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A Report from

Goa, India 6th - 21st December 2003 ,

Simon Hartill

Participants:  Simon Hartill, Southampton, UK  and Alan Baxter, Worthing, UK.


Booked through First Choice Holidays in July for 2 weeks B&B at the Beira Mar Hotel, Baga. Cost was £436 including the direct Air2000 Flight from Gatwick to Goa. 9 hours flying out and 10 hours 20 minutes flying home due to the jet stream being against us.

I had been to Goa for 2 weeks in 1996 also staying at the Beira Mar.

We requested when we booked the package at the travel agent, a room overlooking the marsh. Last time I stayed here we had a huge apartment with 2 balconies but they overlooked the courtyard. This time though, we were in luck, as they gave us a room with a 2nd floor balcony overlooking the excellent marsh/paddies. We saw quite a few birds from our room balcony that we never saw elsewhere, especially the Rails and Crakes!!! Superb bird watching from the comfort of your room. The Beira Mar Hotel had been improved since the last time I was here.

We used the restaurant at the Beira Mar quite a lot. The food was pretty good and the service had definitely improved since 96. The service was faster than some of the other restaurants we tried nearby. Can recommend the Spanish Omelette and chips for a lunch time snack, don't bother with the sandwiches, Indian bread is not too good.

We used one taxi driver the whole time, his name was Santosh, and we can thoroughly recommend him. Santosh was a good, safe driver, reliable and knew a fair bit about the birds. He located Grey Nightjar, Brown Wood Owl and Brown Hawk Owl for us at their daytime roosts and knew all the birding sites. He has been a regular birdwatcher driver for 6 years. A half day trip was generally about R650

We pre-booked Backwoods Camp for 2 nights by e-mail from the UK, cost £55 for 2 nights, guiding, minibus from the hotel to the camp near Molem. The accommodation at Backwoods was very basic, but the excellent food and birding more than made up for it. Take an extra blanket with you though from the hotel, as the nights are fairly cold up here in the Western Ghats.


Departed Gatwick at 5 p.m arriving in Goa at 7.30 a.m. on the 7th Indian time, five and a half hours ahead of UK time so it was 2a.m. for our body clock. Unlike the last time I flew to Goa in 1996, the flight was direct with no stopover in Bahrain. We had pre-booked and paid an additional £45 for the emergency exit, extra legroom seats on our Air 2000 flight. We were very disappointed as the seats we were allocated was right up against the bulkhead and had much less legroom than an ordinary seat as you could not stretch your legs out at all. Sent a letter of complaint to Air 2000 on our return requesting the money back!!


We were transferred to our hotel, the Beira Mar by coach, with only 2 stops to drop other guests off at their hotels, on the way. Transfer time from the airport to the Beira Mar was 1 hour 20 minutes.

Birded from our excellent room balcony and the swimming pool, had a few hours sleep in the afternoon. Stork billed, Black capped and White breasted Kingfisher, G.Oriole, LT Shrikes, L.Grn Bee-eaters, WR,Scaley breasted and Black headed Munias, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Bluethroat, Lesser spotted Eagle, Rufous Treepie, Marsh Harriers, G.Coucal, Magpie Robin, Chest tailed Starlings, Spotted Owlet, BR.Flameback, Purple Heron, Baya Weaver, Painted Snipe and Palm Swifts all  from our balcony!!!  Birding has never been so easy.

8/12   Baga Hill/River a.m.

Walked to the Hill and took the less distinct footpath about 40 metres left of the bridge by a Water Tower, past some huts. Nilgiri Blackbird, Purple rumped, Crimson backed and Loten's Sunbird, Alpine Swifts, TB Flowerpecker, Brown H Barbet, Paradaise Fly.

Baga Fields p.m.

White cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets in hotel garden, White bellied SeaEagle, Hoopoe, 60+ Short toed Larks, Paddyfield Pipit, Pied BushChat.

9/12    Carambolin Lake

Stopped at Calangute Fields en-route, as Santosh had staked out 6 Yellow wattled Lapwings, very nice.  Santosh also located for us 2 Brown Hawk Owls and 2 Spotted Owlets in a wood near Carambolin. We also saw Banded Bay Cuckoo, 100 L.Pratincoles, Peregrine, Greenish Warbler, Yellow throated Sparrows, White browed Bulbul, Blue cheeked Bee-eater (fairly rare) and Shikra.  The Lake was excellent with a single Comb Duck, 200+ L.Whistling Ducks, 10+ Cotton Pygmy Geese, Darter, PurpleSwampHens, Marsh Sand, Spot Redshank, 10 L.Stints, Roller, and M.Harriers.

Went back to the Hotel for lunch watching a very obliging Lesser spotted Eagle over the marsh and garden.

Morgim Beach p.m. lowish tide

4 Pallas's Gulls, only 10 Lesser SandPlovers, Crested Terns, 300+ L.Pratincoles.  Dipped the recently seen Caspian Plover. Most of the birds were a long way off on sandbars in the middle of the estuary so we gave up and stopped at Arpora Woods on the way back. About 40 metres from the nightclub entrance we saw a superb Indian Pitta, a bird I had dipped in 1996. The Pitta showed well for 10-15 minutes responding to our tape initially. Brown cheeked Fulvettas and Tawny bellied Babblers skulked in the bushes showing well occasionally. The White bellied Eagles showed well on their conspicuous nest.

10/12  Arpora Forest early a.m.  Morgim Beach again

WB Drongos, Grey headed Bulbul, Bar wing Flycatcher Shrike, Common Woodshrike, Ioras, Orioles, SeaEagles and Puff throated Babbler

Got to Morgim for 9.30 and scored the nonbreeding adult CASPIAN PLOVER immediately on arrival. It was on the beach at high tide with about 100 Lesser and 3 Greater SandPlovers. Apparently the third record for Goa and a lifer for me. The Plover flock were very obliging allowing us to watch from 15 metres away. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my camcorder!!!!  We saw 40 Lesser crested Terns, 5 Sandwich, 3 Pallas Gulls and about 500 Brown headed Gulls and just 2 BHGs. 4 Streak throated Swallows showed well.

Watched from the balcony in the early p.m. Booted Eagle, Red headed Bunting, BC Kingfisher.

Divar Island  4.30-6 p.m. Harrier Roost

About 3 km from the Ferry was a lone tree along the tarmac road where we parked our taxi. We saw 4 female and 3 male Pallids, 2 male and 2 female Montagu's and 20+ Marsh Harriers, superb!!  The Harriers flew past very close on occasions. Also Blyth's Pipit, 400 ST Larks, Tawny Pipit and hundreds of Blue tailed Bee-eaters.

11/12    Salig Zor, Pielerm Lake/Fields

The Brown Wood Owls showed well at their roost near the Spring. Also Orange headed Thrush, GF Leafbirds, Malabar W.Thrush and Small Minivets.

Similar birds at the lake as Carambolin + Booted Eagles and another ghostly male Pallid Harrier.

Watched from the hotel in the afternoon finally seeing WaterCock and all the usual suspects like Painted Snipes etc. The Cinammon Bittern was, however proving elusive. I saw it 4-5 times in 1996 but my mate Alan still needed it for a lifer.

12/12   Maem Lake

A brief view of a Blue eared Kingfisher was a bit frustrating as were the calling Indian Scimartor Babblers which did not come any closer despite tape luring. Saw 18 Pompadour Green Pigeons, 20 Alpine Swifts, Green Warbler, Puff-t-Babblers, BH Orioles, Rufous Woodpecker and the nesting Changeable Hawk Eagles. Santosh come up trumps finding a Grey Nightjar perched up, allowing close scope views but he couldn't locate the Fish Owls.


Pallid Harrier, Pintail Snipe, Clamourous Reed Warblers, Wooly necked Storks, Paddyfield Warbler, Rufous tailed Larks,  Besra and a dull Brown breasted Flycatcher. It was too hot to find the recently seen Pallas Gropper.

Chorao Island   Pacific Golden Plover, 100 Redshanks, 40 Whimbrel, 1000+ Pintail on the River.

Birded from our balcony 4-6p.m.  A Ballion's Crake showed well as did a Slaty-breasted Rail. The height advantage we had on the 2nd floor really helped spotting the crakes in the middle of the scrubby marsh below. A large snake was hunting below us about 2 metres long, occasionally raising up its head and neck like a Cobra. A Spotted Owlet perched up on the wires at dusk.

13/12   Backwoods

Departed the hotel at 5.30 a.m. We were picked up by Leio in a minibus for the 2.5 hour drive to Backwoods. Stopped near the camp by a River Bridge and saw Little Spider Hunter, Loten's Sunbird, BC Bulbul, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Crimson fronted Barbet, Brown Shrike, Tickell's Blue Fly, YB Bulbul.

Arrived at the Camp and allocated a very basic cabin with resident Tree Frog.

Leo took us for a walk in the forest from the camp. BC Fulvetta, Velvet f Nuthatch, WC Warbler, WB Blue Fly, brief views of an elusive Indian Blue Robin, which most of the group of 11 birders dipped. 12 people in the forest is not an ideal group size, those at the back always miss some birds.   A pair of Malabar Trogons showed well as did Heart s- Pecker, Crested Tree Swift, BB Fly, Dark fronted Babbler and a Grey JungleFowl (wild relative of the chicken)

Birded some fields in the late afternoon when it was cooler. Distant views of fly over Nilgiri WoodPigeons. Chestnut-h-Bee-eater, White rumped NeedleTail and Hoopoes.

Went back to the Tamdi Surla Temple at dusk for a nightbird vigil by spotlight. A Brown Fish Owl showed briefly. Jerdon's Nightjar showed well in flight perched in a bush and on the ground as did a Grey Nightjar. Also had excellent views of an Indian Nightjar on the ground and in flight on the approach road back to the camp.  After the evening meal Leio tape-lured out a SRI LANKA FROGMOUTH near our cabin, spotlighting the bird in a tree. Unfortunately, the daytime roost had been disturbed by children and Leio couldn't relocate the birds in the daytime.   Not a bad day!!!

14/12  Backwoods

Vernal Hanging Parrots. Malabar Parakeet, good view of Nilgiri Woodpigeon in a tree, Malabar Grey Hornbills, a superb Rufous bellied Eagle, what a stonker!!!  On the approach road to the camp Orange-h- Thrush, Raquet t Drongo, Large WoodShrike, more Heart s Peckers, BH Cuckoo Shrike, Black Eagle, Ashy Wood Swallows, Blue Monarch Fly, PT Babblers, Verditer Fly, GF Leafbirds. The Indian Pitta and a Orange-h- Thrush showed well in camp by the pig pen.

Leio mentioned that he scared off a Leopard that tried to attack the pigs earlier this year. A male Tiger, extremely rare in Goa, was also in the vicinity. Leio had heard it roaring at night, and 3 cattle had been reported missing by the local farmers. According to Leio it was the first Tiger in this part of Molem for more than 6 years.

In the afternoon we struggled to see the calling White bellied Woodpecker until Leio eventually relented and let me use my CD player to call it in. We had tried 3 times chasing up a wooded hillside in search of this elusive bird but dipped on all 3 occasions. The noise from 12 people clambering up through the scrub was obviously too much for this stonking woodpecker. When I played the call it came in and showed well to all the group for 5 minutes or so. Leio is not keen on using playback, and discourages its use at Backwoods.

The Oriental Scops Owl was calling that evening but never showed.

15/12    Backwoods

The Ceylon Frogmouth was calling outside our cabin at 5.30 this morning.

Went back to Tamdi Surla Temple. Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Black Bulbul, C'Rosefinch, Vernal Parrot, Rufous-b-Eagle again, Shikra, O.Honey Buzzard, Black Eagle, Besra displaying, Ashy Wood Swallows, BH Buntings, Crested Tree Swifts.

Departed Backwoods at 1 p.m. for the drive back to the coast.


Ruddy-b-Crake, BC Kingfisher, Spotted Owlet

16/12    Zuari River Trip with Pramod

Terek Sand 7, LS Plover 50, Lesser crested Tern-3, Crested Tern-100, Ospreys, Darters, Besra, Spoonbill-2, Greater spotted Eagle. Pride of place went to the superb 4 COLLARED KINGFISHERS. We saw 6 spp. Of kingfisher in one morning + 4 Crocodiles.

Baga Hill 4-6 pm

Rufous Pecker showed well, Loten's Sunbird, WC Barbets, PT Babblers, Blyth's Reed, BL Tits, Laggar Falcon, WB SeaEagle carrying a seasnake, Booted Eagles.  Eventually BARRED BUTTON QUAIL about 3 seen in flight when flushed.  Red Spurfowl at dusk as we descended the jeep track

17/12 Dona Paula

20 Ashy crowned Sparrowlarks showing well. 4 Oriental Skylarks, 4 Yellow wattled Lapwings.

Santa Cruz

50 Wood Sand , 6 Little Stints, 2 Curlew Sands, 50 Gull billed Terns, L.Pratincole, Yellow Wag, Snipe, Fan tailed Warbler.

Beira Mar

Ruddy breasted Crake, Slatey breasted Crake, Ballions Crake, Spotted Crake, Bluethroat, BH Munia. Finally caught up with the Cinnamon Bittern  showing well for 30 minutes by the pool

18/12 Velim Lake

Similar waterfowl to Carambolin.  Lesser and Greater spotted, Booted, Crested Serpent and Tawny Eagles.  The main target birds at this site are the vultures which are now very scarce in Goa unlike my first visit in 1996.

2 White rumped and 1 Long billed Vulture showed well after they took off at 11a.m.

Beira Mar

The Cinnamon Bittern showed well again as did 2 Ruddy breasted and a Ballions Crake.

19/12 Bondla

Arrived at Bondla at 7.15 a.m.  Grey Junglefowl, Greater Flameback, Small Minivets, Brown capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Sykes Warbler (eastern race of Booted) OH Thrush, BC Fulvettas, Raquet tailed Drongos, Lage WoodShrike, WR Shama, As Fairy Bluebird, Monarch Fly. Excellent scope views of a female Blue capped Rock Thrush and a pair of Malabar Trogons. M.Whistling Thrush, RB Fly, Ashy WoodSwallows, Black and Crested serpent Eagle, Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Paddyfield Warbler, Crimson backed Sunbird, Tickells Blue Fly.

We avoided eating at the restaurant. A group of Swedish birders last week got a bad dose of food poisoning there with a chicken curry.

Back at the hotel the Ruddy breasted Crake and Painted Snipes showed.

20/12  Arpora Forest

Tawny bellied Babbler, GH Bulbul, WB SeaEagles, Rufous Pecker, Large Cuckoo Shrike. We flushed 2 enormous Brown Fish Owls from a tree next to the footpath.

We took the rest of the day off for shopping and relaxing.


Santosh, our taxi driver took us to the airport for our Air2000 direct flight back to Gatwick, 10 hours, 20 minutes. We overflew Dubai seeing the famous sail shaped hotel from the air.

An excellent trip, 268 species of bird in 2 weeks for only £750 in total.

Checklist  of birds  seen by S.H. in Goa, India

Little Grebe
Red necked Grebe
Oriental Darter
Little Cormorant
Indian Cormorant
Little Egret
Intermediate Egret
Great Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Cattle Egret
Indian pond heron
Striated Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Cinnamon Bittern
Asian Openbill
Woolly-necked Stork
Sacred (Black-headed) Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Lesser Whistling Duck
Comb duck
Cotton Pygmy Goose
Western Reef Heron
Northen Pintail
Oriental Honey-buzzard
Black Kite
Brahminy Kite
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Indian White-backed Vulture
Long-billed Vulture
Crested Serpent-eagle
Marsh Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Indian Black Eagle
Spotted Eagle
Lesser spotted Eagle
Tawny Eagle
Booted Eagle
Rufous-bellied Eagle
Changeable Hawk-eagle
Common Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Barred Button Quail
Red Spurfowl
Grey Junglefowl
Common Peafowl
White-breasted Waterhen
Ruddy-breasted Crake
Slatey breasted Rail
Spotted Crake
Ballions Crake
Common Moorhen
Purple Gallinule
Common Coot
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Bronze-winged Jacana
Greater Painted-snipe
Black-winged Stilt
Small Pratincole
Pacific Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Lesser Sand PLover
Greater Sand Plover
Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Red-wattled Lapwing
Pintail Snipe
Common Snipe
Eurasian Curlew
Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Little Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Great Black-headed Gull
Yellow legged Herring Gull
Brown-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Great Crested Tern
Sandwich Tern
Little Tern
Rock Dove
Spotted Dove
Pompadour Green Pigeon
Mountain Imperial Pigeon
Nilgiri Woodpigeon
Vernal Hanging Parrot
Ring-necked Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet
Malabar Parakeet
Common Hawk-cuckoo
Banded Bay Cuckoo
Asian Koel
Greater Coucal
Oriental Scops Owl (heard only)
Brown Hawk Owl
Brown Wood Owl
Brown Fish Owl
Jungle Owlet
Spotted Owlet
Indian Nightjar
Grey Nightjar
Jerdon's Nightjar
Sri-Lanka Frogmouth
Crested Treeswift
Indian Swiftlet
White-rumped needletail
Asian Palm Swift
Alpine Swift
House Swift
Malabar Trogon
common Kingfisher
Blue-eared Kingfisher
Stork-billed Kingfisher
White-breasted Kingfisher
Black-capped Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Little Green Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Blue cheeked Bee-eater
Indian Roller
Malabar Grey Hornbill
Malabar Pied Hornbill
Brown-headed Barbet
White-cheeked Barbet
Crimson-fronted Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Rufous Woodpecker
White-bellied Woodpecker
Black-rumped Flameback
Greater Flameback
Heart-spotted Woodpecker
Indian Pitta
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark
Asian Short toed Lark
Malabar Crested Lark
Oriental Skylark
Rufous-tailed Lark
Barn Swallow
Wire-tailed Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Streak-throated Swallow
Richard's Pipit
Paddyfield Pipit
Blyth's Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Tree Pipit
White-browed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Large Cuckooshrike
Black-headed Cuckooshrike
Small Minivet
Scarlet Minivet
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Grey-headed Bulbul
Black-crested Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
White-browed Bulbul
Yellow-browed Bulbul
Common Iora
Asian Fairy-bluebird
Blue-winged Leafbird
Golden-fronted Leafbird
Oriental Magpie-robin
White-rumped Shama
Pied Stonechat
Indian Robin
Blue-capped Rock-thrush
Orange-headed Thrush
Malabar Whistling Thrush
Eurasian (Nilgiri) Blackbird
Grey-breasted Prinia
Ashy Prinia
Fan tailed Warbler
Plain Prinia
Paddyfield Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Sykes (Booted) Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Greenish Warbler
Western Crowned Warbler
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Red-throated Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
White-bellied Blue-flycatcher
Tickell's Blue-flycatcher
White-throated Fantail
Black-naped Monarch
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Puff-throated Babbler
Tawny-bellied Babbler
Dark-fronted Babbler
Jungle Babbler
Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
Black-lored Tit
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Thick-billed Flowerpecker
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Plain Flowerpecker
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Crimson-backed Sunbird
Purple Sunbird
Loten's Sunbird
Little Spiderhunter
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Black-hooded Oriole
Large Woodshrike
Common Woodshrike
Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
White-bellied Drongo
Bronzed Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Rufous Treepie
House Crow
Large-billed Crow
Ashy Woodswallow
Chestnut-tailed Starling
Brahminy Starling
Rose-coloured Starling
Common Myna
Jungle Myna
House Sparrow
Yellow-throated Sparrow
Baya Weaver
White-rumped Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
Black-headed Munia
Common Rosefinch
Black headed Bunting
Red headed Bunting

268 species


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