Goa, India, 14th - 21st March 2004

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


by Tristan Bantock

This was my first trip to India and very much a last minute exploratory one. I knew a week was not really enough to do the area justice and that March was not the ideal time to go since many winter visitors would have departed. The holiday was the usual compromise between birding and bird photography and although I did end up with rather a modest trip list, I had some excellent birds and was more than content with what I saw.

The weather was very hot and apparently the humidity had soared just before I arrived, which confined the best birding to the morning and evenings. It was possible to continue birding in the shade during the hottest part of the day, but activity was greatly reduced and the time was generally better spent resting (and drinking Lime Sodas!).

I stayed at the Marinha Dourada Hotel in Arpora and was more than happy with it; the rooms were air-conditioned with fans and good shower facilities and the restaurant and general service was excellent. The live entertainment in the evenings was the usual appalling fare of cheesy cover versions although there were some rather good local musicians one night. The hotel is well placed for all the local birding sites and is right by some salt pans, which held a good selection of wetland species.

I found a very good guide in Abhi Naik, whom I used for 4 trips and recommend thoroughly. He is reputed to be the best local guide and frequently works for Wildwings and Sunbirder. He charged about 800R a day which usually included transport, and I felt this was good value since it wasn’t much above what I would have paid for a taxi. He has just discovered a new site for Brown Fish Owl, which I had excellent views of, and was also able to show me Brown Wood Owl and Brown Hawk Owl. He is contactable on his mobile (9822137098) or by e-mail at naikabi@rediffmail.com


14th PM: Arrival and quick look around the Marinha Dourada
15th AM & PM: Marinha Dourada area
16th AM: Baga Hill, PM: Arpora Wood & Biera Mar Hotel
17th AM: Backwaters boat trip near River Zuari, PM: Baga fields & Baga Hill
18th AM: Mayem Lake, PM: Saligao and Arpora Wood
19th AM: Morjim Beach, PM: Marina Dourada & Arpora Wood
20th AM: Carambolim Lake, PM: Arpora Wood
21st AM: Arpora Wood & Marinha Dourada

Marinha Dourada

The area around the hotel was a good place to familiarise yourself with the more common birds and the saltpans were particularly good for photography. White-throated Kingfisher was very confiding here and a good selection of waders included Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper and Pacific Golden Plover. Other interesting species such as Paddyfield Pipit, Malabar Crested Lark, Ashy Woodswallow and Ashy Prinia were regularly present and raptor watching over Baga Hill produced an Oriental Honey Buzzard on one occasion.

Baga Hill

I really didn’t do this site justice, preferring to concentrate on Arpora Wood instead. My only visit to the open area at the top of the hill produced Indian Peafowl and I and also heard and glimpsed several Grey Nightjar at dusk.

Arpora Wood

This excellent site is accessible via the track that leads past the Club Cabana. My main target here was Indian Pitta, and I made several visits. Although both my sightings were in the evening, the area is definitely more productive in the morning; unfortunately due to time constraints I only managed to make one such visit on my final day. The best views of Pitta were obtained on the track just beyond the Club Cabana, where a path leads into a more open area on the right hand side. It was almost at dusk on a Saturday night and the club was warming up its sound system, perhaps not my ideal soundtrack to such an immense birding experience but there you go! On another evening, I flushed a bird on the right hand trail where the track forks a little further on. Apora Wood is superb for forest birds and I had a good selection of interesting species including Orange-headed Thrush, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Blue-winged Leafbird and Crested Serpent Eagle although I am sure I missed a great deal. A local birder told me he has recorded around 120 species in the area, the majority of which are forest specialists.

Biera Mar Hotel

This hotel is the most popular base for birders visiting Goa and overlooks several paddyfields renowned for some of the more secretive wetland species. Unfortunately the timing of my visit meant the area was too dry for bitterns, but there was still a female Painted Snipe present, which I had good views of before dusk, as well as a very likely Pintail Snipe. Other good birds included a Black-capped Kingfisher, a large flock of Rose-coloured Starling and a very dark and probably melanistic Indian Pond Heron.

Mayem Lake

Mayem Lake is set in a wooded valley north east of Baga. The lake itself held relatively little of interest except a Blue-eared Kingfisher, although the surrounding lush vegetation yielded some good birds such as Little Spiderhunter, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Nilgiri Woodpigeon. A pair of Changeable Hawk Eagles were also nesting in the area.

Carambolim Lake

All the winter wildfowl had left this site with the exception of a small flock of Lesser Whistling Duck, but the lake still had good numbers of Bronze-winged Jacana, Purple Gallinule and several River Terns. Good views were had of a Brown Hawk Owl at Carambolim Wood on the eastern side of the lake.

Morjim Beach

Morjim Beach is a great site for waders, gulls and terns although bird numbers were much lower than earlier in the winter. One compensation of an early spring visit were the many summer-plumaged birds including several smart Great Black-headed Gulls, but the star bird was a stunning Caspian Plover amongst the many Lesser Sand Plovers.

Backwaters boat trip

This was down a canal close to the Zuari river, and was actually ‘Jake the Snake’s crocodile cruise’ although Abhi booked it more for the kingfishers. We saw six species, including two Collared Kingfishers and several Black-capped Kingfishers, as well as five crocodiles, one of which was over 10ft long. Some other good wetland birds were also seen such as Lesser Adjutant and Black-necked Ibis.


Little Grebe - Carambolim Lake
Darter - Backwaters boat trip
Little Cormorant - several sites
Great White Egret - several sites
Intermediate Egret - several sites
Little Egret - most wetland sites
Western Reef Heron - several along the River Zuari
Cattle Egret - ubiquitous
Grey Heron - Backwaters boat trip
Purple Heron - 2, Carambolim Lake
Striated Heron - Marinha Dourada area & Backwaters boat trip
Indian Pond Heron - most wetland sites, a melanistic bird at the Biera Mar Hotel
Night Heron - 2, Biera Mar Hotel
Lesser Adjutant - 1 overhead, Backwaters boat trip
Black-headed Ibis - 1 overhead, Backwaters boat trip
Lesser Whistling Duck - flock of c10 over Carambolim Lake
Oriental Honey Buzzard - 1 over Baga Hill from the Marinha Dourada
Black-shouldered Kite - 1 near Mayem Lake
Brahminy Kite - abundant
Black Kite - ubiquitous
Shikra - several seen in the Baga area
Changeable Hawk Eagle - 2 with nest at Mayem Lake + a 3rd bird there
Booted Eagle - 1 over Baga Hill from the Marinha Dourada
Osprey - 1, Backwaters boat trip
White-bellied Sea Eagle - both adults and immature birds seen regularly in the Baga area
Marsh Harrier - Carambolim Lake and Marinha Dourada
Crested Serpent Eagle - 1 over Arpora Wood
Red Spurfowl - 1 flushed at Mayem Lake
Indian Peafowl - 3-4 at Baga Hill
White-breasted Waterhen - Biera Mar Hotel
Moorhen - Carambolim Lake
Purple Gallinule - abundant at Carambolim Lake
Bronze-winged Jacana - Carambolim Lake
Yellow-wattled Lapwing - 2 near Mayem Lake
Red-wattled Lapwing - Marinha Dourada area
Greater Sand Plover - 1 ad winter at Morjim Beach
Lesser Sand Plover - 50+ at Morjim Beach
Caspian Plover - 1 summer male at Morjim Beach
Little Ringed Plover - Marinha Dourada area
Kentish Plover - 50+ at Morjim Beach
Pacific Golden Plover - up to 9, Marinha Dourada area
Whimbrel - Backwaters boat trip
Redshank - Marinha Dourada area
Greenshank - Marinha Dourada area
Marsh Sandpiper - up to 15, Marinha Dourada area
Wood Sandpiper - most wetland sites
Green Sandpiper - Biera Mar Hotel
Painted Snipe - 1 female at the Biera Mar Hotel
Common Sandpiper - most wetland sites
Gallinago sp - 1 at Biera Mar Hotel was probably a Pintail Snipe
Little Stint - up to 5, Marinha Dourada area
Temminck’s Stint - 1-2, Marinha Dourada area
Slender-billed Gull - 1 at Morjim Beach
Black-headed Gull - 1 at Morjim Beach
Brown-headed Gull - c50 at Morjim Beach
Great Black-headed Gull - 4 ad summer and a 1st winter at Morjim Beach
Heuglin’s Gull - c5 at Morjim Beach
Crested Tern - c10 at Morjim Beach
Lesser Crested Tern - c50 at Morjim Beach
Sandwich Tern - 1 at Morjim Beach
River Tern - 3-4 at Carambolim Lake
Gull-billed Tern - 3-4 at Carambolim Lake
Spotted Dove - Abundant
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon - 1 at Mayem Lake
Nilgiri Wood Pigeon - several at Mayem Lake
Plum-headed Parakeet - several seen in the Baga area
Asian Koel - abundant, although heard more often than seen
Greater Coucal - abundant, although heard more often than seen
Grey Nightjar - several on the top of Baga Hill, seen and heard at dusk
Brown Wood Owl - 1 at Saligao
Brown Fish Owl - 1 at secret site close to Baga
Brown Hawk Owl - 1 at Carambolim Wood on the eastern shore of the lake
Spotted Owlet - Marinha Dourada area and Biera Mar Hotel
Asian Palm Swift - Abundant
Little Swift - Marinha Dourada area
Indian Roller - Baga fields
Pied Kingfisher - several wetland sites
Stork-billed Kingfisher - Backwaters boat trip & Carambolim Lake
Black-capped Kingfisher - 1 at Biera Mar Hotel, 4-5 on Backwaters boa trip
White-throated Kingfisher - most wetland sites
Collared Kingfisher - 2, Backwaters boat trip
Common Kingfisher - most wetland sites
Blue-eared Kingfisher - Mayem Lake
Blue-tailed Bee-eater - 4, Backwaters boat trip
Little Green Bee-eater - abundant
White-cheeked Barbet - adundant, although heard more often than seen
Coppersmith Barbet - adundant, although heard more often than seen
Black-rumped Flameback - several sites
Common Iora - Arpora Wood
Golden-fronted Leafbird - Mayem Lake
Blue-winged Leafbird - Arpora Wood
Golden Oriole - several sites
Black-hooded Oriole - male at Arpora Wood
Indian Pitta - seen twice at Arpora Wood
Malabar Crested Lark - Marinha Dourada area & Baga fields
Wire-tailed Swallow - Marinha Dourada area
Red-rumped Swallow - abundant
Ashy Woodswallow - 3-4, Marinha Dourada area
Black Drongo - adundant
Ashy Drongo - several sites
White-bellied Drongo - Arpora Wood
Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike - Arpora Wood
Southern Grey Shrike - Marinha Dourada area & Baga Fields
Long-tailed Shrike - several sites
Chestnut-tailed Starling - Biera Mar Hotel & Mayem Lake
Brahminy Starling - Baga fields
Rose-coloured Starling - Biera Mar Hotel
Jungle Mynah - abundant
Rufous Treepie - 2 at Brown Fish Owl site
House Crow - ubiquitous
Red-vented Bulbul - abundant
Red-whiskered Bulbul - abundant
Puff-throated Babbler - Mayem Lake & Arpora Wood
Tawny-bellied Babbler - Arpora Wood
Jungle Babbler - Arpora Wood & Baga Hill
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher - Arpora Wood
Asian Paradise Flycatcher - Mayem Lake & Baga Hill
White-throated Fantail - Arpora Wood & Baga Hill
Asian Brown Flycatcher - Arpora Wood
Ashy Prinia - Marinha Dourada area & Mayem Lake
Grey-breasted Prinia - Arpora Wood
Blyth’s Reed Warbler - several sites
Greenish Warbler - several sites
Common Tailorbird - Marinha Dourada area & Baga Hill
Indian Robin - Baga Hill
Oriental Magpie - Robin abundant
Pied Bushchat - Marinha Dourada area
Orange-headed Thrush - Arpora Wood
Black-lored Tit - Mayem Lake
Paddyfield Pipit - Marinha Dourada area & Baga fields
Richard’s Pipit - Baga fields
White-browed Wagtail - abundant
Yellow Wagtail - most wetland sites
Little Spiderhunter - Mayem Lake
Purple-rumped Sunbird - several sites
Purple Sunbird - Arpora Wood
Crimson Sunbird - Marinha Dourada area & Baga Hill
Pale-billed Flowerpecker - several sites
Plain Flowerpecker - several sites
White-rumped Munia - abundant
House Sparrow - Marinha Dourada & airport
Baya Weaver - Arpora Wood