By Manish Gadia
This trail can be covered by a Car or on foot. However Car / 2 wheeler would be needed to cover the entire trail in a given morning. Around 125 species of Birds has been recorded at Aarey. I have also found out that invariably every species of bird has a prominent place in Aarey where chances of spotting them are very high. For E.g: Oriental magpie robbins can be spotted easily at Panchavati Gardens, parakeets & kites near Aarey guest house, Baya Weavers in Green Tunnel Lane, Vultures and other raptors at the Carcass point, pied starlings on Bald Hill etc. The most common bird of Aarey has to be Cattle egrets (and rightly so). Aarey is a good Birding destination both in morning and in evening.
The Top 14 points at which sightings of Birds of Aarey are high has been listed in the Map below (relate each point with number and details given below map). Around 10 minutes can be spent at each point. Watch out for snakes & reptiles on the trail. Stay clear from them. (Disclaimer – I’ve prepared this blog in a hurry. Please ignore the grammatical errors. Over due course, I shall proof read this 🙂 (Regret the bad map quality. I am in process of creating the image in photoshop to enhance the clarity. If someone volunteers todo that it will go long way in helping us) (Click on Image to Enlarge the Image or access the PDF version of the Image by CLICKING HERE )
1. The Birds Playground: The Aarey Welcoming Trees
Location - After paying the Aarey toll (from Goregaon side) take the second right and then immediate left. Walk for 100 meters. This area is denoted by large trees extending from a small temple till further 300-400 mts parallel to the road on left hand side.
These huge trees at the entrance may be one of the noisiest sections in whole of aarey. This site can be termed as bird’s playground. Mynas, Doves, koels, bulbuls, cuckoos, crows, drongos etc are at play here.
2. The Small Hillock
From the playground site walk further inside Aarey. You will cross 2-3 small living huts the and then cattle-feed growing land on the right hand side. You will also cross 1 small bridge. There will be an immediate left turn. Do not take the left, walk straight. Pass the Buffalo shed on right and cross the small bridge number 2. Just after that on the left hand side there is a small elevation, which can be easily climbed. This is a great hiding point. Once can sit on the small hillock without being spotted by birds. This hillock overlooks a small pond. Eurasian thicknee, White breasted hen (good chance), Pond heron (almost everytime), Greater coucal (almost everytime), Egrets (everytime), Kingfishers can often be sighted here. Birds continue their chirping in this section also. Often you will hear lot of birds (copper smith barbarets, robins, mynas in particular on the neighboring trees).
One can go on the other side of the pond and after 100 mts of walking (in the dense trees) and come out in an open field. Here one can easily sight oriental magpie robins, leafbirds etc. Greater Coucal nests can also amongst trees during the walk. Note - Crows can be very menacing in this section.
Caution – This site can be filthy but the efforts may be worth it J
3 & 4. The Green Tunnel Lane:
Turn back from the Site 2 (Small Hillock) and take the left you missed earlier. The lane is so called as trees on both the sides almost covers top of major section of the lane. In middle of the lane, there are couple of coconut trees on the right hand side where lots of Baya Weaver nests can be found hanging. Towards the left hand side drongos, doves, prinias can easily be sighted (mostly on the electric wires).
5. Chotta Kashmir Pond / The Bald Hill and the approach road:
From the Site 4, keep moving towards temple and reach main aarey road. Take the right and reach Chotta Kashmir Pond. Kingfishers, Cormorants, domesticated ducks / geese, gulls can be found in and around the Chhota Kashmir Pond during wee hours.
Post birding session at Chotta Kashmir, come back on the main Aarey road and cross the chhota Kashmir pond car park (just ahead) and after 200 meters walk, there is a small left. This is the approach road towards the bald hill. On this road, one can spot bathing cisticolas, bulbuls, prinias, fantails, ioras, petronias etc (just out from chotta Kashmir pond). Cars cannot go up to the Bald Hill. Just when the straight approach road is about to turn auto left, park your car at that point. Immediately in the front (towards right side), there is a walkable dusty road which goes further right and finally to the top of small hill (not visible in monsoons though). This hill is Bald Mountain.
Bald Hill is so called, as the top of the hill is plain area with only some patches of trees on the circumference. Huge number of Asian Pied starlings and common mynas can be found on this plain area of the hill. On the peripheral trees, number of Kites and egrets can easily be spotted. This area in evening can be a photographers delight. (Note - The hill cannot be accessed in monsoon as the road, which leads to the hill, gets covered with vegetation). Watch out for snakes and other reptiles here.
6. Tribal Area Lane:
From Site 5, come back on aarey road and reach the main aarey junction (aarey market). Take the right towards Aarey Nursery. There would be a 5 mins long drive on this road, cross the tribal village, drive a bit and park the car. The huge field on left handside will yield good sightings of many birds specially orioles, doves & Weavers.
7. Egret Park:
Drive straight from site 6 to reach site 7. One can find maximum number of egrets in this location, courtesy of a huge buffalo shed. To see the number of egrets can be quite a sight.
8. Base of Swimming Pool Mountain:
This is where the swimming pool mountain starts (the mountain has a man made swimming pool on top). Cars have to be parked near the shed and it usually takes 2 mins of walking from the park towards the mountain to reach Site 8. This area can surprise a Birder. In the evening swifts and bats fly at very low altitude. Mongoose & snakes can often be sighted here. This place has a bit of squeakiness associated to it.
9. Carcass Point :
Carcass of dead buffaloes are disposed here. This attracts vultures and other raptors. This is the best place to spot last remaining vultures in heart of the city (very rarely sighting though). Cars have to be parked on main road and one has to walk on this branched road. 9 out of 10 times one will also find a spotted dove here. Biggest of Aarey eagles can be found here.
10. Panchavati Garden:
This place can also be called as Oriental Magpie Robin Garden as huge number of magpie robins can be sighted here. One can just sit on the benches kept and wait for robins to come close. This area may soon be destroyed as it has been given to Force 1 Commandoes to set up a base. Save Aarey Milk Colony Facebook community is protesting the same.
11. Lotus Pond (only in monsoon):
The last remaining pond *with herbage) gets filled up in only in monsoon and is dry otherwise. Ducks, Grebes, jacanas have been sighted here during monsoons. However the sighting of these birds is very rare.
12. Aarey Guest House Hill:
This is a 5-7 minute steep climb in car to reach Aarey Guest House. Parakeets can be easily spotted next to Aarey guest house. Further up next to wireless tower once can find number of Kites hunting. This is a restricted access lane however walkers and birders should have no issues in traversing throughout this area. Cameras may not be permitted here. Peacocks were found in this area at one point of time (sadly no more). Very Rarely racket tailed drongo can also be spotted here. The peace and tranquility, which exists in this area, is unparallel. This is one of the last remaining untouched places at Aarey.
Note – The site has only one entrance. It cannot be approached by any other road.
13. Aarey School :
From Site 12, head back on the main Aarey Road. At Aarey Junction (Aarey market) take a right and then second right. Follow the map and reach Aarey school. Leave the road and enter the bushes right next to Aarey School gate. Since this area being slightly at high altitude and overlooking a slope downwards, also the bushes here are generally dry (non monsoon), large number of birds can easily be sighted here. Parakeets are very prominent at this place.
14. Powai Lake :
An awesome end to the Aarey Trail. The long Powai lake promenade is now redone which traverses the half of lake’s circumference. Terns, kingfishers, ducks, egrets, Herons, gulls, cormorants, kites, plovers, stilts, flamingoes (rarely) and other waders swarm this lake.
Note - Boating may start soon which will affect the birding here.
(COMING SOON - PICTURES OF EACH SITE)
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