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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

Goa - India - Feb 2000,

Jan Vermeulen

CONTENTS

General Information
References
Itinerary (summary)

Sites
* Backwoods Camp
* Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
* Molem Wildlife Sanctuary
* Baga
* Saligao Zor
* Morjim Beach
* Fort Aguada Marsh
* Maem Lake
* Carambolim Lake
* Panjim Saltpans
* Dona Paula
* Chorao Island
* Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary

Daily Log
Systematic List of Birds
Systematic List of Mammals

GENERALINFORMATION

This trip report records the birds seen on a two weeks trip in February 2000 to the state of Goa in India.

I was accompanied by Vital & Riet van Gorp, Eric Wille and my girlfriend Willemien van Ginneken

The former Portuguese colony of Goa is now a major packing holiday destination and a good tourist infrastructure exists.

This tiny province on India's west coast is wonderful for a laid back introduction to Indian birding and boasts an impressive array of habitats and consequently of birds. It has excellent wetland (paddies, marshes, mangroves, mud flats), scrub and dry grassland habitats as well as good forest sanctuaries in the nearby Western Ghats to explore.

Sure enough we found birds galore almost at every turn. Many are widespread Indian species such as Rose‑ringed and Plum‑headed Parakeets and Coppersmith Barbets. Some, such as Lesser Adjutant, Indian Pitta, Black‑capped Kingfisher and Banded Bay Cuckoo, are scarce or difficult to see elsewhere in the subcontinent.

Goa offers also much for those interested in Western Palearctic birds such as a variety of Phylloscopus warblers, raptors, gulls, waders and pipits.

Goa supports 14 of the 24 southern Indian endemics and 9 of the 17 species, which only occur in southern India and Sri Lanka.

Indian endemics:

Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl, Nilgiri Wood‑Pigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White‑cheeked Barbet, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher, White‑bellied Blue‑Flycatcher, Grey‑headed Bulbul, Rufous Babbler, Malabar Lark and Crimson‑backed Sunbird.

FLIGHT AND VISA

The easiest way to get to Goa is to book a package holiday. We flew with Martinair on a typical charter flight. We travelled to India via Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi (Emirates). The flying time was roughly six and a half-hours to Abu Dhabi, a 75 minutes stop and then three hours on to Goa. Our package holiday cost us 750 US$

The time difference with the Netherlands was four and a half-hour. You do need a visa for India, currently about 30 US$.

I applied for one at the consulate in The Hague.

MONEY

The official currency of India is the rupee. Take travelling cheques with you or cash, but don't bother cashing any at the airport, as you will delay the transfer to your hotel. The exchange rate at the hotel was 4250 Rs to US$100.

ACCOMMODATION

Along the coast there are many hotels and the standard of these hotels is generally quite good. If booking a package, a room only arrangement gives more flexibility.

I would recommend staying at one of the following northern and central resorts - Baga, Calangute, Candolim, Aguada or Dona Paula. We stayed at the Seaside rendezvous Hotel at the beachside village Candolim, a few kilometres south of Baga.

Most (English) birders on a package tour stay at Baga, probably the best place to stay, certainly for anyone who wishes to do most of their birding on foot.

FOOD AND DRINK

Many birdwatchers rule out third world destinations as options for holidays fearing strange food, language barriers, sickness, bugs, galore and intense heat. They needn't have any such reservations about Goa however.

Bottled mineral water is widely available, stick to this and bottled soft drinks or Kingfisher beer (630cl).

The food, Western, Chinese, and Thai, as well as Indian, of course, is excellent and of a high standard with the fresh seafood particularly outstanding. Very few tourists report any illness in Goa.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Theft is really not a problem in Goa unless you are careless. The people in Goa are very friendly, easy going and helpful.

They smile and greet you and almost without exception respond to a greeting or smile. They have no objection to birdwatchers on their land, just don't trample crops and treat their land with respect.

For vaccinations consult your own doctor for up to date advice. Generally you should be immunised or "topped up" against hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio. In addition to this you are recommended to take Malaria tablets.

We did not suffer much from the mosquitoes, only in our hotel rooms were sometimes a few mosquitoes.

Ticks were numerous in long grass. For visitors sensitive to insect bites, it is advisable to bring antihistamine cream or tablets.

LANGUAGE

English is a widespread lingua franca and the first language for many educated people. Nearly everywhere English will get you through.

ANNOYANCES

Stall sellers get a bit wearing with their "come to see my stall" calls, but do respond to banter and can be bargained down considerably if you want to buy.

There is no easy answer to the question of whether one gives to beggars or not, but you should be aware however that if you give to one person, others will come running up.

WEATHER

Goa is hot and humid from March to June. Most birders visit Goa between November and March, which is the dry season.

When we were in Goa, it didn't rain at all and it was warm, around 30 º C. The heat you'd expect at this latitude is moderated enormously by the cool breezes from the Indian Ocean. Towards the end of the trip it started to become a little humid, but it was not oppressively.

It is best to do as much birding in the early morning and evening as possible as many species are less active in the heat of the day.

EQUIPMENT

A small tape recorder and the bird call sets of certain South Indian birds by Krys Kazmierczak can be useful for drawing in birds. A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides. Photography is NOT difficult, as birds are easy to approach and light conditions are good.

TRANSPORT AND ROADS

Road conditions in Goa vary, but are generally good, though barely wide enough for passing cows, goats and wandering people. Taxis are easily found and can be pests. The taxis have a queuing system, which they tend to stick to. Most taxi drivers speak reasonable English and will stop anywhere for you to look at birds.

We used all the time a taxi parked at the Beira Mar Hotel in Baga with a Sunbird sticker on the car. The driver knew all the best birding places, as he is a taxi driver for Paul Holt's Sunbirder trips to Goa every year. When the women accompanied us we used a second taxi.

The rate for Bondla and Molem was 1200 Rs, but they stayed all day with you and on the way back we made some off-route stops. The driving is entertaining unless you are the nervous type. Drivers use the horn the entire time even when the road is empty. The custom seems to be hoot and let the world know you are there. We had no problems during our trips and had just one flat tyre. Cows are everywhere as are dogs and scooters.

NOMENCLATURE & TAXONOMY

I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (Birds of the World, A Check List).

COMMON BIRDSPECIES

The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:

Little Cormorant, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond-Heron, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Western Marsh-Harrier, Shikra, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Red-wattled Lapwing, Spotted Dove, Asian Koel, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, House Crow, Large‑billed Crow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden-Oriole, Long-tailed Shrike, Orange-headed Thrush, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Greenish Warbler, House Sparrow, White-rumped Munia, Oriental Pipit, Baya Weaver, Purple‑rumped Sunbird and Crimson-backed Sunbird.

For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many thanks to Jon Hornbuckle for providing tapes of South Indian bird calls.

REFERENCES

BOOKS

-       Salim Ali & Dillon Ripley. A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
-       James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List.
-       B. Grewal. A Photographic Guide to Birds of India and Nepal.
-       Ronald Grimmett, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp.Birds of the Indian subcontinent
-       Krys Kazmierczak & Raj Singh. A Birdwatcher's Guide to India.
-       Michael Walters. Complete Checklist. Vogels van de Wereld.
-       Nigel Wheatley. Where to watch birds in Asia.

The reference used was "Birds of the Indian subcontinent" "by Grimmett et al which covers all birds in the area and which is very good. Krys Kazmierczak's " A Birdwatcher's Guide to India" is very useful at the planning stage.

REPORTS AND ARTICLES

-               Mark Beevers. Goa Birding Trip. 5th - 19th February 1999.
-               Mark & Sandra Dennis. Goa, November 29th - December 19th 1999.
-               Tony Forster. Goa, March 14th - 28th 1994.
-               Peter Harris. Goa, The Independent Birders' Guide.
-               John and Janette Martin. A Birding trip to Goa Southern India, 4 - 20 December 1994.
-               Paul Willoughby. Goa, A Birders Guide.

Peter Harris' guide is an excellent guide to all the bird sites, with additional information from the report by Mark Beevers.

SOFTWARE

BIRDBASE& BIRDAREA

I use this software to keep track of the birds I have seen and to make lists of any country, labelling endemics and birds previously seen in that country, outside it, or both. BirdArea can produce checklists of the birds of any country of Clements' world birds.

ITINERARY

Our itinerary involved day trips out with the exception of a one night, two-day trip to Backwoods Camp.

February 4       Chaam * Amsterdam * Abu Dhabi
February 5       Abu Dhabi * Goa * Candolim * Aguada
February 6       Baga (Hill & Paddyfields)
February 7       Maem Lake * Chorao Island * Aguada
February 8       Carambolim Lake area
February 9       Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
February 10     Saligao Zor * Baga * Morjim Beach
February 11     Dona Paula * Panjim Saltpans * Savelm Lake * Aguada
February 12     Molem Wildlife Sanctuary
February 13     Baga (Hill & Paddyfields)
February 14     Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
February 15     Boat trip at Baga * Baga (Hill, Paddyfields & Forest)
February 16     Backwoods Camp
February 17     Backwoods Camp
February 18     Baga Forest
February 19     Goa * Abu Dhabi * Amsterdam * Chaam

Peter Harris' guide is an excellent and essential guide to all the bird sites. So the notes on the sites are only an update.

All sites and stake-outs in this report are well known to the taxi drivers in Baga, especially at the Beira Mar hotel in Baga.

THE SITES

BACKWOODS CAMP

The birding experience in Goa nowadays. Backwoods is a tented camp quite near to Tambdi Surla Temple on the fringe of Molem Wildlife Sanctuary. The camp consists of 6 tents, each with flush toilets, wash basins and cold showers. The tents also have an electric fan and a dim light and the beds are good, but do take a blanket (from your hotel), because during the night just a sheet is not enough. The camp has a campfire area and a covered dining area.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided as part of the package. The food was excellent and mainly vegetarian. At the camp there is a range of soft drinks, bottled mineral water and most importantly cold beer.

I found out about the camp, while I was in the plane reading Mark Beevers' report. When I was in Goa I contacted Leio at Panaji (also called Panjim) at the Backwoods office and managed to set up our trip to the camp quite easily, but only for one night, as the two night excursions already were fully booked.

The package included guided birding in the forest. On the first day we had two guided walks, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon in the forest and to the Tambdi Surla Temple area. On the second day we had two guided morning walks

During our visit we were led by Loven Pereira, an excellent birder. His knowledge of local birds was very good and he had a number of species staked out amongst them a pair of Ceylon Frogmouths.

We visited the nearby Tambdi Surla Temple once at dusk. The temple itself is worthwhile a look as it is the only surviving example of architecture from the Kadamba dynasty dating back to the thirteenth century. The birding at the temple was quite good as it is surrounded by forest, which is viewable from the temple clearing. The temple is a very good place to see Imperial Mountain‑Pigeon, Great Hornbill, Indian Pitta, Jerdon's Nightjar and Jungle Nightjar.

We went to the camp on the 12th day of our trip after we had already visited Bondla and Molem and in these two days we added no less than 19 species to our trip list!

The cost for the two day excursion (one night at the camp) is 1500 Rs per person. It is excellent value and well worth going to. You are collected from your hotel very early in the morning (5.30), spend two days up jungle and then dropped off back at your hotel late on the afternoon on the second day. The cost for a three day excursion is 2800 Rs per person.

The guides are: Zupeleio De Souza (Leio), Pramod Madkaikar and Loven Pereira (our guide)

Address:              

Backwoods
E- 499, Travasso De Cruz,
31st January Road
St. Tome
Panjim Goa
Tel:         0091 - 832 -  436109
Fax:         0091 - 832 - 224904
E-mail:    Loven@goa1.dot.net.in

Surlawoods@hotmail.com

Birds seen here during our trip:

Crested Serpent-Eagle, Shikra, Besra, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Grey Junglefowl, Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Malabar Parakeet, Common Hawk‑Cuckoo, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Oriental Scops-Owl, Jungle Owlet, Brown Wood‑Owl, Ceylon Frogmouth, Jungle Nightjar, Jerdon's Nightjar, Crested Treeswift, Indian Swiftlet, White-rumped Needletail, Malabar Trogon, White‑throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar PiedHornbill, Great Hornbill, Brown‑headed Barbet, White‑cheeked Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Black‑rumped Flameback, Heartspotted Woodpecker, Indian Pitta, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Black‑naped Monarch, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Greater Racket‑tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Ashy Woodswallow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Asian Fairy‑Bluebird, Golden‑fronted Leafbird, Brown Shrike, Long‑tailed Shrike, Common Woodshrike, Malabar Whistling‑Thrush, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown‑breasted Flycatcher, Red‑breasted Flycatcher, Whitebellied BlueFlycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, White‑rumped Shama, Common Stonechat, Velvet‑fronted Nuthatch, Red‑rumped Swallow, Greyheaded Bulbul, Black‑crested Bulbul, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Yellow‑browed Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, Western Crowned‑Warbler, Dark‑fronted Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Malabar Lark, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia, White‑rumped Munia, Forest Wagtail, White‑browed Wagtail, Oriental Pipit, Tawny Pipit, Baya Weaver, Thick‑billed Flowerpecker, Plain Flowerpecker, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird, Little Spiderhunter.

Other birds that can be seen:

Red Spurfowl, Nilgiri WoodPigeon, Spotbellied EagleOwl, Brown Fish‑Owl, Blackbacked Kingfisher, Blue‑bearded Bee‑eater, Chestnut‑headed Bee‑eater, Speckled Piculet, Brown‑capped Woodpecker, Yellow‑crowned Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, White‑bellied Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Spangletailed Drongo, Large Cuckoo‑Shrike, Ashy Minivet, Large Woodshrike, Blue‑capped Rock‑Thrush, Indian Grey (Tickell's) Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Large‑billed Leaf‑Warbler.

As can be seen from the above list the camp area offers similar species to Bondla and Molem.

NOTE:

The birding at Backwoods Camp is so good, that in my opinion it is not necessary to visit Bondla or Molem as the camp area offers similar species, that can be seen more easily here!

BONDLA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

Bondla is an excellent small sanctuary situated at the foot of the Western Ghats, about 10km east of Ponda and about 1½ hours drive from our hotel in Candolim. The habitat is largely mixed forest in gently undulating terrain.

Although small (8 km square), Bondla is quite popular with tourists - both foreign and Indian, who come here mainly to visit the zoo and to a lesser degree the botanical gardens and the deer safari park. However, since most of these tourists do not arrive until the late morning and rarely venture away from the main tourists zones it is still possible to birdwatch without too much disturbance.

An early start is essential - not only to beat the crowds but also as this is the time when the birds are at their most active.

This either means leaving your resort along the coast very early in the morning, or staying overnight at Bondla itself, or somewhat close by.

Some of the best birdwatching in the park lies along the approach road within about 2-3km of the park entrance. It is definitely worth walking the 3km from the lower barrier to rejoin your taxi at the park reception.

Note that the sanctuary - but not the accommodation, nor the restaurant - is closed on Thursdays. As much of the best birdwatching lies along the approach road from Gangem this should not necessarily deter visitors.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Shikra, Besra, Black Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Grey Junglefowl, Spotted Dove, Emerald Dove, Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Greater Coucal, Crested Treeswift, Indian Swiftlet, White-rumped Needletail, White-throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Chestnut‑headed Bee‑eater, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White‑cheeked Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Brown‑capped Woodpecker, Black‑rumped Flameback, Greater Flameback, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Black‑naped Monarch, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, Ashy Drongo, White‑bellied Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Greater Racket‑tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Bar‑winged Flycatcher‑Shrike, Blue‑winged Leafbird, Golden‑fronted Leafbird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Large Woodshrike, Blue‑capped Rock‑Thrush, Malabar Whistling‑Thrush, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Brown‑breasted Flycatcher, Whitebellied BlueFlycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, White‑rumped Shama, Velvet‑fronted Nuthatch, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Red‑rumped Swallow, Black‑crested Bulbul, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Yellow‑browed Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Inornate Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Western Crowned‑Warbler, Puff‑throated Babbler, Indian ScimitarBabbler, Dark‑fronted Babbler, Rufous Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia, White‑rumped Munia, Forest Wagtail, White‑browed Wagtail, Baya Weaver, Thick‑billed Flowerpecker, Plain Flowerpecker, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Crested Goshawk, Red Spurfowl, Common Peafowl, Nilgiri WoodPigeon, Grey‑bellied Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Black‑backed Kingfisher, Malabar Trogon, Brown‑headed Barbet, Heartspotted Woodpecker, Hair‑crested Drongo, Common Rosefinch.


MOLEM WILDLIFE SANCTUARY (BHAGWAN MAHAVIR NATIONAL PARK)
Molem is a small junction town on the NH4A at the edge of this reserve. There is no accommodation in Molem village and you have to stay in a hotel at Ponda or in a room at the so-called tourist complex at the park.

A particularly productive track begins immediately to the north of the tourist complex; it leads to Devil's Canyon after about 7km and on to Dudh Sagar Waterfalls after a further 10km. We made a day trip to Molem and spent nearly all day at this Devil's Canyon Track. You don't have to go far however to see good birds - the forest immediately behind the tourist complex is among the best in the reserve and a walk along the dirt road for only 3 - 4km and back can produce an impressive array of birdspecies.

Another area worth of investigation is along the track leading from the old entrance to the wildlife sanctuary. This starts on the right-hand side of the NH4, about 2km north of the tourist complex and is marked by a large sign and archway. A walk of about 1km or so down here can be productive, as can time spent around the bridge. The trail on the left-hand side of the highway another ½km or so away from the tourist complex is another good area.

The bird life is essentially similar to that at Bondla but the forests are more extensive and somewhat drier.

As with Bondla it is important to arrive at Molem early, temperatures rise quite quickly, even in the 'winter' and many birds become less active and more difficult to find later in the day. Mid‑day can be rather quiet ornithologically though things usually improve again by mid‑afternoon.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Oriental Honey‑buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Shikra, Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Trogon, White-throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Lesser Yellownape, Black‑rumped Flameback, Brown‑capped Woodpecker, Black‑naped Monarch, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Greater Racket‑tailed Drongo, Rufous Treepie, Large-billed Crow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Large Cuckoo‑Shrike, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Asian Fairy‑Bluebird, Blue‑winged Leafbird, Golden‑fronted Leafbird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Large Woodshrike, Common Woodshrike, Blue‑capped Rock‑Thrush, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown‑breasted Flycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, White‑rumped Shama, Chestnutbellied Nuthatch, Velvet‑fronted Nuthatch, Red‑rumped Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Yellow‑browed Bulbul, Greenish Warbler, Western Crowned‑Warbler, Puff‑throated Babbler, Dark‑fronted Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia, White‑rumped Munia, Grey Wagtail, Baya Weaver, Thick‑billed Flowerpecker, Pale Flowerpecker, Plain Flowerpecker, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl, Indian Peafowl, Black Eagle, Crested Serpent‑Eagle, Emerald Dove, Nilgiri Wood‑Pigeon, Blue‑eared Kingfisher, Black‑backed Kingfisher, Common Hawk-Cuckoo, Grey‑bellied Cuckoo, Common and Greater Flameback, Drongo Cuckoo, Crested Treeswift, Brown‑headed Barbet, Heart‑spotted Woodpecker, Hair‑crested Drongo, Rusty‑tailed & Ultramarine Flycatcher, Grey‑headed Bulbul, Little Spiderhunter, Common Rosefinch, Black‑headed Bunting.
BAGA

Baga offers the best doorstep birdwatching of any of the coastal settlements in Goa. Like most of the coastal areas in Goa, Baga is a bustling, busy and somewhat chaotic, typically Indian tourist resort. Lying in the lee of a small rocky, wooded headland it boasts a beach as well as numerous hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. A small river, the Baga, flows into the sea at the northern end of the village. This currently marks the northern-most limit of mass tourism in Goa. North of there are few areas of commercialisation, fewer tourists and markedly quieter beaches.

Birding trips to nearby areas are quite easy to arrange with local minicab drivers from outside of the Hotel Beira Mar, where we found most package-tour birders were staying. A visit to this hotel is a must in late afternoon as one can set-up ones  'scope, have a beer, tell other birders what they have missed and see Greater PaintedSnipe and Cinnamon Bittern at dusk along with a wealth of other species. From here we saw Crested Honey-Buzzard, Shikra, Laggar Falcon, Small Pratincole, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Indian Pitta, Black‑lored Tit, Black‑capped, Stork-billed, White-throated, Pied & Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark amongst many others

BAGA PADDYFIELDS/HOTEL BEIRA MAR AREA

The dry arable fields between the river and Cavala hotels. There is no problem with access anywhere but a few of the fields have crops in them and care should be taken not to upset the locals. There is no obvious strategy for working the fields - simply walk randomly through as many of them as possible.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond‑Heron, Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Cinnamon Bittern, Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Western Marsh‑Harrier, Shikra, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Kestrel, Laggar Falcon, Spotted Dove, White‑breasted Waterhen, Greater PaintedSnipe, Pintail Snipe, Common Snipe, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Small Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Red‑wattled Lapwing, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Rose‑ringed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Indian Swiftlet, Asian Palm‑Swift, Little Swift, Common Kingfisher, Stork‑billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Black‑capped Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Blue‑tailed Bee‑eater, Indian Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, White‑cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Eurasian Wryneck, Indian Pitta, Fork‑tailed Drongo, House Crow, Large‑billed Crow, Ashy Woodswallow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Long‑tailed Shrike, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Brahminy Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Common Stonechat, Red‑rumped Swallow, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Ashy Prinia, Paddyfield Warbler, Blyth's Reed‑Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Black‑lored Tit, Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark, Malabar Lark, White‑rumped Munia, Nutmerg Mannikin, White‑browed Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Oriental Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Blyth's Pipit, Tree Pipit, Olive‑backed Pipit, Purple‑rumped Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Yellow Bittern, Pallid Harrier, Amur Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Yellow‑wattled Lapwing, Red Turtle‑Dove, Alexandrine Parakeet, Spotted Owlet, Eurasian Roller, Black‑rumped Flameback, Clamorous Reed‑Warbler, Bay‑backed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Short‑toed Lark, Black‑headed Munia, Red‑headed Bunting, Black‑headed Bunting, Grey‑necked Bunting.

BAGA FOREST

A very good site north of Baga. From the Marinha Dourada Hotel at Baga turn right (in the opposite direction of Baga) and go up at the road junction, go left at the junction and then continue 800 metres until the road bends to the left. On the right hand side is a wooden 'goalpost' over a gap in a low broken wall, this is next to an obvious track. Follow the track down into a valley with forested hillsides. We saw many species here and it is certainly a better birding place than Baga Hill.

There are many tracks to explore, but follow the main one.

In this forest we found the nest sites of Brown Fish‑Owl and White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Shikra, Spotted Dove, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Brown FishOwl, Spotted Owlet, Indian Swiftlet, Little Swift, White-cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, White-throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Yellow‑crowned Woodpecker, Black‑rumped Flameback, Indian Pitta, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Black‑naped Monarch, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied Drongo, Rufous Treepie, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Blue‑winged Leafbird, Golden‑fronted Leafbird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Common Woodshrike, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Verditer Flycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Red‑rumped Swallow, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Greyheaded Bulbul, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Grey‑breasted Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, Puff‑throated Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Black‑lored Tit, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia, White‑rumped Munia, Tree Pipit, Thick‑billed Flowerpecker, Plain Flowerpecker, Pale‑billed Flowerpecker, Purple‑rumped Sunbird, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Red Spurfowl, Mountain ImperialPigeon, Bluefaced Malkoha. Banded Bay Cuckoo, Rufous Woodpecker, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red‑throated Flycatcher and Crimson Sunbird.

BAGA HILL

Cross the Baga River by the covered concrete bridge next to the Riverside Hotel and turn left. The road peters out soon after 'Nani's and Rani's' restaurant and a narrow path then follows the rocky headland north and can be worth walking for about one kilometre.

There are at least 4 ways up on to the hill. The first, the best, can be found just past the bridge over the Baga River. There is a building under construction on the right and the path is just before Hilda's Beauty Parlour and the Divine Guest House.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Shikra, Spotted Dove, Indian Swiftlet, Little Swift, White-cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, White-throated Kingfisher, Green & Blue‑tailed Bee-eater, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Rufous Woodpecker, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Black‑naped Monarch, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied & Ashy Drongo, Rufous Treepie, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Blue‑winged Leafbird, Golden‑fronted Leafbird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Common Woodshrike, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Red‑rumped Swallow, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Grey‑breasted Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, Puff‑throated Babbler, Tawnybellied Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Black‑lored Tit, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia, White‑rumped Munia, Tree Pipit, Pale‑billed Flowerpecker, Plain Flowerpecker, Pale‑billed Flowerpecker, Purple‑rumped Sunbird, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Red Spurfowl, Mountain Imperial‑Pigeon, Bluefaced Malkoha. Banded Bay Cuckoo, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Red‑breasted Flycatcher.

SALIGAO ZOR
Only 15 minutes from Baga/Candolim Saligao village has a small area of mature woodland. This site is the stake‑out for Brown Wood‑Owl. Although there are no more species here that cannot be found more easily further inland, Saligao can provide an hour or two of rewarding birding. It is best visited early in the morning or late in the evening.

Ask the taxi driver to take you to the village spring or well. The mature trees immediately around the well regularly hold flycatchers including Verditer and the occasional Brown‑breasted. Malabar WhistlingThrush is regularly seen on the dry stream bed above the well.

Also worthwhile investigating is the large scrubby open area above the well. A steep track to the left of the well leads to this area.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Shikra, Indian Peafowl, Spotted Dove, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Koel, Greater Coucal, Brown Wood‑Owl, Stork‑billed Kingfisher, Blue‑tailed Bee-eater, White‑cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Spot‑breasted Fantail, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, White‑bellied Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Lesser Whitethroat, Long‑tailed Shrike, Orange‑headed Thrush, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Jungle Myna, Brown‑breasted Flycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Common Stonechat, Pied Bushchat, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Red‑rumped Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Common Tailorbird, Grey‑breasted Prinia, Greenish Warbler, Jungle Babbler,  Baya Weaver, Crimson‑backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Malabar WhistlingThrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Whitebellied BlueFlycatcher, Puff‑throated Babbler, Black Redstart, Oriental Skylark, White‑browed Bulbul.


MORJIM BEACH

This site is at the mouth of the Chapora Estuary, 5km north of Baga. and supports waders and gulls. Get there by taxi (half an hour) via the regularly ferry across the river at Siolim. It is then possible to drive west along the northern shore down to the river mouth. The best birdwatching is often had on low tide when several extensive sand banks become exposed in mid-channel.

The best area is on the northern beach of the river mouth at Morjim Beach where there is a large high tide roost.

We visited the site late one afternoon at high tide.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Small Pratincole, Snowy Plover, Mongolian Plover, Greater Sandplover, Herring Gull, Yellow‑legged Gull, Gull‑billed Tern, Indian Swiftlet and Eurasian Hoopoe.

Other birds that can be seen:

Western Reef‑Egret, Osprey, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Black‑bellied Plover, Crab Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Great Black‑headed Gull, Slender‑billed Gull, Black‑headed Gull, Brown‑headed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Caspian Tern, Whitecheeked Tern, Lesser & Greater Crested‑Tern.

FORT AGUADA MARSH

Fort Aguada, 8 km south of Baga, a prominent landmark on the northern mark of the Mandori River, is the largest and best preserved Portuguese bastion in Goa. The beaches immediately to its north are private, reserved for guests of the five-star Fort Aguada Beach Resort and Taj Holiday Village hotels. Immediately inland from these complexes and sandwiched between the road and a large tributary of the Mandovi river there is a small but productive area of marsh and mangrove swamp.

The whole area, particularly the canal footpath is good for herons, egrets and shorebirds. Access to the marshes can be difficult depending on the rains.

Canal footpath: a path runs along the top of the embankment between the 'canal' and the large tributary. It starts from besides a two metre high white cross on the left hand side of the road about 400 metres after the turning to the Fort Aguada Resort. Initially there is a steep scramble over some rocks but after the path is good and offers an excellent vantage over the tributary and much of the mangroves. Specialities here include shorebirds and Black‑capped Kingfisher and Spot‑breasted Fantail in the mangroves.

The 200 metres long damp gully besides the drive-way to the Fort Aguada Beach resort is often used as a toilet by the locals and is one of the least savoury sites in the area, but it is frequently good for birds and is the stake-out for the Indian Pitta.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Little Cormorant, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond‑Heron, Striated Heron, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Western Marsh‑Harrier, Shikra, White‑eyed Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, White‑breasted Waterhen, Pintail Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Red‑wattled Lapwing, Spotted Dove, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Common Kingfisher, White‑throated Kingfisher, Green Bee‑eater, White‑cheeked Barbet, Indian Pitta, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, Fork‑tailed Drongo, House Crow, Rufous Treepie, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Asian FairyBluebird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Orange‑headed Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Rosy Starling, Common Mynah, Jungle Mynah, Red‑breasted Flycatcher, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Pied Bushchat, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Streak‑throated Swallow, Red‑vented Bulbul, White‑browed Bulbul, Greenish Warbler, Tawnybellied Babbler, White-rumped Munia, Baya Weaver, Purple‑rumped Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Watercock, Small Pratincole, Temminck's & Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Broad‑billed Sandpiper, Black‑Capped Kingfisher, Greybreasted (Whitebreasted) Laughingthrush, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Clamorous Reed‑Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler.


MAEM LAKE

Another site which our driver knew well. Maem Lake, 35km north-east of Panjim, is a popular tourist destination for day trips. This is a well known stake out for Brown Fish‑Owl and the taxi drivers know where it is. The lake is often thronged with local and tourist day trippers and picnickers. Maem Lake has not many waterbirds, but is surrounded by low tree‑covered hills and these can be worthy of exploration. The lakeside track past the chalets is rather overgrown but not impassable. This track, which runs from the tourist chalets through the forest on the southern edge of the lake, can be recommended.

There are usually some food and drink stalls near the tourist chalets, but visitors would be well advised to take their own food.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Black-crowned Night‑Heron, Striated Heron, Crested Serpent‑Eagle, Changeable Hawk‑Eagle, Red Spurfowl, Spotted Dove, Pompadour Green‑Pigeon, Plum‑headed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Blue‑faced Malkoha, Brown Fish‑Owl, Crested Treeswift, Common Kingfisher, White‑throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, White‑cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Whitenaped Woodpecker, Asian Paradise‑Flycatcher, Fork‑tailed Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, White‑bellied Drongo, Common Iora, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Black‑hooded Oriole, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Bar‑winged Flycatcher‑Shrike, Asian Fairy‑Bluebird, Blue‑winged Leafbird, Long‑tailed Shrike, Blue‑capped Rock‑Thrush, Orange‑headed Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird (Nilgiri Blackbird), Jungle Myna, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red‑rumped Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Grey‑breasted Prinia, Greenish Warbler, Large‑billed Leaf‑Warbler, Booted Warbler, Blyth's Reed‑Warbler, Puff‑throated Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, White‑rumped Munia, Baya Weaver, Crimson‑backed, Purple‑rumped Sunbird, Long‑billed Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Indian Peafowl, Malabar Pied‑Hornbill, Little Spiderhunter.

 

CARAMBOLIM LAKE

Just east of the town of 'Old Goa' Carambolim Lake is lily-covered and has an enormous amount of waterfowl, many egrets and herons in the centre, Purple Swamphen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana and thousands of Garganey, Northern Pintail, Green‑winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and exotics such as Comb Duck and Cotton Pygmy-goose. Raptors such as Marsh Harrier and White-bellied Sea-Eagle flush these frequently so things are never too static. In the surrounding area we came across Greater Coucal, Jungle Babbler, Rock Bush‑Quail, Indian Robin and about 2-3kms away through Carambolim village we caught up with the unusual 'saxicola' species that is regularly sought and currently thought to be White‑browed (Stoliczka's) Bush-Chat (a Red-Data listed species). The area south of the main village is good for raptors.

This site can be easily combined with a visit to Chorao Island and the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, Lesser Whistling‑Duck, Comb Duck, Cotton Pygmy‑Goose, Green‑winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Grey Heron, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Indian Pond‑Heron, Striated Heron, Asian Openbill, Woolly‑necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Osprey, Black‑shouldered Kite, Brahminy Kite, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Western Marsh‑Harrier, Shikra, Rock Bush‑Quail, White‑breasted Waterhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Pheasant‑tailed Jacana, Bronze‑winged Jacana, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Red‑wattled Lapwing, Brown‑headed Gull, Gull‑billed Tern, Lesser Crested‑Tern, Rose‑ringed & Plum‑headed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Common Kingfisher, White‑throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee‑eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, White‑cheeked Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Fork‑tailed Drongo, Eurasian Golden‑Oriole, Long‑tailed Shrike, Rufous Treepie, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Jungle Myna, Oriental Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red‑rumped Swallow, Red‑whiskered Bulbul, Red‑vented Bulbul, Ashy & Plain Prinia, Greenish Warbler, Clamorous Reed‑Warbler, White‑rumped Munia, Citrine & Yellow Wagtail, Baya Weaver, Purple‑rumped Sunbird.

Other birds that can be seen:

Indian Cormorant, Spot‑billed Duck, Red‑crested Pochard, Oriental Darter, Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Watercock, Marsh Sandpiper, Small Pratincole, Whiskered Tern, Stork‑billed Kingfisher, Blue‑tailed & Chestnut‑headed Kingfisher, White‑browed Bulbul, Blyth's Reed‑Warbler, Booted Warbler, Tree Pipit, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia.

CIBA CEIGY

We did not gain access to this factory and were treated very rude by the gate controllers. Without written permission no birders are allowed to visit the lake. If you do not gain access you will be limited to viewing from the second gate through a chain link fence, 200m along the road from the main gate.

PANJIM (PANAJI) SALTPANS

Located to the east of the two road bridges which cross the river Mandovi at Panaji and about 2km west of the Chorao Island ferry crossing at Ribander, the small marshy areas of mangrove and the pools here are worth a visit. There are a few tracks into the area from the road that follows the southern side of the Mandovi River and another that can be accessed by driving south from the bridges for about 300 metres and then turning east.

Birds seen here during our trip:

Little Cormorant, Great & Intermediate Egret, Indian Pond‑Heron, Striated Heron, Greater Spotted Eagle, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad‑billed Sandpiper, Black‑winged Stilt, Pacific Golden‑Plover, Black‑bellied Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Mongolian Plover, Greater Sandplover, Red‑wattled Lapwing, Pied Kingfisher.

Other birds that can be seen:

Slaty‑legged Crake, Short‑eared Owl, Blue‑eared Kingfisher, Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark, Clamorous Reed‑Warbler.

DONA PAULA

Located on the hammer-shaped headland between the Mandovi and Zuari river estuaries, Dona Paula is about 9km south-west of Panjim. The village is dominated by the five-star Cicade de Goa hotel and the University and has little character of its own. Several productive areas of dry grassland survive here. Most are worth checking as they often harbour species such as Yellow‑wattled Lapwing, Malabar Lark and Tawny Pipit that can be difficult to see elsewhere. One of the best grassland areas is almost immediately opposite the entrance to this hotel.

Birds seen during our trip:

Yellow‑wattled Lapwing, Spotted Dove, Spotted Owlet, Blue‑tailed Bee‑eater, Blue Rock‑Thrush, Indian Magpie‑Robin, Indian Robin, Pied Bushchat, Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark, Malabar Lark, Oriental Skylark, White‑browed Wagtail, Oriental Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Tree Pipit, Chestnut‑shouldered Petronia.

CHORAO ISLAND

This large island in the middle of the Mandovi River about 5km east of Panjim, was made into a reserve - The Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary - in 1987. We visited this site at the high tide and found not many birds, perhaps it is better on the rising tide.

We came on to the island from the north having been to Maem Lake beforehand, but the easiest way on is by the small ferry (which takes both cars and pedestrians) from Ribander on the south side of the Mandovi River.

There is also a small series of shrimp ponds about 500 metres away on the left-hand side of the road that leads directly north from this ferry crossing.

Birds seen here during the trip:

Little Cormorant, Northern Pintail, Little Egret, Western Reef‑Egret, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Indian Pond‑Heron, Striated Heron, Lesser Adjutant, Woolly‑necked Stork, Brahminy Kite, Tawny Eagle, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Brown‑headed Gull, Gull‑billed Tern, Greater Coucal, Blue‑tailed Bee‑eater, Dusky Crag‑Martin, Wire‑tailed Swallow, Ashy Prinia, White‑browed Wagtail, Richard's Pipit.

COTIGAO WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

A site we did not visit. This reserve is situated about 100km south of Baga on the southern edge of Goa. The taxi ride takes about 2½hours. As Cotigao is such a long way from Baga many birdwatchers have stayed overnight nearby. There is no accommodation and no food or drink available on site, but Chaudi and Palolem Beach are only about 15 minutes drive from the park entrance. Each resort has a couple of hotels and restaurants though the rooms are generally spartan but clean and the food is limited.

Cotigao is the only extensive area of lowland monsoon forest remaining in Goa, but despite having several specialities the reserve is generally less rewarding ornithologically than either Bondla or Molem.

Cotigao's specialities are Green Imperial‑Pigeon, Great Hornbill and Spangle‑tailed Drongo. All three of these species are almost unknown anywhere else in the state.

Other species include the same species as can be seen in Molem and Bondla.


DAILY LOG

Friday/Saturday 4th/5th February

Our trip started with a Martinair flight from Amsterdam via Abu Dhabi to Goa. On the final approach to Goa it did not seem possible that it had already been more than ten years since I had last been in India. We landed at Dabolim airport around 8.30 a.m. local time (4½ hours time difference with the Netherlands).

Dabolim airport was fairly quick to get through and the transfer by bus to the hotel in Candolim around 1½hours.

Having spent the first few hours at the hotel, a quick look around the hotel there produced White‑cheeked Barbet, White‑browed Wagtail, White‑browed Bulbul and Purple‑rumped Sunbird.

In the late afternoon we headed to Aguada for a first introduction of the birds of Goa. We made a stroll in the marshy area opposite the Taj Holiday Village. This open area held White‑eyed Buzzard, Pintail Snipe, Red‑wattled Lapwing, Alexandrine & Plum‑headed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Orange‑headed Thrush, Pied Bushchat, Greenish Warbler, Wire‑tailed Swallow and White‑rumped Munia to name but a few.

Sunday 6th February

After a refreshing night's sleep next morning found us at Baga. The first few hours we spent in the paddyfields between the village and the river. Quite a variety of bird frequented this area amongst them Pintail Snipe, Mongolian Plover, Green Bee‑eater, Wryneck, Chestnut‑tailed Starling, Brahminy Starling, Rosy Starling, Blyth's Reed‑Warbler, Malabar Lark, Oriental Pipit, Richards's Pipit, Blyth's Pipit, Tree Pipit and Baya Weaver whilst overhead we saw Brahminy Kite, Booted Eagle and Common Kestrel.

It was already noon when we arrived at Baga Hill. There was not much activity, but amongst the birds we saw were Spot‑breasted fantail, Brown Flycatcher, Common Iora, Small Minivet, the distinctive southern race of the Orange‑headed Thrush, Tawny‑bellied Babbler and Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta.

We had a late lunch at the Beira Mar Hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon till dusk near the swimming pool adding Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted‑Snipe, Small Pratincole, Greater Coucal, Ashy Woodswallow, Ashy Prinia, Black‑lored Tit and Scaly‑breasted Munia to our fast growing trip list.

Due to the local elections we could not buy beer or wine anywhere, real bad luck!

Monday 7th February

Maem Lake was our destination the following morning. We arrived at 7.00 and we immediately headed to the stake‑out for the Brown Fish Owl and did not find the birds in the large tree at the end of the lake. The only birds we saw in this tree were 2 Pompadour Green‑Pigeons. Disappointed we left the stake‑out and followed the trail at the other side of the lake and began to explore the excellent forest. We 'scoped Crested Serpent‑Eagle, Crested Treeswift, White‑cheeked Barbet, White‑Naped Woodpecker and Blue‑winged Leafbird before we saw the secretive Red Spurfowl walk across the track right in front of us. Luck was with us as a pair of Brown Fish‑Owls flew across the lake in a tree right in front of us and we were treated to superb views of this bird Vital and I had dipped so miserably in Ranthamhore NP in 1988.

While watching the owls we discovered at the top of a hill a fruiting tree and decided to spend a short time there. As it turned out we spent more than two hours under the tree and had excellent views of Black‑hooded Oriole, Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike, Asian Fairy‑Bluebird, Blue‑capped Rock‑Thrush, Orange‑headed Thrush, "Nilgiri" Blackbird, Brown‑cheeked Fulvetta, Bar‑winged Flycatcher‑Shrike and Long‑billed Sunbird.

Eventually we returned to the trail and added Large‑billed Leaf‑Warbler and Blue‑faced Malkoha, a difficult to find bird in Goa, to our list.

We had lunch at the restaurant near the entrance and then headed to Chorao Island. The island was a bit disappointing, as we did not see many waders as we were there at high tide. Amongst the birds we did see were Western Reef‑Egret, Lesser Adjutant, Woolly‑necked Stork, Dusky Crag Martin and a few waders.

At a shrimp pond near the ferry we counted more than 75 Brahminy Kites above the pond. They dived and dived and never failed to catch a shrimp. People who worked at the ponds did not seem to mind!

In the late afternoon we again headed to Fort Aguada and spent two hours at the site for the Pitta. The Pitta 'stake-out' is nothing short of an open-sewer, but we had excellent views of an incredibly obliging Indian Pitta hopping along the ground in front of us and we also saw Asian Fairy‑Bluebird and Tawny‑bellied Babbler and a soaring Peregrine Falcon overhead.

Tuesday 8th February

At 6.30 we headed to Carambolim Lake. The lake was a hive of activity and held a wealth of waterbirds amongst them Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Lesser Whistling‑Duck, Comb Duck, Cotton Pygmy‑Goose, Garganey, Purple Heron, Striated Heron, Pheasant‑tailed Jacana and Bronze‑winged Jacana.

We spent a few hours here and then headed to the nearby Carambolim Woods. En route we had good views of Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark and Malabar Lark. In the woods local people took us immediately to a pair of roosting Brown Hawk‑Owls and a pair of Spotted Owlets. Hereafter we drove to the "Chat" site and had good looks of the number one bird of the trip, White‑browed Bushchat. We were also fortunate to see Greater Spotted Eagle and Besra hunting over the area.

In the early afternoon we drove back to Carambolim Lake and had the good fortune of finding the very hard to find Rock Bush‑Quail under the bushes along the lake. Amongst the other interesting species we did see were Asian Openbill, Tawny Eagle, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle, Stork‑billed Kingfisher, Clamorous Reed‑Warbler and Citrine Wagtail.

The swimming pool at our hotel was a welcome relief from the heat and the dust and as we relaxed in the water Wire‑tailed and Red‑rumped Swallows skimmed past our heads.

Wednesday 9th February

We set off very early the following morning to the foothills of the Western Ghats. We arrived at 6.15 at Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, where we started our stroll at the lower barrier. We experienced a totally different range of birds here.

En route to the gate we encountered some very noisy Malabar Grey Hornbills, Black‑crested Bulbuls, a pair of Greater Flamebacks, Black‑naped Monarch, Tickell's Blue‑Flycatcher, Thick‑billed and Plain Flowerpecker and a few Crimson‑backed Sunbirds. A diligent check on swallows near the watertower produced Streak‑throated Swallow.

Near the main gate we encountered a large mixed-species flock including some birds that were new to the trip, amongst them Speckled Piculet, Velvet‑fronted Nuthatch, Scarlet Minivet, White‑rumped Shama and Dark‑fronted Babbler.

We had a break at the restaurant and then walked to the zoo. At the dry stream near the entrance of the zoo we had good views of our only Malabar Whistling Thrush of the trip, a single Brown‑breasted Flycatcher and Greater Racket‑tailed Drongo.

The zoo was very disappointing and most of the cages seemed empty.

In the mid-afternoon we made a stroll back along the approach road to the main gate. Near the small lake we saw two female Grey Junglefowls and also a few Chestnut‑headed Bee‑eaters.

The 'mammal' element of birding in this reserve was not altogether absent and we did see Hanuman Langur, Wild Boar, Indian Malabar Giant Squirrel and Indian Three‑Striped Palm Squirrel.

In the late afternoon we left Bondla and made a stop at the Merck meat factory. We hoped to see some vultures here, but the factory is closed now and the vultures were gone of course.

 

Thursday 10th February

The break of dawn found the five of us standing alongside the small spring at Saligao Zor, only 15 minutes driving from our hotel in Candolim. We hit the jackpot immediately - almost the first bird was our target bird  - Brown Wood‑Owl. We spent two hours in this small forest area around the spring and most noteworthy of the birds we did see were Common Peafowl, Asian Koel, Blue‑tailed Bee‑eater, a group of at least 15 Coppersmith Barbets in a fruiting tree, White‑bellied Drongo, Lesser Whitethroat, Indian Robin and Orange‑headed Thrush.

Then we headed to nearby Baga. Much of our time was spent checking and rechecking the well-known birding areas for new birds throughout the day, but we did not see any new ones.

We ended our day with a visit to Morjim Beach. Along the beach we saw a few gulls and a group of shorebirds amongst them Herring Gull, Yellow‑legged Gull, Brown‑headed Gull, Snowy Plover, Mongolian Plover and Greater Sand Plover.

On our way back to Baga we saw large numbers of Small Pratincoles when we were on the ferry.

Friday 11th February

Early next morning found us at the dry grassland area in Dona Paula. The stroll here provided some good birding including sights of Yellow‑wattled Lapwing, Spotted Owlet, Blue‑tailed Bee‑eater, Blue Rock‑Thrush, Ashy‑crowned Sparrow‑Lark, Malabar Lark, Oriental Skylark and Tawny Pipit.

Then we headed to the Panaji Saltpans and here were waders in abundance. We followed a track into the saltpans and carefully checking of the waders flocks produced Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad‑billed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden‑Plover and Black‑bellied Plover.

The small lily-covered nearby Savelm Lake did bring the same bird species as at Carambolim Lake with a Booted Warbler as a bonus. In the late afternoon we were again at Aguada to film the Indian Pitta at two metres.

Saturday 12th February

A very early start the following day ensured that we were by dawn at Molem. At 7.00 we were at the tourist complex and spent most of the day at the Devil's Canyon Track. The habitat was superb and this track was incredibly birdy and produced some excellent birds. Many of the species were of course the same ones as at Bondla. We encountered 'new' species and amongst them were a displaying Crested Goshawk, Vernal Hanging‑Parrot, telescope views of three endemic Malabar Parakeets in the same tree as a group of Plum‑headed Parakeets, Brown‑capped Woodpecker, Large Cuckoo‑Shrike, Large Woodshrike, Common Woodshrike, Chestnut‑bellied Nuthatch, Yellow‑browed Bulbul, Western Crowned‑Warbler and Pale‑billed Flowerpecker. We saw no less than 4 Malabar Trogons along this track, no doubt the highlight of the day.

En route back to Candolim we made a stop at Marchen Lake, only 3km from Panaji, but the birds seen here were the same ones seen as at Carambolim Lake.

Sunday 13th February

A very relaxed day at Baga today. In the early morning we again explored Baga Hill and highlight of the day was a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers, a lifer for all of us. We made a long stroll at the paddies, but did not find any new birds here.

The rest of the day we spent at the Beira Mar hotel admiring the ladies at the swimming pool and drinking beer.

Monday 14th February

A new morning drew us again to Bondla. At first light we were at the approach road. Overhead we watched soaring Oriental Honey‑Buzzard, Black Eagle and Changeable Hawk‑Eagle, while obliging Grey Junglefowl, Emerald Dove, Inornate Warbler and Large Woodshrike were found along the road, birds we had not seen on our previous visit. Best of all however was an Indian Scimitar‑Babbler, a difficult to find bird in Goa, which unfortunately only gave a tantalizingly brief glimpse to me.

At the restaurant area we had close encounters with a group of Rufous Babblers. We visited the zoo area again, but to no avail, as we did not see any interesting new birds. We left Bondla in the late afternoon

Tuesday 15th February

Today we made a boat trip. It was somewhat disappointing. At sea we noted Herring Gull, Brown‑headed Gull, Black‑headed Gull, Great Crested‑Tern and Lesser Crested‑Tern. The river trip was more a sight seeing trip than a birding trip.

On our way back to Baga we had good views of a group of Dolphins.

After an afternoon break we visited Baga Forest and spent a few hours on the narrow trails. The walk produced amongst others Brown Fish‑Owl on the nest, White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle on the nest, Yellow‑crowned Woodpecker Ashy Drongo, Common Woodshrike, Grey‑headed Bulbul and Crimson‑backed Sunbird.

In the "garden"of the Beira Mar hotel we had good views of Indian Pitta and Paddyfield Warbler, while closer to our hotel at Candolim we had good views of a hunting Peregrine Falcon.

Wednesday 16th February

At 5.30 we were picked up by the Backwoods bus and headed in the company of seven other birders to the camp, amongst them a few Belgian birders I had met at my house a few years ago. There was one emergency stop en route only a few kilometres before the camp when Eric spotted a group of Malabar Pied‑Hornbills and we all piled out panicking that we had missed the birds, but we needn't had to worry, because we had good 'scope views of these South Indian endemic birds.

The stop was very productive and other good birds in a nearby fruiting tree included Brown‑headed Barbet, Crimson‑fronted Barbet, Black‑hooded Oriole and Black‑headed Cuckoo‑Shrike.

At Backwoods we had a comfortable camp set up on the fringe of Molem. Our morning walk with our guide Loven was very good and new birds came quickly and amongst many others we saw Common Hawk‑Cuckoo, Jungle Owlet, Malabar Trogon, Heart‑spotted Woodpecker, White‑bellied Blue‑Flycatcher and Forest Wagtail. However, the undoubted highlight of the day was a pair of Ceylon Frogmouths only two metres away almost at eye‑level, perhaps Backwoods highest ornithological prize.

After lunch we spent some time birding in and along the edge of the forest, but it was not very productive and it seems that early morning is the best time to bird here. Amongst the birds we noted were Indian Pitta, Brown Shrike, Grey‑headed Bulbul, Plain Flowerpecker and Long‑billed Sunbird.

In the late afternoon we savoured the wonders of the Tambdi Surla Temple and stayed there till dusk. The birding at the temple was quite good and from the temple clearing we had good views of Mountain Imperial‑Pigeon, White‑rumped Needletail, Little Swift, Great Hornbill, Indian Pitta, Ashy Woodswallow and Yellow‑browed Bulbul.

The spotlight revealed stunning views of a Grey Nightjar, which we 'scoped.

At night when we were drinking a beer at the campfire, Loven taped out an Oriental Scops‑Owl giving its quivering call and the day was capped off when we were treated to a superb view of this lifer for most birders in the group.

Thursday 17th February

Early the following morning we took a birdwalk in the forest and saw a good variety of birds amongst them Malabar Parakeet, Common Hawk‑Cuckoo, Malabar Trogon, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Indian Pitta, Common Woodshrike, Dark‑fronted Babbler, Forest Wagtail, Western Crowned‑Warbler and plenty of Greenish Warblers, while we also saw a large Indian Bison.

Hereafter we spent two hours at an open spot in the vicinity of the camp to watch the raptors. We did see quite a few raptors amongst them Crested Serpent‑Eagle, Shikra, Besra, Black Eagle and Changeable Hawk‑Eagle. Perhaps the highlight of the day was the Rufous‑bellied Eagle who showed itself very well during the last five minutes of our stay at this spot.

In the late afternoon we headed back to our hotel on the coast.

Friday 18th February

The trip now almost over, we spent the final day birding at Baga again with our Belgian friends. We immediately headed to Baga Forest and spent a few hours here. We walked along the trails encountering a rich variety of birds along the way, including Vernal Hanging‑Parrot, Brown Fish‑Owl, Yellow‑crowned Woodpecker, Black‑rumped Flameback, Indian Pitta, Black‑hooded Oriole, Verditer Flycatcher, Grey‑headed Bulbul, Black‑lored Tit and Rufous Treepie.

The hot hours of the day we spent at the Beira Mar hotel, having fun with the Belgian birders, drinking beer of course and we did some birdwatching too. From the terrace we had one last addition to our birding tally as we obtained fairly good views of our last lifer of the trip, a very obliging Laggar Falcon.

In the late afternoon we went back to Baga Forest and made excellent photographs of the Brown Fish‑Owl and the White‑bellied Sea‑Eagle on the nest.

On our last night, sitting outside in the warm air at a beachside seafood restaurant, we had time to reflect on all the beautiful birds we had seen, as we watched the sun dip into the Indian Ocean.

Saturday 19th February

At 6.00 a.m. we left our hotel and headed to Dabolim airport for our Martinair flight to Amsterdam. En route I saw a White‑rumped Vulture, our only vulture of the trip. We left Goa at 9.00 and returned to The Netherlands via Abu Dhabi at Schiphol airport at 16.30 and home for 19.00.


We had wonderful views of almost all possible endemics and near-endemics. We had also good looks at some quite difficult‑to‑find species including five owl species in broad daylight! The final total for the two weeks trip was 261 species of birds, that's more than on my Bharatpur trip, surely India's premier site and it certainly was not a die‑hard birding trip. I finished the trip with 53 lifers.

My five best birds of the trip? Laggar Falcon, Ceylon Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Indian Pitta and White‑browed Bushchat, lifers all of course.

Chaam, 15 April 2000,        

If you need any help or further information, contact me at the following address and I'll try and help if I can!

Jan Vermeulen
Bredaseweg 14
4861 AH Chaam
The Netherlands
Telephone: (031) - 161 - 491327

E-mail: jem.vermeulen@wxs.nl

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