We left the hotel just before 6am to find Santosh already waiting for us, and we were quickly on our way to Carambolin. First stop was Carambolin Woods, a small copse surrounded by marshland. Our first bird of the day was a Brown Hawk Owl, which almost took Martin’s hat off. As the light grew we moved to the edge of the woods. Mist was hanging over the marshes, but soon birds could be seen. A few Egrets and a Purple Heron showed, before a Lesser Adjutant flew in and landed in the Marsh in front of us. Santosh then located two White-bellied Fish Eagles on a distant pylon, which almost as soon as we got the scopes onto them they took to the air – a much better way to see them. As the sun rose higher, there was a constant stream of Herons, Egrets, Openbill Storks, Cormorants, and Ibis’s flying out to feed in the marshes. Closer in were a couple of Paddyfield Pipits, Ashy Prinia, Keol and Rufous Tree-Pie.
We then followed the road through the copse, picking up numerous Orioles’ and Bulbul’s. The day roost of a pair of Brown Hawk Owls was found, though with their backs to us, the views weren’t that great.
At the far end of the copse we were overlooking a series of Bunds giving us our first chance to compare Little and Indian Cormorants. A Clamorous Reed Warbler was found working through the close reeds, while Spot-billed Duck’s and Garganey were found further out.
On the opposite side of the Road was some open ground which held Siberian Stonechat, Pied Bushchat and Indian Robin. Up to 7 Hoopoes and a large Pipit were found. This Pipit was initially called as a Richard’s, but on closer inspection it was seen to have dark lores. Unfortunately no call was heard as it wandered into the long grass. Richards is probably the best bet, based on size.
At the next pool a few waders were found along with a Gull-billed Tern. Mike and Martin had a Black-lored Tit fly into the nearby trees, but it could not be relocated. The pair also glimpsed a rail disappearing into scrub at the pool edge, but didn’t get enough to even hazard a guess at its identity.
We then made the short drive up to Carambolin Lake. The lake was filled with birds. Hundreds of Lesser Whistling Duck and Garganey thronged the edges with smaller numbers of Pygmy Geese, Purple Swamphen, Bronze-winged Jacana, Glossy Ibis as well as scores of herons and egrets. Several Pheasant-tailed Jacanas’ were found, and a single Wigeon was found amongst the ducks. A couple of Marsh Harrier’s quartered the marsh, while both a Gull-billed and Whiskered Tern hawked over the more open water. As with all wetlands, Kingfishers were everywhere. The only waders found were Wood Sandpipers and a couple of Ringed Plovers.
We had a short break to refresh before resuming birding the area, this time from the road on the west end of the lake. An Osprey flew in, circled a couple of times and dived in and came out with a sizable fish in its talons. This attracted the attention of a White-bellied Sea Eagle and the two engaged in an aerial battle over the prize, rising higher and higher.
The rice paddies across the road then took our attention. A quick scan gave showed little bird life save from the obvious herons and egrets. However, a closer look brought numerous waders to view. While mainly Wood Sandpipers we also found Stilt’s, Ruff and Temminck’s Stints. More distantly was a group of Small Pratincoles along with a few River Terns and Ruddy Shelduck. A Yellow Wagtail was found and closer scrutiny showed it to be of the race thunbergi.
Santosh then dropped us off close to ”elephant corner”, near the Marinha Dourada hotel, were we would bird the pans before having lunch in a local restaurant. The pans held a small group of Asian Golden Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers, Marsh Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks and Temminck’s Stints. A male Purple-rumped Sunbird was seen a couple of times, though, as ever with Sunbirds, there were no prolonged views. Good views were obtained of both Richards and Paddyfield Pipits. Mike claimed a Little (st)Ringed Plover, but none of the rest of us could find this bird. Suspicious shade’s of the Wind up (Winding) Cisticola from out last trip to the Gambia but this time Mike produced the photo’s to prove the birds existence.
After an excellent lunch – probably the best meal of the trip – Santosh picked us up and we were off to Siolim. A quick stop on route produced 3 Yellow Wattled Plovers and a probable Oriental Sky Lark was heard but could not be located.
Arriving at Siolim, storks, heron and egrets were everywhere. It didn’t take us long to find the Painted Stork’s. We saw some 60+ of what are normally scarce birds in Goa, part of some 150+ which arrived a few weeks earlier. A Greater Spotted Eagle flew over and landed in a Palm Tree not too far off, but quickly was lost to view. A few minutes later a second flew over. Several River Terns hunted over the marshland, while a group of Black-headed Ibis flew in to give the best views yet of this species.
Two female type Bluethroats were found and our second “workable” Yellow Wagtail, which again was of the thunbergi form, while 60+ flew over. Just as we were thinking of leaving, I picked up a distant Black-capped Kingfisher.
Another early start for the Zuari river trip, arriving at the jetty about 7:40 for an 8am depart. We started by heading down stream picking up Dusky Crag Martins and a Peregrine roosting on the main road bridge. As we motored downstream a small group of gulls were picked up, looking a lot like Black-headed, but at the same time clearly different. Winter plumage Brown-headed Gull’s which when they took to the air showed their distinctive wing pattern. Further downstream three Greater Crested Terns sat on some poles allowing the boat to get close and Phil to tick his 1000th species. Manoeuvring close to the rubbish strewn banks we picked up several Kentish Plovers before we located a Terek Sandpiper.
These target species picked up we turned round and headed upriver to look for Kingfishers, not, however, before we pulled over to pick up another passenger. A stop which allowed us to pick up our first House Sparrows of the trip as they nested in holes in the bridge supports. The passenger was soon dropped off on a Police boat moored out midstream and we set off in earnest.
Gull-billed terns were constant companions as we traveled upstream, with the occasional Osprey. Scanning the mangroves it was only Common, White-throated and Stork-billed Kingfishers that showed. A Clamorous Reed Warbler was found along with our first White-spotted Fantail. Suddenly our first Collared Kingfisher was next to us in the mangroves, allowing reasonably close views before it decided to move further back. This was quickly followed by a Black-capped Kingfisher showing really well.
In total we had 5 Collared Kingfishers, including a pair interacting, and 4 Black-collared Kingfishers during the trip. At least 3 Mugger Crocodiles provided added interest.
On the journey back we narrowly avoided being engulfed in a Bee swarm which passed just over our heads. If the swarm had been any lower we would have had a hard choice between staying in the boat or going over the side, into the crocodile infested waters! Just after the swarm flew over a group of Curlew and Whimbrel flew past.
On landing we drove up to Batim Lake but the only new birds were Eurasian Teal and Northern Shoveller.
Santosh had another booking this afternoon but he dropped us of at the Alexandrine Parakeet plantation. We quickly found two at nest holes, giving exceptional views. We then made out way to the Baga Fields to search for pipits and larks. We quickly got onto our first pipit, a Paddyfield, quickly followed by a Richards. Several more followed, some more identifiable than others, but a Tawny was seen well. As we walked through slightly wetter scrub we flushed our first snipe, but which species. Pintail is the commonest, but Common also occurs, so it couldn’t be assumed that it was a Pintail, though the habitat and flight pattern certainly indicated that species. A couple more snipe were flushed and were better seen showing heavily barred under wings and crucially, no white edge to the secondaries, to confirm identity as Pintail.
The only larks found were Malabar Larks, and then only in small numbers.
From the fields, we walked up to the Beira Mar and set up overlooking the small pool below. One of the local feral dogs put up two snipe. I got onto 1, a Common Snipe, while Martin got onto the other – another Pintail. A Brahminy Kite swopped down to take a Jungle Myna right in front of us. A Crested Goshawk drifted over, but surprisingly, I was the only one to get onto it. Constant scanning through the vegetation around the pool paid dividends when the Ruddy-breasted Crake wandered into view, showing really well as it washed and preened. Unfortunately the Bittern failed to show yet again.