Sunday, 10 March 2013

Day's 6 and 7

Day 6
An early start for the short trip to Arpora to ensure we were on site before dawn to maximise Mikes chances of seeing the Pitta.  Jungle Nightjars called as we made our way past the nightclub into the forest, but couldn’t be seen. After waiting, for what seemed to be ages, Santosh heard the Pitta and, with Mike in close attendance, he stalked up on it as it foraged on the forest floor. Result, one happy Mike. Unfortunately Phil was not happy, as Delhi belly had attacked and he was fast deteriorating. Santosh took him back to the Hotel, while we birded the forest until Santosh returned. The only new bird picked up in this period was Blue-winged Leafbird.
On Santosh’s return we travelled down to Morjim Beach, a little late but hopefully the gulls and terns would still be workable – we’d previously been informed that the beach was now getting quite popular with joggers and dog walkers, so getting good views at any time of day was unlikely. On getting out of the taxi we found a very close Black-winged Kite perched on a tree stump. As we walked onto the beach, it was obvious the gulls wouldn’t be on the beach, as the beach was busy with joggers, dog walkers, yoga participants and others. We found the flock of sand plovers and quickly found several Greater Sand Plovers amongst the more numerous Lesser .
A cuckoo on a low shrub just behind the beach grabbed our attention. Initial thoughts was that it was a Banded Bay, but closer inspection allowed it to be identified as Grey-bellied Cuckoo. 
Heading toward the river mouth we picked up a number of gulls and terns fishing out at sea and moving up and down the river. Brown-headed Gulls were the first to be identified, followed by Heuglin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, and Black-headed Gull. Then the real prize, an almost full summer plumaged Pallas’s Gull flew past not too far off shore. The gull and tern flock were roosting on a sand bar in the middle of the river. This made viewing difficult but a couple more Pallas’s Gulls’ could be picked out, but prevented a decent scrutiny of the birds.
We then walked through some woodland, picking up our first White-browed Bulbul and Bank Myna’s before located the Bay-backed Shrike, beyond the wooden shacks. Despite grilling the numerous Rose-coloured Starlings, no Brahminy Starlings could be found. 
A return visit to Arpora woods failed to find any new species.
For the afternoon session we made the short journey to Saligao, The afternoon started with excellent views of a Greater Spotted Eagle circling overhead before we found one, possibly two, Indian Spotted Eagles.  White-bellied Drongo was next to make it onto our trip list, to complete the drongo’s available to us. As the path narrowed a Martin found a Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker excavating its nest hole. The path took us to a small spring, more enclosed by forest than the more familiar Saligao Sor. Another group of “birders” were already at the spring so the birds were keeping their distance. Monarchs and Paradise Flycatchers could be seen flitting around but otherwise it was quiet bird wise.
By this time Mike was also suffering, virtually stripping off naked to try to cool down. Soaking a handkerchief in the spring provided sufficient relief, to the extend he redressed.
Santosh advised we stay put and wait as the birds would come down to drink and sure enough they did. At one point we had up to 5 Orange-headed Thrushes, a Malabar Whistling Thrush, a group of Brown-cheeked Fulvetta’s , several Puff-throated Babblers , a Rufous Woodpecker, and 4 Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers bathing and drinking from the stream. Suddenly a pigeon was picked up at the back and after a few, long, seconds, it showed itself, a beautiful Emerald Dove.  A few minutes later another pigeon was located in the trees behind us – a Nilgiri Woodpigeon. 
With the light fading fast, Santosh took us to one of his sites for Brown Wood Owl. Unfortunately there were a number of dogs in the area which, although unseen kept up a constant loud barking, no doubt ensuring that any owl in the vicinity kept it’s distance, or it’s head down. Scanning the trees with the torch only produced the eye shine from a Palm Civet. Back at the taxi, several Indian Flying Foxes were seen flying over.
Day 7
Things were going downhill fast, with both Phil and now Mike on the sick list, however both were adamant that both myself and Martin get out for the last day – thanks guys. So it was another early start. For the first time we noticed / heard the Flying Foxes chattering while they fed in one of the Hotel trees as we wandered out to meet our taxi. Unfortunately Santosh was booked up, but he arranged a driver for us who knew the way and some of the stopping points on the way to Bondla.
About halfway along the final approach road, we pulled and got out. We could hear at least 3 Gray Junglefowl cocks and several hens, but despite a hours search we couldn’t get close enough to see one.  We did, however, manage to find out first Grey-breasted Pirina. 
The next stop was by the reservoir where we got excellent views of at least 3 Greater Flamebacks and out best views of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch.  Scanning the ridges we found a pair of Crested Goshawks cruising over. 
We decided to try birding the Zoo itself and for a while we wondered just how good an idea it was, as few birds were to be found. However perseverance paid off when, by the ornamental gardens we first found a Vernal Hanging Parrot and 5 minutes later a stonking male Blue-headed Rock Thrush. Returning to the taxi was saw a doe and calf Spotted Deer just outside the car park.
As our pick up for the airport wasn’t until 9pm, on return to the hotel, we paid a last visit to the Beira Mar, but nothing new was picked up.
Post script
On the journey back to Cardiff from Gatwick we saw more Ring-necked Parakeets than we did in Goa itself.

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