It is said that birding is all about luck and it was on the side of an Andheri-based birdwatcher on November 24. A random birding session at Vasai turned special after he managed to spot a great bittern, a rare wetland bird that was last seen in Mumbai nearly eight decades ago. Akshay Shinde, a zoology graduate and a wildlife enthusiast who is pursuing his MSc in wildlife from Bhavan’s College, said that he and few others were at Madhuban area in Vasai east, a popular birding hotspot.“I saw that two large birds came flying parallel to each other. The adult bird kept flying straight while the juvenile took a halt. That is when I got the moment to capture its images as I knew it was not a common bird,” Shinde said. He then approached experts who confirmed that not only was it the great bittern but also being recorded after 78 years.Quoting Sunjoy Monga, a renowned conservationist, photographer, and naturalist, Shinde said the last record of this species from Mumbai is from Vile Parle in 1939.The great bittern is a wading bird from the heron family. It’s a large brownish bird with amphibians and fish being its main diet. The bird is known to migrate from north western parts of Asia towards Sri Lanka to escape harsh winters and is known to make halts in India.“It’s a secretive bird that prefers the reeds and grasslands around water bodies and this is one of the reason it’s difficult to spot. It’s a wonderful record by Shinde and only proves that how the presence of such serious birders and the fact that more and more people are taking to birding will help us record more such rare sightings,” said Parvish Pandya, naturalist and vice-principal of Bhavan’s College.The discovery, Shinde said, was an indicator that the habitats of Vasai are still pristine enough to attract such rare migratory birds. “Vasai’s saltpans have a great bird diversity from six species of migratory ducks to some of the greatest migratory raptors, including the Amur falcon and the red-necked falcon.” The birdwatcher, however, is worried that several reed and grassland habitats are now under threat due to rapid urbanisation.
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Rare wetland bird ‘Great Bittern’ spotted in city after 78 years