I flew to Goa with my wife for my first visit to India on 22nd March, for a weeks holiday in search of birds. It was snowing as we sped down the runway at Gatwick, and it seemed perfect timing to leave one of the worst Easters (weather wise) behind.
Our airline was Monarch, and we had decided to upgrade for £50 to premium class – larger seats. As I am over 6 feet tall, the extra legroom is essential. The flights to India are notorious for their lack of legroom. The flight went smoothly and we touched down 9 hours later in Goa to warm sunshine.
This weather persisted all week, though we did have a couple of brief showers. The day before our arrival it rained all day. Rain in March in Goa is almost unprecedented, apparently.
We chose the Marinha Dourada hotel as our base. We can recommend it unreservedly. A friendly hotel with good facilities. We ate there most times, and the food was both varied and delicious.
One benefit of the hotel is that it has a couple of lakes in the grounds. In addition, there is a salt pan directly outside the hotel and all in all these provided good birding in the immediate vicinity.
There is a taxi rank outside the hotel gate, which made travel around the area easy. Taxis are cheap and, since the area is popular with birdwatchers, several of the taxi drivers have developed skills in guiding visiting birdwatchers. We hadn’t pre-arranged a taxi / birder guide, though this can be done. During our stay, we used two guides. The first, ‘Papa’, was enthusiastic, but his bird knowledge and his English was not good. So, in the latter part of the trip we used Mahesh. He had better birding skills (shown best when he took me to the Indian Pitta) and his English was also very good.
The main birds seen at the hotel were Common and White-throated Kingfishers, Herons of several species (including a particularly tame Striated Heron, which spent the mornings at the hotel fountain feeding on freshwater shrimps), Cormorants (Little and Indian), Oriental Magpie Robin and Pied Bushchat. There were Little Green and Blue-tailed Bee Eaters as well as Crested (Oriental) Honey Buzzard to add to the mix.
Our first excursion was to Morjim, north along the coast. Here, on a deserted stretch of golden sand, we saw a couple of Pallas’s (previously known as Great Black-headed) Gulls, one of which was an adult in full breeding plumage. I have been trying to connect with this species for the last 30 years so I was well pleased! A single Heuglin’s Gull was in company with it, and there were hundreds of Brown-hooded and Black-headed Gulls, together with the odd Slender-billed Gull, and Lesser and Greater Crested Terns.
We found a handful of Greater Sandplovers and we also had our first glimpse of Malabar Grey Hornbills. In the air were numerous Black Kites and a few Brahminy Kites, a regular feature of the trip.
We had several evening trips to look over the marsh at the nearby Bieramar hotel – a well-known site for Greater Painted Snipe. By purchasing a drink from the bar, you can sit near the swimming pool and look over the marsh at dusk, hoping for a glimpse of these birds which seem to show themselves best at this time of the day.
If the snipes were not showing there were other birds to see, such as the Woolly-necked Storks and European Marsh Harrier, Watercock and White-breasted Water Hen.
On one day, we went to the famous Carambolin lake. This is renowned for water birds. Water levels may have been lower than they could have been but there were numerous Great and Little Egrets, Purple Swamphens, Red-wattled Lapwings and also a couple of Paddyfield Pipits. As an added bonus, there were three Marsh Mugger crocodiles as well.
As part of our holiday, we had pre booked a couple of nights at the famous Backwoods camp. This is a private camp which is about an hour and a half inland from the coast. It proved to be idyllic and was totally peaceful, in complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the coast. We had two or three walks a day in the adjacent countryside with the resident guide, Leo. We had excellent views of Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Large-billed Crow and Purple Sunbird, to name a few.
Non bird interest was provided by a vine snake, Black-faced Langur monkeys and Bonnet’s Macaques. A rat in the bedroom was also an interesting sighting. However, a thoroughly recommended trip – great company, great food.
We finished the trip with a visit to Bondla. The woodland around this wildlife park is excellent, and we had great views of Grey Junglefowl, Great Spotted Eagle, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Long-tailed Shrike, Orange-headed Thrush and Puff-throated Babbler.
It was an excellent week – though a long way to go for such a short time. I saw 172 species of birds, of which over 90 were new to me.
Backwoods – http://www.backwoodsbirding.com/
Mahesh – email@example.com
My website for more information:- http://www.wildlifeontheweb.co.uk
Check species list at:
For photos check: