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INDIA 2005

Goa

The fifth consecutive Birdfinders tour to Goa was another huge success. This popular destination remains the finest introduction to Asian birding that there is and combines high-quality birds, including regional endemics, with relatively comfortable conditions in a very safe environment. This year our small team recorded a fine total of 280 species and added no less than eight species to the already comprehensive Birdfinders Goan bird list. These included two brand new species for the state of Goa – Black-legged Kittiwake and Dark-sided Flycatcher. The former is almost certainly the first ever to be recorded in the Indian subcontinent and it was incredibly exciting for Birdfinders to be involved in such an important record. Our local guide, Pramod, was equally thrilled and his audible sighs whilst watching the Kittiwake will live in the memory for a long time! A very bad picture of this very good bird is included with the photo gallery from this year's tour.

Rare gulls aside, it was birds such as Oriental Darter, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, Comb Duck, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Grey Junglefowl, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Greater Painted Snipe, Small Pratincole, Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Plum-headed and Malabar Parakeets, Blue-faced Malkoha, Brown Wood Owl, Grey Nightjar, Indian Swiftlet, Crested Treeswift, White-collared Kingfisher, Malabar Grey and Malabar Pied Hornbills, Coppersmith Barbet, Greater Flameback, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Malabar Lark, Black-hooded Oriole, Rufous Treepie, Scarlet Minivet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Grey-headed Bulbul, White-rumped Shama, Pied Stonechat, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Ashy Prinia, Black-lored Tit, Western-crowned Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Loten's and Crimson Sunbirds, Little Spiderhunter and Scaley-breasted Munia that would be of interest to most folks when thinking of Goa. We saw all of these beauties extremely well.

We spent the majority of our time in the coastal plains region, but our four-night sojourn to Backwoods Camp in the Western Ghats remains a highlight of any Goan tour. This year was no exception with Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Black Eagle, Pompadour Green-pigeon, Emerald Dove, Savannah Nightjar, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Trogon, Great Hornbill, Spangled Drongo, Black-throated Munia and several Brown-breasted Flycatchers, as well as the above-mentioned Dark-sided Flycatcher. The elusive Indian Pitta performed well on several mornings behind the Backwoods Camp kitchen! How could a trip to Goa be complete without seeing one of those?!

Morjim Beach and the opposite side of the river mouth at Chapora, produced the best gull sightings including the Kittiwake, but it was also very good for Great Black-headed, Steppe, Heuglin's and Brown-headed Gulls. Hordes of approachable Lesser Sandplovers were also present on Morjim Beach and amongst them, pretty good numbers of Greater Sandplovers. The area behind the beach produced one of the better birds of the trip, a tiny Yellow-legged Button-Quail which we saw briefly three times.

The kingfisher boat cruise through Morgumgao Bay was also superb with four White-collared Kingfishers being seen, and Stork-billed and Black-capped Kingfishers being reduced to 'pad fillers'. The cruise also gave us good views of Black-headed Ibis on the mudflats, and exceptional looks at Great Crested and Lesser Crested Terns. This is a trip not to be missed.

We also had a long day out to Bondla, which we wouldn't normally attempt from Baga, but it proved extremely fruitful and one of the best days of the whole tour with Blue-capped Rock-thrush, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher and White-bellied Blue Flycatcher (our second of the tour) along with stunning views of Little Spiderhunter and Malabar Trogon.

Some of the best birding on the tour came from our hotel where the fields and marshes could be viewed from the side of the swimming pool! We didn't have to go far to find species such as Baillion's Crake, White-breasted Water Hen, Booted and Paddyfield Warblers, Blue-tailed and Green Bee-eaters, Chestnut-tailed Starling and we even found a male Black-headed Munia towards the end of the tour. Spotted Owlet and Barn Owl could both be found on site in the hotel grounds.

James P. Smith

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta