For all of you who are keen on birds (the furry kind, mind you) and are serious birdwatchers, the season's almost closing. Migratory birds that come to Mumbai are on their way out and if you didn't catch the spectacle last year, now is your last chance.
"Generally, around this time the migrant birds are on their way home to their breeding grounds to return the following year," says naturalist Sanjay Monga. But, he adds, you can still birdwatch in Mumbai throughout the year.
"Mumbai has a rich variety of birds in the city precincts as well as suburban regions because of its forested areas, mangroves, beaches and marshes," he says. Apart from migratory birds that start coming in during November, nearly 350 to 400 varieties of birds have been recorded in Mumbai.
"Birdwatching is the first and easiest step into environmental issues," says Monga. Most enthusiasts, when they get into the spirit of it, discover that it's not just about spotting rare and beautiful birds. It is a hobby that prods one to ascertain the whys and wherefores of things.
"Take garbage, for example. Some birds find the material to build nests only in garbage; so garbage lying around may not necessarily be a bad thing," says Monga.
But not everyone wants to be an environmentalist. For the most part, birdwatching in Mumbai is just a delightful way to relax. Be it on your way to work, or a Sunday walk in any of Mumbai's larger parks, birdwatching can completely take your mind off routine worries. But then, it also requires patience and attention to detail, and is a serious exercise in silence if you are going to watch out for birds seriously. The important thing is to not take it so seriously that you stop having any fun.
Equipment needed? None. A healthy appetite for nature, a keen eye, and a pair of good binoculars is all you need to make this a fulltime hobby. There are enough books to help you identify common garden birds as well as the rarer ones that are spotted only in certain seasons. Mid-November to February is the best time to watch for migratory birds while other kinds of birds can be spotted at any time of the year.
On the periphery of the Mahim Nature Park is the Mahim Creek, which supports a lush evergreen mangrove forest. The estuarine vegetation and the surrounding mud flats are favourite roosting spots for migratory and aquatic birds.
The Mahim Nature Park has become a popular spot for birdwatchers. The Park and the surrounding mangroves serve as resting spots for thousands of birds. Other places you can birdwatch are the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the Karnala Forest reserve, and the Uran and Sewri wetlands.