From November 13th till December 6th 1998, Alma and I visited Goa, a tiny province on the west coast of India. The place is about 600 kilometers South of Mumbai (Bombay). We stayed at Arpora in the northern part of Goa. The area around the hotel consists mainly of both dry and wet rice paddies, jungle covered hills, a mangrove-fringed river and some stony scrub.
A bit further away are Morji beach, Chapora Fort, Aguada Fort, the salt pans at Candolim and Saligao Zor, a spring in a small but beautiful forest. All these areas can be reached within 30 minutes from the coastal resorts and offer a wide variety of birds including some endemics. Best sightings were Painted Stork, Striated Heron, Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, Painted Snipes, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Watercock, Slaty-breasted Rail, Ruddy Crake, Booted, Crested Serpent and White-bellied Sea-eagles, Pallid Harrier, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Rosy Starling, Tree-, Blyth's, Richards and Paddyfield Pipits, Red-headed Bunting, Paddyfield and Blyth's Warblers, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Brown Wood Owl, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Amur Falcon, Indian Pitta, Red Spurfowl, Orange-headed Ground-Thrush, Common Peafowl, Banded Bay-cuckoo, Blue-faced Malkoha, Oriental Honeybuzzard and Brahminy Kite, Great Knot and Terek Sandpiper.
A bit further away, but still within 1.5 hour by taxi are areas like Choroa, Carambolim Lake, Carambolim Fields and the Ciba Geigy Factory. Choroa is a big island with extensive reed and grassy areas, Carambolim is a lily-covered lake with incredible numbers of birds, and the adjacent dry fields are famous for its raptors and a tiny chat which was discovered in 1996. It's still not known for sure if it's a Stoliczka's Chat (from the deserts in Northern India) or a species new to science! Ciba is a factory which created two lakes to show the neighbourhood how clean their water was. From the beginning the site attracted lots of birds, and it's now famous for its storks and egrets roost. There are also breeding cormorants and Oriental Darters.
Best species at these places were: Oriental Darter, Indian and Little Cormorants, Asian Openbill Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Purple Swamphen, Intermediate Egret, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Watercock, Purple Heron, Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Short-toed and Tawny Eagles, Montagu's Harrier, the mystery chat, Rufous-tailed Lark, Short-toed Lark, Oriental Skylark, Malabar Lark, Ruddy Shelduck, Amur Falcon, Plum-headed Parakeet, Pygmy Goose, Ferruginous Duck and Spotted Owlets.
A bit further away, about 2 hours from the coastal resorts are the three big forest reserves: Bondla, Cotigoa and Molem. We've only visited Bondla and Cotigoa and made a very short trip to the famous waterfalls in Molem. Didn't had the chance to bird the forest there but had all hoped-for species at the falls (Black and Rufous-bellied Eagles and Dusky Crag-Martin).
Bondla usually gets the best press but in our opinion Cotigoa is (much!) better. The list of species in these two forests is too long but highlights were Malabar Trogon, White-bellied and Large Goldenback Woodpeckers, Speckled Piculet, White-bellied Blue, Tickell's Blue, Rufous-tailed, Brown, Brown-breasted, Kashmir, Red-breasted, Red-throated and Verditer Flycatchers, Malabar Pied and Malabar Grey Hornbills, Green and Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Black and Grey-headed Bulbuls, White-rumped Spinetail, Grey Junglefowl, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Indian Swiftlet, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Malabar Parakeet and lots of other species.
During the trip we saw about 260 species of which 99 were lifers for me. Most beautiful species were Indian Pitta, Malabar Trogon and Orange-headed Ground-thrush. These three species are all quite difficult to find (the pitta took 3 visits of 1 to 3 hours each to get perfect views!) but they were all worth the effort!
We found the birding in India great. The hotel was great, the food excellent and very cheap, very friendly people of which most speak English, easy to travel around with local taxis (about $30 a day) and, of course, great birds. To make things easier for birders, there are two very useful site-guides for Goa.
The only drawback was the lack of a good field guide during the trip. The pictorial field guide by Riply and Ali is generally not too bad, but you can forget about the difficult-to-ID genera like the Phylloscopus and Acrocephalus Warblers, but these problems are all over now! When we got home we found the new handbook for the birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmit and the Inskipp family on our table. It arrived two days after we left.... But it's great and we'll use it on the trips to come!
Please mail me if you have any questions or if you would like to have additional info.
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