Sunday, 24 March 2013

Intro and Day 1

I've tried a few times to add this as a word or pdf doc but with the IT skills of a Neaderthal, I failed miserably. So here it is.
Martin Bevan , Phil Hill and Mike Hogan, and I took a short birding trip to Goa.  There should have been five of us but as the result of a family bereavement Rob Gaze had to pull out at the 11th hour. Although not ideal, we could only go for 1 week, when 10 days to 2 weeks would allow for a slightly more relaxed and thorough trip. That said, 245 species recorded in the 7 days shows what can be done in such a short time. With a bit more luck, I think 250 species is possible as we missed a number of species that we thought we had a reasonable chance of catching up.
We booked through Thomas Cook, staying at the Osborn Hotel in Calangute. This was reasonably close to the Beira Mar/Baga Field area and also close to Saligao. We also booked a 3day/2 night trip to Backwoods. 
When not at Backwoods we hired Santosh, a taxi driver from outside the Beira Mar to act as driver / guide and he proved very reliable, competent and good value, and we would recommend him to anyone. Just ask for him at the taxi rank outside the gate to the Beira Mar.
As expected Pipit’s proved to be amongst the hard group to get to grips with. 2 Tree Pipits were found at Bondla, at least 1 Tawny Pipit was found at Baga Fields and several Richards and Paddyfield’s were found at a number of localities, but most remained unsatisfying identified, but were probably Paddyfield, though no doubt one or two could have been Blyth’s.
Day 1
This was close to a disaster as our flight from Gatwick was 4 hrs late in departing meaning we arrived at our hotel at 5am, and the Backwoods minibus was due to pick us up some 30 minutes later. However, we made it in time and thanks to the check in staff at the hotel they processed our passports in time for them to be returned to us before the rather full minibus arrived to take us to Backwoods.
Although we’d all be up for at least 36hrs, as soon as it became light enough we were fully awake trying to id the first birds we saw as we sped along to the Camp.
Just after we turned off the main road onto the road to Backwoods we halted by the local school at Bolcarnem for our introduction to Goan birding. First we met up with Loven, one of the guides from the Backwoods. Unfortunately his colleague Pramod had had an accident a couple of days earlier and was unavailable for guiding for a few days. This meant that rather than split the party into 2 groups, Loven had to take all 11 of us staying at the camp in a single group. While this may have cost us a couple of species, we gelled together quite well and there was no real problem.
Back to the birding. After meeting Loven, the birds (and ticks, as always in a new country), came thick and fast – starting with commoner species such as Common Tailorbird and Purple Sunbird through Malabar Pied and Grey Hornbills, Coppersmith Barbet and Flame-throated Bulbul , Orange Minivet, and Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher as well as a Brown Fish Owl and scarcities as White-naped Flameback and Black-winged Cuckooshrike. An hour later and some 50 species were in the bag.  
On then to the camp, seeing our first “proper” tickable Peafowl crossing the road in front of us. On arrival, we were shown to our chalets before reassembling for a walk down the approach road. While dropping off our bags I found Blue-naped Monarch’s and Western Crowned Leaf-warblers in the wood around the chalet while Phil found a Heart-spotted Woodpecker. Unfortunately this proved to be the only one we recorded throughout our stay. The walk along the entry road pulled in another batch of new birds as well as some familiar species such as Barn Swallow, House Martin and Brown Shrike, culminating in 3 Sri Lanka Frogmouths in the camp.
After lunch and rather than take a siesta Phil, Martin and myself explored the area around the camp., the only new species being found was Yellow-browed Bulbul. Butterflies and Dragonflies were also making a claim on our attention, with Plain Tigers, Common Crows, Bluebottle’s, Clear-winged Forest Glory’s, Crimson Dropwing’s and Slender Skimmers all on show.

The late afternoon session saw us travel up to the Tambdi Surla Temple for a spot of raptor watching.  Almost straight away we picked up a Rufous-bellied Eagle over the opposite ridge. This was followed by Black Eagle, Booted Eagle and a Crested Hawk-eagle. Brown-backed Needletails could be seen hawking over the far ridge but were too far to get any decent views of this large swift. Closer to hand were Malabar Parakeets, Grey-breasted Pigeon and Mountain Imperial Pigeon. An Indian Scimitar-babbler called nearby but didn’t show. As the light started to go down we had a quick look around the road by the temple and picked up our first Orange-headed Thrush.
With the dark came the fatigue, we’d all been awake for the best part of 60hrs, so after the excellent evening meal we crashed tired but content with some 87 species in the bag, all but 8 being lifers for Mike, Phil and Martin who were on their first trip to the sub-continent.

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