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…
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.