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Flamingos, the winged pink visitors

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The morning dawned quietly. I made my way across the beach to the far end, where a lone fishing barge was usually anchored. A small wooden jetty, half broken in places beckoned invitingly. It was low tide and the mudflats stretched out of the mangroves bordering the beach line.

I settled down on the jetty and watched the varied occupants of the mudflats, mainly the flamingos. A mass of birds, in varied hues of pink, dipped their heads in the mudflats. I watched, fascinated as they swayed their heads slowly from side to side, almost like an asana in yoga. All were focused only on the task at hand – feeding to survive. Their red fierce eyes dismiss any notions of gentility that you may have had in mind, about them.

A lot to learn from this – the power of concentration, for one. The focus on one single task. The long beaks are hooked, with the upper beak being longer and larger than the lower beak. The upper beak acts like a cover over the cupping lower beak. It has at its ends, a brush, which helps to filter the water. It acts like a sieve, where the particles stick to the beak, as the water is filtered through.

The birds continued to move and sway their heads. Some of them occasionally stood on one leg. This pose reminded me of the zen monks, lost in meditation. There is no clear scientific reason on why these birds seem to exercise in the middle of a feeding session. The various reasons attributed for this behavior include conserving body heat to resting one side of body.

The mudflats in Mumbai are a feeding ground for the migratory flamingos. There were lesser flamingos and greater flamingos. They visit annually. They feed on blue-green algae , the precursor of all life, apart from aqueous bacteria. The beta keratins obtained from their food is responsible for the pink coloration. They feed continuously. Their search gets tougher each year…as the mudflats of Mumbai are increasingly polluted. The industrial effluence and chemicals are increasing in the Sewri mudflats. Comparatively, the Bassein creek sees a larger number of birds. Their lack of adequate or clean food supply is reflected in the dwindling numbers on the mudflats. The other reason attributed to the decreasing numbers is the degradation of breeding grounds and its primary habitat, that is in the Rann of Kutch. Flamingo eggs sell at a high rate and these bird nests are targeted by poachers.

The sight at the creek was amazing. Groups of birds moved in opposite directions. Occasionally a mass of pink wings lifted lithe bodies into the air as they took flight. A sight for sore eyes. The birds gradually moved further as the sun climbed higher.

Written by Karuna

March 30, 2011 at 6:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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