I have to be honest and admit, I am not a big beach junkie. I enjoy the peaceful environment provided by beaches but as my swimming abilities total to drowning and shouting for help, I am yet to enjoy the beach in true sense. But I digress.. When I started hearing about the birding potential of Goa, it sounded amazing. Also the visions of relaxing in a nook of Goa, relaxing and clicking exotic birds sounded exactly what the doctor ordered. I envisioned that I would be sitting in a stream somewhere, with KF’s etc. etc…
A bit of R&D point me in the direction of Pankaj Lad. Almost everyone I spoke to, pointed me in his direction. Pankaj runs a resort called Natures Nest (also known as Canopy Goa) in south Goa with a very small but talented team including his brother. A quick call with him fixed me with 4 nights trip around Goa. Omkar Dharwadkar, one of the members of Pankaj’s team was to be my guide during my stay with him. I was all set with a relaxed birding experience.
I took an overnight train from Tal Chapar to Delhi. Not wanting to deal with Delhi’s Autos, I booked a Meru Cab by using their app. 5 minutes before I was due to get down at Delhi stn., Meru driver called and told me he is right outside. Oh what joy, get out of the train and off to airport. I would advice anyone traveling on a per-planned trip to make use of their app and plan their taxi bookings. Unfortunately Spicejet had rescheduled my flight a bit so I had plenty of time to kill. I called up Canopy and told them about the delay, and was assured that someone will receive me from the airport. So after a few hours of people watching, I started my journey to Goa. Ignoring the over excited “Lets go hit Goa and get drunk” crowd of some backoffice/outsourced organization, I managed to get an hours sleep too.
Malu was at the airport to pick me up and we started quickly for the Nest. Malu was happy go lucky local lad, who was also quite interested in birding and had good knowledge of local birding scene. On our way to the resort, a snake quickly made his way across the road. Unfortunately it happened so fast that we got no chance of seeing it properly. The mobile service in the area is quite spotty. Let me rephrase that – your mobile may work if you have done something really good and selfless in your life. Oh and if you agree to perform a secret sacrifice ritual. Under full moon. Life’s good when phone goes silent.
After a long drive, we reached the resort and I was sent to my allocated cottage. Corteges had nice sit-out areas and really nice and airy washrooms. One could sit right outside the cortege and be treated with various sunbirds, spiderhunter, hanging parrots etc. One would wake up to the din made by these birds. Rooms were not fitted with geyser but whenever needed, a electrical rod was available to boil some water. I believe this would be an excellent choice during monsoon too.
That evening we went for our first round of evening birding and visited Tambdi Surla area. This is an ancient Shiva Temple. The stream adjoining it was a good place for flycatchers and kingfishers. We scoured it for a while and got a few glimpses of Striated heron. Also seen was a heart-spotted woodpecker. Unfortunately pictures were not possible in the failing light. In the evening I bumped into Aadesh Shivker back at the resort. Aadesh was leading a group of birders and was ensuring that the group had a good time while educating them on various aspects of birding. Its always nice to see a tour leader taking an interest in ensuring that the group learns about nature. May be one day I’ll get to join his groups 🙂
The next day was spent exploring Bondla WLS. We started early and moved toward the sanctuary. On the way back, Omkar’s stopped the car on a bridge. I was confused, as it looked like we were stopped right behind some houses. Soon the confusion gave way to surprise as we started picking off birds in the tree adjoining the bridge. Golden fronted leaf bird, common iora, black hooded oriole, Malabar Grey Hornbill, white-browed bulbuls were the stars :-).
At Bondla, we started exploring the area before entrance. Also this was time for getting some breakfast. Pankaj has thoughtfully packed some omelet & pavs with us. While I started digging into one, Omkar started signalling urgently from across the road. I rushed there with camera & lens mounted on a monopod on one shoulder and my sandwich firmly lodged between my teeth. What you see below is the result. Blue Faced Malkoha sure does justice to his name. However, the bird never left the cluttered habitat, as much as we waited. Finally it disappeared into the undergrowth after a while. A birding group from Sweden just missed seeing this bird by a few seconds.
We started moving towards the sanctuary on foot. As this was a weekend, a lot of vehicular traffic was on the road. As we crossed the first check point, Omkar picked a movement in the shrubs behind the chowki. Turns out, it was a patient Stork Billed Kingfisher. We spent a bit of time with this bird and saw him picking a crab from the stream. Moving on we came across a CHE perched high up in the tree.
Further down the road, we started looking for the start attraction. The sanctuary is home to a great habitat for Malabar Trogon. These colorful birds are under threat from loss of habitat. Forest fragmentation is the prime reasons these guys are loosing their home. It is becoming comparatively rare to see them now. I felt lucky to have a good sighting of these birds. Photographing these guys was a tough task. With increasing crowd, we felt this task should be carried out on another day.
In the evening we went walking around the resort, in the backyard of Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary. Some of the birds of note were, Spangled Drongo, brown cheeked barbet and grey fronted pigeons. The wild side of Goa was a surprise and a pleasant one at that. Omkar was a great guide and companion for exploring these nooks and corners of south Goa. In two days we managed to just scratch a tiny lil surface. There were 3 more days to go & I was looking forward to seeing Goa in this way. My dreams of finding that lazy corner with birds were sort of melting away, considering the amount of walking being done. Alas one can dream…