Saturday, January 23, 2010

Birding Routes for the Mumbai Bird Races
Sanjay Gandhi National Park Trails & Sites:
Shilonda Trail:
This is one of the most popular trails in the SGNP. We would recommend giving about 2 - 2.5 hours for this trail. Fine birding trail; expect mostly woodland species. Mix of secondary growth and bamboo gives way to fine forest along stream-beds (mostly dry during winter and summer).

Tulsi Road: Comfortable, paved road running through the heart of SGNP; fine forest, undulating side-trails; can walk up to Tulsi Lake. Excellent birding trail.

South Gate Trail: From Goregaon(south) gate of National Park up to Culvert 14, whence you can re-join the trail on way back through Pongam Valley; altered forest at start of trail gives way to largely endemic forest along the slope. Was one of the finest birding trails until recent times but seems to have been ecologically affected in recent years with far reduced species’ sightings. However, there is always the odd very rewarding day, such as many BirdRAce days have been. Slight descend and climb, but quite comfortable.

Vihar Lake:
The more rewarding birding lake inside SGNP. During winter and early summer, with water-level having receded considerably, a vast expanse of grass and marsh-edge becomes an avian playground and one can expect some great birding moments.

Malad Patrolling Trail: A little known trail through a mix of secondary growth and now-maturing forest that includes some plantation. Begins just before Mafco Bridge, and leads alongside the little Dahisar River.

Kanheri Trail: Begins from left (north-end) of the slight openland at the base of Kanheri Hill (c. 250 mt from the Tulsi Lake/Road barrier). Gradual climb through good forest. Leads to the rocky, grass and cactus strewn plateau above Kanheri Caves (excellent for nightjars, Short-eared Owl). One can ascend up to the Highest Point (Jambulmal). The Kanheri Top Ridge (southern edge) and the Jambulmal Top promontory not only offer spectacular views of the National Park and parts of Mumbai, but are also excellent for viewing raptors soaring on thermals. Give c. 3 hrs minimum.

Bamboo Hut Trail (also referred to as Yewoor Trail west): Starts from the Bamboo Hut barrier (c. 100 mt before the Tulsi Lake/Road barrier). Gradual climb along fine forest. Leads to Gomukh (above Kanheri Caves) and a diversion on left leads to the Highest Point (Jambulmal). Give minimum 3 hrs.
Nagla Trail: North of the Bassein Creek, one of the finest birding trails around. Through some fine tall forest, leads to the edge of the mangrove creek. Expect a good range of woodland species and a sprinkling of some wetland species along the creekside.

Yeoor Trail (Thane Side):
On the eastern side of the SGNP, another highly rewarding birding walk in the region. Give 2 – 3 hrs. Secondary growth and forest. One can take a ST bus from Thane Station to Patonpada which is the last roadhead for this route. The trail starts right from the bus stop and one can walk right upto the dry stream bed and bird along the entire route

- Designated a Wildlife Sanctuary only recently, this site boasts the highest point (670 mt or c. 2200 ft above msl) in the very immediate vicinity of Mumbai. Despite intense human pressures all around, Tungareshwar still contains some of the finest forest in the region, especially the Middle and Upper reaches). There are 3 sites for birding here.

Lower Trail:
c. 3- 3.5 km from Sativali Gate (just off the Western Express Highway) up to the Mahadeo Temple site. Heavily pressured stretch due to large numbers of people going to the temple, yet a surprising range of woodland species visible from the path itself.

Upper Trail: Around 7 km, from Mahadeo Temple to the upper Ashram; passes through possibly the finest wilderness setting in the Mumbai region; some of the interesting species of the Mumbai region have been sighted here, and there are chances of some additions. Ascend throughout.

Tungareshwar from Northside:
Around 6.5 km, from Parol phata, along the Vajreshwari Road, up to the Upper ashram; secondary growth gives way to fine forest. Ascend throughout.

An off-shoot off the main Tungareshwar stretch, more popular during the monsoons when the waterfalls come alive; however, otherwise, it is a fine birding stretch through a mix of secondary growth and (some habitation) leading to some good forest. Slight ascend.

TakMak Fort:
Around 15 km north of the Tungareshwar massif, access to this large mountain is from Sakwar or Bharol villages on the Mumbai – Ahmedabad Highway. Give 3 hours of fairly steep ascend; some good forest. Good for viewing raptors.

VASAI-VIRAR-PALGHAR: Coastal stretches

Several beach-fronts and vegetation-fringed stretches along this stretch, though having become immensely crowded (and filthy) in recent times, yet offer some great sightings of wintering waders. Some of the beaches are:

Bassein Fort environs, Kalamb, Nirmal, Arnala, Kelwe - Mahim, Datiwere area other areas that can be explored for good birding experiences
MANORI – GORAI: There is still a slight countryside charm to the stretch across Manori Creek and one can expect a fair sprinkling of birds, in scrub, grove and along coast and creek. If walking, c. 2 hrs. If coming by car, either park at Marve and ferry across or drive from Bhayander, via some fine greenery along Dongri and Uttan and chances of good waders along the Bhayandar salt-pans and around Dongri Dhakka, from where the Bassein Fort area is visible across the wide mouth of the creek.

Though far more crowded and built-up than the Gorai – Manori stretch, yet, a fair bit of greenery and the sprawl of grass and scrub west of the road can be rewarding.

An all-time favourite of birding enthusiasts, this pocket-size sanctuary is a great example of nature thriving. Several trails offer a mix of fairly level to slight ascend to a strenuous trek, yet all of them are great birding experiences. For the Fort Trail (c. 2.5 – 3 km one-way, fairly strenuous, leading from base to c. 400 mt or 1300 ft above msl), give at least a comfortable 4 hrs to delight in the birdlife in a more relaxed manner.

On way back you can cover the Patalganga stretch, east of Karnala.

The favourite haunt of Mumbai’s rising birding fraternity, much of Uran or the southern half of Navi Mumbai development, has in very recent times been opened up to the long-pending and scheduled developmental projects (highways, industry, port expansion, railways and housing). A lot of the erstwhile wetland stretches have been lost and half a day of a very thorough birdwatching in the nooks and crannies left over can still yield some great surprises. Can be tied with a visit to Alibaug – Karnala to make it a good BirdRace (and birding) experience.

Alibag area: - North to south of the Pen – Alibag Road.
An extensive sprawl that contains every kind of habitat in the region, from sprawling agriculture-mangotop sites to scrub, hill forest and all kind of coastal terrain (creeks, sandy and rocky coast). Can be a full-day complete BirdRAce experience that can be highly rewarding. The highest team tally for any BirdRace has been from the Alibag area.

Suggested Routes:

Vadkhal Jn (after Pen, the junction where left road continues as Mumbai – Goa Road) – Poynad – Karlekhind Jn – Saral – Rewas Creek edge – Mandwa – back to Alibag via Kankeshwar and Kihim.

Vadkhal Jn – Alibag – Revdanda – Korlai – Kashid – Nandgaon – Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary – Murud/Janjira and back.

NAVI MUMBAI - Navi Mumbai also boasts of various areas in which the bird population is found in large numbers and the routes and birding areas in and around Navi Mumbai are listed below :

Trails at Rabale Forest
Airoli - The area from Mulund to Airoli on the Airoli Bridge, the Sector 13-15 also border the backwaters and the mangroves and birding there is also very good during low tides. The route leading towards the new office buildings of Patni Computers is another area where birding can be done with a wide variety of wader and also grassland birds available along with the marsh and mangrove birds.

Trails at Mahape Forest - This trail is forested by the Reliance group and boasts of a variety of forest and scrubland birds with some surprises thrown in. This route is also good for sighting raptors once the sun comes up and heats the surrounding areas.

Trails at Belapur, Trails at Kharghar, Trails at Nerul, Trails at Gavlidevi, Ghansoli, Vashi, Koperkhairne & Gadeshwar dam at Panvel are the other trails that one can explore in the Navi Mumbai area.

Along the western limits of the Sahyadris lies a stretch of now vastly human-altered landscape, a mix of scrub, light forest and agriculture-mangotope that is never disappointing for its birdlife. The Karjat – Khopoli stretch, cut by several little rivers flowing west from the mountains, is a great bird-drive experience in the region.

Two long bird-drives along various habitat types in this region can be:

Khopoli – Karjat – Bhivpuri - Kondavne – Khandas – Neral – Matheran – Badlapur – Kalyan (Pipeline Rd) – Nilje and Ghoni Lakes – New Panvel – Gadeshwar Lake.

Khopoli – Pali (Along Amba River, that later drains into Dharamtar Creek near Rewas) – Nagothane – Roha (cross a nice forested ridge) – Phansad and back.

The hill-station closest to Mumbai, the name Matheran evokes jungle magic and within a few minutes from the maddening car park you are transported into a jungle. Excellent forest bird-watch opportunities along numerous trails; many of these trails lead to edge-of-the-plateau viewpoints. The nearest road and railhead is the Neral Station in the Central Railway on the Mumbai - Karjat Route. You can go to Neral and do the Neral Matheran Trail which is also quite rewarding and the various points on Matheran offer lovely views of the valleys below and also are a birders' delight. The Hill Station is thickly forested and many forest birds can be found here.

Sewri: Every Mumbai birder knows this site; excellent wader-watch opportunities. Check for tide timings and any permission related matters for photographing and viewing with binoculars. After all, Birdwatchers are a big security risk!

Some in City Sites :
Excluding the SGNP, there still continue to be some very rewarding sites right within Mumbai limits.

CEC: The BNHS’s Conservation Education Centre, near the SGNP southern entrance point and Film City

Aarey: Paved roads make much of Aarey an easy and rewarding birding experience; several walking trails criss-cross the scrub and grass setting interspersed with patches of open forest.

All India Radio – Malad: A 200 acre sprawl of palm-dotted scrub landscape, can be tied with a visit to Madh-Marve and Gorai – Manori. Check for permission at entrance gate though.
Maharashtra Nature Park: The venue for the evening function over dinner is itself a bird-haven and you can comfortably add to your tally at the end of an exciting even if somewhat tiring day.

Mahalaxmi Race course & Willingdon Club Grounds (permission reqd): Surprises in store right in the heart of the city, with birds like pipits, wagtails and other field birds spotted here regularly.

Elephanta Island: Woodland and coastal mix; the boat ride can be a birdwatch experience too. Give at least 4 – 5 hrs incl travel time. The birds that could be spotted are waders and shore birds with a mix of forest birds in the Elephanta islands.

Godrej – Vikhroli: Sprawling grass, scrub and mangrove creek edge make this a great birding site. Permission required.

IIT & Powai Lake: Polluted it may be, but like many a polluted site, Powai is a magnet for birds and an hour can be fairly interesting. Combine with visit to nearby IIT (permission required).

Other routes that can be attempted are :

The Mulund - Airoli Bridge and its adjoining areas. Excellent for waders and other scrubland birds. The Dombivli - Kopar area which extensive mangroves and fields boasts of a wide variety of birds. The Kalyan Creek / Gandhari Area with its rich bird life and also the Mithbunder area in Thane East which includes backwaters and salt pans along its area.

Some details about the Kalyan - Gandhari Creek area added :

Kalyan creek and Gandhari river are perhaps the most unknown/ hidden birding areas around Mumbai. With the surprising bird count of 130+ so far, it actually challenges the well known hot spots like Uran, Shivdi, Yeoor. Considering the proximity to a bulging cities like kalyan-Dombivali, this staggering figure from a limited spread should astound many. 
In winter, Kalyan creek is a home to waders like Sandpipers, Black-winged stilts, Plovers, Gulls, migrating ducks like shoveler, pintail, gadwall etc. One can also spot extremely camouflaging Snipes as well. Marsh harrier is a common visitor to this part.

Gandhari on the other hand shows a variety in the form of waders as well as forest & grassland birds like Iora, white eye, Stonechats, Munia, Flycatchers, Cuckoo, Bee-eaters, Woodpeckers, babblers, warblers, Grey Hornbill etc. A group of about 8-10 Openbill storks is frequently seen and Purple heron can also be sighted. Oriental Honey buzzard, White-eyed buzzard, Short-toed snake eagle, Marsh harrier, Montagu's harrier, Black-shouldered kite are among the raptors recorded so far.

It's a small area with good variety..It's an ideal place for weekend nature stroll for kalyankar's :):).