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Restless in Goa

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”ย  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.

Interior of Cottage at Canopy

Interior of Cottage at Canopy

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 ofย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Jungle Babblers

Jungle Babblers

Malabar Giant Squirrel

Malabar Giant Squirrel

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 :-).

White Browed Bulbul

White Browed Bulbul

Black Hooded Oriole

Black Hooded Oriole

Common Iora

Common Iora

Malabar Giant Squirrel

Malabar Giant Squirrel

Golden Fronted Leaf-bird

Golden Fronted Leaf-bird

The Bird Magnet

The Bird Magnet

Malabar Grey Hornbill

Indian Grey Hornbill

Malabar Grey Hornbill

Indian Grey Hornbill

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.

Blue-faced Malkoha

Blue-faced Malkoha

Blue-faced Malkoha

Blue-faced Malkoha

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.

Stork Billed Kingfisher

Stork Billed Kingfisher

Stork Billed Kingfisher

Stork Billed Kingfisher

Stork Billed Kingfisher

Stork Billed Kingfisher

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.ย  Photographing these guys was a tough task. With increasing crowd, we felt this task should be carried out on another day.

Malabar Trogon

Malabar Trogon

Malabar Trogon

Malabar Trogon

Red-headed Bunting

Red-headed Bunting

Grey-fronted Green Pigeon

Grey-fronted Green Pigeon

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…

Giant Wood Spider

Giant Wood Spider

Sprangled Drongo

Sprangled Drongo

Brown Headed Barbet

Brown Headed Barbet

Ending the day

Ending the day

 

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge

6 Comments

  1. Dipayan · May 13, 2014 Reply

    Lovely description. Stayed at Nature’s Nest over the Christmas holidays last year and unquestionably it was one of the best wildlife experiences I had in India. Omkar is a star , the images he is able to get with a 300 mm F4 would put a lot of 600mm wielders to shame, plus he knows a lot about nature in general. Did you go on one of the night walks in the plateau near the camp looking for Frogmouths ?

    • kartik · May 16, 2014 Reply

      Hi Dipayan,

      Thank you for the kind words. I completely agree about Omkar, he indeed is a star. I did go on the nightwalk to the plateau, however luck was not on my side. That is part of my next installment of the trip report.

      Cheers,
      Kartik

  2. Ankit Desai · July 29, 2014 Reply

    Hi Kartikeya,

    Fantastic write-up and coverage. Your photography skills are phenomenal. Loved the way you depicted every small thing here.
    I don’t think if you remember me but was I was there in Adesh’s group.

    It was indeed pleasure to see your tal-chappar pics. hope, to be with on a trip sometime in future. I guess you still work in Dubai right?

    Any way keep clicking and blogging.
    Would love to see your work.

    Thanks,
    Ankit

    • kartik · July 29, 2014 Reply

      Hey Ankit,

      Thank you for the kind words, you got me blushing :D. I don’t think I have skills let alone phenomenal one :-). Although I hope to have them one day ๐Ÿ˜›

      Although my interaction with the NI group was for only a couple of evenings, it was really fun to see a group that was enjoying the birding. I have rarely seen a more enthusiastic group of people with such diverse background. I hope one day I will be able to join Adesh’s group for a trip and I do hope to join you in one of the trips ๐Ÿ™‚

      Tal Chapar was fun, I really fell for that place. If you get a chance, do visit there. It is a fantastic place. I do work in Dubai (which is another reason I can not go to these places often enough).

      Where are your Goa pics? I was not as lucky as you guys, I did not see the Frogmouth.

      Cheers,
      Kartik

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