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INDIA 2004

Goa

During 10–25 January 2004, a Birdfinders group enjoyed yet another great trip to Goa. The birds from the Biera Mar balcony were somewhat limited this year by low water-levels but 11 Greater Painted-snipe were found nearby together with a Red-headed Bunting. Morjim Beach once again held a surprise, this time in the form of a winter plumage male Caspian Plover in with a large flock of Greater and Lesser Sandplovers. All the usual waders gulls and terns were seen here as well including Caspian, Heuglins and Steppe Gulls and some superb summer-plumaged Great Black-headed Gulls, whilst nearby we found four of the scarce Brahminy Starling.

There were two young White-bellied Sea-eagles in the nest at Arpuro Hill as well as superb views of nesting Yellow-crowned Woodpecker and unusually high numbers of Grey-headed Bulbuls. Carambolin Lake had been largely cleared of the weed that has been encroaching over the years and this certainly gave us good views of Mugger Crocodile. Duck numbers were not high here however, and only a pair of Spot-billed Ducks were unusual. We did however visit several other lakes south of Panjim and were treated to huge numbers of Cotton Pygmy-goose, Garganey and Lesser Whistling-duck with 20 Comb Duck and 11 Ferruginous Ducks. Velim Lake held good numbers of the rapidly declining White-backed Vultures as well as an Indian Spotted Eagle. The Saligao Spring Brown Wood-owls showed well together with lots of common species and both Crested Serpent-eagle and Changeable Hawk-eagle soaring low overhead. Tawny-bellied Babblers and Blue-capped Rock-thrush were good finds here. Once again excellent views of the Brown Fish-owl were had by all at Maem Lake but they have now moved from their usual roost trees following extensive pruning of vegetation around the Cashew Trees. A Grey Nightjar gave stunning views down to six feet at eye-level; Orange-breasted Pigeons sat up high in the trees to be looked at together with a Banded Bay Cuckoo.

As usual, Backwoods Camp was the highlight for many and did not disappoint with at least three Indian Pittas, a Forest Wagtail and a pair of Malabar Whistling-thrushes around the tents. A pair of Indian Frogmouths were roosting in the bamboo and with perseverance, we managed to call in Indian and Oriental Scops-owl and Brown Hawk-owl in the evening to add to the Jungle Owlet seen during daylight. This meant that once again we saw seven species of owl on the tour. Malabar Pied and Malabar Grey Hornbills, Pompadour Green-pigeons and Brown-headed and Crimson-fronted Barbets all fed at a fruiting tree together and it was a good year for Malabar Parakeet and Vernal Hanging-parrot which are never easy birds. A Blue-faced Malkoha was untypically showy sitting at the top of a bush for 10 minutes in the sun! Two Grey Junglefowl and two Indian Peafowl fed unconcerned on the entrance road on different dates whilst a male White-bellied Blue-flycatcher took up territory by the entrance gate. At Tamla Surla Temple a pair of White-bellied Woodpeckers gave amazing views and we eventually managed to track down the Blue-eared Kingfisher. The Brown-breasted Flycatcher was back for its umpteenth winter, Mountain Imperial-pigeons perched high up, and after dark both Grey and Jerdon's Nightjars displayed. At the raptor watchpoint, Black, Rufous-bellied and Steppe Eagles, Crested Goshawk and Mountain Hawk-eagle were all good birds with Brown-backed and White-rumped Needletails giving amazing views overhead in the company of Indian Swiftlets. Nearby, a White-eyed Buzzard gave excellent views. Walks from the camp produced excellent views of Brown-capped Woodpecker, Malabar Trogon and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes whilst a visit to Molem gave us Heart-spotted Woodpecker and Rosy Minivet. Once again, we managed to see all six of the drongo species in Goa. On the way back to the coast at Bondla both Little Spiderhunter and Indian Scimitar-babbler gave wonderful views.

Ciba Geigy is getting more difficult to view year-on-year but we have discovered a new viewpoint and were able to watch Black-headed Ibis and Asian Openbills as well as eight of the magnificent Lesser Adjutants. Finally, the boat trip to see White-collared Kingfisher was successful again with five birds seen including prolonged views of one at very close range and both Crested and Lesser Crested Terns were watched within a few feet on posts in the river. The Dona Paula Plateau held its usual flocks of Ashy-crowned Finchlarks, Malabar and Oriental Larks and Yellow-wattled Lapwings. The Carambolin Fields held several Rufous-tailed Larks whilst the nearby wood had a roosting pair of Brown Hawk-owls.

With a group total of 278 species, Birdfinders is setting the pace for seeing all of the speciality birds of this region of India whilst still enjoying restful lunches either back at the hotel, on the beach or at camp. Birdfinders runs the perfect itinerary for this tour, 10 nights at a comfortable coastal guesthouse adjoining the Baga Fields and 4 nights at the wonderful Backwoods Camp.

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta