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….
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.