Flamingos Among Other Things.

AFishermen Starring into the Sun

It is a cool sunday morning. I am walking down a long stretch of railway platform, which is teaming with people. A familiar monotone feminine voice from a grey loudspeaker rings gently in my ears. The announcement in three languages unfolds slowly, resulting in a peculiar effect on the people around me. The more impatient ones walk over to the edge and peer into the distance, waiting to catch a glimpse of something. I,on the other hand step back for a minute and look around. I then walked up to one of the food stalls. Most railway stations in India house a number of "platform" business operations. These range from blue uniformed shoe shine boys/men to refreshment kiosks that sell cool pineapple juice [among other things] for Rs6. I would love to enlighten you on these services, but I will leave that for another day
and an another post. Meanwhile at the refreshment stall a cup of tea is ordered - actually glass of chai is more accurate. The youngish looking man behind the glass counter,attired in an untucked khaki shirt, glides the "chai" glass skilfully over the counter. A glass of water is also added,this time with a thud rather then a slide. There was my first 'glass of chai' served with the first smileof the day.

Empty Glass on a Winter Morning.
[An empty 'glass of chai' on a winter morning - Depressing]

I slurped the Chai greedily. Halfway through my chai, a shrill low sound heralds the coming train. The 7:24 'Slow' to C.S.T - is steadily arriving onto platform 7 and I am soon off to Sewri. Sewri,let me remind you, is pronounced 'Shevdi', for the same reason that Wadala, Bandra and Panvel are spelled with Vs.

[Waiting at] Bandra Station Platform7
[Fellow commuters on Platform 7]

I love playing word association and if you shout Sewree at me the first words that would come into my mind are 'trucks' & 'pollution'. Sewri is not place I especially like. The question then arises why am I on the Harbour Line train bound for Sewree ? The answer to that is - Flamingos among other things.

Ashbird's post provided me with a map and directions so I decided to make a morning of it.

I blatantly ignored the map and headed to the Colgate factory first.

Standing there,on the grease stained, rocky beach with plastic bags strewn in all directions, with the heavy rumbling of the Colgate Palmolive factory behind me, I witnessed a sight which was a sort of an anti-climax to my current environment. A distant line of light pink covered the mudflats, the pink swayed in the tide like spring flowers in a summer breeze. I needed a better vantage. Walking to the jetty I could see the ruined Sewree Fort above so I decided to make a stop at the fort.

More Flamingoes

The Sewri Fort is a fort built by the British in northern Mumbai (Bombay). Its ruins stand on a quarried hill near Sewri area.

In 1769, Yadi Sakat of Janjira had conquered the Sewri and Mazagon Forts. It had a garrison of 50 sepoys under a subedar, and was probably equipped with 8-10 cannons. Its famous had cannons repelled a Portuguese attack in 1772.

Sewri Fort, Mumbai
[Sewri/Sewree Fort overun by vegetation]

Sewri Fort, Mumbai
[A barracks like structure in Sewree/Sewri Fort]

The kite shaped double walled fort is now in ruin and is sadly used more as a public toilet than the heritage site it is.A note of caution would be that the hill that the fort stands has been subject to excessive quarrying and parts of the outer wall have giving making it unsafe.

Let me admit it, I am not a much of a wildlife photographer. I am used to myprey standing patiently in front of me,hypnotised by the camera lens as I do my thing. However,in this case my "targets" were totally oblivious of me, eating smallcrustaceans and sea weeds. Well, that is the Lesser Flamingo for you.

The Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) is a species in the flamingo family of birds which occurs in Africa (principally in the Great Rift Valley), across to northwest India. It is the smallest and most numerous flamingo, probably numbering up to a million individual birds.Like all flamingos it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound. Most of the plumage is pinkish white.

The sun had just risen and land breeze had given way to a soft cool sea breeze and in this virgin sunlight was great beauty amongst great harshness. Rusting fishing boats, factories and an oil refinery was a backdrop for a gift of nature - a light pink blanket of flamingos. A more skilled photographer would have typified this image better but alas my amateurish skills can bring you only this.

Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)
[Flamingos Key - Blackish flamingos in the picture are infants, the ones with pink plumage are fully grown. The birds on the top corner of the pictures are sandpipers.]

Rusting Narcissism

Crows checking out some birds.

[Kids at the Sewri Jetty]

Aajis [Grandmothers]
[Aajis [Marathi : Grandmothers] on there morning outing.]

Sadly even though there is great beauty here it may all be gone in the not so distant future. The MSRDC - Mumbai Trans Harbour Link hopes to bridge this creek destroying a valuable avifauna habitat. BNHS and other agencies are putting up a fight-good luck to them.

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Nick said...

A great post - thank you for the read.
It is almost like you cannot avoid showing pictures of little children - they make for such easy photographs, I guess?

I laughed when I read about "A note of caution" - I wonder if you slipped here with your big camera?

The headline photograph is one of my favorite pictures that you have ever taken.

Akshay said...

Nick, your right children make easy yet great photographs, plus they're a great barometer for the mood of a place. Where is there kids there is usually fun. India have such a young population there are kids everywhere, give you a sense doesn't it.

Oh I had some scarry moments on top of that fort. The front wall has given away leaving this huge gap and not to mention a vertical drop (70 feet). The only way to get to the other side was this thin edge. A scene out of an Indiana Jones movie. I almost slipped there but luckily caught on to one the many vines.
Hence the "note of caution"

I took that picture at the absolute edge of the Jetty, as the sun was rising. I'd place the camera on the ground for the vantage.

sonal said...

Amazing pictures and very relevant touching description.....

Aditya said...

glad you got out unhurt :)

but great post akshay - combined with the pictures, the narrative truly brings life in mumbai back to life, giving guys like me who are no longer there, a chance to be back home again ...

keep em coming

Akshay said...

sonal - thanks I went through some of the pictures on one your blogs and they are pretty good.

aditya - I'm glad my camera my lens didn't get fractured.
You're thermodynamix of flickr right ?

Sure I'll keep them coming.

charu said...

lovely post and great pics, as always... now I must must do this...
and the first pic with the blue effect is absolutely the tops!

Mitesh said...

Thats some brilliant photos! which digicam? do you use it in manual mode where you can adjust aperture & focal length? Or do you just point and click?

Viewer said...

Hi, How was the meet ? I really wanted to make it but couldntas it was in the middle ofthe week . Hope it was a sucessful meet :)

Akshay said...

Charu - You must visit, it's a brilliant sight especially in a place like Mumbai.
Have you seen this documentary 'The March of the Penguins' it gives you a similar feel. Its amazing how they come back every where to the exact same spot.

Mitesh - I'm using a digital SLR with a 18-70 telephoto lens, a Nikon D70S. I do aperture & focal length [obviously.]

Thanks for visiting.

Viewer - Hi, the meet was brilliant about 20 people turned up and we had a good time. If you want to read about it you check out Melody's blog here. You should have come

Mridula said...

Akshay, I too found at Bharatpur that taking wildlife picture is tough and Nikon Coolpix 3200 is a lousy camera for such photographs. How complex is the D70S. Do you think an amature like me can figure it out? I have to update my camera in the distant future!

Phew, in my rant I almost forgot to say how much I liked your first pic. Stunning stuff.

jinal shah said...

I could have never imagined flamingos in bombay. i learn so much of this city through you pics... stuff i should've known and learnt when i lived there.

Aditya said...

here are some more good pics of flamingoes in mumbai

Kim said...

Brilliant !!!! Any idea if the flamingoes are still around now that its end of March ???

Took your advice (from a long list of advisers :) )& moved to firefox.

Shreemoyee said...

Your eye for the small things makes your posts interesting and different. Got here through DP and read through some of your posts. Hope you keep traveling and writing.