Goa 13-26 Nov 2018

It was a late decision but we needed a holiday having not been on a break all year so we plumped for Goa in November when the weather should be fine and birds plentiful. Once we’d booked our quiet hotels, I started getting the field guides to the area, read some trip reports and sketched out what we might do. The plan was roughly to spend the first week relaxing with a couple of excursions and then do some more serious birding with a guide in the second week. It didn’t quite turn out that way but we made the best of it, especially as the weather was particularly hot and humid (hottest October and November for over 50 years). The heat seriously hampered us as beyond 11 or even earlier, it was too hot for birds and us! Even the late afternoon was hot and birds difficult.
Green Bee-eater
Tue 13 Nov: Candolim, Sonesta Inns
We arrived from Manchester two hours late, getting to our hotel, Sonesta Inns in Candolim, at 4am. After a brief sleep we got a bit of breakfast and explored the grounds between the hotel and beach. Considering we were seriously boggle-eyed, we were delighted to get Green Bee-eaters immediately together with other common birds such as White-fronted Kingfisher, Black Drongo, Tailorbird and Purple-rumped Sunbird. A pool of water underneath some bushes was being fed by a pipe and proved to be a magnet for birds with a Dark-fronted Babbler being completely unexpected. House Crows were ubiquitous of course as were the calls of Green Warblers but seeing the latter was amazingly difficult here as they kept to the tops of the tall trees. Unfamiliar sounds echoed around the trees surrounding the hotel but I soon got to know the Koel, Coucal, Jungle Myna and Indian Magpie Robin as well as the repetitive call of the Coppersmith Barbet.
White-throated Kingfisher
The relatively quiet beach was reached through the hotel grounds between shacks. Nothing landed on it but there was plenty of action offshore with Dolphins showing nicely along with lots of Black and Brahminy Kites, Brown-headed Gulls and Gull-billed Terns.
Fishing fleet at dawn from Candolim Beach
The afternoon was hot so we crashed out, eventually re-appearing around 3pm to saunter a little further afield but it getting much further than a beach-shack where we had a beer and some food - a Paddyfield Warbler and Ashy Prinia paid a visit to the adjacent bushes as we ate. A large flock of Little Swifts appeared over head with hirundines late in the afternoon.
27 species were recorded that first day and we’d only been out for a few hours in the local environs.

Wed 14 Nov: Candolim, Sonesta Inns
We spent the second day further acclimatising and relaxing around the hotel. We checked sea early morning and as well as adding Slender-billed and Heuglin’s Gull to the list, I had an Arctic Skua chasing Brown-headed Gulls before it continued it’s journey south. The drinking pool in the grounds was dry and remained so for the rest of our stay unfortunately.
In the afternoon, we ventured out onto the main road and tried to find Saligao Zor (being the nearest site in the Gosney guide to our hotel) but to no avail! Taxi drivers were ubiquitous and yet all clueless as to where this would be. We found out later that it wasn’t all that good, a rather ‘smelly’ place being a dump.

Thu 15 Nov: Pilerne Lake
I did the now customary check of the sea and grounds again early morning adding Clamorous Reed Warbler and Ashy Drongo in the hotel grounds before breakfast and then took taxi to Pilerne Lake where we added lots of new birds. Most obvious was a couple of Oriental Darters having a bit of a scrap as well as Little Cormorant, Bronze-winged Jacanas and Red-wattled Lapwings. We got brief fly by views of Stork-billed Kingfisher as well as great views of Eurasian Kingfisher, Asian Koels and Nilgiri Flowerpecker. A Peacock emerged briefly on the far bank as did a Crested Serpent Eagle. Swifts and Swales of various species darted around and Kites and Egrets passed overhead. A nice calm introduction to some of the commoner birds of Goa before chillin’ the rest of the day.
Pilerne Lake
Oriental Darter
Male Asian Koel

Female Asian Koel
Nilgiri Flowerpecker
Bronze-winged Jacana

Fri 16 Nov: Nerul Bridge and Fort Aguada
I checked beach early morning then we took a taxi trip to Fort Aguada followed by Nerul Bridge as the tide receded to find some local birds. Fort Aguada was impressive but boy was it getting hot! Western Reef Heron en route was a nice find and the exposed mud below Nerul Bridge held a few waders, mainly Redshanks and Common Sandpipers though I got a brief view of a Black-necked Ibis.
Long-tailed Shrike
Our trip total stood at just 66 species at this point but a birding week was coming up (or so we thought!).

Sat 17 Nov: Socorro & Paithona Bridge
I had pre-arranged a birding morning with Rahul Alvares pre-breakfast into some forest around 30 minutes drive east of where we were towards the Socorro plateau. This was our real first taste of birding somewhere a bit more peaceful with loads of good habitat, though dogs were a bit of a nuisance. Soon we were hearing all sorts of goodies - Bernie picked up a Rufous Woodpecker and a little later a Yellow-fronted Woodpecker. Sunbirds were showing well with Crimson-backed and Vigor’s Sunbirds showing particularly well. A Nilgiri Woodpigeon sat right in front of Rahul and Bernie - most uncharacteristic and a few Emerald Doves whizzed by. We caught up with Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Indian Robin on the plateau and a Shikra perched obligingly in a tree that contained Small Minivets and Common Ioras.

Indian Pond Heron
From there we checked the open woodland around the (very nice) houses a little lower down - birds weren’t being particularly forthcoming as the temperature rose but we got a nice Grey-fronted Green Pigeon that I managed to mimic quite well. A Red-necked Falcon speared its way across the valley.
We set off back via Paithona Stream where there is a pool with Openbill Stork and Pied Kingfishers amongst other things. Here we also got more egrets and raptors with a couple of Oriental Honey Buzzards and a couple of Indian Spotted Eagles. There was one that got away though as I had an all-too-brief view of a small heron diving into cover - probably Cinnamon Bittern but it never re-appeared. I pick up a falcon heading straight to the pool and it landed on the roadside wall after having taking what looked like a quick bathe. It was a juvenile Hobby and a lifer for Rahul!
Asian Openbill
Jungle Mynas
Wire-tailed Swallow
Indian Spotted Eagle
Juvenile Eurasian Hobby
The afternoon was spent relaxing once again but Rahul had suggested that we visit Batim Lake so we arranged a taxi to pick us up early the following morning for a trip there.

Sun 18 Nov: Batim Lake
Our taxi driver Umesh turned up on-time to Batim Lake via some salt pans as per Gosney’s guide. The drive through the fish-market and onto the new highway construction site was interesting but soon we were free from the traffic and found the salt pans that were covered in birds. The pool on the east side of the road was filled with egrets, cormorants and herons whilst the salt-pans on the west side were teeming with waders - mostly Redshank but good numbers of Common, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts and a single Temminck’s Stint.
Salt-pans north of Batim Lake
The road south passed over marshy fields that were replete with White-throated Kingfishers, Indian Rollers, Bushchats, Long-tailed Shrikes and the like.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
We reached Batim Lake and started viewing from the north side where the little open water there was was covered in Lesser Whistling Ducks along with a few Pygmy Cotton Geese. Viewing later from the causeway (dodging the quarry trucks) we had lots more good birds including Pheasant-tailed Jacanas.

Mon 19 Nov: Socorro & Paithona Bridge, Nilaya Hermitage
Umesh took us again towards the Socorro area where we picked up lots of birds - the morning was cloudy and a little cooler. Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrikes showed well as did Black-hooded Oriole, White-cheeked Barbet, Black-rumped Flameback, Grey-headed Bulbul and a wonderful Greater Racket-tailed Drongo that perched up on overhead wires as we were driving down the road.
Peacocks with Egrets, Ibis and Kites in the trees
Booted Eagle
Plum-headed Parakeets
Crimson-backed Sunbird
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Later that morning we had arranged to change hotels to Nilaya Hermitage above Arpora. This was meant to be a relaxing peaceful place and quite up-market for us. The location was lovely and the rooms spectacular. The birds were good too with the trees adjacent to the entrance road providing some really good birds. We could view the top of a flowering tree from the pool-side terrace and got all five species of Sunbird there. The vista across to Baga was superb and we picked up Booted, Short-toed and White-bellied Sea Eagles in amongst the hordes of kites. There was a BUT.. Bernie has a phobia about frogs or anything else in her space so when I discovered a couple in the shower and then four lizards coming out of the air-conditioning unit in our bedroom, something had to give. We were moved to another room that was ‘sealed’ and slept there that night. Also, we were the only guests!
View from above Arpora towards Baga & Baga Hill
Our trip list was now at 132.

Tue 20 Nov: Nilaya Hermitage
We didn’t sleep well. The AC in the room kept cutting out and in the morning I found yet more visitors. That was the last straw (coupled with the fact that there was a building site next door and it wasn’t the place of tranquility it was made out to be).
Indian Oriole
Whilst we waited for a return to our original hotel to be sanctioned, we birded the area and got some great birds such as Puff-throated Babbler, White-spotted Fantail, Red Spurfowl, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Grey-bellied Cuckoo and a bit of a mega, Blue-bearded Bee-eater.
Ashy Drongo
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
We eventually got the nod to return. We did have a driver/guide booked for the next week, or so we thought - Santosh, as mentioned in Gosney’s book, had agreed to drive us around but though I tried several methods of contacting him, he never replied though I know he saw the WhatsApp messages. So I contacted Umesh who drove us the rest of the week (and we taught him a few birds and birding sites).

Wed 21 Nov: MorjimBeach, Siolim
Umesh picked us up at 8 after an early breakfast to meet high tide at Morjim beach around 9. We found the access point and headed out through the pines onto the beach where we were immediately greeted by a large mixed flock of Kentish, Lesser Sand- and a few Greater Sand-Plovers. Gulls and terns were passing into the mouth of the river but rather than roosting on the sandbank, headed for another sandbank in the middle of the river and some distance away - there were lots of gulls on there as well as three Oystercatchers! Little Terns fished close by and we had both Greater and Lesser Crested Tern fly past. Twenty Black-throated Munias hung around for a while and a single Baya Weaver and Yellow Wagtail dropped in briefly.
We then made our way to Siolim en route back to the hotel but the area was completely overgrown and though there were probably loads of birds there, we couldn’t see much save for the Spotted Eagles!

Thu 22 Nov: Carambolim Lake
We had a pre-breakfast start for Carambolim Lake which initially looked good when we got there but was pretty much devoid of birds apart from Jacanas, Gallinules and a few Lesser Whistling Ducks. The area to the south of the lake was much more productive but difficult to view as you were looking into the sun.
Lesser Adjutant
Despite this, there were quite a few waders, ibis and ducks that were all Eurasian Teal. We made our way towards Carambolim Wood stopping by the open fields where Bernie picked up a Lesser Adjutant Stork. The wood held Spotted Owlets but we couldn’t find the Brown Hawk Owls. Still, it was a very enjoyable morning’s birding so we then headed off to nearby Old Goa for some sightseeing - the festival of St Francis Xavier was about to begin so there were lots of people and stalls being prepared. We also took a ferry ride to Divar Island, something we’d revisit unexpectedly the following day.
Old Goa

Fri 23 Nov: Mayem Lake, Divar Island, Carambolim

Another early start to Mayem Lake today but when we arrive an hour later we found the path described in Gosney’s now gated and though we pleaded with security, they wouldn’t let anyone in. So we headed up the road and found a quiet area up the hill with some nice habitat and birded that area - we got Orange-headed Thrush, Jungle Babblers and Blue-faced Malkoha amongst other stuff. We continued up the hill and eventually got to the plateau where there was a bare football field - and birds; we could see Malabar Larks from the road as well as Hoopoe and pipits.
Malabar Lark and Hoopoe
Richard's Pipit
Indian Roller
Oriental Skylark
We eventually tracked down Oriental Skylark, Richard’s, Blyth’s, Paddyfield and Tree Pipits as well as Common Woodshrike and missed a few other things!!!!
Red-wattled Lapwing
We continued along this road where we reached the ferry to Divar Island where, once over the other side, we found a nice quiet area that was full of birds - all common stuff to us now but really enjoyable birding. Lots of Bee-eaters, Rollers, Shrikes, Larks, Chats and Harriers (Marsh and Pallid). We continued over the island and the next ferry to Old Goa and onto Carambolim again where we had Thick-billed Flowerpecker and the Brown Hawk Owls.
Spotted Owlet
Brown Hawk Owl
Sat 24 Nov: Arpora
We had a quiet day today with a post-breakfast sortie around Arpora and then Baga fields. We connected with Alexandrine Parakeet as well as great views of Stork-billed Kingfisher, flocks of Yellow Wagtails, Brown Shrike, Common Myna, Brahminy Starling and a host of commoner stuff.
Stork-billed Kingfisher

Sun 25 Nov: Bondla
We started early as it would take around 90 minutes to get to Bondla. We arrived just a little after sunrise but maybe half an hour too late. There was a SunBird tour here led as it happened by my old friend Paul Holt. We got talking and they helped us get a few birds straight away. Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbets as well as Vernal Hanging Parrots utilised a prominent bare tree. Paul tried to coax out an Indian Pitta for us but although we were within feet of it (and they’d seen it on a previous visit a couple of days prior, it wasn’t for showing. Malabar Starling was another good one along with Asian Fairy Bluebird and Verditer Flycatcher. I didn’ want to take too much advantage so we headed up the road as they went another direction. We got some wonderful views of Flame-throated Bulbul, Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike, Crested Treeswift, Golden-fronted Leafbirds and Indian Cuckoo.
We headed back to the group where another tour (Heatherlea) had arrived. Just as we got to them a couple of Heart-spotted Woodpeckers flew across our paths. There were other birds new for us in this area but it was hotting up considerably by now and birds were getting a little more shy. So we headed deeper into Bondla, up the hill to where the reservoir is (complete with introduced crocodiles to dissuade folk from having a dip! Here, we saw White-rumpled Sharma, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and heard all sorts of other stuff. Brief, untickable views of Western-crowned Warbler and White-faced Buzzard were had but we did get good views of Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker. Down near the zoo, we used the rather pungent toilets and stocked up on water, ticking of Blue-capped Rock Thrush in the process before heading back via a spot where Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher had been glimpsed earlier in the day. No sign of that but a brief view of a Malabar Blue Whistling Thrush was good.
White-rumped Sharma
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Then it was off for a spot of lunch at one of the spice farms in the Ponda area. The one we were told about had a lake which you could watch whilst having lunch. After our tour of the plantation, there was a nice meal and we sat down with the Heatherlea group for Blue-eared Kingfisher and, eventually, Malabar Pied Hornbill. If we’d had time, we’d have done Bondla again and perhaps stayed a couple of days in the area; most trips go to Backwoods Camp for a few nights but due to Bernie’s phobia we thought it best not overnight there!

Mon 26 Nov: Zuari River Trip, Pilerne & Beira Mar
Our final day saw us up early to get the 7:30am trip up the Zuari River. We’d pre-booked with Dr Varsha (+91 94224 40040) a couple of days earlier and this was our opportunity to get another two kingfishers on the list. To Bernie’s delight, we managed that with good views of Black-capped and Collared along with plenty of Common, White-throated and Stork-billed.
Western Reef Heron
Striated Heron
Brahminy Kite
Woolly-necked Stork
Collared Kingfisher
Zuari River
We also saw Crocodiles here as well as plenty of egrets and kites but not much else on the mud-banks as the tide rose.
Later that afternoon we visited Pilerne Lake once again, bumping into a Heart-spotted Woodpecker flying along the roadside just before we got there. There wasn’t too much here so we decided to try the Beira Mar for sundown. Here we had a lovely hour sipping beers and sharing our birds with the locals who were amazed at digiscoping. There’s no water to be seen, all overgrown but we did have a lovey female/juvenile Amur Falcon and Bernie found the last bird of the trip, another Spotted Owlet.
Amur Falcon
Our flight back to Manchester left 3:20 am the following morning having seen 206 species with three more heard only during our stay. Not a bad return for number of birds per hour spent in the field. Certainly would go back again but hopefully at a cooler time!

Trip list & days seen

Lesser Whistling Duck 7
Cotton Pygmy Goose 1
Northern Shoveler 1
Eurasian Teal 1
Red Spurfowl 1
Grey Junglefowl 1
Indian Peafowl 6
Little Grebe 2
Asian Openbill 5
Woolly-necked Stork 5
Lesser Adjutant 1
Black-headed Ibis 9
Glossy Ibis 5
Black-crowned Night Heron 2
Striated Heron 2
Indian Pond Heron Daily
Eastern Cattle Egret Daily
Grey Heron 8
Purple Heron 7
Great Egret 7
Intermediate Egret 6
Little Egret 8
Western Reef Heron 2
Little Cormorant 9
Indian Cormorant 4
Oriental Darter 6
Western Osprey 2
Crested Honey Buzzard 3
Crested Serpent Eagle 1
Short-toed Snake Eagle 2
Indian Spotted Eagle 1
Greater Spotted Eagle 3
Booted Eagle 3
Shikra 3
Besra 1
Western Marsh Harrier 8
Pallid Harrier 1
Black Kite Daily
Brahminy Kite Daily
White-bellied Sea Eagle 4
White-breasted Waterhen 4
Grey-headed Swamphen 3
Common Moorhen 2
Eurasian Coot 2
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1
Black-winged Stilt 3
Red-wattled Lapwing 8
Pacific Golden Plover 1
Little Ringed Plover 1
Kentish Plover 2
Lesser Sand Plover 2
Greater Sand Plover 1
Pheasant-tailed Jacana 1
Bronze-winged Jacana 5
Eurasian Curlew 2
Ruff 1
Temminck's Stint 2
Dunlin 1
Common Snipe 1
Common Sandpiper 7
Green Sandpiper 1
Common Redshank 5
Marsh Sandpiper 2
Wood Sandpiper 2
Spotted Redshank 1
Common Greenshank 5
Slender-billed Gull 4
Brown-headed Gull Daily
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Heuglin's) 2
Gull-billed Tern 9
Greater Crested Tern 2
Lesser Crested Tern 1
Little Tern 1
River Tern 1
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Rock Dove 1
Nilgiri Wood Pigeon 1
Spotted Dove 7
Common Emerald Dove 1
Grey-fronted Green Pigeon 3
Greater Coucal (Southern) 6
Blue-faced Malkoha 1
Asian Koel Daily
Grey-bellied Cuckoo 1
Indian Cuckoo 1
Common Cuckoo 2
Spotted Owlet 3
Brown Hawk-owl 1
Crested Treeswift 1
Asian Palm Swift 5
Little Swift Daily
Indian Roller 6
Stork-billed Kingfisher 5
White-throated Kingfisher Daily
Black-capped Kingfisher 1
Collared Kingfisher 1
Blue-eared Kingfisher 1
Common Kingfisher Daily
Pied Kingfisher 2
Blue-bearded Bee-eater 1
Green Bee-eater Daily
Blue-tailed Bee-eater 6
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater 1
Eurasian Hoopoe 2
Malabar Pied Hornbill 1
Brown-headed Barbet 1
White-cheeked Barbet 2
Coppersmith Barbet Heard daily, seen 3
Heart-spotted Woodpecker 2
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker 1
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker 1
Black-rumped Flameback 2
Rufous Woodpecker 1
Red-necked Falcon 1
Amur Falcon 2
Eurasian Hobby 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Plum-headed Parakeet 5
Alexandrine Parakeet 1
Rose-ringed Parakeet 8
Vernal Hanging Parrot 1
Indian Pitta Heard only 1
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 1
Common Woodshrike 1
Common Iora 4
Black-headed Cuckooshrike 1
Small Minivet 3
Brown Shrike 1
Long-tailed Shrike 10
Indian Golden Oriole 7
Black-hooded Oriole 3
Black Drongo 8
Ashy Drongo 6
White-bellied Drongo 1
Bronzed Drongo 3
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 3
White-spotted Fantail 3
Black-naped Monarch Heard only 1
Indian Paradise Flycatcher 3
Rufous Treepie 4
House Crow Daily
Indian Jungle Crow 2
Oriental Skylark 3
Malabar Lark 1
Grey-headed Bulbul 1
Flame-throated Bulbul 1
Red-whiskered Bulbul 4
Red-vented Bulbul 3
White-browed Bulbul 6
Barn Swallow 4
Wire-tailed Swallow 10
Common House Martin 2
Red-rumped Swallow 10
Streak-throated Swallow 3
Common Chiffchaff 1
Green Warbler 7
Greenish Warbler 1
Western Crowned Warbler Heard only 1
Clamorous Reed Warbler 4
Paddyfield Warbler 5
Blyth's Reed Warbler 8
Sykes's Warbler 1
Ashy Prinia 2
Plain Prinia 4
Common Tailorbird 8
Dark-fronted Babbler 2
Brown-cheeked Fulvetta 2
Puff-throated Babbler 2
Jungle Babbler 2
Asian Fairy-bluebird 1
Jungle Myna Daily
Common Myna 1
Chestnut-tailed Starling 4
White-headed Starling 1
Brahminy Starling 1
Rosy Starling 1
Orange-headed Thrush 3
Indian Blackbird 3
Indian Robin 3
Oriental Magpie-robin Daily
White-rumped Shama 1
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher 4
Verditer Flycatcher 1
Malabar Whistling Thrush 2
Blue-capped Rock Thrush 1
Siberian Stonechat 6
Pied Bush Chat 6
Golden-fronted Leafbird 2
Thick-billed Flowerpecker 1
Nilgiri Flowerpecker 4
Purple-rumped Sunbird Daily
Crimson-backed Sunbird 6
Purple Sunbird 7
Loten's Sunbird 3
Vigors's Sunbird 2
House Sparrow 3
Yellow-throated Sparrow 1
Baya Weaver 2
White-rumped Munia 4
Scaly-breasted Munia 3
Black-throated Munia 1
Western Yellow Wagtail 2
Citrine Wagtail 1
Grey Wagtail 1
White-browed Wagtail 1
Richard's Pipit 3
Paddyfield Pipit 2
Blyth's Pipit 1
Tree Pipit 2