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First steps

Nothing like those initial few hours in a new country, stepping out into the pre-dawn darkness as the first birds (in this case, White Throated Kingfishers) begin to call…

Appropriately fuelled by Bombay Sapphire and a severely restricted range of in-flight music we (Paul and John Thomason, Chris Kehoe and I) had landed in Goa in the ridiculously early hours of December 8th, crumpled and confused after the economy seat journey east, sailing high over Europe, Iran and Pakistan.

We were whisked by cab through the dusty night to our apartment at Jade Gardens in Arpora (excellently snagged via Air b’n’b by Trops), dumped the bags and dusted off the bins.

Two hours later we were stumbling out to a soundscape of unfamiliar squeaks and whistles (to all but Chris at least), just before dawn revealed a whole new avifauna to play with.

To those who have visited this part of the world before, we encountered the regular coastal strip birds as we wandered down to Baga along the “main” road, via saltpans, clumps of secondary woodland and open fields.

The birding was great as the temperature began to steadily rise – White Browed Wagtails, squadrons of parakeets, Green Warblers galore (their calls could be heard pretty much constantly over the next fortnight), Blyth’s Reed Warblers “tuc-ing” in the undergrowth, Black and Brahminy Kites drifting overhead – and that was before the sunbirds began to wake up…

Pied Bushchats and Coppersmith Barbets (bonk…bonk…bonk…bonk…)  popped up to say “howdy”amid the increasing heronry and growing energy of an Indian dawn.

Ubiquitous Black Rumped Woodpeckers, Southern Coucals (pic top of entry) and Spotted Owlets stirred alongside the raucous White Throated Kingfishers…

Familiar Asian staples like House Crow, Koel, Ashy Drongo, Oriental Magpie Robin and Wire Tailed Swallow vied with classier acts including Long Tailed Shrike, Plum Headed Parakeet and Rufous Treepie as we strolled round to Baga.

Exquisite Purple Rumped Sunbirds appeared to be the commonest of their tribe above the dusty roads…

As the noise of the day began to build and the bus/taxi/moped/tuc-tuc/cow/Royal Enfield/water buffalo/dog ratio started to rocket, we stopped off for brekkie in Baga, then wandered into the famous Baga Fields, carefully negotiating a psychotic Water Buffalo (ah, so that’s why the angry ones are chained to a big piece of timber).

It being seriously scorchio dry season, the fields were easy to work, apart from a few surprise ditches and pools, craven curs and a pleasingly low bitey bug population.

They always target Trops anyway, so the rest of us were left unmolested.

By now it was noon,  but despite the crushing heat, the birds were still playing – a fine Paddyfield Warbler put on a great show for us, once we’d outfoxed the Water Buffalo (he’d get his revenge later in the week), while a wintering Osprey glared from a nearby post.

As the day heated up, kites and storks began soaring, and later in the trip would be joined by Oriental Honey Buzzards and Booted Eagles, once we’d given them closer attention.

Although it was meant to be a holiday for Chris as much as everyone else, he patiently explained the latest splits as Clamorous Reed Warbler became Indian Reed Warbler (to be fair it does look different to the ones in the Middle East) and wintering Bluethroats peered at us from the long grass.

Cracking birding, before we succumbed to an afternoon “Kingfisher/cool down” session in a bar opposite the Beira Mar Hotel, where bird guide supreme and long time friend of Chris, Rayman found us and we quickly made plans for a few trips post Kingfishers.

There must however, always be time for tiffin, and so we retreated to the cool of the apartment, where the back balcony overlooked an area of secondary woodland complete with hot and cold running sunbirds, Blyth’s Reed Warblers and a splendidly mardy Jungle Owlet.

With the fridge fully stocked, it was time to reflect on a successful first recce (85 plus sp – I’ll post a full trip list at the conclusion of this blog), and look forward to some serious birding over the coming fortnight….

Arpora/Baga, 8.12.18:

Black Kite, White Throated Kingfisher, House Crow, Spotted Owlet, Brahminy Kite, Asian Koel, Indian Pond Heron, Little Egret, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Indian Golden Oriole, Ashy Drongo, Little Cormorant, White Cheeked Barbet, Rufous Treepie, Common Myna, Plum Headed Parakeet, Jungle Myna, White Browed Wagtail, Black Headed Ibis, White Breasted Waterhen, Green Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Chestnut Tailed Starling, Alexandrine Parakeet, Barn Swallow, Green Sandpiper, Intermediate Egret, Oriental Magpie Robin, Red Vented Bulbul, Eastern Red Rumped Swallow, Indian Palm Swift, Grey Wagtail, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Indian Darter, Spotted Dove, Pied Bushchat, Purple Heron, Coppersmith Barbet, Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher, Ashy Prinia, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Little Egret, Night Heron, Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike,  Little Green Bee Eater, Indian Cormorant, Common Sandpiper, Purple Rumped Sunbird, Wood Sandpiper, Black Rumped Woodpecker, Marsh Harrier, Little Grebe, Red Wattled Lapwing, Siberian Stonechat, Common Snipe, Pacific Golden Plover, Long Tailed Shrike, Greenshank, Wire Tailed Swallow, Pale Billed Flowerpecker, Southern Coucal, Osprey, Paddyfield Warbler, Tree Pipit, Openbill Stork, Woolly Necked Stork, White Rumped Munia, Scaly Breasted Munia, Black Winged Stilt, Indian Roller, Redshank, Plain Prinia, Little Swift, Brown Shrike, Bluethroat, Little Ringed Plover,  Little Stint, Indian Reed Warbler, Brown Headed Gull, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Naped Monarch, Common Tailorbird, Grey Breasted Prinia, Black Lored Tit, Jungle Owlet.









Rayman takes charge.

Barely 24 hours in-country and it was clear we were going to need some adult supervision – luckily top bird guide, taxi driver extraordinaire and all-round good egg Rayman picked us up at 0600 on 9/12/18 and we barrelled off to the fantastically productive birding area around Carambolin Lake.

Not before he’d called in an Indian Scops Owl at our apartment though – this fabulous owl peered down at us as we loaded his wheels.

Too dark for a photo (I don’t like blatting owls with flash) I drew the bird instead, unwisely embellishing said sketch after a few snifters later in the day – proof if proof were needed as to why digital photography is such a blessing to the modern birder.

Oh dear, at least I got the eye colour right.

Owled up we headed off into the pre-dawn arriving a short time later at Carambolin, just as the place was starting to stir…

Barely had the first “clown horn” honk advertising the arrival of the morning bread bicycle echoed over the grasslands than White Breasted Waterhens, egrets, drongos, munias and Indian Rollers started to emerge from the gloom.

(picture courtesy Chris Kehoe)

A superb place, Rayman moved us slowly down the track from the the open fields and drying marshes towards a small area of woodland with a humble homestead in, and the birding really began to pick up.

Paddyfield Pipits, Malabar Lark and Siberian Stonechats lurked on the parched heaps of hay, while raptors took to the air, and Rose Ringed Parakeets squawked the dawn serenity into oblivion.

The woodland – a well-known stake-out for Spotted Owlet and Brown Hawk Owl (top birds in anyone’s Boo-Book) – revealed Oriental Magpie Robin, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red Spurfowl and Banded Bay Cuckoo as we walked slowly down the road while India stirred.

It was a pleasure strolling down the lane – not for the first time in this exciting country I was struck by the abundance of birds, despite the density of the human population, traffic, prodigious amounts of dumped rubbish and poor air quality.

Folks leave birds be here (unless you happen to be an unfortunate curryfowl that is), and while some populations are crashing (don’t get me started on the Diclofenac vulture disaster) there still appears to be more birds on the ground here than anywhere in the UK.

Walking down the track felt like some autumn lane nirvana (it was probably the light – or the Bombay Sapphire hangover) as more and more species popped up and Trops perfected his birding hand signals…

Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, elastic winged Pallid Harrier overhead, Common Iora, White Browed Bulbul, Hoopoes, Baya Weavers, Small Minivet etc etc – marvellous.

Loten’s and Purple Sunbirds began to appear as the morning warmed up and we walked round to an open area overlooking the vast expanses of marshes here, where Oriental Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagles and Shikras were starting to thermal.

The raptors had to wait as we indulged in a spot of “big boy” birding to grill a warbler flicking about in the scrub beside us – Booted Warbler it was, but it was fun getting there, which of course is the whole point of all this bird-spotting…

Eric Sykes would have been proud.

Moving off under the watchful gaze of a bazillion Brahminy Kites we headed to a causeway through the wetlands which afforded us spectacular views of waders, wildfowl and raptors galore – can’t beat a good wetland….

It was like Marshside, except a bit warmer, (and I don’t think palms will grow on Hesketh Golf Course) and unusually for India, with fewer cars…

We were greeted by a Brown Shrike and wintering Isabelline/Daurian Shrike, which would admittedly raise a few eyebrows in Sandgrounders too.

Out on the shallow lagoons a wader fest boasted Redshank (longer billed and paler than ours), Greenshank, Avocet, Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Green, Wood, Common, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers.

Yellow Wags of many persuasions, Bluethroats and prinias were in the reeds, while Teal, Ruddy Shelduck, Gull Billed and River Terns and Glossy Ibis crowded the roost.

Wow – and that was before we cast an eye over the nearby Great Spotted Eagle, fishing Osprey and squadrons of Little Swifts overhead.

Rayman hadn’t quite finished with us, and before motoring back to the coast we called in at a tower hide, where Crested Serpent Eagle circled overhead and the marshy expanse was carpeted with Grey Headed Swamphen, Lesser Whistling Ducks and both Bronze Winged and Pheasant Tailed Jacanas.

Even the Purple Herons looked stunned by the spectacular variety of the place…

On the way back as the temperatures soared and the dancing girl on the dashboard did her thing, I couldn’t help breaking into a chorus of “Honolulu Baby” in appreciation of the Carambolin tick-fest and afternoon of Kingfishers and Jalfrezis that lay ahead…life was good.

Thank you Rayman.

Carambolin haul, 9/12/18:

Indian Scops Owl, Openbill Stork, White Breasted Waterhen, Asian Koel, Tree Pipit, Black Drongo, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Black Headed Ibis, House Crow, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Plum Headed Parakeet, White Throated Kingfisher, White Rumped Munia, Indian Roller, Purple Heron, Rufous Treepie, Jungle Myna, Brahminy Kite, Indian Golden Oriole, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Little Cormorant, Baya Weaver, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Siberian Stonechat, Paddyfield Pipit, Malabar Crested Lark, Wire Tailed Swallow, Indian Cormorant, Common Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Alexandrine Parakeet, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Spotted Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red Avadavadat, Purple Rumped Sunbird, Pale Billed Flowerpecker, Green Warbler, Common Iora, Oriental Magpie Robin, Ashy Drongo, White Cheeked Barbet, Banded Bay Cuckoo, White Spotted Fantail, Red Spurfowl, Loten’s Sunbird, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Purple Sunbird, Indian Reed Warbler, White Browed Bulbul, Plain Prinia, Indian Darter, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Shikra, Booted Eagle, Booted Warbler, Black Headed Munia, Pallid Harrier, Small Minivet, Little Swift, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Grey Headed Swamphen, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet, Ruddy Shelduck, Teal, Little Stint, Bluethroat, Black Tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Great Spotted Eagle, Gull Billed Tern, River Tern, Daurian Shrike, Brown Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Osprey, Curlew Sandpiper, Crested Serpent Eagle, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, Bronze Winged Jacana, Moorhen, Lesser Whistling Duck, Pied Kingfisher, Peahen. 







A trip to the bank

Rayman picked us up and drove through the dusty dawn north over the Chapora river and then west to the beach at Morjim on 10.12.18 (seems a lifetime ago now).

Walking out to the estuary mouth in the dawn light flocks of terns and gulls – Gtr and Lesser Crested, Gull Billeds, Brown Headed and Steppe Gulls – were flying up river, but on the tideline Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Kentish Plovers and more familiar waders to western eyes scurried about.

A fine flock of Small Pratincoles floated through, with one or two landing before heading off again, as early morning yoga classes and scraggy feral dogs began to stir on the sands.

A White Bellied Sea Eagle circled out over the surf with the first Brahminy and Black Kites of the day.

You could easily bird this area yourself, but then you’d have to go through the language barrier difficulties (or fun, depending on how you look at it) of negotiating a boat to drop you off on the sandbars in the middle of the estuary on the rising tide – and perhaps more importantly remember to come and pick you up again before the banks disappear under the waves.

Rayman had it all in hand, and before long, shoes and socks off, we were putt-putt-putting out to the sandbanks for a stunning morning of gulling and waders.

As we neared the vast sandbank, which was rapidly contracting on the rising tide, we could see good roosts of gulls and terns, while Western Reef Egret and Black Eared Kites were dotted about too.

Time to wade ashore and get down to business.

Trouser legs rolled up for a spot of masonic birding we ‘scoped the flocks to pieces – they were brilliant – up to 11 Pallas’s Gulls (a long awaited tick for me, superb gulls); Steppe Gulls, Heuglin’s, Brown Headeds, Slender Billeds, hordes of terns and scurrying around us Greater and Lesser Sandplover and Terek Sands.

It was brilliant – away from the exciting hubbub of Indian life, it was like being a castaway on a remote island surrounded by birds.

A calidus Peregrine ripped through, sending everything up into the air, but the birds settled again quickly.

The Pallas’s Gulls just took my breath away. Beasts.

You can take the boy out of Seaforth, but you can’t take Seaforth out of the boy, and in between taking us to school on Steppe and Heuglin’s Gull moult, Chris picked out a Caspian Gull amongst the more exotic hordes – there it is look to the left and just behind that Steppe Gull…

All was well once we’d secured the large white tip to primary 10 and long white tongue on the inner web.

It may have been the heat of the rising sun but my head was starting to hurt…

All too soon our ride back to dry land came out of Morjim and we clambered aboard, leaving the warm sand and birds behind – what a great place!

With the sand clinging to our tootsies we resisted the temptation of an early morning Kingfisher at the beach bar and drove round to Morjim beach proper, where Long Tailed Shrike, White Throated Kingfisher and White Bellied Sea Eagle lurked, then we pushed on to the marshes and rice paddies around Siolim.

The Siolim area was excellent, even in the rising temperatures, although the causeway was a bit narrow for scoping from as the traffic inched past us – a typically chaotic, but highly amusing, Indian experience… folk just don’t seem to do road rage here, even when the alternative is a watery introduction to the habitat below quicker than you can say “Bronze Winged Jacana”.

Wetlands like this always punch up the list of course and Cotton Pygmy Goose (“Quacky Duck”) plus Great and Indian Spotted Eagles got things going – count those primaries – seven or six?

Great or Indian????

It wasn’t easy as the raptors began to thermal, gaining height in the misty white hot sky…

(picture courtesy Chris Kehoe)

Closer to ground level a Crested Serpent Eagle confused us, until we got a glimpse of the tail, and the Quacky Ducks eyed us cautiously…

Woolly Necked Storks rose up to join the raptors in the glare, where Greater Spotted (?) Eagle tag-teamed White Bellied Sea Eagle… marvellous.

By midday it was getting uncomfortably hot and the excellent Rayman drove us back to Arpora for another chilled afternoon of balcony birding and preparation for the next stage of the trip – inland to Backwoods at the foot of the Western Ghats…

Morjim, 10.12.18:

Kentish Plover, Small Pratincole, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Curlew, Dunlin, Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Western Reef Egret, White Bellied Sea Eagle, House Crow, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Black Eared Kite, Peregrine (calidus), Steppe Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, 11 Pallas’s Gull, Slender Billed Gull, Brown Headed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Paddyfield Pipit, Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested Tern, Caspian Tern, Gull Billed Tern, Common Kingfisher, Oystercatcher (3), Little Tern, Caspian Gull, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Indian Golden Oriole.

Siolim rice paddies and marshes, 10.12.18:

Red Wattled Lapwing, Fan Tailed Warbler (sorry, Zitting Cisticola), Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Paddyfield Warbler, Indian Pond Heron, Common Snipe, Ashy Drongo, Marsh Harrier, Great Spotted Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Bronze Winged Jacana, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron.





Backwoods: Dec 11th-15th

With body clocks firmly attuned to dawn birding, afternoon kippage, night-time eats and early starts, we set off for Backwoods Camp at 5.15am on Dec 11th with guides Loven and Pramodd.

Even better, we picked up Ralph Jones along the way – Ralph is spending a full three month stretch in Goa, fuelled by Kingfisher beer and vegetable samosas – it was great to see my old work colleague again, and as ever, his company in the field was a pleasure.

Long a “must-visit” in this part of the world, Backwoods boasts quiet woodland, farmland and village birding in the shadow of the Western Ghats, three square (vegetarian) meals a day and more importantly, three guided walks per day too in search of endemics and other goodies.

On the edge of the Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park and close to Tambdi Surla Temple and adjacent trails the slightly cooler hills (yeah, right) meant birding was possible all day, with activity hardly slackening off even in the highest temperatures.

It’s about a two hour drive inland from the coast, which was as entertaining as ever – nothing like repeatedly confronting your mortality head-on on a dusty India road in the pitch black.

Vishnu, Ganesh and Shiva must have been working overtime on our behalf, as each time a collision seemed inevitable vehicles, cows, mopeds, cyclists, Royal Enfields, chooks, Macaques and poor sods walking to work in the darkness missed each other by inches, evaporating into dust-choked memory.

My how we laughed.

I have never witnessed such reluctance to take the front passenger seat on a birding trip ever.

On the upside, no phone signal, no wi-fi, so no “first world” problems.

We each packed a case of beer in case of any down time, so were well-prepared for all eventualities…

We stayed for four nights, and while some may find the accommodation basic, I’ve stayed in far worse, the privvy had hot and cold running Tree Frogs, AND a particularly irritable Scorpion to boot.

What a gorgeous view to start your jungly day off…there’s birds out there.

Always good when the local fauna keeps you on your toes. Facilities have clearly enjoyed an upgrade too.

The Backwoods website is down at the moment, but if you want to stay there (and why wouldn’t you?) I’m sure Loven won’t mind me including his contact email here (

It was misty when we arrived just before dawn and began birding around the Tambdi Surla Temple – this popular tourist hot-spot is stacked with birds including White Bellied Blue Flycatcher, Grey Junglefowl (yes, we all did the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke), Asian Paradise Flycatcher, stacks of Green Warblers, and Brown Cheeked Fulvettas etc etc.

Jungle Babblers, Crimson Backed Sunbirds and Brown Breasted Flycatchers kept things ticking over.

As it warmed up Vernal Hanging Parrots began whizzing everywhere, and Brown Backed and White Rumped Needletails zoomed about in the blue above the temple.

In the peace and quiet of this most rural of settings (apart from the two day wedding celebration we could hear in the distance – now that sounded like a party – time was we’d have blagged an invite quicker than you could say “Pizarro”), even the Water Buffaloes were placid, unlike the psychos on the coast, and each had hot and cold running Cattle Egrets.

While we missed several of our key targets here, it would be churlish to complain, given the large number of species we connected with – Malabar Barbet, Backwoods’ resident Malabar Trogons and of course, it’s famous Sri Lankan Frogmouths, which peered down curiously at us when not gently swaying their tails to emulate leaves in the breeze – perfect camouflage, but they didn’t like hassle from the Malabar Giant Squirrels up ’em…

There’s one of the pesky squirrels now, laughing while it dropped seed casings down on me from the canopy – at least I think it was seed casings…. Size of a pissed off and overweight Pine Marten.

One of the pleasantest things about Backwoods was wandering off on your own into the forest – apologies all if it seemed anti-social, but with so many dry leaves on the deck, it was the best way to move quietly when searching for feeding flocks.

The track leading to the camp entrance was consistently good – Black Headed Orioles, sunbirds galore, Orange Minivet, Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker – great stuff…

Water left out by the camp’s dining room lured in plenty of birds too, and in the heat of the day it was hard to resist the temptation to crack open a Kingfisher and watch the Flame Throated Bulbuls bathing.

So I didn’t.

Once we’d had our downtime though Pramodd would muster the troops for another trek – invariably down to the nearby Barabhumi village, or back up to the temple.

Common Hawk Cuckoo, Asian Koels, Vernal Hanging Parrots, Plum Headed Parakeets, Asian Fairy Bluebirds and Malabar Grey, Pied and Great Hornbills vied for attention as Legge’s Mountain Hawk Eagle,  Black Eagles, Malabar Starling thrilled us and a nocturnal jaunt snagged Indian Jungle Nightjar.

It was hard work, especially avoiding the Indian rural rush hour…

That’s the last time I ask Trops to take a holiday snap of me in the great Indian outdoors…. You had just one job….

I liked Barabhumi village very much – seriously peaceful and a pleasure to wander around.

Folk were happy to let you stare at the fruiting trees in their gardens, but I am sure they are well used to Backwoods visitors traipsing about…

Nice brick stash….

Common birds aplenty, but exciting to see if it’s your first time in town, which it was, with Indian Golden Oriole, Malabar Starlings, Grey Necked Green Pigeons, Jungle Owlet, Greater Racket Tailed Drongoes, Chestnut Shouldered Petronia and gorgeous Little Green Bee Eaters all doing the business.

Forays on the slightly wilder trails round the temple brought us Little Spiderhunter, White Bellied Woodpecker (a fly-by monster of a bird), and Malabar Woodshrike.

There were even Leopard footprints in one dry stream-bed, the fat cat responsible long gone by the time we clattered through.

When it went quiet, Trops was happy returning to the wild to poke things in streams with sticks or chase squirrels, but parts of this area were tough – we heard, but did not see targets including Indian Blue Robin, Large Billed Leaf Warbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler and Blue Bearded Bee Eater.

Compensation came in the form of many Western Crowned Warblers, RB Flys, Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrikes, Common Tailorbirds and Shikras… and a superb, if brief, Rusty Tailed Flycatcher.

(picture courtesy Chris Kehoe)

The less said about the 2km jog in failing light to twitch a King Cobra that turned out to be a stick though, the better.

The Macaques, unimpressed by perspiring tourists and their optics, continued to rummage in the roadside litter…. sticks can’t bite ya.

It was a wonderful place, but we still failed to connect with Indian Pitta, despite hearing one, in five attempts, and Indian Blue Robin, Brown Fish Owl and a few others eluded us…

Butterflies and moths were good, but as is always the way with wonderful foreign trips like this, it was all I could do to keep basic bird id in me noggin, let alone fill my diminishing grey matter with bug and flower gen…

If only guys, if only….

Once we’d fastidiously drank all the beer we brought to camp, and given Backwoods’ own supplies a right hammering, we packed up and headed back towards the coast via Bondla on December 15th.

Bondla was probably my favourite place for birding on the trip, and Backwoods is the nearest place to stay to this great hilly reserve, so an early a.m. drive was still necessary to get to target.

One day there’ll be a lodge by the entrance and I’ll be first in line to book a week’s visit.

Strolling round the lanes at the base of the hill brought Indian Robins, Long Tailed Shrikes, bulbuls and a brief, if glorious White Naped Flameback alongside Greater Flamebacks.

My pics of these spectacular woodpeckers were predictably pants.

Dusky Crag Martins swooped and paused on the cupola of a seriously picturesque bit of architecture, while on the other side of the small village, a female Vigor’s Sunbird (I later snagged a male) and Indian Pied Hornbill (complete with casque) kept us entertained.

It was great birding, with Crested Treeswifts overhead, Eastern Red Rumped Swallows studying us from the overhead wires (another imminent split according to our list guru) and more regulars like Long Tailed Shrikes and Red Whiskered Bulbuls….

Loten’s Sunbird for once sat out in good light before we started to head uphill past the park entrance and up the steep trail…

Leaving the wheels at the bottom of the hill to trudge up as busloads of overly happy schoolchildren struggled past us on the steep incline was calf achingly  tough as the temperature soared.

Pausing to consider a dirty great Mugger Croc, Pramodd got a call from Loven, who’d found a Blue Capped Rock Thrush below us, and we stomped back down the hill again to ogle this beauty as it sat in the undergrowth and an Indian Blue Robin called tantalisingly close – nearby but invisible.

Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers flicked about the branches and Oriental Honey Buzzards thermalled overhead.

A marvellous place.

Almost at the top of the hill we hit a feeding flock bursting with Western Crowned Warblers, a mental Rufous Woodpecker, Velvet Fronted Nuthatches, White Rumped Shamas, another Blue Capped Rock Thrush, Bronzed Drongo, Black Naped Monarchs, Green Warblers and Paradise Flys.

Spectacularly failing to see Forest Wagtail, we headed back down the hill, and said our farewells to the Backwoods crew before bundling into a cab and dicing with death again on the Indian roads back down to the coast….

Many thanks guys.

Bondla was great, but felt like unfinished business, and we all knew we would be back.

We returned to the hubbub of the coast by the mid-afternoon and spent an hour or two balcony birding in Arpora before sorting out more forays for the second half of the trip.

Malabar Whistling Thrush (unusual at the seaside?), Rufous Treepie and Green Warblers all observed as we washed our forest filthy cloths and the Macaques patiently waited to figure out what they could pinch.

Please return my clean socks you thieving monkey basteds.

Backwoods 11-15.12.18 (Bondla to be included in a later list):

House Crow, Purple Sunbird, Crimson Backed Sunbird, Jungle Babbler, Greater Flameback, White Throated Kingfisher,  White Bellied Blue Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Brown Cheeked Fulvetta, Cattle Egret, Yellow Browed Bulbul, Dark Fronted Babbler,  Brown Breasted Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Green Warbler, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Malabar Parakeet, White Rumped Needletail, Ashy Drongo, Common Rosefinch, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Little Green Bee Eater, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Bar Winged Flycatcher Shrike, Taiga Flycatcher, Brown Shrike, Red Vented Bulbul, Streak Throated Swallow, White Rumped Shama, Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Flame Throated Bulbul, Black Hooded Oriole, Orange Minivet, Oriental Magpie Robin, Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Black Eagle, Booted Eagle, Brown Backed Needletail, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Chinese Pond Heron, Chestnut Headed Bee Eater, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Crested Treeswift, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, White Cheeked Barbet, Square Tailed Black Bulbul, Malabar Barbet, Bronzed Drongo, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Heart Spotted Woodpecker, Common Kingfisher, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Thick Billed Flowerpecker, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Indian Jungle Crow,  Plum Headed Parakeet, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Yellow Browed Bulbul, Greater Flameback, Indian Cormorant, White Rumped Munia, Chestnut Shouldered Petronia, Red Breasted Flycatcher, Western Crowned Warbler, Greenish Warbler (?), Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown Headed Barbet, Rufous Woodpecker, Black Napped Oriole, House Martin, Crag Martin, Crested Serpent Eagle, Barn Swallow, Ashy Woodswallow, Legge’s Mountain Hawk Eagle, Grey Fronted Green Pigeon, Malabar Trogon,  Malabar Woodshrike, Malabar White Headed Starling, Loten’s Sunbird, Orange Headed Thrush, Indian Thrush, Spangled/Hairy Crested Drongo, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Grey Junglefowl, Black Naped Monarch, Alpine Swift, Little Spiderhunter, Rufous Tailed Flycatcher, Common Iora, Jungle Owlet, Indian Swiftlet, Little Swift, Brown Headed Barbet, Grey Wagtail, Spotted Dove, Red Wattled Plover, Black Rumped Woodpecker, White Bellied Woodpecker, Indian Jungle Nightjar, Black Headed Cuckooshrike, Olive Backed Pipit.






















The Owl and the Kingfisher went to sea…

After our adventures at Backwoods, Dec 16th was a quieter day back on the coast.

Up early to make sure the Macaques weren’t modelling our missing socks and shirts in the woods beneath the apartment, then Chris, Paul and I jumped a cab round to Baga Fields, where we spent the morning after a spiffing roadside paratha and coffee breakfast.

The site was stacked with birds again with point blank Paddyfield Pipits (more on the marvellous, duplicitous and downright confusing world of pipits later), eastern Stonechats of varying hues, and growing numbers of raptors and hirundines as the day warmed up.

Pintail Snipe, Streak Throated Swallow, Temminck’s Stint and all the regular hopped onto the list as we wandered about, until it got too hot and we gravitated towards the Beira Mar area, past Indian Roller and the two commonest Bee Eaters – Little Green (left) and Blue Tailed.

We found our way barred by the meanest Water Buffalo this side of Angrytown, snorting steam and lunging towards us through the damp grasses as we tried to circumnavigate it.

I didn’t take it’s picture – that would probably have just made it more cross, but it was a bit of a pickle until I realised that if the beast attacked I didn’t have to outrun it – I just had to outrun Trops and Chris… so no bother there then.

With several tons of angry Water Buffalo between us and cold beer the situation was looking serious, until a young boy arrived to  lead the beast away, shaking his head sadly at the inept tourists.

I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

After our near death experience with the Water Buffalo, the best thing to do was calm down with a few Kingfishers, delicious Indian savouries and an afternoon swim.

The day swiftly dissolved into napping and chilling, until Rayman picked us up the next morning at 6.30am (17.12.18) to get us back on track and down to the boat into the mangroves off the Zuari River, a 45 minute or so drive south, picking up Ralph Jones along the way.

We met our boat at Cortalim jetty (why is our boat always smaller than everyone else’s???) and headed across the silty river in the shadow of the vast rusting bridge spans.

Above us an adult calidus Peregrine was enjoying breakfast long before the local fishing boats stirred.

Once across the river we headed into the mangroves lining the Cumbharjua Canal, for a leisurely hour or two kingfisher huntin’ and trying to avoid the gaze of the smiling Marsh Crocs…

Best not trail your fingers in there Trops…

It was a typically pleasant mangrove jaunt, as we drifted past residents like Brahminy Kites and Black Crowned Night Herons.

We connected with all the kingfishers without too much trouble – White Throated, Black Capped, Stork Billed, Collared, Common – with one of several Collared Kingfishers sitting out very well for us, handy as it’s a potential split according to the list guru…

Squadrons of Little Swifts raced overhead.

Tranquil as it was, a film of pollution gave the water a slick-like quality and there was rubbish everywhere – helpful for picking out Terek Sands on the banks though:

“the Terek is just right of the yellow plastic bottle, now coming up to the blue bag”

etc etc.

Back ashore Rayman had plenty of other sites lined up for us to visit, and we were soon playing dodgems through the bustle and hum of the India infrastructure boom… the noise and dust was jarring after the relative calm of the river and mangroves, but there were lots more birds to be seen.

I still don’t know which side of the road people are meant to drive on here.

Safely out of the melee, we called into Batim Lake, where profoundly ugly Lesser Adjutants peered down at a dazzling array of Yellow Wags and waders.

Beema mixed with thunbergi and jostled with luteas, (I think) with some cold grey youngsters simply breathtaking – imaging bumping into this one below on an autumn day here!

A bit less stressful were the Citrine Wags with them, which came very close, while further out on the mud Small Pratincoles tried to keep cool as the day warmed up…

Looking out over the lake proper at carpets of Lesser Whistling Duck, majestic Coot and Garganey from the shade beneath a swarm of bees was just fine too, before we moved on to the rice paddies at Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz had stacks of birds – Siberian Stonechats, Bluethroat, lovely views of Pintail Snipe, Ruff, Indian Spotted Eagle and more pesky pipits.

That said, it did feel a bit intrusive wandering the narrow mud ridges between the paddies as folk were hard at work all around us in searing heat – but no one seemed to mind…

In an uncomfortable contrast to the poor souls toiling in the baking sun, Rayman took us off for lunch at a super-swanky Indian restaurant in the lovely centre of the city of Panjim, all uniformed doormen, air conditioning and four waiters per table.

Leaving us unsupervised in licensed premises was a high risk strategy, but we emerged an hour so later, refreshed after the usual shenanigans – anyone would think we’d never seen mirrors or chandeliers before…

If this is the future of birding lunch-stops, it’s hardly surprising cafes like the “Spurn Bite” went for a burton.

Oh dear.

Back on the road a stop at Saligao Fields brought us White Eyed Buzzard, Richard’s Pipit (one minute marked lores, the next open – stance and call is everything with these shape-shifters), Black Shouldered Kite, more Sibe Stonechats, Tree Pipit,  Indian Spotted and Booted Eagle and Oriental Skylark.

There were even honest to goodness wild Peacocks strolling about… show us ya tail!

With the last hour or so of light and the mosquito shift starting to gear up for business we arrived at Piljem Forest, where Deeted to the gills, Rayman showed us a cracking Brown Fish Owl.

Not too far away we called in at a spring where local women and children were refilling water jars and were joined by thirsty birds emerging from the forest.

Orange Headed Thrushes, Malabar Whistling Thrushes, Indian Thrush, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, flycatchers, warblers, Grey Headed Bulbuls and fulvettas all dropped in, inches away from the human visitors in the failing light.

A Rat Snake slid through the shallow water.

All was well until a Wild Boar wandered in, scattering everything and the mosquitoes got just a bit too bitey bitey.

It was time to retreat.

Huge Fruit Bats were flapping around the apartment as we got back to Arpora after a brilliant day in the field, and a great lunchtime in the Mandovi in Panjim.

Splendid. Just splendid.

Baga Fields, 16.12.18:

Malabar Whistling Thrush, Rufous Treepie, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Cattle Egret, House Crow, Ashy Drongo, Black Rumped Woodpecker, Asian Koel, Southern Coucal, Black Drongo, Green Warbler, Brahminy Kite, Little Ringed Plover, Paddyfield Pipit, Jungle Myna, Black Kite, Long Tailed Shrike, Pintail Snipe, Red Wattled Lapwing, Little Swift, Alpine Swift, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Booted Eagle, Siberian Stonechat, Streak Throated Swallow, White Throated Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Indian Reed Warbler, Barn Swallow, Rose Coloured Starling, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Pied Bushchat, Little Green Bee Eater, Plain Prinia, Greenshank, Little Grebe, Indian Darter, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Osprey, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Zitting Cisticola, Temminck’s Stint, Pacific Golden Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilt, Purple Heron, Common Kingfisher, Baya Weaver, Marsh Harrier, White Bellied Sea Eagle.

Zuari River, 17.12.18:

Grey Headed Swamphen, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Black Headed Ibis, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, House Crow, Little Swift, Indian Pond Heron, Common Sandpiper, Peregrine, Gull Billed Tern, Common Kingfisher, Brown Headed Gull, Red Wattled Lapwing, Western Reef Egret, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret, Striated Heron, Little Cormorant, Eastern Red Rumped Swallow, White Breasted Waterhen, Rufous Treepie, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Baya Weaver, Indian Palm Swift, Rose Coloured Starling, Indian Golden Oriole, Shikra, Barn Swallow, White Throated Kingfisher, Black Capped Kingfisher, Redshank, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Indian Darter, Green Warbler, Black Crowned Night Heron, Wire Tailed Swallow, Collared Kingfisher, Spoonbill, Lesser Adjutant, Indian Reed Warbler, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Terek Sandpiper.

Batim Lake – Santa Cruz rice paddies – Saligao Fields – Piljem Forest, 17.12.18

Yellow Wagtail (beema, lutea, thunbergi), Citrine Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Black Winged Stilt, Lesser Adjutant, Grey Headed Swamphen, Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Woolly Necked Stork, Ashy Drongo, Red Wattled Lapwing, Garganey, Coot, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Ruff, Bluethroat, Shikra, Indian Spotted Eagle, Small Pratincole, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Red Wattled Lapwing,  Indian Pond Heron, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Purple heron, Pintail Snipe, Openbill Stork, Little Ringed Plover, Barn Swallow, Black Shouldered Kite, Long Tailed Shrike, Paddyfield Pipit, Malabar Crested Lark, Indian Roller, Siberian Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola,, White Eyed Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle, Richard’s Pipit, Oriental Skylark, Tree Pipit, Scaly Breasted Munia, Brown Fish Owl, Puff Throated Babbler, Orange Headed Thrush, Indian Blackbird, Grey Headed Bulbul, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Red Whiskered Bulbul, White Spotted Fantail,  Malabar Whistling Thrush, Jungle Babbler, White Browed Fantail, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Black Naped Monarch. 














Back to big-time Bondla, 18.12.18

Another departure from Arpora long before sun-up on 18.12.18, as we made our second visit to Bondla, this time with Rayman.

It was a big morning – bursting with brilliant birds!

The great man had us through the Bondla arch by 6.45am, having rattled through the early morning dust and headlights (glaring or non-existent!!), and we started birding around the road junction at the base of the hill.

Quiet at first, with Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Indian Robin, Oriental Magpie Robin and Grey Junglefowl, but Chris finally got a response from an Indian Pitta dug deep into the the roadside vegetation.

We scanned and scanned, hardly making a sound, but the Pitta ceased to exist again, lost in its own secretive world, as other species began to wake up.

Black Headed Cuckooshrike, Common Woodshrike and a marvellous Blue Faced Malkoha emerged from the scrub and trees, warming in the first rays of the sun – and some distance back, the Indian Pitta called again… it had circled around us and managed to cross the road we were on unseen!

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

An hour or so later, most of us had just about given up hope of the Pitta materialising, but Chris has been dealing with this super-enigmatic family for many years.

Another burst of call from his recorder and the pitta responded immediately and close to us, but invisible in the undergrowth by a small stone bridge over a drying streambed.

We all froze as Chris reeled the bird in like a big game fisherman.

“Quiet. Pitta coming”, was all he needed to say.

Everyone froze as a stunning Indian Pitta bounced out of cover and perched on a bare branch just below us, before calling for a minute or two.


The thing was exquisite – blue wingtips, red vent, buff and green, white chin, and a crippling head pattern.

I hardly dared breath as I slowly lifted my camera up to my eye and zoomed in.

The pitta stayed put as we enjoyed astonishing views of this remarkable, and usually skulking bird.

Happy, happy, happy.

The primary target for the trip finally bagged.

Now I need to go to Borneo.

It was time for group photos (Chris had nonchalantly wandered off to continue birding elsewhere by now), after the pitta bounced off the branch and bounded away up the drying streambed.

Elated we began the ascent of the hill pausing to enjoy White Bellied and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers – I never did manage a decent pic of the latter, even though they were fairly widespread.

High above us Crested Treeswifts, fantastically elegant birds, started the day-shift, and a Chestnut Headed Bee Eater perched up on a bare snag.

A female Blue Capped Rock Thrush, Rufous Woodpecker, Small Minivet and Flame Throated Bulbul kept this day of days ticking over, until I saw Rayman waving at us from up the trail – I jogged up and followed his pointing finger into a gap in the vegetation, where a multi-coloured lurid Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher was positively glowing in the dark.

This midget gem attracted quite a crowd, with Trops wading in to get his shot too… but the morning kept getting better and better.

An Indian Blue Robin called on a bend above us and responded to playback.

Remarkably secretive it passed feet from us repeatedly without us getting a glimpse, until this vision of Quink ink blue, orange, lightning strike white super and black mask popped up for a few seconds right in front of us!

Too beautiful to waste time trying to get a picture, it was one hell of a chat.

If you want to see just how beautiful follow the link here to the remarkable Handbook of the Birds of the World internet site.

Gorgeous innit?

With great big smiles we pushed on up the hill to the cafe right at the top and were gorging on coffee and the vegetable samosas of the Gods, while chasing off hungry Macaques (too good for the likes of you my friends), until Rayman beckoned us over to the dry stream-bed by the car park.

Another amazing encounter – this time with a Forest Wagtail, one of three we would watch for the next hour as they moved, perfectly camouflaged through the leaf litter.

Fluid birds, astonishing things with wingbars like sun dappled leaves, and a weird “perpetual motion” type of movement that was completely entrancing.

My pictures were garbage, but luckily Chris got some crackers, which he was happy to share – look as that mad “one leg in front of the other” action (I’ve only seen Ovenbird in the States do anything remotely similar!)…

(Forest Wagtail pictures courtesy of Chris Kehoe)

Brown Breasted Flycatcher watched us as we were under the spell of the Forest Wagtails, which seemed quite comfortably with the large numbers of people around the car park.

When things got too noisy they nipped behind the toilet block and into their own world again.

We pulled out of Bondla at noon, full of samosas and top drawer birds, and Rayman drove four happy birders back towards the coast.

We stopped for a few beers in the heat of the day, then as things began to cool down stopped off at Carambolin again, and later Batim Lake, where five Ferruginous Ducks were the cleanest looking Fudgies I’ve seen in years, and a Taiga Flycatcher flitted through roadside branches.

Booted Eagle and Brahminy Kites soared over us before we drove back towards Arpora.

With the last few minutes of daylight left, Rayman pulled over to scan dusty fields by the village of Girim, where a Yellow Wattled Lapwing was striding about in the failing light – quite a way to end this day of days!

Bondla, 15.12.18 and 18.12.18:

Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Common Woodshrike, Black Headed Cuckooshrike, Blue Faced Malkoha, White Naped Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Black Rumped Woodpecker, Black Hooded Oriole, Little Swift, Alpine Swift, Grey Junglefowl, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Rufous Treepie, House Crow, Brown Headed Barbet, Grey Fronted Green Pigeon, Indian Robin, Indian Thrush, Indian Magpie Robin, Long Tailed Shrike,  White Rumped Munia, Indian Grey Hornbill, Vigor’s Sunbird, Loten’s Sunbird, Dusky Crag Martin, Woolly Necked Stork, Indian Palm Swift, Jungle Babbler, Red Vented Bulbul, Green Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, White Fronted Kingfisher, Indian Pitta, Indian Pond Heron, Crested Treeswift, White Bellied Blue Flycatcher, Flame Throated Bulbul, Chestnut Headed Bee Eater, Little Green Bee Eater, Blue Capped Rock Thrush, Small Minivet, Rufous Woodpecker, Brown Breasted Flycatcher, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Crimson Backed Sunbird, Indian Blue Robin, Black Kite, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, Forest Wagtail, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Southern Coucal, Ashy Woodswallow, Shikra, Cattle Egret, Indian Yellow Tit, White Breasted Waterhen, Green Sandpiper, Asian Koel, Malabar Trogon, Velvet Fronted Nuthatch, Openbill Stork, Black Naped Monarch, Western Crowned Warbler, Brown Cheeked Fulvetta, Bronzed Drongo.

Carambolin, 18.12.18:

Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Red Wattled Plover, Redshank, Lesser Adjutant, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Black Kite, Shoveler, Teal, Black Winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Whistling Duck, Long Tailed Shrike, Great White Egret, Grey Headed Swamphen, Bronze Winged Jacana, Citrine Wagtail, Purple Heron, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, Marsh Harrier, Little Cormorant, House Crow.

Batim Lake, 18.12.18:

Garganey, Coot, Lesser Whistling Duck, 5 Ferruginous Duck, Gadwall, Grey Headed Swamphen, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Grey Heron, White Rumped Munia, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Booted Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Barn Swallow, Bronze Winged Jacana, White Throated Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Gull Billed Tern, Shikra, Cattle Egret, Taiga Flycatcher, Wire Tailed Swallow, Little Cormorant, 

Girim, 18.12.18:

Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Pied Bushchat, Kestrel, Alexandrine Parakeet.












Dawn in the woods, then off to the bank

After the successes of Bondla, we got back to local sites and jumping a cab, were walking up into Arpora Woods an hour before dawn, past the Club Cubana and a sleeping world on December 19th.

The Indian Scops Owl was calling as we left the apartment.

Expert use of recordings at Arpora by Mr Kehoe quickly brought us in at least two Jerdon’s Nightjar before dawn, including one that briefly perched up well in our torch beams.

After that the sky gradually brightened and the day shift began to appear, including Jerdon’s and Golden Fronted Leafbirds, some very showy Grey Headed Bulbuls and a preening Blyth’s Reed Warbler in the fresh dawn light.

As the day showed itself more and more birds came through – Pallid Harrier and Nilgiri Woodpigeons overhead, Black Headed Cuckooshrike, an all too brief male Vigor’s Sunbird and Thick Billed Flowerpecker – a fine way to start the day.

By 9.30am we were walking back down the hill and heading back for brekkie past Chestnut Tailed Starlings blinking in the hard light.

I spent a bit of time with Arpora’s garden birds including the Rock Doves, which you tend to pass off as ferals, but these birds all look the same and have trademark grey rumps – yup, India’s Rock Doves are wild, wild, wild…

Time for a bit more esoteric birding and we were soon heading out to Morjim’s sandbars again for the afternoon with Rayman.

Shoes off and all aboard the boat to the sandbar!

Not quite as dramatic as our first visit, but still wonderful, there was just the one Pallas’s Gull (a second year bird) today, but plenty of Heuglin’s and Steppe Gulls, tame Greater Sandplover and loafing Black Eared Kites.

Sandwich, Whiskered and Common Terns seemed out of place in southern Asia, but there they were.

The Thomason brothers wandered off hunting seashells, but were lured back to the boat and cold Kingfishers at the Morjim beach bar.

Suitably refreshed Rayman drove us round to the low dune area behind the beach at Morjim, where Paddyfield Pipits watched as we walked through the sandy habitat.

Quite wonderfully two Barred Buttonquails burst from an area of longer grass beside the path and batted off into nearby scrub – brilliant!

They whirred away like little rugby balls, but a short time later another rose before us then dropped into a walled enclosure.

We peered over the wall in time to see a tiny Buttonquail scurrying off towards cover in the deep shade – crap pics, but a great bird!

In my defence it was very small and very fast – can you see it in the pic below?

Delighted with the Buttonquails we ended the day as the sun sank at Siolim where a Great Spotted Eagle spooked the huge gathering of egrets and storks getting ready to roost.

We took the hint and headed to the bar…

Back in Arpora local children were carol singing door to door like they do all over the world – weird in 30 degree heat though!

Arpora Woods, 19.12.18:

Jerdon’s Nightjar, Shikra, Asian Koel, Barn Swallow, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Jerdon’s Leafbird, White Bellied Munia, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, White Bellied Drongo, Golden Fronted Leafbird, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Ashy Drongo, Grey Headed Bulbul, Red Vented Bulbul, Indian Golden Oriole, House Crow, Black Shouldered Kite, Purple Rumped Sunbird, Small Minivet, Green Warbler, Little Swift, Black Headed Cuckooshrike, Vigor’s Sunbird, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Spotted Dove, Pallid Harrier, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, White Spotted Fantail, Indian Roller, Eastern Red Rumped Swallow, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, House Martin, Black Naped Monarch, Common Iora, Thick Billed Flowerpecker, White Browed Bulbul, Purple Sunbird, Chestnut Tailed Starling, Cattle Egret.

Morjim, 19.12.18:

Pallas’s Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Steppe Gull, Sandwich Tern, Great Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Whiskered Tern, Common Tern, Gull Billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Slender Billed Gull, Brown Headed Gull, Great Egret, Black Eared Kite, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Terek Sandpiper, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Grey Plover, Indian Roller, Long Tailed Shrike, Ashy Woodswallow, Little Green Bee Eater, Siberian Stonechat, Barred Buttonquail, Paddyfield Pipit, House Crow.

Siolim, 19.12.18:

Great Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Woolly Necked Stork, Black Headed Ibis, Grey Heron, Bronze Winged Jacana, Shikra, Greater Spotted Eagle, Indian Pond Heron, White Necked Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Little Swift.







Shiva jams a spanner in the works

Some days, it just doesn’t pan out as planned, but we didn’t know that as Rayman picked us up at 5.30am and we headed south to the lakes and tanks around Cutorim on December 20th.

A different side of Goa, the lakes were still stacked with birds – especially wildfowl and the sun rose and residents came to see why we were staring intently at the shallow water…

Shoveler, Pintail and Teal everywhere, Bronze Winged Jacanas, Black Drongos and White Throated Kingfishers on the wires overhead – a great way to start the day.

Pathside weeds held a fine feeding flock of Black Throated Munias, but it took some time for us to get good views of this scarce Goa resident.

Graceful River Terns floated by on pearl grey wings, and at the second tank a pair were entrancing as they fly in perfect synchronicity over the waters – incredibly beautiful.

(picture courtesy Chris Kehoe) 

In the shallows Cotton Pygmy Goose sailed past White Browed wagtails feeding on the mud, while in deeper water splendid Indian Spot Billed Ducks floated about lethargically, while two big Comb Ducks squinted at us.


Appetites raw and ready, Rayman took us into the bustling town of Margao where we ordered way too many samosas, bhajis, coffee and lassis for breakfast before hitting the road.

Or rather the road hit us, as a short time later Rayman was involved in a collision with two ladies on a moped, who mercifully escaped the crash with minor injuries, despite the impact.

Shocking, and naturally Rayman spent the rest of the day filling in reports and making sure the ladies were okay at the hospital, but it brought the birding to an end and we headed back to Arpora in a hastily arranged cab, all quite subdued.

A reminder that not all those close shaves on Indian roads pass in a blur and without consequences.

Cutorim area, 20.12.18:

Coot, Moorhen, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, Bronze Winged Jacana, Grey Headed Swamphen, River Tern, Pied Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Cotton Pygmy Goose, White Browed Wagtail, Ashy Prinia, Black Throated Munia, Lesser Whistling Duck, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Small Pratincole, Indian Cormorant, Brahminy Kite, Jungle Myna, Black Kite, Glossy Ibis, Black Necked Ibis, Purple Heron, Openbill Stork, Osprey, Gull Billed Tern, Spot Billed Duck (8+), Garganey, Comb Duck, Wire Tailed Swallow, Eastern Red Rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black Drongo, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Alpine Swift, Southern Coucal, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Rock Dove, Asian Koel, Green Warbler.


Pipit School (and a few larks)

The top of the bridge towers were shrouded in the clouds of dust/pollution as Rayman drove us south long before dawn to an area of fields to the south east of Panjim.

He seemed none the worse for his collision the day before, but reassured us he’d visited the moped riders in hospital and they were recovering well – and that this was his first accident in 23 years of driving.

Quite some feat considering motoring in India (from a passenger’s point of view at least) seemed like everyone was in some bizarrely enlightened version of Death Race 2000 and Ganesh was at the wheel.

On the upside we were in a slightly larger replacement vehicle today, and no one was suing for whiplash.

So the darkness just before dawn on December 21st saw us standing beside a burnt area of fields south of the river in an area of farmland and saltpans, as the rather soulful Hindu calls to prayer drifted over from the concrete and steel of bustling Panjim.

As the light seeped in, a few mopeds putted through the scorched grasses on the way to work and a footy game kicked off on the dirt nearby.

Movements on the blackened earth revealed Oriental Skylarks and Paddyfield Pipits, with a few Pintail Snipe rising before us.

I’ve always liked a good Oriental Skylark, so watched this one for a while as it rooted about about 15 feet from me.

Egrets, waders and terns dropped into the nearby pans, which held good numbers of Wood Sands, and a flighty flock of Rose Coloured Starlings.

Once the sun rose properly we jumped back in Rayman’s wheels and drove back across the river to some more burnt fields, near the little village of Parra, where we spent the next few hours.

Plenty of pipits to tax us – separating Blyths and Paddyfield is simply not as starightforward as some would have you believe unless you hear them call, and even Richard’s can be a bit tricky.

Analysing the call itself can be pretty subjective too – was that a “schwip” or a “chip chip chip” or a “tsweet”?

In the Goan heat ALL pipit species stand upright and thrush-like, not just Mr Schreepy-pants, but it was fascinating working with them trying to get conclusive views.

All three species were in the fields ( and Tree Pipit), and while they were not easy, it was hugely entertaining working them out.

If you’re not learning and having fun, then you’re not doing it right.

Have a go at these two, let’s call the first one Pic A and the second Pic B (answers at the end of the blog entry):

If it helps, the picture at the very top of the entry is a Blyth’s Pipit. I think. Probably.

There were plenty of other good birds in these fields too – Hoopoes grubbed amongst the ash, superb eastern Stonechats came real close and Malabar Crested Larks sang from overhead wires and scurried about on the deck.

Our only Black Headed Bunting of the trip dropped into the crown of a roadside palm as the pipits twisted our melons, a Black Shouldered Kite went through and the local White Eyed Buzzard swept into a tree about 200m away.

The clock was against us as the day really started to heat up past 10am we had to leave the site and head back to Arpora to pack and get ready for the flight home in the early hours of the 22nd.

Black Kites and Oriental Honey Buzzard came in low to see us off…

Time to leave Ganesh up to his trunk in festival water, hug/thank Rayman for all his help and say farewell to the guys and to Goa.

Fields near Panjim, 21.12.18:

Black Crowned Night Heron, Red Wattled Lapwing, Paddyfield Pipit, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Purple Heron, Little Cormorant, House Crow, Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Woolly Necked Stork, Gull Billed Tern, Indian Roller, Black Drongo, Pintail Snipe, Siberian Stonechat, Rose Coloured Starling, Western Reef Egret, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Spotted Dove, Greenshank, White Throated Kingfisher, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Oriental Skylark.

Fields by Parra, 21.12.18:

Hoopoe, Red Wattled Lapwing, Black Drongo,  House Crow, White Eyed Buzzard, Black Shouldered Kite, Indian Roller, Paddyfield Pipit, Tree Pipit, Malabar Crested Lark, Common Myna, Common Kestrel, Siberian Stonechat, Long Tailed Shrike, Indian Grey Hornbill, Richard’s Pipit, Pied Bushchat, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Indian Golden Oriole, Little Green Bee Eater, Coppersmith Barbet, Black Headed Bunting, Blyth’s Pipit, Booted Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Eastern Red Rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Indian Spotted Eagle, Little Swift.

Right, just a trip list and details of how to hire Rayman to stick on and that’s it, ‘cos if you go to Goa, you NEED to hire Rayman.

Oh yeah, Pic A = Paddyfield Pipit, Pic B = Blyth’s Pipit.










Rayman and the list

Couldn’t finish the Goa blog without including Rayman’s contact details.

A great guide, driver and friend to us during our stay – good birding buddy.

Thanks to Rama K. Govekar aka Rayman.

If you’re going to Goa you can contact him via email at:

Goa 8.12.18-21.12.18, final tally:

Lesser Whistling Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Indian Spot Billed Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Comb Duck, Asian Cotton Pygmy Goose, Indian Peafowl, Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl, Little Grebe, Rock Dove, Nilgiri Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon, Grey Fronted Green Pigeon, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Indian Jungle Nightjar, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Crested Treeswift, White-Rumped Needletail, Brown-backed Needletail, Indian Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift, Alpine Swift, Little Swift, Southern Coucal, Blue Faced Malkoha, Asian Koel, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Common Hawk Cuckoo, White Breasted Waterhen, Purple (Grey Headed) Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Openbilled Stork, Woolly Necked Stork,  Black Crowned Night Heron, Striated Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Western Reef Egret, Black Headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint, Little Stint, Dunlin, Pintail Snipe, Common Snipe, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Barred Buttonquail, Little Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Pallas’s Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Steppe Gull, Caspian Gull, Little Tern, Gull Billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Whiskered Tern, River Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Great Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Osprey, Black Shouldered Kite, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Legge’s Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Indian Spotted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Shikra, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Black-eared Kite, White-eyed Buzzard, Brown Hawk Owl, Jungle Owlet, Spotted Owlet, Indian Scops Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Malabar Trogon, Great Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Hoopoe, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Black-rumped Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Greater Flame-backed Woodpecker, White-naped Woodpecker, Brown-capped Woodpecker, Brown-headed Barbet, White-cheeked Barbet, Malabar Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Little Green Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Common Kestrel, Peregrine, Plum-headed Parakeet, Malabar Parakeet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Indian Pitta, Small Minivet, Orange Minivet, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Black-hooded Oriole, Indian Golden Oriole,  Black-naped Oriole, Ashy Woodswallow, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Malabar Woodshrike, Common Woodshrike, Common Iora, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo, White-bellied Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, White-browed Fantail, White-throated Fantail, Brown Shrike, Daurian Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Rufous Treepie, House Crow, Indian Jungle Crow, Black-naped Monarch, Indian Paradise-flycatcher, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Little Spiderhunter, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Loten’s Sunbird, Vigor’s Sunbird, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Baya Weaver, Red Avadavat, White-rumped Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Black-throated Munia, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Forest Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Richard’s Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, Blyth’s Pipit, Yellow Wagtail x3, Grey Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Common Rosefinch, Black-headed Bunting, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Black-lored Tit, Oriental Skylark, Malabar Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Grey-breasted Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Plain Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Booted Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Indian Reed Warbler, House Martin, Streak-throated Swallow, Eastern Red-rumped Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, Barn Swallow, Crag Martin, Dusky Crag Martin, Sand Martin, Square-tailed Black Bulbul, Flame-throated Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, White-browed Bulbul, Grey-headed Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Green Warbler, Greenish Warbler (?), Western Crowned Warbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Jungle Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Rose-coloured Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Malabar White-headed/Blyth’s Starling, Common Myna, Jungle Myna, Indian Robin, Oriental Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Bluethroat, Malabar Whistling Thrush,  Red-breasted Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Eastern Stonechat, Pied Bushchat, Orange-headed Thrush, Indian Blackbird.

Heard, not seen:  Brown Wood Owl, Blue-bearded Bee-Eater, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler.