Trip Report: Goa (India), January 1996

Author's name withheld upon request.

The Introduction

So it happened that on Christmas 1995 I decided that I had to do something about the fact that I was over 20 and still I had never been in India. I also decided that from then on, I would "open" a new continent at least every year (as long as there would still exist continents unexplored by me). As it also happened that it was a very cold and dark winter in Finland and I knew the time would approach when I would again be obliged to leave at least a bit warmer Southern Finland for my freezing university town Jyväskylä in the inland Mid-Finland, where my lectures would begin again. I was complaining about this to two friends of mine in the Southern part of my arctic fatherland, and one of them asked me: "So why don't you go somewhere -- some Caribbean island, for example, or Goa?" "Yeah, Goa is a nice place, indeed. And the first lectures are seldom fatally important." And very well, my readers, so it happened that the temptation increased, when I thought about my dear university town, whose name in English means "Seed Village". "Okay", I said, submissively, "I will call the travel agency tomorrow morning." "That's the right attitude. Don't forget to bring some presents. Let's have one more stoup."

It took one week to get the visa. Then I was in Goa. It is a nice place, the smallest state of India, former Portuguese colony, on the western coast of peninsular India, between the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean, politically between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Goa has become famous especially as the Mecca of the hippies and neo-hippies, and latest of the new age techno freaks. There the western university youth has a notoriously excellent chance of getting familiar with what is Afghanistan's blessings for the rest of the world.

Goa is the most touristified place in India -- so, there should not be any problems, except that spending too much money on everything is too easy. "Independent" travelling is very difficult, because practically everywhere you need a guide or someone playing such -- if not for any other purpose, then at least to keep taxi-drivers, souvenir-sellers and all the crowd offering different services in such a distance that you can walk or turn. I discovered that even Gods have their price. In a Hindu temple there was an old man who explained he was both a priest and a God, but after all that man wanted money, too, like everyone else. What saved me, was that we never speak about very high amounts of money in India -- fortunately.

The temperatures were quite okay for me. I very well remember that when my plane left the Vasco da Gama airport, it was nearly 40°C outside. When we were in Delhi, it was no more than 25. In Helsinki it was about zero, and when on the next day I headed to my dear university town, it was -27°C there! For the first week I couldn't go from my flat to the campus without a taxi (quite harmful for a proletarian student in this expensive country).

About Birding in Goa

There are several nature sanctuaries in Goa, e.g. Bondla Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and the Chor&atitlde;o Island Bird and Crocodile Sanctuary. For birding, I can recommend both Bondla where I had one day time to visit, and the wetlands and deltas of the rivers Mandovi and Zuari. Hundreds of mostly British birders visit Goa annually -- so, there is no difficulty in finding guidance etc. in the information buildings of the sanctuaries or among the numerous relatives of your local hotel keeper or regular taxi-driver.

I didn't do very much birding there, and for the part I did, I was not very serious. The first reason for that strange behaviour in the middle of a bird-flood, an ornithological paradise on earth, was that I didn't have any nature-oriented company there. Second reason was that I had just a little more than one week, because my studies actually began at the very same week and if I would have been away longer, it could have been more difficult to explain. Even though I told them I was on an politological excursion, meeting some people from certain politically discreet surroundings, for getting some source material for my political analysis essay on the Kashmir situation, which was true, too. The third and very good reason was that the incredible amount and variety of birds and nature in general in a way "drugged" me into some kind of confusion which drove me into a hysteria. I couldn't make good notes, when I saw twenty lifers at the same time. I only had common binoculars in my camera bag, and the first days I was without literature, because the book (Woodcock's "Birds of India") I had ordered at the same day when I had called to the travel agency, did not reach me until after my return, so that I had to buy a book in Panaji or Panjim, the capital of Goa.

That book was Bikram Grewal's Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, which includes the list of all the Indian birds, but -- though it has lots of photographs -- it is quite illogical in its selection of birds presented. I had no earlier field experience of Indian avifauna, so, remember that the birds mentioned in this trip report, are only a part of the birds I saw, because most remained unidentified -- and some of these, as I will remark, were somehow uncertain, too.

According to one book, there are 1276 different bird species in India. Another of my books says that there are over 2000 bird species living in India, 500 of them migratory birds wintering in India. The numbers, of course, differ by the taxonomy used, and by the practise of how regular species have been included. I have no numbers of Goa (anyway, it is a small area and those huge numbers are describing the whole Indian avifauna, probably including Pakistan, the Himalayas and Ceylon, too). During the mid-winter the Goan avifauna is doubled by the migrants coming from the Himalayas, Central Asia, Siberia and even from Europe. So there were many familiar species, too. I saw some 105 different species (well, it's a very low number, but refer to the explanations above). I concentrate in the most common and abundant species and leave the others for more specialised birders. Sorry for not giving you a list of species -- that is because I feel quite uncertain of Indian avifauna and so I wait for getting more experience to make detailed lists.

The Common Birds of Yards and Gardens

There are some everywhere -- birds such as House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) which do not need any further mentioning. However, many of the most abundant and most numerous bird species are really and genuinely Indian species, and many of them were new acquaintances for me. The first bird I saw, already at the airport, was House Crow (Corvus splendens). This extremely abundant, extremely numerous and very bad-sounding bird is smaller and more slender than the European crows, by colours resembling a bit jackdaw. Since I once got a raven to be taken care of and fed up into adulthood (returned to nature then), I have always loved corvids, and so I couldn't hate these either, though some times they were trying to share with me the meals I had.

Two other very abundant and very noisy birds of the vicinity of habitation are the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) and the Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri). Both are nice birds, too, and especially the latter is very familiar to me, because I have lived with lesser or greater numbers of them surrounding me all the last seven or eight years. The same screaming which begins every morning in the tops of the palm trees, before the parakeets fly in flocks to their eating places... I am already so used to it.

Then there are of course two raptors who are very abundant and numerous everywhere -- as far as they can be called raptors, because they mainly eat everything they happen to find, including rubbish. The more numerous is Pariah Kite (Milvus migrans govinda) which is classified into pariah cast, whereas the other, Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), into the highest, holy position. The latter, of course, deserves it by its beauty -- it has a white head and breast, and warm chestnut-brown back and wings. By the way, the pariah kite is normally considered as an Indian subspecies of Black Kite, and they don't indeed differ much from each other by appearance.

There are also some nice and very common garden passerines that deserve attention. My personal favourite is Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis), whose name refers to its colours and long tail, as its voice is very pleasant and beautiful. The Magpie-Robin is some kind of nightingale of India, an elegant bird which does not hide itself. A very nice bird with style. Another garden bird with pleasant voice is Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus xanthornus), which resembles the Golden Oriole (O. oriolus) also available in Goa, except that the former has entirely black head.

In the flowers there are sunbirds, which are like little shining and living jewellery. Like old world hummingbirds, for the information of the Americans, but the sunbirds do not fly like hummingbirds. They rather move like tits or warblers in search of nectar, little insects and spiders. The most common species in Goa seemed to be the Purple-rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica), male being purple by upper parts and yellow by belly. The other common species was Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica), male entirely purple-blue. Females of both the species are yellowish.

There are also more cautious and hiding passerines, like lots of warblers, most of them wintering. I must say there were so many colourful and spectacularly visible birds that I totally ignored these modest beings of the bushes and trees everywhere. The only warbler I -- quite accidentally -- identified from the garden, as it happened to come to about half-a-metre distance of where I was sitting and writing, was a Booted Tree Warbler (Hippolais caligata), probably wintering. The Phylloscopus warblers were numerous, but there were so many wintering species in Goa area, that I didn't even try to recognise them. According to a Finnish expert, the Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides) is the most abundant wintering Phylloscopus in Goa. Local passerines were represented by e.g. Yellow-cheeked Tits (Parus xanthogenys), which is an Indian version of Crested Tit, but living in gardens like Great Tit in Europe.

The Crowded Telephone Wires and More Garden Birds

There are four very common mid-sized bird species that are all using telephone wires and such places, eating big insects and such, and even using the same methods of hunting. These birds are Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis), White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus) and Rufous-backed Shrike (Lanius schach). I noticed that it seemed the drongo takes the place if there's competition of best sitting place in the crowded seats. I was very much charmed by all these species. They are all colourful, except the drongo, which is very elegant in other way. These birds also represent their groups as the most abundant species, though there are also other species of bee-eaters, kingfishers, drongoes and shrikes in Goa. The Little Bee-eater is a gracious brightly green bird with sharp and slender, a bit curved bill and black mask, like also the Rufous-backed Shrike, which has otherwise typically shrike-like colours, except that the rump is chestnut-rufous. The Black Drongo is a typical drongo, shiny black, elegant bird with long, at the end swallow-like tail. The White-throated Kingfisher is a thrush-sized big-headed and robust kingfisher which is less dependent on water than many of its relative species. It also eats many other things than fish, too: insects, frogs, lizards, mice... everything small which moves.

From the parks and gardens, besides the local Indian birds, you can find lots of wintering passerines, like warblers, or for example pipits. There's a local species which is close to Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi) which also occurs there, according to my knowledge -- the local one is Indian Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus). However, the two big pipits I saw were actually quite surely Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris), which is a wintering species only. For me it was a disappointment, of course, because that species I have seen before in Europe. One Finnish expert suspected that I didn't see Tawny Pipits but Paddyfield Pipits, but I think I'm right -- as much as I'd like to have seen the local species. Be aware of seeing all those great pipit species, together with also the Blyth's Pipit (A. godlewskii) in Goa.

There are lots of pigeons and doves. Feral Pigeons can be seen everywhere, of course. In some inland villages I noticed flocks of a unicolor grey pigeon, much resembling the European Stock Pigeon, but I'm not sure if they were however Feral Pigeons, though as far as I can see, they were a bit smaller. There are several Streptopelia doves available in Goa, and I have no idea of which species are belonging to the original fauna, and which have been spread there by human habitation. Some of the doves resembled more Turtle Dove, some others Collared Dove. Local residents should be Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Palm Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) and as a wintering species Rufous Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis).

Then something about the bulbuls. Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus) is a typical Indian culture species, but it was not common in Goa. I saw a couple of individuals in the centre of Panaji, but they might have been introduced or escapees. This species seems to be commoner in Northern India. A quite common species in the countryside of Goa is the Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer). The third bulbul species I saw in Goa was the Black-crested Yellow Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus) which is common in the forests of Western Ghats. I didn't see it in towns, so, perhaps it's not yet "civilised" like the two related species.

A recommendable method of seeing some common, but cautious garden birds is staring patiently at a tree or bush where a strange voice is coming from. This method quite probably brings you the well-known Coppersmith (Megalaima haemacephala), a barbet making its funny clicking, and the Indian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), which is often only available to see by going under the tree where the birds are, and looking right up -- then you can see the silhouette of this long-tailed cuckoo bird. With patience it is also rather easy to observe the two common species of little owls living in the gardens: Collared Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena) is easier to be heard, whereas the Spotted Owlet (Athene brama) is easy to see.

There's one species which can easily be recognised by the voice only. It's the Common Peacock (Pavo cristatus), whose cry can be heard sometimes everywhere. However, it can be hard to say, which ones of those birds are really wild...

Birds of Prey, Swallows, Swifts, Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Rollers etc.

All the common birds of the towns and gardens are also very common in the countryside. However, the number of bird species seems to be doubled outside urban habitation. Every common culture species has a "rural cousin", coming to its company in the countryside. Besides House Crow, there is the Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos), a great black and strong-billed raven-like bird -- almost as noble as the Raven.

The common Pariah and Brahminy Kites share the aerial space of the open countryside landscapes with lots of other birds of prey, some of whom are local, some others wintering. A common local hawk is White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa) which seems to have the place of Common Buzzard in Europe. In the areas resembling steppe or savannah there are lots of eagles, like Short-toed Eagle (Circaëtus gallicus) and Booted Eagle (Hieraaëtus pennatus), and also whether Indian Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax vindhiana) or Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), the latter being wintering only. The biggest of the birds of prey, and the most common of the available vultures is the Indian White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis). In forested areas or paddyfields spotted by little groves there are Shikras (Accipiter badius).

The screaming flocks of swallows, martins and swifts are confusing in Goa, because there are many more species than in Europe. The most singular species, which is the easiest to be identified among them is the Asiatic Palm Swift (Cypsiurus bataviensis), a little, sand-brown swift, which is flying in flocks around palms. The Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbica) which are the same species as in Europe, can both be seen in Goa. Same with Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica), which, however, is a local species and belonging to an Indian subspecies. The European Crag Martin is in Goa replaced by the Dusky Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne concolor), and then there's still one species resembling Barn Swallow -- it is the Wire-tailed Swallow (Hirundo smithii). In inland places also the Indian Edible-nest Swiftlet (Aërodramus unicolor) can be seen. However, the most numerous species of these "aircraft" flocks is still unmentioned. It is the House Swift (Apus affinis) which is very common. There's also one bird which is living in the air like swifts and swallows, but is more closely related to drongoes and corvids than them. That bird is Ashy Swallow-shrike (Artamus fuscus) which is also called the powderbird, at least by Australians.

The common Rufous-backed Shrike is the most abundant shrike everywhere, but in the countryside I also saw two other species of shrike, i.e. the Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus), and a specimen of Indian Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor sp.). The Indian Grey Shrike's taxonomy is not quite clear to me, and I don't know to which of the several subspecies the individual I saw belongs -- there are both local subspecies and some wintering Central-Asian subspecies of this group. For the benefit of people interested, this bird was seen in Ponda province. Besides the Black Drongo, there are also other species of drongoes in the countryside. One species which I saw could have probably been the White-bellied Drongo (Dicrurus caerulescens). The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) I surely saw several times in the forests.

Besides the extremely common Green Bee-eater there are two other species of bee-eaters, too. One is the Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) which is often considered to belong to the same species as the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (M. persicus) which occurs in India, too, though I didn't see it. When considered as single species, the name is Merops superciliosus, which as nominate form is the Madagascar Bee-eater. The third available species in Goa is the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaultii) which is certainly a very pretty bird. The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) occurs as a wintering species, as well as the Kashmir Roller, which probably belongs to the same species with the European. I didn't see these. The local species is Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) which is quite common. And finally, also the White-throated Kingfisher gets company from as many as at least three other larger kingfishers, of whom the Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) can be seen in inland countryside where there's water available. About the two other I'll tell in the context of wetlands.

Rice-paddies as Ornithological Oases

Among the wetlands in Goa the common paddies are the most easily approachable. All the most common and abundant wetland birds can be learned to identify at the paddies and around them. At the same time there can be even dozen of different heron-birds in a single rice-paddy. The superior in abundance is certainly the common Paddybird or Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) which can be seen everywhere, where there's at least a little drop of water. For a Finn it seems incredible how common a species of heron can be! It is a real everywhere-bird, can be seen in every tiniest ditch, prowling for fish or frogs or whatever all it must eat for its success. Paddybird could perhaps be counted among the most numerous birds in Goa, besides house sparrow, house crow, common myna etc. Besides, the paddybird is very tame and lets man come to the distance of a couple of metres, like also does the second-most common species of ardeids, the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). Together the paddybirds and cattle egrets form the majority, the white crowd of eating birds in a paddy. In the middle of these tame species are, as an own gang, the more cautious and a bit bigger Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), who normally have among them also some Indian Reef Herons (Egretta gularis) coming from the river deltas, where that species is very numerous, and some Intermediate Egrets (Egretta intermedia). The largest species of ardeids, which are the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) and the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) are mainly alone, catching fish while the smaller herons and Red-wattled Plovers (Hoplopterus indicus) must give way. A flock of ibises may accompany the white flocks of herons and egrets -- I saw ibises only once and from distance, and I suppose they were Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus), because the other species prefers dry areas. One very nice species which I found from bushy surroundings of fish-growing ponds, was the Striated Heron (Butorides striatus).

There are of course also smaller wetland birds, like waders and rallids. Everywhere aside paddies and ditches and wetlands there are White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) stepping with their vastly long toes. This bird is definitely not cautious and secretive like most of the rallids, but it's almost as tame as the paddybird. Aside paddies there are also flocks of wintering waders, besides the local wader species which are the Red-wattled Plover (Hoplopterus indicus) and the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). For instance, the Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) was very numerous, but there were also at least Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia) and Western Curlews (Numenius arquata). In the delta areas there were even much more of the wintering waders, but often in a difficult places to be seen without good equipment. Sometimes a snipe jumps into flight from a paddy -- there are very many of them, something like one for every couple of dozens of square metres. My skills were inefficient to recognise them by species, because there are several wintering Gallinago snipes. However, the most numerous, and the one which is certainly seen, is the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). According to a Finnish expert, the other one which might be likely to be seen in Goa, is the Sharp-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura).

Besides the white-throated and pied kingfishers, there are also two other species of kingfishers, which can both be seen at the paddy areas, but more likely in the deltas. They are the large Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) and the Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata).

Wild Wetlands of the Deltas

There are two large wetland areas, formed by the delta of River Mandovi, where there's also the Chorão Island Bird and Crocodile Sanctuary, and the delta of River Zuari. The incredible amount of herons and egrets can be estimated in the evening in the central parks of Panaji or Panjim, the capital of Goa, when the Cattle Egrets and Little Egrets fly to spend their nights in the trees of the parks there. Perhaps they feel more protected in the centre of the city than in the mangrove forests of the delta. Or the other explanation could be that the mangrove forests are already full... At least that comes to your mind when you're looking at the flocks of them on the delta low-waters in daytime: There are hundreds and again hundreds of them -- Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Paddybirds, Intermediate Egrets, numerous dark-grey Indian Reef Herons and also Great Egrets. Quite impressive.

There are also thousands of wintering gulls, either flying or sitting on the sand banks in the river. The absolute majority of them are common Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus), but there are also Brown-headed Gulls (Larus brunnicephalus) and single Great Black-headed Gulls (Larus ichthyaëtus), which is the least numerous of these three species. There might be others, too, but I didn't stop very much observing the gulls. Besides gulls, there are flying over the river some Lesser Crested Terns (Thalasseus bengalensis) and some Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia), and in some places there are Small Indian Pratincoles (Glareola lactea). Among all these there are hundreds of birds of prey catching their food over the river and over the delta areas. The majority of them are common Pariah Kites and Brahminy Kites, but there are also others. Perhaps the real coronation of my ornithological kicks was a magnificent White-bellied Fish-eagle (Haliaëetus leucogaster) flying over the river. However, wild crocodiles I never saw...

Then to the less flying objects of the delta areas. In the swamps and reed things, marshlands and meadows, there are -- besides the mentioned egrets and such -- lots of Red-wattled Plovers, and also other waders, namely Western Curlews, Common Sandpipers and many others. One very nice species there was Indian Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio indicus). There were lots and again lots of passerines which were practically impossible to recognise, but I am rather sure, that there were lots of Blyth's Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus dumetorum) which I can recognise by singing -- and also local species Great Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus). Four species of kingfishers were present, mostly on the tops of wooden things coming up from the water. They were, about in the order of abundance: White-throated Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and Black-capped Kingfisher. Wagtails there were two species: the very common large-sized local one was Large Pied Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis), which was present everywhere. Less numerous was Masked Wagtail (Motacilla alba personata), a subspecies ofthe common White Wagtail and migrant from northern parts of Asia, I think. There was also Eastern Skylark (Alauda gulgula), which is, too, a wintering species. The amount of winged life in these wetlands is incredible. It should be by every means opposed that in India the wetlands are threatened to be dried up in order to destroy the malaria mosquitoes.

In the Monsoon Forests of Bondla

When a friend of living nature first comes to the Bondla Sanctuary, he first has to find a kind of zoo, which creates aggressions to anyone caring of animals' treating. The zoo is for those tourists who only visit that place and never go to the real nature of the sanctuary, and there the most typical animals of the area are caged into shameful conditions. However, in the same place, the centre of the sanctuary, there is also lots of useful information, which was at least for me a great help, because I didn't have yet a very good book of the local birds. Also the "samples" in the zoo may help recognising the wild representatives of the same species, though I would rather have seen also them in wilderness. On the roof of the central building there was a wintering Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), and also Large Pied Wagtail was well present there.

It happened to me in Bondla, that because the maps seemed to be a bit obsolete about the paths, I got lost in the jungle, and when I finally found there a native person carrying a huge tree, I got to know that I was eight kilometres away from the information centre. But no problem, as he also pointed the correct direction, and so I found my way back to civilisation. On the way I didn't have problems of getting bored, because every step brought something nice to see in the middle of flourishing greenness. There were some Sambar Deer (or some species like that), also some Water Buffaloes -- either wild or just being wild, three different kind of monkeys (the very common Hanuman which is sacred, the very common small monkey, and one other kind of small monkey), and one green snake which was a bit less than two metres long and so quick that I couldn't get a photograph of it. And of course there were lots of birds!

I met a very curious and tame flock of young Jungle Crows which as soon brought to my mind how wonderful creatures young Ravens are. Another very tame bird was a Malabar Grey Hornbill (Tockus griseus) which I think was a young individual, because it was moving alone. There were lots of minivets, colourful passerines with red, black and white. The common species is Small Minivet (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus), but there was another kind of minivet, too, which I believe was a Jerdon's Minivet (Pericrocotus erythropygius), but I am not sure. Another very nice and colourful jungle bird was Black-crested Yellow Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus) which was, as far as I can see, moving with a flock of youngsters. And yet one species which gives no possibilities of mistaking: the Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi).

The birds of the canopy exposed themselves with their voices and so it was easy to watch the Greater Racket-tailed Drongoes (Dicrurus paradiseus), the very elegant, shiny bluish black forest-living relatives of Black Drongo, which were moving as couples. A splendid bird. There were also Black-headed Orioles. Not all the species were as easy to see -- most of them surely remained hidden from my eyes. However, there were also White-throated Ground-thrushes (Zoothera citrina), Brahminy Mynas (Sturnus pagodarum), Quaker Babblers (Alcippe poioicephala) and flock-creature Common Babbler (Turdoides caudatus). There were also two species of woodpeckers, namely the large and crested (and very noisy) Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense) and the smaller one, Mahratta Woodpecker (Dendrocopos mahrattensis).

Bird Armadas

I also got to witness the incredible and impressive phenomenon called bird armada, which occurs in rain and monsoon forests. It means that every kind of different birds, of totally different species and families, flock together into a huge armada, which moves in the forest as a front from ground to the canopy. As smaller form the mixed flocks can be like in European forests, so that there are for example Yellow-cheeked Tits together with Velvet-fronted Nuthatches (Sitta frontalis) and Purple Sunbirds, but as a total phenomenon there are really every kind of birds. The benefits they get of each others company are numerous: They can reach optimal use of all the prey, insects, fruits and nectar without competition which would be strong if the flock only consisted of one species, and at the same time they can get safety of their perfect system of security. A drongo in the canopy can warn a ground-living pitta of an approaching eagle and a parrot can warn a nuthatch of a snake... or anything. Just another benefit is that the doves and fruit-eating birds cause escape of insects, which then are eaten by the insectivore members of the flock. The truth is more incredible than Kipling's Jungle-Book!

After once putting your head into such amount of winged wilderness it is not nice to return to your dear university town's winter reality. And so, my dear readers, we are still waiting for continuance for Baron von ...'s wonderful adventures in Indian Subcontinent. I'd wish the situation to calm down in Kashmir so that I could follow my cordial invitation to visit that paradise on earth without being killed by some of those foreign armies occupying the country (Indian, Pakistani and Chinese armies and other "security" organisations, as well as the local groups of militants) so that the dream about free Kashmir seems every day as desperate as it has seemed for the last seven years that the Kashmiri people have been suffering of atrocities by the occupiers, and of the world's ignorance.

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