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”
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.
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.