GOA: Bulbuls and Birdwings
A 15-day exploration of plateaus, grasslands and endemic-rich tropical forests, home to an impressive selection of spectacular tropical butterflies and a diverse birdlife.
Our relaxed and enjoyable three-centre tour explores the former Portuguese enclave of Goa, with equal focus on its diverse array of birds and butterflies, which includes several regional endemics. Beginning along the coast we will explore beaches, mangrove-lined tidal creeks, wetlands and wooded hills before moving inland to dense foothill forests at the base of the Western Ghats. On foot and by boat we'll look for a diverse selection of birds, including seven species of kingfisher including Collared and Black-backed (Oriental) Dwarf, Indian Pitta, Great Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Oriental Scops-owl, White-bellied Sea-eagle, and a variety of waders, waterfowl and gulls including Pallas's Gull. In coastal areas we will look for dryland butterflies such as Common Jezebel, Lemon Pansy, Glassy Tiger and Tiny Grass Blue, before moving on to butterfly rich forests that host Malabar Tree Nymph, Sahyadri Blue Oakleaf and the stunning Indian Sunbeam, and several spectacular swallowtails including Paris Peacock and Southern Birdwing. We visit in the post monsoon months when the climate is comfortable, resident birds are accompanied by Palaearctic migrants, and butterflies are at their most abundant.
Easy and productive birding and butterfly watching in a rich variety of habitats, from beaches, mangroves and wetlands to dense forests in the foothills of the Western Ghats.
A diverse and abundant birdlife, that includes the secretive Indian Pitta, four hornbills, Malabar Trogon, almost a dozen woodpeckers including White-bellied, seven species of kingfisher including Collared and the spectacularly hued Black-backed Dwarf, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, and a selection of gulls, waders, herons and waterfowl in coastal wetlands.
Realistic chances of seeing 18 of the 30 species endemic or near-endemic to the Western Ghats, including Malabar Parakeet, Flame-throated Bulbul and Vigors’s Sunbird.
An impressive selection of butterflies, dominated by yellow and blues such as Chocolate Pansy and Grass Jewel in coastal areas, and a sheer abundance in lush post-monsoon forests that includes spectacular swallowtails such as Blue Mormon and Southern Birdwing, regional endemics including Sahyadri Blue Oakleaf and Tamil Lacewing, and an exciting variety of species such as Leaf Blue, Common Nawab and Common Map puddling along forest streams.
Excellent opportunities for bird and butterfly photography, as we explore on foot.
An enjoyable and comfortable stay in a distinctive part of India that still retains Portuguese influences in its unique culture, cuisine and architecture.
Day 1-4: Coastal Goa
Arrivals into Goa (Dabolim) airport in the morning of day 1 for a four-night stay. We have the afternoon, and further five days to explore the varied habitats present in the coastal region of northern Goa from a base at the resort of Arpora, making excursions further inland into the grasslands and scrub jungle of the central plateau. The habitat diversity here is reflected in the variety of birds found in this region, and we can expect a good selection during our stay here, from waterfowl to woodland species, including our first regional endemics. Immediately surrounding Arpora a sizeable stretch of dry fields will likely provide some of the first birds of the tour, including various pipits including Richard’s and Blyth’s, Malabar Lark, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller, Little Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Wire-tailed Swallow, Rosy Starling, Black Drongo, Long-tailed and Brown Shrikes, Bluethroat and Spotted Owlet. Remnant patches of mature woodland on coastal headlands will offer additional species such as Eurasian Golden Oriole, Vernal Hanging-parrot, Chestnut-tailed and Brahminy Starlings, Loten’s and endemic Vigors’s Sunbirds, Tickell’s Blue, Asian Brown and Indian Paradise Flycatchers, Black-naped Monarch, Jerdon’s Leafbird, White-browed and Grey-headed Bulbuls, White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, Dark-fronted Babbler, Orange-headed Thrush and the secretive Indian Pitta. Further afield, quieter beaches and Goa’s few sizeable lakes, together with areas of marsh and mangrove, host a good selection of gulls, terns, shorebirds, waterfowl, rails and crakes, including Grey-headed Swamphen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Lesser Whistling-duck, Indian Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, Cotton Teal, Wood and Terek Sandpipers, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Red-wattled and Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Baillon’s and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, various egrets, Indian Baya and Streaked Weavers, Indian Reed-warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Citrine Wagtail, gulls including Pallas’s and Heuglin’s, Greater and Lesser Crested Terns, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Small Pratincole, and birds of prey including Indian Spotted Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Brahminy Kite and Crested Goshawk. A boat ride along the Zuari River will take us into the mangroves of the Cumbarjua Canal, in search of the highly localised Collared Kingfisher alongside Stork-billed, Black-capped and Lesser Pied Kingfishers, and Slaty-breasted Rail. In this coastal area, and its predominantly dry scrub we'll also encounter a considerable selection of dryland butterflies dominated by yellows and blues, including Common Crow, Blue, Glassy and Striped Tigers, Danaid Eggfly, Lemon, Blue, Peacock and Chocolate Pansies, Common Jezebel, Dark Wanderer, Common Sailer, Common Lascar, Common Castor, Tawny Coster, Plum Judy, Psyche, Common Pierrot, Plains Cupid, Tiny Grass Blue and Grass Jewel, the smallest in the Indian region.
Day 5-10: The Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Bondla
We will experience a change in landscape and habitat as we drive inland into the foothills of the Western Ghats for a six-night stay. These hills delineate Goa’s eastern border and are considered one of the most ecologically rich regions in the world, home to 30 restricted range endemic and near endemic birds. In the moist deciduous forest, interspersed with cane thickets, bamboo brakes and trickling streams we will look for up to 18 Western Ghats endemics available in Goa among further peninsular endemics and south Indian forest specialities, including Malabar Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbills, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Greater Racket-tailed and Spangled Drongos, Malabar Trogon, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Asian Fairy Bluebird, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Small Sunbird, Flame-throated and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Malabar Barbet, Malabar Parakeet, Dark-fronted and Puff-throated Babblers, Blue-eared Kingfisher, White-rumped and Brown-backed Needletails, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Rufous-bellied and Black Eagles, and a selection of night birds including Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Jungle and Jerdon’s Nightjars, Brown Hawk-owl, Jungle Owlet and Brown Fish-owl. We will also visit nearby Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary looking in particular for Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blue-faced Malkoha, Rufous and White-naped Woodpeckers, Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, Grey Junglefowl and Red Spurfowl. Butterflies are abundant here, especially in the post monsoon months when the forests are at their most lush. We will no doubt encounter an impressive selection of butterflies during our time here, including Common Nawab, Commander, Clipper, Cruiser, Rustic, with spectacular forest swallowtails and endemics that include Tamil Yeoman, Tamil Lacewing, Sahyadri Blue Oakleaf, Tamil Treebrown, Paris Peacock, Blue Mormon, and the striking Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the Indian region. We will spend some time along forest streams that host a selection of species puddling on damp sand, such as Chocolate Albatross, Common Bluebottle, Tailed Jay and Common Emigrant, with less common stunners such as Indian Sunbeam, Leaf Blue, Tamil Oakblue and Common Map possible. One day, we will make a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory of Goa, private grounds located in quiet hills midway between the sanctuary and the coast, and the butterfly garden of a nearby spice plantation, where we can expect to find a selection of species such as Malabar Banded Peacock, Red Helen, Red-spot Duke, Grey Count, Common Cerulean and the delightful Monkey Puzzle.
Day 11-14: Cotigao and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries
On day 11, a short drive south will take us to the coastal resort of Patnem in southern Goa, our base for exploring both Cotigao and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries during a four-night stay here. Cotigao is noticeably drier than other forest reserves in Goa, and we will look in particular for endemics and forest species that favour these conditions, such as Malabar Woodshrike, White-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-footed and Grey-fronted Green-pigeons, Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Forest Wagtail and Oriental Scops Owl. At Netravali, one of Goa’s least-explored areas, the sanctuary road climbs through primary forest to the peaks of a series of rounded hills where we hope to encounter Rufous Babbler, Indian Scimitar-Babbler, Speckled Piculet, Malabar Trogon, Indian Blue Robin. Butterflies are diverse in the superb primary forest and we'll look for gems including Common Imperial, Gaudy Baron, Common Nawab, Common and Crimson Roses, Orange Oakleaf and the delicate Malabar Tree Nymph. Both here and in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary we will also come across a small selection of mammals, including Bonnet Macaque, Northern Plains Grey Langur, the Malabar subspecies of Indian Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Civet, and the ubiquitous three-striped Palm Squirrel, with the chance of Gaur and Leopard at Cotigao.
Day 15: Depart Goa
Depending on group departure plans we may have time for some final birding at Cotigao this morning. Departures from Goa (Dabolim) international airport this afternoon.