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INDIA 2003


Birdfinders third tour to this popular destination resulted in an amazing total of 280 species seen. But it wasn't only the number of species but the sheer quality of them. Specialities included the elusive Indian Pitta seen well by everyone, but it was the unusual species that grabbed the headlines. On only our second day we were privileged to watch an immature female Peregrine (Barbary) Falcon hunting and were astounded to see it catch an Indian Pond-heron and carry it off! The same day we found a White Stork, a great rarity in Goa, together with good numbers of Glossy Ibises. A search through hundreds of Baya Weavers produced a couple of Streaked Weavers to set the pace for the rest of the tour. Morjim Beach produced the usual waders, gulls and terns but Caspian, Lesser Black-backed (Heuglin's and Steppe) Gulls standing side-by-side may well have been unique! Four Broad-billed Sandpipers were unusual in January, as was a solitary Oriental Pratincole amongst a flock of several hundred Small Pratincoles. At Fort Aguada several Dusky Crag-martins showed down to a few feet on overhead wires whilst a Blue Rock-thrush sat on the fort walls. Several Indian Peafowl strode around and a Black Redstart was an interesting find. Vultures are all but extinct in Goa these days but, whilst looking at their regular site at Velim Lake, we were very lucky to find an immature Grey-headed Fish-eagle.

Raptors were certainly the order of the day here with both Pallid and Montagu's Harriers, whilst the recently-split Indian Spotted Eagle gave close perched and flight views. Not to be outdone, a Greater Spotted Eagle decided to put in an appearance as well. Maem Lake produced prolonged view of two Brown Fish-owls, Grey Nightjar, Grey-headed Bulbuls and amazing views of two Indian Scimitar-babblers.

Our four nights at Backwoods Camp was excellent as usual and the birds just kept coming: White-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-eared Kingfisher and Blue-bearded Bee-eater at Tamla Surla; Rufous-bellied Eagle, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Indian and Oriental Scops-owls, Black-throated Munia and Brown-breasted Flycatcher from the camp itself; Black Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard and Brown-backed Needletail all showed well from the raptor watchpoint, whilst in the forest we watched a male Spot-bellied Eagle-owl in the open for 20 minutes and had excellent views of Indian Blue Robin. With the Ciba-Geigy factory now off limits we found a new viewpoint and were rewarded with three Painted Storks and, on the last afternoon, a male Pied Harrier in the Baga Fields was a fitting end to a wonderful tour.

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta