat from the sun and everyone else were also exhausted. On reaching Palghar station, it was wait for over one hour for our train to Virar back but drinking coconut water on station was huge respite from the heat and equally re hydrating. I am sure each one of us had at least two coconut full of water.

The train ride back to Virar was one hell of ride as train was jam packed to the brim, standing on one leg and every muscle getting toned by push from fellow passenger, we finally reached Virar and eventually our one more outing was complete and everyone was back safe home. It's a beautiful place and I still feel one should enjoy the beauty of the place in the evening or may be overnight stay in pitched tent. It would certainly be my dream to comeback to this place again some other time, some evening, some morning !!!!