Refreshed after a good night’s sleep we assembled for an early cup of tea at 6:30 before we headed out. As we boarded the bus, Grey Junglefowl could be heard around the camp, but couldn’t be located. The day started with a short ride down the approach road picking up Malabar White-headed Starlings, Malabar lark and Indian Roller, before heading back up toward the Temple. Highlights of our morning visit were crippling scope views of a very agitated white-bellied Woodpecker. The reason for its behaviour was soon found as a change of angle brought a Shikra sitting just a meter away into view.
It was then back to the camp approach road, where a male Malabar Trogon was located, before lunch. After the afternoon siesta, we explored the woodlands behind the camp, scoring with Jungle Owlet, Rufous Wood pecker, Greater Flameback and some of the group managed to see the eye-catching white phase Asian Paradise Flycatcher.
It was then time to try for Owls, Nightjars and Pitta. We gathered along the road towards the temple with our eyes and ears straining for any sign of a Pitta foraging in the undergrowth. Loven soon signalled that he had a Pitta and we all made our way to where he was and we all sat down, spread along the road staring into the fast darkening forest edge. Suddenly, there it was, an Indian Pitta. There was just enough light left to make out the colours of this beauty. After what was no more than a few heart beats it bound out of sight. Elation for those of us who saw it, but disappointment for those that didn’t. However, not all was lost. We could now hear 3 Pitta’s calling and in the last vestiges of daylight one hopped right out onto the road where almost everyone got crippling, if monochrome, views of this beauty. Mike was the only looser as others crowded in from of him when the Pitta appeared.
Pitta in the bag, we then turned out attention to the Owls and Nightjars. Several Brown Hawk Owls were calling close by and Loven soon picked one up in his spotlight. A Jerdon’s Nightjar was calling distantly but could not be enticed in. Back to camp for the evening meal, but birding wasn’t over yet as Loven called in an Oriental Scops Owl which was seen all.
Our last day at Backwoods and the morning session was focusing on Kingfishers. Just after everyone had boarded the minibus, a male Junglefowl crossed the road allowing most of the bus to see it – the exceptions, Martin and myself! Alas.
Back up to Tambdi Surla Temple for a walk up the river valley. Some 5 minutes into the walk, Loven heard an Indian Blue Robin calling. We all focused on staring into the undergrowth trying to find this known skulker. Phil, then Martin, picked it up, close to the path, beneath a thick shrub, but no else could get onto it. We moved forward a few meters and Loven tried to lure it into showing. A movement in the undergrowth saw me focus my bins on a gap hen the Robin bounded into view, a couple of small hops, then gone. Unfortunately it was a female rather than the splendid looking male, but it was a tick in the bag. It was also unfortunate that only 4 of the 12 of us managed to get onto the bird, from our group, Mike again missing out.
We carried on following the path upstream, scanning any likely looking pools. We were soon rewarded with a Blue-eared Kingfisher which allowed excellent scope views. Later we stopped at a small clearing next to the riverbed. A Brown-breasted flycatcher was hawking for insects close by and a couple of White-rumped Spinetails flew over. Loven left us to rest and explore the immediate vicinity while he scouted downstream for Dwarf Kingfisher. While waiting for Loven, we picked up our only Crimson Sunbird – a male only partially in breeding plumage, Brown Flycatcher, another white phase Asian Paradise Flycatcher. Soon Loven called us and we moved downstream and set up our scopes onto a tangle of braches overhanging a pool, where a Dwarf Kingfisher was sitting. We’d only just started to get onto it, when it flew off. After an anxious few minutes Loven had refound it, not far from where it was. Loven set my scope up onto it, but it was still almost impossible to see as it was sitting on the far side on the branches. How Loven found it I’ll never know. Fortunately it moved again, back to its earlier perch which allows us all to enjoy prolonged, excellent, scope views of this diminutive Kingfisher.
The return walk didn’t produce any new birds but did provide excellent views of a couple of impressively spectacular Blue Mormon butterflies.
After lunch we returned to the coast and to our hotel room for the first time. It was a case of drop the bags, and, unfortunately, my bins (and Phil was nowhere near!) then into a taxi to the Beira Mar.
Quickly through to the pool side, with 4 Kingfishers ordered, we started scanning the fields. Plum-headed Parakeets, Common and Jungle Myna’s and Rose-coloured Starlings were perched on the wires, while Back and Brahminy Kites patrolled overhead. Other common species which were new for us were White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munia’s, Baya Weavers and Black Drongo’s. Of the specialities, a brief silhouette view of the Ruddy-breasted Crake was all that we could manage.
On leaving the Beira Mar, we asked for Santosh and he as he was free we booked him for the next few days as taxi driver and guide.