Goa, India – November 20th to December 4th 2007

Published by Phil Ramsgate (mschupjm AT yahoo.com)

Participants: Phil Ramsgate


I don’t know how we arranged the trip but somewhere during the summer months of 2007 we did? Why I agreed to go to Goa I couldn’t answer either but now that it’s over I’m just so glad that I did as it has been the best experience of my short travelling life. Craig, my traveling companion had wanted to go for many years but being a bit of a boring stick in mud type manic patch watcher, the whole idea of going to India just didn’t appeal to me. The birding was top notch but the best part of the experience for me was the fantastic attitude of the local people, the wonderful food and the relaxed attitude that prevails in Goa. So different to the cut and thrust life we live in the western world. I loved every minute other than the arduous plane journey and the hassle of the airport. For a semi serious birder as I am its funny to think the birds were only a part of the trip rather than the main thing.

For those of you who haven’t yet been to Goa here are a few things that may be of use ‘if’ you fancy trying it? For those of you who know the ropes – skip this bit.

Visa: A 6 month tourist visa can be obtained from the High Commission of India offices located in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh. They cost 30 pounds if you turn up in person and can be available on the day (though they don’t guarantee this) or 50 pounds if you use one of the many agencies which can be found on their website. If you use the postal route make sure you allow at least a month for turn around – mine took about 3 weeks. Details are available on their website. Craig went and got his in person from London and it was more hassle than the extra 20 quid was worth in my opinion. You need to fill in the form which you can download off the website and provide 2 passport sized photographs and postal visas must be sent in 2 Royal Mail special delivery envelopes (inc the SAE) which adds a few quid to the cost. Please note that the procedure has been changed since August 2007 so check up on the new way of getting a visa if your familiar with the old system of getting one a year or two ago.

They can be contacted on: www.hcilondon.net

Getting around: I read an awful lot of trip reports before I left, one of which said - ‘do not hire a car – you WILL have a crash!’ After going I can see what he meant – its chaos on the roads over there. It’s best to hire a taxi as they are cheap and easily available. You could probably shop around and get a taxi for a whole day for around a ten to twelve quid which is okay to visit most of the sites but if you want to see some of the specialised stuff (Owls, Nightjars, Sparrow Larks etc) then you will need a guide. This is a little more expensive but still not too bad. We had a cheap taxi driver for most of the trip then paid a guide for a few sessions towards the end to find a few skulkers such as Indian Pitta and Brown Wood Owl plus successful sites for missable things like Pallid Harrier, Yellow-wattled Lapwing or hard to find areas such as the Sparrow Lark site at Dona Paula or Saligao Zor etc. Our cheap taxi driver was a bloke called Tony (Anthony) who we met on our second day and made friends with. A more lovely man it would be hard to find. He was also extremely conscientious about being on time, often showing up half an hour early even during our first light starts. It’s obviously extremely important to get an honest and reliable taxi driver and you just can’t get a better one than Tony. Tony however isn’t a birder but knows the roads extremely well so getting to any site will not be a problem. He does however have a fantastic knack of spotting birds even if he isn’t sure what they are. He got me on quite a few birds that I would otherwise have walked straight past. He isn’t online but he can be reached by phone on the following numbers:

Tony mobile: 9881695894
Tony home: 9822176454

He is willing to pick up from Diabolim airport which may be useful if you are making your own arrangements for flying out?

The other taxi driver we used was Santosh. Santosh is a fantastic bloke who has all the good birds staked out. He is slightly more expensive than Tony but still very affordable. It’s best to contact Santosh by phone. His phone number is 9881180424. You won’t find a better guide than Santosh so snap him up if he is available. Another driver we met who had a good reputation was Mahesh. We didn’t use him ourselves but he would appear to know where all the birds were. His phone number is 982248558. (+91 for outside calls) He is online and can be contacted on maheshgoadriver@yahoo.co

You cannot walk 100 meters without a cab pulling up and shouting ‘Taxi’. If you do take a taxi always agree a price prior to getting in it.

Money: I took English money and some Dollars that I had. The going rate at the time was 80 rupees to the pound and about 38 Rs to the dollar. Do not change your money in your hotel but try some of the money changers you see in the streets as they offer a much better rate. We saved about 2000+ Rs between us by using this method. If you are staying at the Marinha Dourada (as we did) then about 300 yards to your right from the hotel entrance is the best place to change your money. The blokes name is Vin and he is open between 09.00 until midnight Monday to Saturday. He also has a couple of phone booths where you can ring home if you need to for about a quid. Vins a lovely bloke too and is very helpful if you need any advice.

Dogs: There are lots of semi feral dogs. Don’t worry they are as passive as the local people. As a person who is a bit wary of dogs this came as a huge relief. After the horror stories of dogs in Turkey etc this info might be of use to the more dog cautious birder.
Beggars: Always a tricky one this? I was told by the locals if you feel the need to give a little money to the locals then give them a small note – perhaps 20 Rs or so. One good thing about Goa is that the government sells the poor 5Kg of rice for just a few rupees so no one in Goa needs to go hungry. There are coconuts everywhere so these can be used by the locals in an emergency. I was told to buy them some food if they asked for money just in case they are alcoholics and spend the money on booze.

Crime: Goa would appear to be fairly safe during daylight hours though we were warned to be slightly more careful at night by the locals even though the risk was infinitesimally small of getting into trouble. I was offered drugs on one occasion so obviously where there are drugs there is normally the risk of robbery or worse if you are not careful.

Insects: Mosquitoes were remarkably lacking which was a bonus. We did use 100% and 55% deet insect repellent as a few mosi’s started to show up in the evening but they were not too much of a problem in November/December.

Electric: To charge up camera batteries etc you will need a three pin Indian adaptor. These can be purchased online from Roaming Fox Travel Accessories. We also bought our 100% and 55% deet from them. They sell everything else you will need for a birding trip too and turn orders around very quickly. To contact them: phone 0871 918 2838 or online at www.roamingfox.co.uk

Bird Books: We took two fields guides ‘A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent’ by Kazmierczak and van Perlo plus ‘A pocket guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent’ by Grimmet, Inskipp and Inskipp. Although both books were useful neither was ideal. Covering well over a 1000 species in such a small guide meant there were lots of birds covered that we had no chance of seeing in Goa making the birds we were trying to find within the pages hard to locate. The Kazmeirczak book is easier to get around having a useful inside cover which shows a single bird from each family and the plate numbers where they can be found but the plates lack certain species in flight which is unsurprising in such a small book when you think about it. The Grimmet book is much better in this regard but the plates are too cluttered and the distribution maps too hard to locate in my opinion. Some of the birders were using the ‘Helm guide to the Birds of Southern India’ which is a far better book if you only want a book just for Goa rather than the whole subcontinent. The Helm guide is the one I would go for if I had my time again.

Accommodation: There are hotels all over the place in Goa but it’s probably best to stay either in Arpora, Baga or somewhere in that general region. We stayed at the Marinha Dourada in Arpora which was ideal as there are lots of birding spots within walking distance or from the hotel grounds. The hotel overlooks Baga hill and Arpora wood and is a fantastic spot for raptor watching or sifting through the myriads of hirundines and swifts that wheel about over the salt pans in the hotel grounds. Lots of Herons, Bee-eaters, Kingfishers and passerines can be seen there too. The rooms are clean and spacious with air con and en suite facilities. A fridge is kept stocked with water, fizzy drink and beer and if you get hungry then room service will bring you grub as you need it. Arpora wood is a 15 minute walk away and Baga hill about 5 minutes walk. A five minute taxi ride away is Baga which is another good place to stay. The Beira Mar Hotel overlooks a marsh which provides brilliant birding and on the other side of the town are Baga fields which again are stuffed with birds. The food at both hotels is very good as is the atmosphere. Marinha Dourada is a 3 star and the Beira Mar a 2 star accommodation. There are taxis waiting outside both hotels.

Food: The food was fantastic everywhere we went. We eat at the Marinha Dourada, Beira Mar, East Meets West (across the road from the Beira Mar) and All Spice which is 5 – 6 minutes walk from the Marinha Dourada. Turn right out of the main gate of the hotel go to the end of the road and turn right at the T-junction. All Spice is about 500 yards along the road on your left. A curry and a starter plus a nan and popadoms cost about a fiver. We also started eating breakfast at All Spice which is served from about 08.00 until midday. You can stuff yourself for about three – four quid. I wouldn’t bother even going anywhere else. If you’re birding - a decent breakfast at about ten o’clock allows a nice early morning birding session and sets you up until after dark for you main meal. During the middle part of the day after a relaxing breakfast session, pick a shady spot and search through the raptors soaring about before making up your mind where to try in the evening – it’s such a chilled out way of birding. You could go mad and knock yourself out birding during the middle part of the day but the birding is far harder then and you will probably only get about 5 extra species for your effort if you are lucky. By standing and scanning the skies from the shade of the hotel or the roadside palm trees we picked up some good birds which came to us (rather than us charging about in 80% humidity and stifling heat looking for them) such as Tawny Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Eagle, 5 Amur Falcon, Plain Martin and a local rarity in the shape of a Pacific Swift. By 3.00pm we were ready for attacking the woods or the marsh at a time when it was starting to cool down and the birds were getting active again.

Sites Visited: we visited most of the sites on the Goan bird circuit. One place we didn’t go was the reserve at Bondla which is a fantastic site by all accounts. It was an hour’s drive from our hotel and to be honest we just couldn’t be bothered to go. It’s a good place for Malabar Trogan and Forest Wagtail amongst a host of other Goan goodies. The sites we did go to were:

Arpora Wood: To get into the wood get a taxi to the Cabana nightclub and start birding as soon as you get off the main road. There is a path which takes you through a walled off area (past the Cabana Nightclub) and into the bushy/wooded area. Off the main path to the right there are a couple of paths which drop down the valley into an open area which need exploring. It’s an easy place to bird and is full of birds. You can walk there (allow 15 mins) from the Marinha Dourada. Turn right as you leave the hotel then take the left at the main road. About a mile along the road there is a sharp bend to the left with an obvious opening on your right with a Club Cabana sign and this is the way into Arpora.

Baga: The 3 main sites for birds in the Baga area are the fields, the Hill and the Beira Mar Hotel. To access the Baga Fields cross the new bridge over the river and the fields are immediately on your left. About 500 meters from the bridge there is a small sand pathway out in the scrub opposite a small fenced off field. You can walk all the way to the Beira Mar from there but there are many routes you can take either through the grass or towards the bushes and farmed fields. Once again it’s stuffed with birds out there – Pipits, Starlings, Pintail Snipe and Buttonquail are your main target though there are lots of Munia, Bee-eaters, Hoopoe, Cisticola and other Warblers etc to keep your interest. Baga Hill is back across the river and runs parallel to it right down to the coast and back to Arpora in the opposite direction. There are various paths up into the Hill, the best one is a five minute walk from the Marinha Dourada. Cross the small river bridge just west (1 minute) as you come left out of the Marinha Dourada entrance and take the third road on your right just past two small shop/stalls on your right. You will know this is the right road as there are a few roads shooting off to the right when you get there and it is the widest of the 3 roads too – you could drive up the track quite easily. Check all the paths, then when you get to the top, cross through the hole in the wall on your left and you will find a large opening where you can see into the valley below and right around to the coast. The paths go in various directions from here but I’m told you can follow the path on the top right down to the coast. Target species here include Jerdons Leafbird (easy), Blue-faced Malkoha and Grey-headed Bulbul – 3 species I couldn’t find anywhere else during our trip. It’s also packed with small energetic flocks of Tawny-bellied Babblers, another specie we couldn’t find until we tried the hill. There was a White-eyed Buzzard hanging around here which was seen by two separate observers but unfortunately I couldn’t relocate the little blighter! The Beira Mar Hotel can be found by driving down the main road into Baga (keep on the left and the first fork in the road) and the entrance is just past the taxi rank on your left. It’s a bit of a maze when you get in there but ask the car park attendant where to go when you get in and he will direct you (after saluting you – as he did on the 15 separate occasions we parked there!) into the outside bar/restaurant which backs onto the marsh. The target species here are Cinnamon Bittern, Painted Snipe, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Slaty-breasted Rail, Clamorous Reed Warbler (right underneath the railings is the best spot for these), Paddyfield Warbler, Bluethroat etc. Stand on the edge of the swimming pool and check the small shallow pools at dusk and the dead scrub in the late afternoon. There is a resident Lesser Spotted Eagle sitting in a tree 50 meters off here plus all the other stuff sits around on the wires whilst the marsh is full of waders, Raptors etc. A couple of hours in the evening until you clear up should suffice. You can get a drink here and the foods quite good (after 7.00pm) too. As it get dark a platoon of Night Heron sized Fruit bats make their way over towards the hotel – the only thing missing is the ‘Flight of the Valkeries’ music – its very impressive the first time you see these enormous beasts.

Backwoods: Backwoods is an experience all of its own and the holiday wouldn’t have been the same without it. We went for 2 nights (3 days) and enjoyed every minute. We paid 5500 Rs, which is quite expensive by normal Goan standards but for this you get picked up from your hotel, 3 decent meals and drink a day and a fantastic guide without whom you would miss most of the birds on offer. The tents have a built in toilet and shower and now have an electric source too. The beds don’t look much but they are exceptionally comfortable. You may want to ask for an extra blanket as it gets cold at night in the hills even in India and you will want a Jumper/thin coat for sitting about in the eating/drinking area as you can easily sit up quite late as the bar is open until 12.00. A torch is useful too. We took some Mosquito rings for the tent though I don’t know whether we needed them or not? We used them anyway just in case – there are few things worse than a tent with a few mosquito’s in it in my opinion. You will get many species at Backwoods you won’t get anywhere else but that’s not the best reason to go in my opinion.

To contact go to: www.backwoodsbirding.com 1 – 4 night stays can be arranged.

Carambolim: All the hotel taxi drivers know the way to Carambolim so don’t worry about getting there or hiring a guide. It’s another essential place to visit – try and get there for first light which was about 06.30 in November/December. When you get there park by the lake just past the railway crossing which is festooned with Gallinules, both Jacanas, Herons etc. Cotton Pygmy Geese are easy here so stay here until you find a few. There are wooded and marshy areas here and all need to be checked out to get the best out of a morning/evening session here. The star turns here are the Brown Hawk Owl (in the wood), Jungle Owlet, Malabar Pied Hornbill etc with the possibility later on in the year of seeing Comb Duck and Spot-billed Duck. Check the marsh on the opposite side of the road as we found a Watercock, 2 Painted Snipe and a large group of Asian Openbill Storks there. You may find a young lad there who is a sort of warden for the area. Ask him to show you where the Owls are – he is most helpful. His name is Suresh and he stayed with us for about an hour showing us the Brown Hawk Owl, 2 Roosting Spotted Owlets and a Pied Hornbill which I wouldn’t have seen even though it flew right over my head! The Jungle Owlets eluded us on that day but I think we were a bit unlucky to miss them? Bung him a bit of money if you can.

Morjim Beach: You won’t need a guide for Morjim – just hire any old taxi (it’s about half an hour from Arpora) and park as close to the estuary as you can. There are some shady pine trees on your left as you first see the beach so stop there and walk out to where the Gulls are and have fun fun fun!! We were told not to go too early but arriving at first light a huge movement of passerines and hirundines was happening intermingled with many hundreds of Small Pratincoles. Amongst the Gulls you should find the daddy of all Larids - the Great Black-headed Gull, and very impressive they are too even in winter plumage. You will see Slender Billed, Yellow-legged (barabensis), Heuglins Gulls plus Caspian, Lesser Crested and Gull-billed Terns here amongst the 100’s of Brown-headed Gulls. We missed out on Greater Crested Tern here but they do occur. Both Sand Plovers species and Kentish Plover will be seen here plus there are Buttonquails in the grass and lots of passerines in the bushes and on the fences along the roadside. Bay-backed Shrike can be found amongst the palm trees apparently and we found a nice Grey-necked Bunting sitting on a fence near to where our taxi was parked. A few Dolphins were swimming about offshore on our third visit.

Maem Lake: another good spot. It’s probably best to get a guide for here but it’s not essential. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Arpora and the hit list includes Brown Fish Owl, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove and if you are lucky Blue-bearded Bee-eater which were heard calling by Santosh when we were there but couldn’t be seen unfortunately. Crimson Sunbird can be found near the car park and another group found a real rarity the day after our visit – an Ultramarine Flycatcher. Blue-eared Kingfishers occurs here too and there are a pair of nesting Crested Hawk-eagles in the wood. Listen out for their Curlew like call or just keep an eye out for the nest high up on the hill which the birds visit from time to time. We saw Indian Scimitar Babbler, 2 Grey Nightjar and 2 Yellow-crowned Woodpecker here. It also turned up only our second sighting of Crested Treeswifts too so keep your eyes peeled for those if you still haven’t seen many. There are lots of birds around the lakes bushes and trees though the lake itself was virtually devoid of life – just the odd Cormorant and Kingfisher on view while we were there.

Dona Paula: You will need a guide for this spot – not to show you the birds but purely just to find the place. It’s famous for its Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks but it’s good for Tawny Pipit, Oriental Skylark and Short-toed Lark too. We also had bonus Pied Cuckoo, Booted Warbler, Grey-necked Bunting and a pair of Spotted Owlets during our short visit.

Saligao Zor: The spot for Brown Wood Owl. The Zor (a small stream where the locals do their washing) is an extremely difficult place to find so it’s essential to hire a guide not only to find the spot but also to find the Owls when you get there! Without Santosh we wouldn’t have stood a chance of finding the birds. With our other taxi driver it took us a couple of hours of asking around and when we did eventually find the area we were met with a forest full of ten zillion trees – any one of which could have held the Owls. Santosh eventually located the birds after about 10 minutes on our second visit!! There is more than one Zor in Saligoa so be careful if you decide to do what we did. The Owls aside, the wood holds many birds. We saw 2 nice Blue-naped Monarchs here and could hear a few Grey-headed Bulbuls. It’s a nice spot anyway and well worth a visit. The Owls are weird looking things - extraterrestrials with feathers! ‘Well worth the entrance fee’ though as me old mate Dave Gilbert used to say.

Divar Island: A Goan version of the Isle of Sheppy (in Kent if you know the spot?) which is packed with birds such as Harriers, Pipits, Larks and there are many passerines in the low scrub too. We went for the Pallid Harriers (and saw quite a few) but we also saw Brown Shrike and Black-shouldered Kite too. Oriental Skylark is easy here if you haven’t seen them anywhere else. We had to catch a ferry across the river to get there (very expensive it was too … um er … 10 Rupees! Have a whip round if you’re short of cash.) but I wasn’t sure if I could find the spot again? Santosh took us on that day though you may be able to get a Joe soap taxi driver who knows how to get there if you want to save money? On getting off the ferry we drove for about a mile and stopped if that’s any help? The Pallids were easy to find in the late afternoon and the males are vastly impressive if like me you’ve not seen them before. There were Sykes Warbler (H.rama) seen here too by another group.

Zuari River: Another essential trip. We arranged the mini adventure with Santosh and the boat trip cost 1000 Rs each. We were the only birders on the boat which other than Santosh held another guide and a boat driver and no one else. Take your telescope if you go as the boat is very stable and a scope is useful for some of the smaller wading birds on the muddy river margins. We wanted to see Collared and Black-capped Kingfisher, Slaty-breasted Rail and Great Crested Tern and as it happened we got the set! Bonus birds like Spoonbill, Darter, Black-headed Ibis, Clamorous Reed Warbler and our best views of Striated Heron were had here too. It was absolutely brilliant – I could hardly believe we saw 8 Collared Kingfishers … yes 8 - and really close too. The 30 Great Crested Terns sitting on top of poles 20 meters from the boat weren’t too shabby either!

Other sites: The marsh and paddies at Santa Cruz were visited once. The fields were packed with migrant waders and are well worth a visit. We went with Santosh who normally finds a couple of places to go on the way or way back from a site where there are a few birds such as Fort Aguada and Tikkanem. Another fantastic place to visit is the marsh at Siolim. A short section of road dissects two huge areas of open wet farm fields which were so packed with birds, nothing I can write can get even close to describing. An evening or a morning session is best of course and a scope will be needed to get on some of the birds. 1 – 2000 Small Pratincoles, 40+ Asian Openbills, lots of Black-winged Stilts and other waders, Wagtails, 5 specie of Kingfisher, 1000+ Egrets and Herons, 3 Bee-eater species etc will keep you occupied for an hour or three. We also saw a perched female Amur Falcon here plus a big flock of Black-headed Ibis. We learned from a Dutch birder (Benni van der Hill*) that this is the spot where the Grey-headed Lapwings have been seen for the past couple of winters though they were not seen here during our few visits.

*bad joke

A full overly long version (39 pages!!) of this trip can be read on my mate’s website at: www.planetthanet.org It includes a day by day diary of our little adventure. If you can stand it, go to the above website and click on ‘archives’ in the column on the left which will take you to bird trip reports. 14 coffees would be advisable if you’re going to take on the ordeal of reading the entire document. Jolly good luck!

And now for the boring bird list … yawn:

Species Lists

Little Grebe: seen or heard on 3 dates.
Indian Cormorant: a few were seen at Carambolim Lake then another was seen on the roadside near Santa Cruz.
Great Cormorant: 1 at Carambolim Lake.
Little Cormorant: common at all wetland sites.
Oriental Darter: 3 at Carambolim then 1 seen from the boat on the Zuari river trip.
Western Reef Egret: seen on about half a dozen dates at various wetlands. 6+ on the Zuari River trip probably the highest count we managed.
Little Egret: common.
Great White Egret: common.
Intermediate Egret: common.
Eastern Cattle Egret: an apparent split from the western form though they looked much like the other things you see all over the world to me? Common.
Grey Heron: singles were seen on 4 or 5 dates.
Purple Heron: 1 – 4+ were seen at all the wetland sites.
Indian Pond Heron: common.
Night Heron: seen daily from the Marinha Dourada hotel – a maximum of 20+ birds. Otherwise, they were seen on a few other dates at a few other sites.
Striated Heron: about a dozen separate sightings at Backwoods, Carambolim, Zuari River, Mondovi river etc.
Cinnamon Bittern: 1 or 2 birds were seen on 4 dates from the Beira Mar Hotel.
Asian Openbill: seen on 3 dates – 1 sitting in a field near Siolim, c50 at Carambolim Lake then 43 at Siolim marsh.
Wooly-necked Stork: singles from the Beira Mar Hotel then flyovers on 2 dates over the Marinha Dourada Hotel.
Glossy Ibis: c60 were seen at Carambolim Lake.
Black-headed Ibis: 15 at Carambolim Lake, 4 on the Zuari river trip then 45 flew over at Siolim marsh.
Eurasian Spoonbill: 3 were seen on the Zuari river trip. Apparently there are only 6 birds present in the area so we were indeed fortunate to see any at all.
Lesser Whistling Duck: common at any wetland site.
Garganey: 70 were seen at Carambolim.
Shoveler: a few were seen at Carambolim.
Cotton Pygmy Goose: c20 were seen at Carambolim.
Black-shouldered Kite: singles seen on 2 dates from Marinha Dourada Hotel, a pair on our drive to Saligao Zor then another single on Divar Island.
Brahminy Kite: common near the coast.
Black Kite: common.
Black-eared Kite: easily seen around the coastal strip.
Besra: 1 at Backwoods was the only sighting.
Shikra: seen most days at virtually all the sites we visited.
Crested Goshawk: a pair of largish accipiters seen over Arpora woods were probably this specie? Another single bird, expertly spotted by Loven on our drive back from Backwoods, showed well after an emergency stop.
Steppe Buzzard: singles birds were seen over Arpora wood and Saligao. Another Buteo specie seen from the Marinha Dourada escaped identification though I doubt very much it was a Steppe Buzzard, appearing in jizz and plumage far closer to the Buzzards we see in Britain? I will pass on that one.
Oriental Honey Buzzard: fairly common and seen on most days at a variety of sites. 6+ were seen daily from the Marinha Dourada hotel during our mid-day raptor watches.
Crested Serpent Eagle: singles at Tikkanem then on 2 dates from the Marinha Dourada Hotel.
Short-toed Eagle: 1 was seen during the raptor watch at Backwoods.
Rufous-bellied Eagle: an immature bird was seen during our raptor watch at Backwoods.
Booted Eagle: fairly common and seen in small numbers on most days.
Bonelli’s Eagle: an adult bird showed up during the raptor watch at Backwoods.
Mountain Hawk-eagle: 1 on the raptor watch at Backwoods.
Crested Hawk-eagle: seen on 2 dates over Arpora woods (once from the hotel) then a pair near a huge nest at Maem Lake.
Black Eagle: a magnificent ‘thing’ showed very well near the end of the trip over Baga hill during a mid-day raptor watch from the Marinha Dourada Hotel. One of the best birds of the whole trip for me.
Lesser Spotted Eagle: seen on about half a dozen dates. A bird was seen every day sitting in a tree c50 meters away from the Beira Mar Hotel.
Greater Spotted Eagle: 1 – 2 were seen daily when we took any time to partake in any raptor watching.
Tawny Eagle: 1 was seen from the Marinha Dourada over Apora woods and Baga Hill.
Osprey: 1 – 3 birds were seen most days, most commonly fishing over the salt pans from our hotel.
Sea Eagle specie: a large bulky Sea Eagle was showed well for about ten minutes as it appeared over Baga Hill then flew right past us and over Arpora woods on November 30th. The wing shape was wrong for White-bellied Sea Eagle (which fly on deeply Vee’d wings like a huge Black-shouldered Kite) and the large head and short tail made the bird shape more like a large Vulture than the common Goan sea eagle. The only other Sea Eagle currently recorded in the area is Grey-headed Sea Eagle, though this is extremely rare. The plumage of our bird did indicate it might well be an immature of this specie? A little more research is needed as the books we had with us were not of much help.
White-bellied Sea Eagle: A pair showed daily from the Marinha Dorada Hotel/Arpora woods. Others were seen over Baga beach, Zuari River and the Mandovi River.
Pallid Harrier: a lovely male and 4 – 5+ other ring-tails were seen during an evening visit to Divar Island.
Marsh Harrier: common in suitable habitat. A very strange black and white male showed well from the Beira Mar Hotel one evening. We were all hoping it was a male Pied Harrier but it turned out to be just an aberrant Marsh Harrier.
Kestrel: seen on about half a dozen dates.
Amur Falcon: A rare vagrant apparently, though we came across them on 3 separate dates. A group of four showed over the Marinha Dourada Hotel on our first full day then a single was seen in the same area on the following day. We came across another perched bird (a female) sitting around on the wires over the Siolim Marsh. Other birders saw as many as ten birds together – so obviously a bit of migration was going on during our stay.
Barred Buttonquail: single birds were flushed on 2 dates at Baga fields.
Red Spurfowl: a few birds were heard and flushed from the undergrowth but on all occasions views were very poor. A single was seen with the naked eye at Backwoods then 3+ showed slightly better as they legged it through the undergrowth during an afternoon jaunt up a very steamy Baga Hill.
Indian Peafowl: 1 – 6+ were seen at Backwoods and Baga Hill. More were heard at other sites.
Slaty-breasted Rail: 1 was seen during the Zuari River Trip.
Ruddy-breasted Crake: 2 were flushed at Tikkanem then Craig saw another waddling around in the marsh off the Beira Mar Hotel.
White-breasted Waterhen: fairly common at suitable marshy habitats.
Watercock: Craig found one at Carambolim Lake. He’s a good lad.
Grey-headed Swamphen: c200 at Carambolim Lake and a single off the Beira Mar Hotel were the only sightings.
Moorhen: seen on a few dates.
Coot: scarce. I can only remember seeing them at Carambolim?
Painted Snipe: seen most days in the marsh at dusk from the Beira Mar Hotel – maximum seven birds there during the first week of our stay. A family party with two small young were seen there from time to time there. Another pair were seen apparently building a nest at Carambolim?
Black-winged Stilt: Up to sixty were present daily at Siolim marsh and another 9 birds were seen at Santa Cruz.
Bronze-winged Jacana: common at Carambolim Lake. A few were seen at two other sites.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana: common at Carambolim Lake though otherwise only seen at Santa Cruz.
Small Pratincole: 1000+ was the maximum count at Mojem beach during our early morning visits and perhaps twice this many were present during out second session at Siolim Marsh. Also seen in good numbers at Santa Cruz.
Red-wattled Lapwing: common.
Yellow-wattled Lapwing: 9 were seen at Santosh’s secret spot for this specie. Fantastic views too from the taxi.
Pacific Golden Plover: 5 at Siolim Bridge, 1 at Santa Cruz then 4 flyovers at Siolim Marsh were the only sightings.
Greater Sandplover: 6 – 10 birds were seen amongst the hordes of Lessers on Morjim beach.
Lesser Sandplover: 100+ daily at Morjim beach.
Little-ringed Plover: common at suitable sites.
Kentish Plover: common at Morjim Beach.
Curlew: a few were seen on the Zuari River trip.
Whimbrel: a few were seen on the Zuari river trip.
Terek Sandpiper: 1 – 4 were seen on 2 dates at Morjim Beach and about 25 were seen in the high tide roost at Siolim Bridge.
Greenshank: seen in small numbers on a number of dates in suitable habitat.
Wood Sandpiper: common. Three figure counts were taken at Siolim Marsh and one evening at the Beira Mar Hotel.
Green Sandpiper: common.
Common Sandpiper: common.
Marsh Sandpiper: 1 at Siolim Marsh near the end of the trip was the only sighting.
Redshank: common.
Ruff: only 1 was seen – at the salt pan near the hotel.
Curlew Sandpiper: singles on two dates at Morjim Beach and Santa Cruz marsh.
Dunlin: A few were seen on Morjim beach.
Temmick’s Stint: 1 – 20+ birds were seen on 6 dates.
Little Stint: common at Siolim marsh and Santa Cruz.
Sanderling: 2 were seen at Morjim Beach.
Common Snipe: seen on a few dates.
Pintail Snipe: 3 were flushed one afternoon at Baga fields and other singles were seen at Siolim and Santa Cruz.
Heuglins Gull: up to ten plus birds were seen daily on Morjim Beach.
Great Black-headed Gull: 10 were seen during our first visit to Morjim then 7 were seen on our third visit there.
Slender-billed Gull: common on Morjim beach. 52+ were seen there on our last morning visit.
Brown-headed Gull: many hundreds at Morim beach plus odd flocks were seen on both the Zuari and Mandovi rivers.
Black-headed Gull: a handful were seen on Morjim Beach.
Gull-billed Tern: common at all the marsh and river habitats.
Sandwich Tern: 2 – 3 were seen on one date at Morjim Beach.
Lesser Crested Tern: common at Morjim Beach. 21 were there on our third visit.
Great Crested Tern: 30 were seen on the Zuari River Trip.
Caspian Tern: 1 – 3+ birds were seen on each visit to Morjim Beach.
Whiskered Tern: singles were seen on 2 visits to Siolim Marsh.
Rock Dove: common.
Mountain Imperial Pigeon: easy to see at Backwoods.
Nilgiri Woodpigeon: a flyover at Arpora. I couldn’t find any at Baga Hill.
Oriental Turtle Dove: 1 at Backwoods.
Spotted Dove: common.
Grey-fronted Green Pigeon: a few at Backwoods then 5 more sitting in a fruiting tree on Baga Hill.
Vernal Hanging Parrot: seen at Backwoods, Carambolim and Baga Hill.
Malabar Parakeet: seen on about 4 dates – best views at Backwoods.
Plum-headed Parakeet: seen on about six dates. Common at Maem Lake. The adult males are very pretty – I can’t believe I’m complementing a Parakeet but there you go. The heat must have gotten to me or something??
Rose-ringed Parakeet: common.
Alexandrine Parakeet: two over the salt pans near the hotel then a single at Baga Hill. We did see a flyover pair somewhere else – but me forget where … hee hee.
Drongo Cuckoo: 1 in Arpora Woods.
Pied Cuckoo: A juvenile bird was found at Dona Paula – quite a good bird according to Santosh.
Asian Koel: fairly common.
Common Cuckoo: singles at Arpora and Carambolim.
Common Hawk-cuckoo: a juvenile was seen near the camp at Backwoods.
Blue-faced Malkoha: 1 was eventually found on the penultimate day at Baga Hill.
Greater Coucal: A real beast. Seen in small numbers on most days.
Brown-hawk Owl: one was seen in the small wood at Carambolim. Three were heard calling one evening at Backwoods.
Barn Owl: One was seen near our hotel.
Brown Wood Owl: An extremely camouflaged pair were expertly found by Santosh at Saligoa behind the Zor. We would have had no chance of finding them without him.
Spotted Owlet: 2 on the restaurant railings at Beira Mar, 2 on wires near our hotel then 2 during daylight spotted in an abandoned building at Dona Paula.
Sri Lanka Frogmouth: 2 weird looking things straight out the ‘Critters’ movie sitting in a clump of bamboo at Backwoods.
Indian Little Nightjar: 2 found roosting in daylight hours were seen at Maem Lake. A small Nightjar seen flying around in darkness at the Marinha Dourada Hotel as we eat in the outside restaurant was presumably this specie.
Jerdon’s Nightjar: a few were seen at Backwoods.
Crested Treeswift: We struggled to find this specie. They are meant to be easy at Bondla but we decided against going there due to time restrictions and laziness. We did see a pair distantly in flight at Backwoods on the raptor watch then two more (1 perched) at Maem Lake.
Asian Palm Swift: Seen at 3 sites. Easiest at Marinha Dourada whilst scanning the Hirundine/Swift flocks wheeling about over the salt pans where 3 – 4+ were seen daily.
Indian Swiftlet: Seen on 3 dates from the hotel (maximum 3 birds) then anther single at Backwoods.
White-rumped Needletail: a few showed during the first evening at Backwoods.
Brown-backed Needletail: 3 were seen near the temple on the first evening then 12+ showed during the raptor watch on our last afternoon at Backwoods.
Little Swift: common.
Pacific Swift: a rarity. Craig found one amongst a huge group of Little Swifts and Red-rumped Swallows from our hotel balcony on December 2nd. The bird showed well for about 5 minutes before disappearing.
Alpine Swift: one over the hotel salt pans on our second afternoon.
Indian Roller: common.
Hoopoe: Seen at Baga Fields, Backwoods and Arpora.
Stork-billed Kingfisher: seen on about half a dozen dates. About 6 along the Zuari River the best day for the specie.
Collared Kingfisher: a rather impressive eight individuals of this scarce specie were seen on the Zuari River Trip.
Black-capped Kingfisher: half a dozen were seen on the Zuari River Trip then singles were seen on two dates at Siolim Marsh.
White-throated Kingfisher: common and seen everywhere.
Lesser Pied Kingfisher: 1 – 3 on half a dozen dates were seen around the hotel salt pans, Carambolim and Siolim Marsh.
Blue-eared Kingfisher: 3 were seen on the walk upstream at Backwoods.
Common Kingfisher: common.
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher: good views of a bird up stream at Backwoods.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater: quite a few were seen on our first visit to Siolim Lake and they were seen on 2 dates after this.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Seen at Siolim, Beira Mar, Marinha Dourada etc.
Little Green Bee-eater: common.
Malabar Grey Hornbill: 2 pairs were seen on two dates around Backwoods.
Malabar Pied Hornbill: one was seen in flight at Carambolim Lake.
Great Hornbill: we struck lucky with this specie which has become a great scarcity in the area by all accounts. 3 were seen on the first day at Backwoods then another pair there on the following day.
Coppersmith Barbet: seen in Arpora Woods, Maem Lake and Baga Hill.
Malabar Barbet: a few were seen at Backwoods.
White-cheeked Barbet: seen distantly at Maem Lake then very close at Baga Hill.
Heart-spotted Woodpecker: seen on 2 dates around Backwoods.
Indian Pygmy Woodpecker: a pair at Backwoods.
Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker: a pair were seen at Maem Lake.
Rufous Woodpecker: seen on 3 dates the best views at Maem Lake.
Black-rumped Flameback: The most common woodpecker we saw. Seen on a few dates at Backwoods, Carambolim etc.
Greater Flameback: 2 were seen near the temple at Backwoods.
White-bellied Woodpecker: another of the highlights. Heard drumming on the first day then a pair showed well on day 2 in the woods at Backwoods. The volume of the drumming had to be heard to be believed – awesome things.
Indian Pitta: heard calling at Backwoods (movement glimpsed with naked eye though Craig did get the bins on its head!) then very good views at Santosh’s site near the end of the trip.
Oriental Skylark: common at Divar Island and Dona Paula.
Malabar Lark: fairly common at a few sites.
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark: good views of 3 – 4 birds at Dona Paula.
Greater Short-toed Lark: seen in small numbers at Morjim and Dona Paula and big numbers on Divar Island where there must have been well over a hundred birds? One flock alone held 70 or 80.
Sand Martin: a scarce bird in Goa. One was seen (and heard) flying amongst Hirundines on Morjim Beach on our last visit there.
Plain Martin: one was seen over the salt pans from the Marinha Dourada.
Dusky Crag Martin: Santosh spotted one as we loaded up our gear into his taxi at the entrance to the Marinha Dourada. 2 other probables were seen during the trip too?
Streak-throated Swallow: seen in small numbers at Marinha Dourada, Baga Fields, Beira Mar and Backwoods.
Barn Swallow: common.
Red-rumped Swallow: Very common.
Wire-tailed Swallow: seen in small numbers daily. The nicest of the Hirundines.
Yellow Wagtail: masses of post roost birds (flyovers) on both mornings we went to Morjim beach and common at most of the paddies too. The only race we were able to positively identify were Grey-headed (thunbergii) – one bird we found was in near full summer plumage. We suspected some other as being possibly Black-headed (feldegg) but couldn’t be sure so early in the season.
Grey Wagtail: a handful were seen at a few different sites.
Citrine Wagtail: good views were had of a bird in a roadside rice paddy at Tikkanem.
Forest Wagtail: one was seen along the river at Backwoods.
White Wagtail: A couple were seen in the rice paddy at Tikkanem.
White Browed Wagtail: common around the Marinha Dourada.
Tree Pipit: seen and heard at a few sites on 3 or 4 dates. 2 at Carambolim looked most odd – very dull for Tree Pipits? I would assume they are a different race?
Richard’s Pipit: The most common Pipit in my opinion? Easy at quite a few sites especially Baga Fields where there were loads of them shreeping away.
Paddyfield Pipit: quite common. The calls quite distinctive and they seen a little more approachable than Richards too.
Tawny Pipit: seen in Baga Fields and Dona Paula. If anyone tells you they don’t exist in Goa then ignore them as its rubbish.
Blyth’s Pipit: seen in Baga Fields and Carambolim. They are probably fairly common/regular if you can be bothered to check through every Pipit?
Ashy Woodswallow: common at Marinha Dourada, Maem Lake and Backwoods etc.
Common Woodshrike: seen at the Pitta site, Maem Lake and Baga Hill.
Malabar Woodshrike: seen on one date near the entrance track into Arpora wood on the way to the Cabana Nightclub.
Pied Flycatcher-shrike: one in Arpora then about 4 around Backwoods.
Black-headed Cuckooshrike: seen near Arpora woods and then at Maem Lake.
Large Cuckooshrike: only seen in Arpora where a pair were seen on most visits.
Orange Minivet: A few were seen at Backwoods.
Small Minivet: seen at Backwoods, the Pitta site and they were common on Baga Hill.
Red-vented Bulbul: seen in small numbers at Backwoods, Arpora, Baga etc.
Red-whiskered Bulbul: very common and seen almost everywhere.
Square-tailed Black Bulbul: easy at Backwoods.
Flame-throated Bulbul: quite common at Backwoods – very pretty too.
Grey-headed Bulbul: 2 at Baga Hill on the last day were the only ones seen. They were heard calling in the woods at Saligoa Zor but escaped visible detection there.
White-browed Bulbul: fairly common at Arpora, Backwoods, Dona Paula etc.
Yellow-browed Bulbul: quite easy at Backwoods.
Common Iora: common at Arpora, Baga Hill, Backwoods etc.
Golden-fronted Leafbird: 4 were seen at Backwoods then a pair at Maem Lake.
Jerdon’s Leafbird: 3 on the first visit to Baga Hill then a single on the second visit.
Asian Fairy Bluebird: Easy at Backwoods – the males are stunning things.
Long-tailed Shrike: common everywhere.
Brown Shrike: two at Divar Island and a single off the Beira Mar Hotel.
Black-naped Blue Monarch: about 4 at Backwoods then a pair at Saligoa behind the Zor.
Asian Paradise Flycatcher: reasonably common in woodlands.
White-spotted Fantail: singles at Arpora woods, the Pitta Site then 2 were seen during a late afternoon walk up Baga Hill.
Blue-headed Rock Thrush: a male at Backwoods then a female at the Pitta site.
Orange-headed Thrush: fantastic views of these fantastic birds at Backwoods then a single under the same bush as the Pitta.
Malabar Whistling Thrush: Brilliant birds these. Nice to look at but vocally one of the best things we had. Its call recalls a squeaky bike wheel then the song is a drunken fluty whistle which you just can’t hear without falling about laughing.
Indian Blackbird: seen at Backwoods and the Pitta site.
Siberian Thrush: Perhaps a new bird for Goa? We spotted 2 thrush’s sitting in a thinly leafed tree - a male and a female. The male (a first winter bird) showed very well down to about 30 meters for a few minutes before flying off with the female. Eye-browed Thrush was seen and photographed beneath the fruiting fig tree near the temple at Backwoods and this was certainly a new bird for Goa. One of a few strange birds reported by the birders during our two week stay.
White-rumped Shama: poor views of a female at dusk. Loven could hear them calling at Backwoods but they were just impossible to find there.
Oriental Magpie Robin: quite common.
Indian Robin: Seen on about half a dozen dates at Morjim, Dona Paula, Carambolim, Baga Hill etc.
Pied Bushchat: seen most days on the hotel salt pans then at a few other sites – Baga fields, Dona Paula etc.
Common Stonechat: presumably Siberian Stonechats? Common and seen all over the place. Some of the Stonechats at Divar Island were of a completely different race – don’t know which??
Brown-breasted Flycatcher: about 4 were seen – all at Backwoods.
Asian Brown Flycatcher: One then three were seen on two dates at Backwoods.
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher: seen in Arpora, Backwoods, Baga Hill, Maem Lake etc.
Verditer Flycatcher: seen at Backwoods and Baga Hill.
White-bellied Blue Flycatcher: a male and a female were seen at Backwoods.
Tawny-bellied Babbler: common in large groups at Baga Hill.
Dark-fronted Babbler: half a dozen were seen on two dates at Backwoods.
Jungle Babbler: easy to see at Arpora, Baga Hill etc though never plentiful.
Indian Scimitar Babbler: a bird came to the tape in very poor light at dusk at Backwoods then a bird was seen briefly in full daylight right out in the open at Maem Lake. We were extremely lucky even with the glimpses we managed by all accounts as they are normally impossible to see even though you hear them quite a lot.
Brown-cheeked Fulvetta: common at Backwoods. Also seen at Baga Hill.
Puff-throated Babbler: quite common at Arpora, Backwoods, Baga Hill etc.
Zitting Cisticola: Still Fan-tailed Warbler to me – but there you go… Common at Baga Fields and a couple of other places etc.
Ashy Prinea: seen on a few dates around the hotel, Arpora, Carambolim etc.
Grey-breasted Prinea: seen in Arpora, the Pitta Site, Baga etc.
Plain Prinea: Quite common at Baga Fields. Also seen at a couple of other sites.
Clamorous Reed Warbler: seen at Baga Fields, Beira Mar and the Zuari River. Heard at Santa Cruz.
Blyth’s Reed Warbler: common everywhere – one even sitting on telegraph wires!
Paddyfield Warbler: One was seen well in the marsh behind the Beira Mar Hotel.
Booted Warbler: One was seen at Dona Paula.
Common Tailorbird: easy at Arpora, Carambolim, Baga Hill, Backwoods etc.
Greenish Warbler: common everywhere.
Green Warbler: common everywhere.
Western Crowned Warbler: about 10 birds were seen on two dates around Backwoods.
Indian Yellow Tit: seen in small numbers at Arpora, Beira Mar and Backwoods.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch: about half a dozen were seen at Backwoods.
Pale-billed Flowerpecker: common and very boring.
Nilgiri Flowerpecker: see above.
Thick-billed Flowerpecker: almost as boring as the other Flowerpeckers. Only seen at Backwoods where they were quite common.
Purple-rumped Sunbird: quite common.
Crimson-backed Sunbird: common.
Purple Sunbird: seen on about 5 – 6 dates.
Loten’s Sunbird: 2 were seen at Backwoods.
Little Spiderhunter: 1 at Backwoods.
Black-headed Bunting: 3+ were seen on overhead wires on the way out of camp at Backwoods.
Red-headed Bunting: 10+ then about 20 were seen at the same bit near the school at Backwoods. We also had good views of a pair on wires over the road at Carambolim.
Grey-necked Bunting: singles at Morjim, Backwoods and Dona Paula.
Common Rosefinch: 2 were seen amongst the Bunting and Petronia flock on the first day at Backwoods.
Red Avadavat: 1 at Arpora.
Black-headed Munia: 2 were seen at Baga.
Scaly-breasted Munia: seen at Baga Fields, Morjim, Beira Mar etc.
Black-throated Munia: a double figure group were seen at Backwoods.
White-rumped Munia: common.
House Sparrow: fairly common.
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia: easy at Backwoods.
Indian Baya Weaver: 3 – 400+ at Carambolim then 1 - 200+ were seen on the wires near the salt pans at Marinha Dourada.
Indian Golden Oriole: common.
Black-hooded Oriole: A real stunner. Common at Backwoods and Maem Lake.
Black Drongo: common in open country.
Ashy Drongo: quite common at Backwoods, Arpora, Maem Lake etc.
Bronzed Drongo: quite common at Backwoods.
White-bellied Drongo: easy at Arpora, Maem Lake, Baga Hill etc.
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: a few were seen at Backwoods.
Brahminy Starling: 1 – 10 were seen on 3 dates either around Baga Fields or the Beira Mar Hotel.
Rosy Starling: seen daily around Baga fields with 40 – 50 birds on the first walk out there. Also good numbers were seen sitting on the wires around the Beira Mar Hotel.
Grey-headed Starling: quite common around the coast.
Malabar White-headed Starling: 4 were seen on the last day at Backwoods.
Common Myna: only seen on 3 – 4 dates with the occasional bird seen around the salt pans across the road from our hotel, Baga Fields then a few from the roadside on one of our drive around with Santosh one day.
Jungle Myna: common.
House Crow: common.
Jungle Crow: common at Backwoods.
Rufous Treepie: These fantastic creatures were seen at Arpora Woods, Maem Lake and Baga Hill etc.

We also heard: Grey Jungle Fowl, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Common Flameback, Thick-billed Warbler, Indian Blue Robin etc and probably a couple of other species we just couldn’t see. Never mind – it’ll give us an excuse to go back.

We also came across some fantastic Insects, Amphibians, Lizards but very few Snakes. One of the other visiting birders (Mick) did come across a five foot snake in the hotel grounds but I didn’t see any over about 12 inches myself other than a two foot Rat Snake at Backwoods. Some enormous spiders were seen – often times in webs that spanned about 20 feet as the stretched across the roads – awesome. Langur Monkeys and a Mongoose were also seen at this fantastic place.