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Day 1 Saturday 6th November
Everyone met on time at London's Gatwick Airport for the flight to Goa. Unfortunately things didn't get off to a good start, with the flight delayed by an hour and a half, but once we were finally away the journey was quite uneventful.
Day 2 Sunday 7th November
After a lengthy touchdown at Larnaca in Cyprus for refueling we finally arrived at Goa airport, where another lengthy wait on the runway for parking space was followed by the usual immigration and baggage chaos. Our superb guides, Avijit and Loven were waiting to whisk us off to the wonderful Marinha Dourada Hotel and the journey provided us with our first taste of Indian birds to whet our appetites, and in fact it seemed every perch, paddyfield or pond held something of interest. Several White-throated and Stork-billed Kingfishers were spotted, whilst Wire-tailed Swallow, Brahminy Kite, and Western Reef Egret were also seen.
On arrival at the hotel, after a quick wash and brush up, everyone met in the restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, we walked out of the front gate to view a large pool where four Ashy Woodswallows were perched on telegraph wires, with a Green Bee-eater a few yards away. On the lake there was Great Egret, Indian Pond Heron, and a couple Little Cormorants, whilst a pair of Red-wattled Lapwings walked along the embankment. Overhead, a large flock containing mainly Red-rumped Swallows with smaller numbers of Little Swifts filled the air. It was so good to finally do some proper birding after our journey today.
The Beira Mar Hotel was our next port of call, and the mixture of paddyfields, long grass and bushes is ideal for Watercock, three of which were located from our poolside vantage point. The first one was quite close below us, but always rather shy. Eventually it came right out into the open, and walked slowly across the grass before disappearing from view. In fact a creditable three were seen in all. Pride of place this evening must surely go to the delightful Black-capped Kingfisher, which flew in and perched on a telegraph post right in front of us. What a great bird! With several Black and Brahminy Kites, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, brief Ashy Prinia and some Red-rumped Swallows all seen, we decided to leave just as it started to rain.
Day 3 Monday 8th November
With a pair of White-browed Wagtails overseeing our breakfast this morning, our day started quite well. As everyone gathered at the front gate, our scrutiny of the lake produced our first Pied Kingfisher, Whiskered Tern and Spotted Dove of the trip. A large flock of hirundines overhead consisted mainly of Red-rumped Swallows, but also included Asian Palm Swift and Indian Swiftlet as well.
A short drive took us to the base of the Arpora Hills and within a few seconds of leaving the coach we were surrounded by new birds. A close tree held a White-cheeked Barbet, two White-browed Bulbuls, Ashy Drongo, and three Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrikes. Several Eurasian Golden Orioles were sunning themselves on the tree tops, whilst a couple of very colourful Coppersmith Barbets flew in and landed. With Purple Sunbirds present in good numbers, Small Minivet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, and a close Greenish Warbler all vying for attention, we had a great time and were kept busy!
A trail led upwards away from the road, and we stopped by a gate to view a pair of Common Ioras. As we were looking at them, a very confiding White-cheeked Barbet appeared, a Changeable Hawk Eagle flew by and perched, and Peter picked up a Rufous Woodpecker and a pair of Alexandrine Parakeets. From here the trail led up into the hills, and Avijit found a lovely Tickell's Blue Flycatcher. A Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and Crimson Sunbird both gave brief views, before the Tickell's Blue Flycatcher gave a superb close performance. We then reached a more open area, where White-throated Fantail, Common Tailorbird and Grey-breasted Prinia were all seen well.
By now it was getting very warm, so we turned our attention towards the skies and a little raptor watching. A pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles were very visible around a huge nest, whilst Shikra, Black Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle, and a dark phase Booted Eagle were seen from the same spot. Closer at hand, a Blyth's Reed Warbler put in an appearance before we returned to the coach.
Continuing the raptor theme back at the hotel, an Osprey and Crested Serpent Eagle were both new additions to our list. So after lunch we took a short drive over to Baga Fields, where a Western Reef Egret greeted our arrival on the river. The area is actually a series of dried out paddyfields with basically just stubble left, although this was quite tall and dense over much of the area. Paddyfield and Richard's Pipits were common and rather easily identified, and good views of both species were had by everyone. On prominent perches Zitting Cisticola, Common Stonechat and Pied Bushchat were seen, whilst a couple 1st winter Black-headed Buntings tested our identification skills, and some nearby telegraph wires were being used by a mixed flock of White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias. Whilst watching these, Roger picked up a Rosy Starling and this was followed by a flock of rather attractive Chestnut-tailed Starlings. Common and Jungle Mynas adorned the wires as well, with Black-capped Kingfisher and Long-tailed Shrike accompanying them. Overhead, Brahminy Kites were everywhere, with Black and Black-eared Kites also highly visible. Several Malabar Larks were noted, whilst Purple Heron, Rufous Treepie, White-breasted Waterhen, and Common Snipe all put in an appearance. As the light began to fade, a large flock of hirundines appeared, with Wire-tailed, Barn and Red rumped Swallows, Asian Palm and Little Swifts being seen, but pride of place went to a couple diminutive Streak-throated Swallows that flew around our heads.
Day 4 Tuesday 9th November
Soon after first light we arrived at Carambolim Lake, where amongst the lilypads and other floating vegetation both Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas were quickly found. Purple Swamphens were numerous and conspicuous, whilst only a few Common Moorhens and Little Grebes were spotted. A single Cotton Pygmy-Goose played hide-and-seek before everyone managed to get on it, whilst Oriental Darter, Glossy Ibis, and Indian Cormorant all flew overhead. The fields on the other side of the road were also productive, with several Asian Openbills feeding, and there were also some Baya Weavers perched on telegraph wires. Avijit somehow found a roosting pair of Spotted Owlets which gave great views, and a Pale-billed Flowerpecker showed well, whilst an unexpected River Tern slowly flew past as we walked back to the bus. A short drive round the other side of the lake then followed, and we took a path down to the water's edge, flushing a quail species which promptly disappeared for good, but a Common Mongoose was found whilst searching for the vanishing quail! Indian Robin and Greater Coucal then followed, along with much better views of Blue-tailed Beaters. Out on the lake Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Pintail, flyby Garganey, and a bright green Vine Snake were seen. Most activity was concentrated behind us in a large fruiting tree where several Coppersmith Barbets were present, but it was our first Vernal Hanging Parrot that really got everyone excited. A couple of these little beauties were present, and although partially hidden behind the large leaves they would occasionally raise their heads revealing a small red bill. There was a small flock present, and as we were leaving a few more were seen, but this time right out in the open. Walking back to the bus, a Blyth's Reed Warbler was found, and we were fortunate to have both Greenish and Green Warblers together in the same tree, and it was a fantastic opportunity to compare plumage features and calls.
After some refreshing cold drinks at a small eating establishment, a short drive found us at Carambolim Fields. Another brief and unseasonal shower didn't deter us, and a close roadside pond revealed Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper. The fields were dotted with trees, and there was a constant procession of birds perching on them, as well as the telegraph wires. A couple Indian Rollers were well appreciated, as were both Greater and Indian Spotted Eagles which appeared in quick succession, allowing us to compare plumage and structural differences. The smaller and paler Indian Spotted Eagle flew around in front of us before perching in a large tree, whilst two separate Greater Spotted Eagles, being slightly bigger and darker, with more bulging secondaries, deeper fingers, and more heavily spotted upperwings flew around us. Meanwhile on the telegraph wires a few Black-headed Munias appeared amongst the Chestnut-tailed Starlings, whilst both Common Cuckoo and Eurasian Sparrowhawk initially caused quite a stir when first seen, until a positive identification was made!
So we walked along the road and followed it through a small woodland, where a couple girls from a house pointed out something to Loven. This turned out to be a roosting Brown Hawk Owl. Outrageously crippling views were had of this superb bird, and when Roger spotted a Jungle Owlet just around the corner being mobbed by several passerines, we just couldn't believe our luck. In fact two birds were present, and were being unmercilously mobbed by Common Ioras, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, and Purple-rumped Sunbird. With Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Lotens Sunbird giving brief views, we had almost made it back to the bus. However, a roadside lake appeared just too interesting to pass up, and scanning revealed several Little Stints, Ruff, and a Marsh Sandpiper.
So we arrived back a little late for lunch, and after a rest were all ready for the afternoon excursion. Whilst waiting outside the hotel for everyone to arrive, some of us watched a Paddyfield Pipit preening. It took maybe fifteen minutes to drive to Saligao, an area of mature woodland surrounding a spring. On arrival Small Minivet, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Verditer Flycatcher, Jungle Crow and Pale-billed Tcharrsid14569662 and Plain Flowerpecker were seen quite quickly. A Malabar Whistling Thrush was out in the open as we approached the spring, but a party of Grey-headed Bulbuls was more elusive. A male Crimson-backed Sunbird looked absolutely stunning as it fed nearby, and much better than the illustration in the field guide. We spent quite a while stood in this one spot, and our patience was rewarded with good views of Black-naped Monarch and Puff-throated Babbler. Meanwhile Loven had reappeared after a lengthy absence, and he led us quite a way uphill to show us a superb roosting Brown Wood Owl that he had just relocated. Not in its usual tree near the spring, this was quite a way from there and he really must be commended for this find - and how we all appreciated his efforts.
With a party of Tawny-bellied Babblers watched for several minutes on the walk back down, we all returned to the coach very happy after another successful outing.
Day 5 Wednesday 10th November
We caught the small ferry across the RiverMandovi to Chorao Island just as the sun peeked over the horizon. There were a few birds about, including White-bellied Sea Eagle and a flock of Gull-billed Terns to look at. Once on the other side a short drive took us to Mayem Lake, where we followed a path seeing Black-lored Tit, Verditer Flycatcher and Common Woodshrike. On the other side of the lake, the densely wooded hillside held several flocks of Pompadour Green Pigeons, as well as a White-bellied Drongo. Closer at hand, a Nilgiri Blackbird posed nicely at the water's edge, whilst several Bronzed Drongos flew around. High up in a huge tree, Loven picked up a Yellow-crowned Woodpecker which was a little hard to see at first, but eventually everyone managed good scope views. On reaching the end of the path a Malabar Whistling Thrush flew in and landed briefly, and was subsequently seen several times over the next couple of hours. We stationed ourselves here in this one spot, scanning the surrounding jungle, and our patience was rewarded with fine views of a male Blue-capped Rock Thrush. A flash of blue and red zoomed in to a nearby tree and remained there for ages - wow! Within a short space of time a couple cracking birds were seen, with both Little Spiderhunter and Banded Bay Cuckoo being found. There were plenty of other birds to keep us entertained, including Scarlet Minivet, Puff-throated Babbler, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Blyth's Reed Warbler, and a fine Green Warbler.
Eventually the heat got the better of us and we retired to the resort's bar for snacks and cold drinks. So after this break we drove to an area of paddies and lakes, where a Greater Spotted Eagle and several Woolly-necked Storks soared high above us in the clear blue skies. Closer at hand, Baya Weavers, Pied Bushchat, Paddyfield Pipit, Clamorous Reed Warbler and Striated Heron were all seen.
From here a short drive took us to another wet area where we had the most incredible close views of several Indian Spotted Eagles, who kept soaring around low over the fields right next to us. A Greater Spotted Eagle flew in on cue for comparison, whilst higher up a couple Steppe Eagles flew over. In the tall grass the head of a Woolly-necked Stork could be seen, whilst a beautiful male Pallid Harrier quartered the fields. He disturbed a large flock of Greater Short-toed Larks and lots of waders from the paddyfields, so we walked up to the pools and found large numbers of Wood Sandpipers, Common Redshank, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, 2 Temminck's Stint, and a few Green Sandpipers. On another pool Black-winged stilt and a Ruff were seen. Leaving here we returned to the ferry, and scanned the river, where out on the mudflats were many Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, whilst lots of waders were present. New for the trip were Eurasian Curlew and Grey Plover, although the sandplovers were deemed too far to identify with total accuracy. Also present were a few Whimbrels, as well as Gull-billed Tern, and an Osprey.
So we returned to the Beira Mar Hotel later in the afternoon, where in the adjacent fields a pair of Black-capped Kingfishers put on a great show. Also seen were Black-eared Kite, Grey Wagtail, White-rumped Munia and Purple Heron, but with nothing new on offer we returned to our great hotel a little earlier than usual tonight, and had some leisure time before dinner.
Day 6 Thursday 11th November
Clear blue skies met our arrival at Mojem Beach, where the seashore was brim-packed with birds. This beautiful palm fringed white sandy beach is home to a high tide roost of waders and gulls, and our visit was timed perfectly. The closest birds initially were a big flock of gulls, the majority of which were Brown-headed Gulls. The black wingtips with a white mirror were obvious in flight, and when they settled the pale eye was an easy feature to look for. Also present in smaller numbers were Black-headed Gulls, being much smaller, with white forewings and smaller billed with a dark eye. Once everyone was happy with these, we turned our attention to the waders. Most of them were Lesser Sand Plovers, but there were also several Greater Sandplovers, being larger, longer legged, with a huge long bill ending more in a point than the blunt bill of lesser.
There were birds flying around constantly, with more gulls and terns coming in all the time. A couple Lesser Crested Terns arrived, and repeated scanning of the ever increasing roost resulted in a few Slender-billed Gulls being found. More new birds were then seen, with Caspian Tern flying overhead, and several Little Terns appearing. Gordon spotted some Small Pratincoles flying high overhead, whilst a Sanderling joined the other waders. So we walked round to the other side, close to the tideline and with the sun behind us. The viewing conditions were perfect, and we started to sort through the larger gulls that had just arrived. Several Caspian Gulls were present, and once I had gone through the i.d features a huge looking Heuglin's Gull appeared. There was also several Pallas's Gulls and quite a few more adult Slender-billed Gulls complete with a pink flush on their chests. Out to sea an Osprey with a fish in its talons flew by, and both Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns appeared, whilst two more Caspian Terns joined the Lesser Crested Terns in the roost. There was an ever changing kaleidoscope of gulls and terns, and we had great fun watching them. By now we had already spent several hours here and were just about to leave when I saw some dolphins out to sea. They gave a fantastic display, with some breaching, others skyhopping, and the very long snout and stumpy dorsal fin showed them to be Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins. A couple other dolphins also present proved to be Bottle-nosed Dolphins. What an extraordinary sight - how lucky can you get!
From here we walked over the road, and found a Black-crowned Night Heron roosting in a large tree, and whilst here Plum-headed Parakeet, and a few Scaly-breasted Munias were also seen. Then we drove to some wader spots that were unfortunately filled with water due to the unusually late rains, but some compensation came in the form of our only Tcharrsid8004613 Yellow-wattled Lapwing of the trip. Another brief stop was made at some paddies and ponds, where Lesser Whistling Ducks were just about the only noteworthy sighting before returning to our hotel for lunch and a siesta.
Later in the afternoon we went the short distance to Baga Hill, where on arrival a small party of Tawny-bellied Babblers flew across the path in front of us. We paused by a clearing and amongst the trees and bushes saw Black-lored Tit, Small Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Greenish Warbler, and White-bellied DrongoTcharrsid15104021 . The path continued uphill, with dense forest on both sides. A few Brown-cheeked Fulvettas called from deep within the vegetation, with one being enticed quite close, but the forest was relatively quiet, so we carried on up to the top of the hill where apart from a nice view we saw Indian Robin, Malabar Lark and a Shikra. Meanwhile, Steve was rewarded for his attentive scanning by finding our first Indian Peafowl. Walking back down, we heard a Jungle Owlet calling before arriving back at the coach.
Day 7 Friday 12th November
After breakfast the formerly volcanic area of Dona Paula was our destination this morning. Our first stop at an open grassy area set on volcanic rock proved quite productive, with several Oriental Skylarks being seen well, along with Tawny and Tree Pipits, and a confiding Pied Cuckoo. After a few hours here it didn't take us long to drive over to the Santa Cruz rice fields. This was a fantastic site, with just the right amount of exposed mud proving very attractive to a good selection of waders. Several Common Snipe were present, along with Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, and Little Stints. It was great to finally find so many waders, and further scrutiny revealed a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers, as well as a few Temminck's Stints. Overhead, Loven picked up a superb Tawny Eagle and we could make a direct comparison with a nearby Great Spotted Eagle. Eventually it was time to leave and as everyone was boarding our coach I took one last look at the waders present, finding firstly a Broad-billed Sandpiper, and then a couple Pintail Snipe.
After lunch we revisited the Carambolim area, visiting some fields where a Blyth's Pipit flew over calling. Also present were Baya Weaver, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Indian Roller, and several Black-headed Munias. A small estuary proved very rewarding, with up to three Terek Sandpipers being seen, as well as Common Ringed Plover, Black-headed Ibis, Pacific Golden Plover, and a pretty respectable count of 15 Marsh Sandpipers.
Our final port of call today was the Ciba-Geigy Factory, where we looked over to the lake from the roof of a block of flats. Amongst the hundreds of roosting Asian Openbills, we saw a solitary Lesser Adjutant to round off another great day's birding.
Tcharrsid14569662 Day 8 Saturday 13th November
This morning we set off on a boat trip up the River Zuari. It was a perfect calm, sunny day as we set off up this wide river and the first real birds of interest were a group of Great Crested Terns perched on some poles in the river. Our boat stopped within a few feet of them, and we had superb views along with a couple Lesser Crested Terns. Within half an hour the river narrowed, and was bordered on both sides by mangroves. It was here that we saw a Collared Kingfisher perched out in the open on a dead tree. What a bird! With the engine turned off it was a perfect setting among the mangroves to look at this great bird.
Other birds seen included Stork-billed and Black-capped Kingfishers, Gull-billed Tern, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Eagle, and our first Chestnut-shouldered Petronia.
We were dropped off below a huge road bridge, and drove the short distance to another lake. An open patch of water amongst the tall grasses held a large flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks, whilst several Garganey and Cotton Pygmy-Goose were also present. Further back Little Grebe, Bronze-winged Jacana, Common and Ferruginous Pochards, Common Teal, and Eurasian Coot were seen.
After lunch, Loven took us to a new site about 30 minutes drive away. The road was being dug up so we walked for about a kilometre through the village, obviously causing a great deal of amusement to the locals. The wader site turned out to be a tidal estuary, and there was plenty of exposed mud, as well as several villagers collecting crabs and shellfish, but this didn't seem to affect the birds at all. Initial scanning revealed a flock of Lesser Sand Plovers, with Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, and a single Curlew Sandpiper. Finally, a couple Terek Sandpipers appeared at the bend in the river and although a little distant, they were still very obvious. Walking along the central causeway produced closer views of all the previous mentioned waders, as well as at least 200 Small Pratincoles flying over the marshes behind us. A single Striated Heron was found, just before the star bird of the afternoon, Great Knot. This distinctly profiled bird was on the corner of the river and was much appreciated by all present.
So we returned to the wonderful Marinha Dourada in plenty of time to pack our cases in readiness for our journey to the famous Backwoods Camp the following day.
Day 9 Sunday 14th November
We had an early start this morning, firstly making a return visit to Mayem Lake on the way to Backwoods Camp. Many of the same species as before were seen, including Vernal Hanging Parrot, Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Common Woodshrike, brief Emerald Dove, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Bronzed, White-bellied and Ashy Drongo. A nearby grassy plateau held an out of place Clamorous Reed Warbler, as well as Blyth's Pipit, Oriental Skylark, and Malabar Lark.
The drive to Backwoods Camp didn't seem to take very long at all, and it was well before midday when we arrived. The surrounding hills were cloaked in dense forest, and the camp itself is set amongst mature trees.
Once everyone had settled into their rooms, we took a short walk around the edge of the camp, where an Orange-headed Thrush showed extremely well to a few of the group, before a superb Heart-spotted Woodpecker started calling above us. Although a little neck-breaking to begin with, we all managed great views. Next up was a roosting pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths in a stand of bamboo, and our first Malabar Grey Hornbill, before returning for lunch.
After a delicious lunch it took only a few minutes to drive to Tambdi Surla Temple where from the open field we had a superb view of the surrounding hills.
A pair of awesome White-bellied Woodpeckers flew over, whilst we scoped Malabar Parakeet and Crimson-fronted Barbet in the surrounding forest. Good views were had of Brown Shrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Verditer Flycatcher, and several Crested Treeswifts. As dusk fell, we had brief views of a Jerdon's Nightjar perched on top of a bush.
After our evening meal a Sri Lanka Frogmouth could be heard giving its eerie call, whilst Peter became infatuated with the behaviour of a Brown Tree Frog in his tent.
Day 10 Monday 15th November
Walked up into the forest at first light, where the first bird we saw was a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch high up in the canopy. Loven then showed us the nest hole of a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl but unfortunately the occupant failed to show. Then a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo put in an appearance, before we stopped to look at the Sri Lanka Frogmouth again. Following the path alongside the camp and along the approach road produced Orange-headed Thrush, Nilgiri Blackbird, and a small flock of Black-throated Munias. At the far end, Taiga Flycatcher, Banded-bay Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, and a few Scaly-breasted Munias were seen. Returning for breakfast, several Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers were feeding at the entrance to the camp.
By now it was getting quite warm, so we drove a short distance to an open area with views of the surrounding hills for a raptor watch. A couple Oriental Honey Buzzards was a good start, followed by Shikra, displaying Crested Goshawk, and a close Black Eagle. At another spot we saw a Blue-faced Malkoha, as well as Common Woodshrike, Blyth's Reed Warbler, and a Plain Flowerpecker.
After lunch, some of the group took the opportunity to have a siesta, whilst a few of us wandered the grounds seeing Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and Western Crowned Warbler. After tea and biscuits at 3.30 we drove along the 'main road' to a bridge over a small stream and took a track through the scrub seeing a party of Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrikes, as well as some more Brown-cheeked Fulvettas and Western Crowned Warblers. A White rumped Shama also put in a brief appearance as did a Crested Goshawk. Back on the bridge 3 Malabar Pied Hornbills flew into a nearby dead tree giving great views, just as the sun began to set.
On our return to camp we sipped ice cold beers, accompanied by two Indian Pittas calling from opposite sides of the camp, whilst a Brown Hawk Owl called from deep within the forest.
Day 11 Tuesday 16thTcharrsid14569662 November
After tea and biscuits at dawn we walked out of camp a little way before being picked up by our coach and drove to Tambdi Surla Temple where we followed a narrow trail that bordered a small, rocky stream. We had to cross the stream a couple of times, and although a little tricky everyone managed it without mishap. Birding was a little slow to start with, and we found things didn't start to happen until well over an hour after sunrise. Once we reached a certain point we all waited patiently whilst Loven wandered alone upstream. On his return, he informed us that he had found a pair of Large-billed Leaf Warblers a couple hundred metres away, but unfortunately not everyone could cross the stream at this point. But for those who did it was well worth it! The warblers were elusive to start with, but eventually came out in the open, and they were part of a small flock that contained Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Dark-fronted Babbler, Greenish and Western Crowned Warbler, and a pair of Malabar Trogons. On our return to the few left behind, we found out that a White-rumped Shama had been seen.
Another excellent breakfast back at camp was followed by a walk up into the forest. We caught up with a large flock that held Rufous Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Large Cuckooshrike. There was also a pair of showy Malabar Trogons, with the male sat on a perch for a good 10 minutes. Continuing through the forest, we checked the nest hole of the Spot-bellied Eagle Owl but were once again without luck, but a Brown-breasted Flycatcher was found nearby. Whilst watching this, Loven found a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl perched in a tree, and although obscured by some leaves, we all just lapped up the views through my scope. Wow!
After lunch we returned to the temple area again, where over the surrounding hills we saw Black and Crested Serpent Eagles, as well as at least six Brown-backed Needletails. Closer at hand, several Mountain Imperial Pigeons flew over, whilst out in the meadow we saw three Malabar Grey Hornbills, Asian Fairy Bluebird, and some more Malabar Parakeets. With an hours daylight left we drove to a new site, where on a rocky hillside dotted with bushes, two Jerdon's Nightjars and a brief Grey Nightjar were seen, with an Oriental Scops Owl calling in the distance.Tcharrsid15104021
Day 12 Wednesday 17th Nov
As we drove along the track just outside the camp this morning at dawn, a male Grey Junglefowl ran across in front of us, whilst just around the corner a Nilgiri Woodpigeon was perched on a bamboo stalk over the road. Not a bad start to the day!
We then followed the main road for a while before leaving the coach and walking along the road. A small flock was feeding in a roadside tree containing Grey-headed and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Scarlet Minivet and several Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes. Near a bridge we walked a short distance along the river seeing a perched Crested Goshawk, as well as Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Crimson-fronted Barbet. Near the camp 5 Red-headed Buntings and a flock of Black Bulbuls were found. After breakfast, some more raptor watching produced Crested Goshawk, Black and Booted Eagles, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Brown-backed Needletail and Alpine Swift, whilst a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills was also seen.
Following lunch we drove back to the temple, getting great views of an Emerald Dove on the track just outside camp. On arrival at the temple we headed upstream once again before waiting quietly as Loven went ahead to check for any kingfishers. He hadn't gone long before reappearing around a corner in the stream and beckoned us forward. We had to cross the stream once again and slowly but surely made our way further upstream, and this time were eventually rewarded with great views of a Blue-eared Kingfisher as it sat motionless just ahead of us. Needless to say we were all elated after our hard work! But the thought of returning downstream was a little daunting so we cut through the jungle and reached a narrow trail which was much easier to follow, and on returning to civilization another Blue-eared Kingfisher was seen just a couple hundred yards from the temple!
Day 13 Thursday 18th November
Our drive towards Bondla this morning was punctuated with a stop along the road just a few kilometres from camp. Yesterday we had seen a pitta fly across the road in front of the coach, so today we stopped at the same location and within a few minutes we were watching one of our main target birds, as a lovely Indian Pitta perched on a branch. Everyone was ecstatic at this delightful little bird, and what superb views it gave us all!
Further on our coach screeched to a halt when 6 Mountain Imperial Pigeons were spotted perched in a close tree. In some roadside fields, we passed a few Jungle MynasTcharrsid15104021 and Baya Weavers perched on wires, but the rest of the drive was rather uneventful. Near Bondla things started to `heat up', when we heard an Indian Scimitar Babbler calling from somewhere on the hillside above us, and although we spent quite a while here it never showed, but there were plenty of other birds to keep us occupied. Both Crimson-backed and Loten's Sunbirds appeared close by, whilst Ashy, Bronzed, and White-bellied Drongos all showed well. A huge White-bellied Woodpecker flew by, whilst other species seen included Brown-headed Barbet, Black-hooded Oriole, a very brief White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Little Spiderhunter, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Shikra, and Pompadour Green Pigeon. From here it was just a short drive to the entrance of the reserve where we had breakfast. Over the surrounding hills we managed to see a few Booted Eagles, as well as a small flock of White-rumped Needletails and Alpine Swifts. The forest was a little quiet, with White-rumped Shama, Common Tailorbird, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, and Red-breasted Flycatcher being the only noteworthy sightings. An Indian Blue Robin called from deep inside a densely vegetated area, but failed to show. So we then drove to some Spice Gardens for lunch before heading to Backwoods Camp.
In the late afternoon we drove back to the nightjar site, and had really good views of a Grey Nightjar and whilst driving back to camp a Common Palm Civet ran across the road in front of us. After dinner we heard an Oriental Scops Owl calling close by in the forest, but try as we might just couldn't locate it.
Day 14 Friday 19th November
After our final breakfast at the wonderful Backwoods Camp, we said our goodbyes to all the staff who had looked after us so well, and headed towards our next hotel at Cotigao. On the way we stopped at Molem Reserve, an open area of woodland which is ideal for getting good views of a number of species. We quickly chalked up Forest Wagtail and Eurasian House Martin, both new species for the trip before finding a large feeding flock. A couple Large Cuckooshrikes were present, and everyone eventually had good views of several Large Woodshrikes as well. We also managed to pick out a few Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, as well as Eurasian and Black-hooded Orioles, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, and Scarlet Minivet. Loven got really excited when a Common Flameback appeared, which is a scarce bird in Goa. At one point a Black-rumped Flameback flew in right next to it in the same tree, and we could compare plumage differences. Everyone was really pleased with this good bird, and as we walked back to the coach a bird flew across the path in front of us which turned out to be a Lesser Cuckoo.
Following breakfast at a nearby restaurant we continued our journey to the next hotel at Cotigao, and after lunch and the usual siesta we drove to Cotigao Reserve. The forest road was quite productive, with Green Imperial Pigeon, Malabar Grey Hornbill, brief Drongo Cuckoo, and Asian Fairy Bluebird all being seen. At the far end of the track, we heard a Leopard close by. It called three times, each one sounded a lot closer than the previous call, so Loven suggested we retreat to the coach as it may have had cubs nearby! So we walked to the bus very quickly and drove downhill to a bridge, where several Dusky Crag Martins came in to roost at dusk.
Day 15 Saturday 20th Nov
On our return to Cotigao Wildlife Reserve this morning a different track was taken, where a large fruiting tree attracted a variety of birds including Malabar Grey Hornbill, Small and Scarlet Minivets, Common Iora, Common Flameback, and at least two Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers. Other species seen along this walk included Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, a flock of Large Woodshrikes, and a fine male Eurasian Golden Oriole.
At a small pond we found a Himalayan Flameback feeding in a nearby tree. It was on view for several minutes allowing all the salient features to be notes, and is a really scarce bird in this part of India. There was also another brief and uncountable view of the elusive Drongo Cuckoo. Returning to the hotel for breakfast we were soon on our way to a lake where a quick scan for raptors resulted in Black and Black-eared Kites, Greater Spotted Eagle, and Shikra. Meanwhile the lake held Lesser Whistling Duck, and Cotton Pygmy Goose.
Another lake held all of the usual waterfowl, as well as a couple Ferruginous Ducks. In the rice fields behind us a pair of Grey-headed Lapwings was our prize find, being an exceedingly rare bird here. Also present were Pacific Golden Plover, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Whiskered Terns, and several Black-winged Stilts. Back on the pond, a party of 5 Gull-billed Terns appeared, and a few Streak-throated Swallows were spotted among a large hirundine flock that settled on the telegraph wires.
Eventually we had to leave this superb little site and return to the hotel for our final meal together. With a wedding taking place and rather loud disco to keep us entertained, it certainly was a rather rowdy night!
Day 16 Sunday 21st November
Another early start saw us arrive at the airport in plenty of time for our flight back to England. We said our goodbyes to Loven and Avijit, both of whom had been superb and they had worked extremely hard to produce the birds and ensure everything ran smoothly throughout our stay.
On behalf of Loven and Avijit I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole group for making it such a pleasure to lead. We certainly saw a lot of birds, but more importantly we saw most of them well and in the process had a great deal of fun.