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Old 29th December 2012, 11:16   #1
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Arrow Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Before even I start, a BIG THANK YOU to TBHPian parsh and his thread http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ri-mumbai.html (PICS: Flamingoes start flying into Sewri, Mumbai) which gave me hope that I would be able to enjoy the flamingo-experience in Sewri.

Isn't it interesting that I have stayed in Sewri for ~20 years from 1979 to 1999 and yet never seen flamingos during that time? In fact, the Sewri jetty was one of my favorite spots; just to ride my Atlas Concorde till the jetty, sit there, relax and enjoy the breeze. I guess, we all undervalue things in our own backyard ("Ghar ki murgi daal barabar"). People from all over the world come to Mumbai to see the Gateway of India and the world-heritage site - Elephanta Caves. But ignorant fools like me experience the Elephanta caves only after living in Mumbai for 36 years. I guess, its the same with these beautiful birds that migrate to Sewri-mudflats every year. We would rather go to Bharatpur or Nalsarovar rather than driving 20kms within the city. I guess, enough self-flagellation. Let's move on with the main story.

Finally, I went there a few years back, I guess 2008. Early morning, it was low tide. But unfortunately that day all the birds were sitting at the far end of the mangroves towards the Colgate-Palmolive side. All we (me and my son) could see were pink dots. I had a Canon P&S camera with 14x optical at that time, but even that did not help as they were just too far. After breakfast, went back to the jetty and saw that the high-tide had started, the sun was burning us and flamingos nowhere in sight. Disappointed, we started back. I bought Olympus binoculars (10x50) after that, but somehow never visited Sewri again. Till this week!

After going through parsh's detailed thread, I decided to visit the place this season. Kept an eye on tide timings. Couple of weekends passed, but the tide-timing was not suitable on weekends. Finally 25th Dec 2012 clicked. Low tide at 4:20am, high-tide at 9:41am, sunrise at 7:08am. Perfect!

Wife was (skeptical and hence) reluctant to join, but somehow changed her mind on x'mas eve. So myself + wife + son + daughter + Alto + Nikon D90 + 55-300 DX telephoto + Croma tripod + Joby Gorillapod + Olympus 10x50 binoculars. All set!

X'mas day -> Woke up around 5:15am. Checked if Santa Claus had left some presents for us . A NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR which retails for around 10K USD (5L+ in INR) would have been a perfect gift from Santa . No such luck!

Everybody got ready by 6:35am, got into our "Let's Go" and started for Sewri!

Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 12:06.
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Old 29th December 2012, 13:30   #2
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Default A glorious sunrise

A glorious sunrise

7:15am -> We reached the jetty. The sun is not visible, but the sky is showing some beautiful shades. Quite a few people. So early in the morning. The city never ceases to surprise me.
Everybody is looking to the left. I don't see anything.
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Scanning the area through the binocular shows a small flock of flamingos sitting far far away. With naked eye, all I can see are a few pink dots.
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With the telephoto, I get much closer.
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After enjoying the birds for 5 minutes, the attention switches back to the beautiful sunrise.
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Family photograph with the sun as a background. A fill-in flash comes handy.
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Beautiful reflection on water.
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A freshly painted boat looks smashing in the golden sunlight.
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We spot a bird close by. Black/Grey egret?
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As the sun keeps on rising, the flamingos are getting better illuminated.
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While I am taking another family snap, suddenly the crowd erupts into "oooh"s and "aah"s. A small group of flamingos just flew by the jetty. You can see them accidentally captured in the family portrait below.
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I realize that flying birds look better than sitting ducks.
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Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 14:22.
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Old 29th December 2012, 14:54   #3
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Default The sea of Gold

The sea of Gold

The scene started becoming really golden now.
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Silhouettes against a sea of gold!
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We see a few birds nearer. A closer inspection shows them to be common egrets.
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A mini-mandir at the base of the tree where we were seating.
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People getting on to the boats to get a better view.
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A partially submerged tree.
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Another batch flying. An apparently knowledgeable guy nearby mentioned "These are the seniors. They are on a scout-round. Now the rest would start following them one batch at a time."
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The sea of gold again.
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A family that came in a Ford Endeavour, had some serious equipment. Here they are trying to mount the "bazooka" lens.
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I climbed up a boat and clicked some snaps of the jetty.
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That's the Colgate-Palmolive building.
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It's a Canon gang. With such a extreme-zoom pointed straight at the sun, I wondered whether they were trying to capture a solar-flare.
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Just too much of stuff. A Olympus bag. A Croma bag. A Nikon bag.
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The kids also made it to the boat.
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In the amazing golden light, everything looks extra beautiful.
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The Canon gang taking a closeup of the sun.
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Extreme telephotos like this are super-heavy. Easily 5KG+ just for the lens. Mounting the lens on the tripod might be a 2-person job.
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Its 8:30am. The high-tide would peak at 9:45am. This is turning out to be a trip similar to the last one, with the flamingos just too far away. Should we call it a day and head back home?

The same knowledgeable guy predicts "The flamingos would start moving along the mangroves and move towards the jetty. 11am would be a good time to see the birds from a close distance". We decide to hang in there.

Let's finish breakfast while there is no action. Sewri-East has no decent eateries. I drive back to the Sewri station level crossing and find it closed. A taxi-driver informs that it would open only after an hour or so. There is no other way nearby to get to the other side of the railway line. So finally we park the car and walk over to the West side.

By 9:30am, we are done with the breakfast. What next?

Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 14:31.
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Old 29th December 2012, 15:16   #4
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Default A trip down memory lane

A trip down memory lane

We stayed in Sewri for almost 20 years from 1979 till 1999. Although I was just 6-7 years old, I distinctly remember our family shifting to Sewri and me joining the RM Bhatt highschool at parel in 2nd standard.

After 10th, we stayed there through 12th and Enggineering. In fact, the place saw me join the corporate world and going for my first overseas assignment as well. My first bicycle as well as my first bike was also bought at this place. A whole bunch of friends from school days. My elder sis also got married during this time. My Junior college (Ruia) and my Engg college (VJTI) was also quite nearby (by today's standards).

Lots and lots of memories associated with Sewri. Unfortunately after moving out from there after my dad's retirement, I hardly ever went back to the place over the last 15 years. So "A trip down memory lane" was on the cards for a LONG time.

It finally happened on Tuesday 25th Dec 2012, X'mas day, after the breakfast. Sharing some moments.

The Sewri bus depot. Bus #201 used to start from the depot. We used to take either that or bus #162 for school.
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The Prabhodhankaar Thakre garden. Sarvajanik Ganeshhotstav, Navratri and burning of Ravana's huge effigy on Dushera - all used to happen here. And of course, Sunday cricket matches!
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The famous Veena-Beena building or rather the complex. The rich folks used to stay there. There was one girl staying there who used to go to RM Bhatt with us and I was mighty impressed with her because she had a VCR costing 45,000 Rs even in those days!
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Was surprised to see Kerosene carts (bullock-carts) outside the garden. During those days, these were part of the ration distribution network. Not sure if they are still used.
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Yasmin tailor!
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The side-entrance of the Shivaji Nagar
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DG Mahajani road. Part of my address for half my life. Unfortunately I still do not know, who he was. Most likely a freedom fighter.
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We turn into the Mahajani road and "our" building is right there. Just the way I remember.
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Shivaji-Nagar's main entrance right in front of our building.
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Now I don't know anybody who stays in that building. But I still manage to gather enough courage to enter the premises.
There used to be a water-tank in that open space. Looks like they moved it.
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The 3 families staying just in front. Bagul sir, Kochrekar. Don't remember the third one.
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We get into the C wing. Ground floor, the flat on the right. We stayed there for 20 years. Now some Damle family stays there. We exchange pleasantries. She offers the kids a round of the flat. They get in. Even standing outside, I am getting overwhelmed.
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That's "our" kitchen window. My bicycle and later my bike used to be parked just below that window.
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A-wing. I remember the Munagekars on the ground floor. One of their boys was a batchmate at RM Bhatt school.
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The B-wing had Parab family and the Raikar bai, people with political background. Our wing had Rane, who was Education Minister for Maharashtra state. D-wing had Kharawatekars - close family friends.
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This building was part of the 110 tenaments. A friend Shrirang used to stay here.
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Friends Ashok and Santosh used to stay in that ground+1 building.
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The Bhatwadi is gone and new towers are coming up there.
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Usha-Bahar. Again had a whole bunch of friends there. Milind, Vivek, Ashish and a few more. Still remember, Milind's vicious dog - Rocky.
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Shivaji-Nagar hasn't changed. There is still a Shiv-Sena announcement board outside.
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We walk back
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That's the Fatima church and school. This church was right next to our building and was visible from the bedroom.
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These 2 buildings - although on our side of the road- are part of the Shivaji Nagar.
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We cross the road and go towards the station. Dry fish varieties. A familiar site. Nothing has changed on this side of the Kidwai road.
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The Shivdi railway level-crossing.
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Two BDD buildings right in front of the station.
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The level-crossing.
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The Indian-Oil storage tanks.
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Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 14:39.
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Old 29th December 2012, 17:34   #5
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Default Back to the jetty

Back to the jetty

By 10:30am, we are back to the jetty.
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Some amphibian species. Forgot the name.
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Small Fiddler crab. They are unique because one of their claws (chela) is really big and the other one is small. If you are getting impressed by my knowledge of marine life, don't! I did not knew the name of the crab till 5 minutes back . I was searching for the proper word for the crab's claw. Went to Wikipedia, from the "Crab" page, went to "Chela" page and luckily found the Fiddler crab's information on the Chela page!
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A beautiful white egret landed very close.
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I had setup the tripod by now. The direction of the light was perfect.
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That's the Fiddler again. These guys are really small. Photos taken on max zoom and then cropped heavily.
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This guy was really spotless white. "Safedi ki chamkaar. Jaada safed" types.
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A bit farther, the black egret is posing for us. This guy was like the negative of the white one.
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A pigeon playing with a leaf.
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Couple of random shots of the docked boats.
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Last edited by SDP : 29th December 2012 at 17:57.
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Old 29th December 2012, 18:03   #6
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Flamingos - they are flying again.
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A close up. The light is not in my favor. Shooting birds mid-flight needs practice and I struggled.
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The guy with the red backpack, he was the knowledgeable one and was sharing bits and pieces with everyone.
Saw a beautiful Grand Vitara parked just behind my humble Alto.
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The black egret decided to put up a brief show for us. He started from the deck of a old boat.
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Gave some nice poses.
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Got air-borne..
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..and landed near a tyre.
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He got alerted because of something.
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And decided to leave the shore.
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I liked this one:
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Perfect flat. Slicing through air.
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The Canon 'bazooka' guy must have been getting some real good closeups of the flamingos, which (although closer than the morning,) were still sitting quite far. I nearly envy him.
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I kept an eye on this boat as my next base, if the flamingos move closer.
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Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 15:21.
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Old 29th December 2012, 18:58   #7
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

The flamingos start flying and moving into nearer mangroves more frequently now.
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The jetty is protruding into the sea. So the flamingos fly towards us for some time and then turn to their left and pass the jetty keeping a good margin between them and the jetty.
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Even at 300mm zoom and heavy cropping afterwards, neither the clarity nor the sharpness is good enough. The limitations of my gear (and my skills ) are becoming increasingly obvious now.
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When they are turning sideways, you get a brief opportunity.
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Now at least I could see the light pink feathers and the bright pink patches on the wing.
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Under the wings, there is another area of brilliant pink. And the wings have dark brown border.
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Very good looking birds, indeed.
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Once they pass the docked boats, I stop following them. They get farther away, and the light is not favorable beyond that point.
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Luckily caught a black headed Ibis in mid-flight.
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Not a fan of the dull grey/white sky. I need to get a CPL for my telephoto lens as well.
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Caught a huge batch. Almost 50 flamingos together.
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Old 30th December 2012, 06:21   #8
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

The numbers started increasing. And the flamingos started flying closer to the jetty.

The whole scene of one flock flying, taking a wide turn at the jetty and disappearing lasts about 10-12 seconds and you get 2 or 3 seconds when their position and light conditions are good. I switched to burst-mode on my camera. The continuous auto-focus was working OKish. At various points of the flight-path, the birds are at varying distances from the camera. So the focus needs to be changed practically for every shot. I switched to manual-focus.

Here's one series of photos showing the flight of one flock.

Headed straight towards us.
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They start turning in mid-air.
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Half-way through the turn.
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Turn completed.
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They turn-off their blinkers at this point. (Just checking if you are still reading )
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And then they move farther away from us.
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My wife called my attention to a point in the creek, somewhere between Sewri and Mahul. Huge flocks were moving from there towards the Sewri side.
See that pink line at the bottom of the green cover? Those are flamingos. Must be at least a 1000 birds!
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Kids got on to a nearby boat. I showed them the birds through the binoculars. Very shortly, their attention switched to playing and exploring.
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11:45am -> The water receded noticeably. Remember that tree which was partially submerged in the morning? That area of the mud-flat is now exposed and birds are walking there looking for food.
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For flamingos, the entire focus was on searching for food and eating. While they are standing, the neck would be down and the beak would be in the water/mud almost 75% of the time.
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A white egret.
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A white egret among the foreigners.
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He is watching those pink beauties closely, but keeps his distance.
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The day is bright and a bit hot by now. The kids prefer to sit in the car and munch on a few things. Wifey -who was using the Olympus Binoculars for the first time- thoroughly liked them.
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The view from the binoculars is clearer and brighter as compared to my D90+55-300mm setup. Even the colors are better.
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On second thoughts, our Binoculars have 10x magnification. So things are 10 times bigger when viewed from the binoculars. For my camera setup, divide 300mm by 50. That gives 6. Multiply that by a factor of 1.5 (for Nikon DX cameras) and you get 9x as the magnification of the camera setup. So my wife (who was using the binoculars most of the time) was actually able to see the birds from a closer distance as compared to me with the D90+telephoto+tripod setup.

Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 15:29.
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Old 30th December 2012, 13:24   #9
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Luck favours those with patience. Most of the gang from early morning had left by now.
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And the birds are getting closer and closer.
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The once flying are also closer.
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Its 12noon. The sun is behind us and not really on top. You couldn't ask for a better angle.
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With a Ibis.
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Some feeding, some flying.
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These guys are really serious about eating. Not a single head up. My kids should learn something from them.
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A Indian Pond Heron.
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A closeup.
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More flocks are inching towards the jetty. We are easily seeing a few hundred birds in one shot.
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They crossed the "One tree" point .
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I was shooting from the old boat till now. I moved the tripod and camera to the upper deck of the "Pranay" boat. Now I am looking down at the birds.
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A type of sandpiper, I guess.
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Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 15:54.
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Old 30th December 2012, 14:09   #10
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Spot the Egret!
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The vibrant pink patch on the wing looks superb!
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While the front-row puts up a nice show, the back-benchers hold a lot of promise.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0220.jpg

I am going to shut up now and let you enjoy some closeups!
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0221.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0222.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0223.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0224.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0225.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0226.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0227.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0229.jpg

2 birds, 1 head!
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0230.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0231.jpg

See the mud-flats dotted with flamingos?
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0236.jpg

A single one, in mid-flight.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0247.jpg

I am not very positive about this, but I believe the one in the front (the whitish one) is the Greater Flamingo and the one following is the Lesser Flamingo.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0255.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0257.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0260.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0261.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0262.jpg

Have you been to a mall and tried a bunch of perfumes? After a while they all smell the same. And then the sales-lady pulls out a small container with coffee-beans. One whiff and your sense of smell returns.
The following picture is the equivalent of those coffee-beans.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0264.jpg

You will start appreciating "light-pink" all over again from the next post!

Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 16:11.
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Old 30th December 2012, 15:05   #11
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

See the difference in the color of the beaks? Lesser flamingos have dark crimson beaks.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0265.jpg

A closeup.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0266.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0267.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0271.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0277.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0278.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0279.jpg

See how flexible the neck is?
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0280.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0281.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0282.jpg

Something alerts one particular flock.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0283.jpg

They are not sure whether to fly or run. So they end up doing a bit of both.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0284.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0287.jpg

They settle down again.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0289.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0290.jpg

Another batch flying.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0293.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0295.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0296.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0297.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 30th December 2012 at 15:30.
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Old 30th December 2012, 16:12   #12
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Default Final set of snaps

Final set of snaps

The flamingos are so fascinating that I just kept on clicking. Pardon me if the images look similar. I clicked 613 snaps, only 210 of them have made it to this thread.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0315.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0316.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0318.jpg

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A wide angle (relatively speaking).
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0325.jpg

One bird showing his colorful underarms.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0327.jpg

Straight wings. Ready for take-off!
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0334.jpg

Flying low.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0337.jpg

Friends join in.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0343.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0344.jpg

"Hum to nikle the safar pe akele. Log judte gaye, kaarwan banta gaya."
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0345.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0346.jpg

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Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0360.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0361.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0362.jpg

Its 1:00pm. Has never happened, but this time, I am satisfied with the photography session. The last one hour was extremely fruitful. Time to pack up.
One shot which shows how the whole scene looked to the naked eye. Taken at 30mm focal length.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0366.jpg

This one is at 110mm.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0367.jpg

The following is just to give you an idea about how close the birds come (when you have patience).
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0368.jpg

A closeup. Can you spot the bird-watchers?
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0369.jpg

A final parting shot!
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0356.jpg

Last edited by SDP : 31st December 2012 at 16:27.
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Old 31st December 2012, 19:39   #13
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Default A trip down memory lane - part 2

A trip down memory lane - part 2

After the flamingo-watching session, we went to Parel. Another area with lots of memories attached.

We were hungry. Had lunch at this place in Parel. Some hotel was there at this location, but the name and grade was different those days.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0376.jpg

My School! RM Bhatt Highschool.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0378.jpg

The Kamgar maidan. Have played and done PT there for many years.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0379.jpg

The ground hasn't changed a bit.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0381.jpg

The buildings just next to the ground. A few school-friends used to stay there. I remember a school-friend Satish's house was in the Canara-bank building (or may be the next one).
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0383.jpg

The Canara-bank is still there. Just the logo has changed.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0384.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0385.jpg

The lane in front of the school is still the same. It just feels narrower because of the cars parked.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0386.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0387.jpg

This Elpee Photo-studio is right in front of the school and is still there after 30 odd years!
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0395.jpg

A snap of the school from the first floor. First floor boys. Second floor girls. Third floor, primary kidos.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0396.jpg

A cute puppy just outside the school.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0391.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0392.jpg

Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0458.jpg

Putting up a old-man's effigy during x'mas. This is symbolic of the current year and is burnt on the new-year day. Was pleasantly surprised to see all of this still continues.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0456.jpg

I guess, that's enough of nostalgia.
Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai-dsc_0457.jpg

A very happy new year to everybody!

Last edited by SDP : 1st January 2013 at 03:39.
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Old 2nd January 2013, 09:26   #14
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd January 2013, 11:18   #15
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Default Re: Flamingo watching at Sewri-Mumbai

Lovely work SDP. Wow you were so lucky ( well planned) that day to sight both the greater and the lesser flamingo flocks. I always admire their beauty and it is always fascinating. Nice set of pictures and the in flight ones are excellent.

With regards to the Black Egret , it is the Western - Reef Egret and they are considered to be a migrant to the south . It is a common Sandpiper which you have clicked. I am sure the place provides more opportunity to click some waders.

I will keep this place in my to do list as am planning for a trip to Mumbai.

Thanks for sharing
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