My New Year Coastal Odyssey

As the New Year 2015 set in, a quick trip was planned to go on a road trip over the first weekend of the New Year (considering the fact that like a good girl I stayed at home on New Year’s eve, I deserved this trip!). We decided to go along the coastal road of Maharashtra and without much of planning, drove from Mumbai – Velas – Guhagar – Ganpatipule – Devrukh – Chiplun – Mumbai over a period of 4 days.

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The beach view from Aarey Warey

One of the most interesting things that caught my attention during this trip was the behaviour of the mudskippers. This was at the first boat jetty at Dabhol where we waited for about 10 mins before getting our vehicle onto the boat. I was idling along the jetty trying to look for any birds and something moving on the ground caught my attention. This was a mudskipper which moved into it’s burrow before I could realise what it was. I soon saw many of them along the mudflats and I quickly fetched my camera to capture them.

Mudflats next to the boat jetty - a mudskipper habitat

Mudflats next to the boat jetty – a mudskipper habitat

Mudskippers - aggressive behaviour

Mudskippers – aggressive behaviour

As I witnessed two of these individuals behaving in an act which looked like a fight, I got even more curious to see what they were up to and recorded a few video clips too. On reading up online, I learnt that mudskippers are territorial creatures and the males end up in fighting with each other in order to safeguard their territories. During these fights, they raise their colourful fins and their gill-chambers in order to scare the opponent male.

Mudskipper - Boleophthalmus dussumieri

Mudskipper – Boleophthalmus dussumieri

Mudskippers  are amphibious fish and can move on land with the help of their pectoral fins. They’re one of the few vertebrates that reside on mudflats and breathe air. The mudskippers seen in the Indian Ocean are Boleophthalmus dussumieri and can be found on mudflats in fresh, brackish and marine waters of Iraq, Pakistan and India as well as probably in Bangladesh. Boleophthalmus: Greek word for ‘ejected eyes’ means their eyes can be raised above their orbital cavities to get a 360o view.

Since they reside on mudflats, their burrows do not get enough oxygen from the water as they’re away on land. Hence, there is low oxygen in their burrows for them to remain inside. To cope up with this challenge, these creatures gulp mouthful of air and oxygenate the water inside their burrows by blowing into it, which can help them remain inside for about 30 mins. This process also helps in providing oxygen to the developing eggs, if any.

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We also witnessed large flocks of seagulls following the fishing boats (trying their luck with stealing some fishes from the fishermen) and then settling down by the shore. Another bird along the shore that looked like the Grey Heron at a first glance turned out to be the Western Reef Egret after a careful observation. This then helped us to also spot and identify the white morph of this bird (which looks very similar to the Egret) at the Malgund beach.

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Western Reef Egret – Dark morph

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Western Reef Egret – White morph

During one of the walks on the shore of Malgund, I heard an interesting call of a bird that sounded like half the note of the Crested Serpent Eagle call. This was very intriguing and caught my attention, as I couldn’t see any raptors flying around at that time. On further scanning the shore, I saw a lone wader walking along the seashore with a very long bill, almost the size of its body, hurriedly moving around in search of food, inserting its long beak into the crab holes and picking up crabs for breakfast. This was the Eurasian Curlew indeed, which made those raptor-like calls at regular intervals and intrigued me!

Eurasian Curlew

Eurasian Curlew

This trip was as much fun as there was learnings. Through this trip the highlights were – anchoring our car onto the boats at three different boat jetties, seeing the massive Enron setup (from outside ofcourse), staying overnight at a beach patrolling for Olive Riddley Turtles, staying at home stays, seeing a Crested Hawk Eagle nest, a White bellied Sea Eagle nest, seeing a few interesting animal behaviours like that of the mudskippers. The icing on the cake was the local food that we had at small hotels enroute or at homestays. I got introduced to a few new people on this trip, all of who were working on conserving a specific species of wildlife in their own region. It was such a pleasure to meet all of them cause the work undertaken by them was simply marvelous!

Crested Hawk Eagle nest seen in a village on top of a Wild Almond tree (Sterculia foetida)

Crested Hawk Eagle nest seen in a village on top of a Wild Almond tree (Sterculia foetida)

The trip beautifully ended with a decent sighting of an almost 6-feet Cobra that crossed the road as we left Chiplun and headed towards Mumbai.

 

 

10 thoughts on “My New Year Coastal Odyssey

  1. Great post Vidya. The mudskipper video is great. Btw what soundtrack is that? The “seagull” is either the Black-headed or Brown-headed gull in non-breeding plumage. Am unable to tell which from Grimmett. You load the car onto a boat to take it where? Another jetty further up or down the coast? Thumbs up for the cobra sighting.

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    • Thanks Badri! That soundtrack is from the movie editing software itself….just so that it hides all the background vehicle sounds that were recorded during the shooting of this video. The seagulls I’m yet to ID, they’re a bit tricky. The coastal belt of Maharashtra hasn’t yet been connected by roads all through, there are still some parts where one needs to cross the river to get across to the other side before continuing the road journey. Hence, during our entire trip we came across three such points of crossing where our vehicle had to be transported to the other side. Ofcourse, these boats are quite big and can accommodate up to 12 cars in each trip.

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