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GOA: Sunbirds, Sea-Eagles and Sandplovers

A 15-day birding tour exploring the diverse birdlife to be found in beaches, mangroves, rivers, wetlands and superb endemic-rich tropical forests in this popular destination.
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Our three-centre tour is a thorough exploration of the west coast state of Goa, a former Portuguese enclave and popular winter sun destination. Beginning along the coast we will explore beaches, mangrove-lined tidal creeks, wetlands and wooded hills before moving inland where in the dense foothill forests at the base of the Western Ghats, one of the most ecologically-rich regions on earth, we can expect a new selection of species including a number of regional endemics. On foot and by boat we'll look for a selection of waders, waterfowl, gulls and terns including Pallas's Gull, White-bellied Sea-eagle, seven species of kingfisher including Collared and Oriental Dwarf, Indian Pitta, Great Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Ceylon Frogmouth and Oriental Scops-owl.  We visit in winter when the climate is comfortable and resident species are accompanied by Palaearctic migrants and an abundance of butterflies, and with key areas easily accessible without any lengthy travel this is a relaxed and enjoyable tour that offers a good overview of southern India's peninsular species, and to Asian birding in general.
  • Easy and productive birding in a rich variety of habitats, from mangrove-lined tidal creeks and freshwater wetlands to dense forests in the foothills of the Western Ghats.   
  • A diverse and abundant birdlife, with 270+ species including the secretive Indian Pitta, four hornbills, Malabar Trogon, almost a dozen woodpeckers including White-bellied and Heart-spotted, seven species of kingfisher including the localised Collared and spectacularly hued Black-backed (Oriental) Dwarf, 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 Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Flame-throated Bulbul, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Vigors’s Sunbird.
  • An impressive selection of night birds, including up to ten owls, up to four species of nightjar including Jerdon’s, and Sri Lanka Frogmouth.
  • Excellent opportunities for bird photography, while exploring all areas 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 1-6: Coastal Goa

Arrivals into Goa (Dabolim) airport in the morning of day 1 for a six-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.


Day 7-10: 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 four-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. 

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.  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.

FOCUS: Birds

BEST TIME: November to March


Day 1: arrive Goa
Day 2-6: Coastal Goa
Day 7-10: Bhagwan Mahaveer and Bondla Wildlife Sanctuaries
Day 11-14: Cotigao and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries
Day 15: depart Goa 
BIRDS: 270+
PHOTOGRAPHY: Good to Excellent


Combine this tour with The Andaman Islands [EI002] or Tansa: Forest Owlet and More [WI004], or ask us for a custom extension anywhere in India.
Indian Pitta, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Blue, Tickell's Blue and Brown-breasted Flycatchers, Small, Vigors's and Loten's Sunbirds, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Indian Paradise-Flycatcher, White-bellied, Heart-spotted White-naped and Rufous Woodpeckers, Lesser Yellownape, Black-rumped and Greater Flamebacks, Speckled Piculet, Malabar Woodshrike, Indian Blue Robin, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Orange-headed Thrush, Indian Blackbird, Blue-capped Rock-Thrush, Dark-fronted, Puff-throated and Indian Rufous Babblers, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Flame-throated, Grey-headed, Yellow-browed and Square-tailed Black Bulbuls, Orange Minivet, Malabar, Plum-headed and Alexandrine Parakeets, Blue-bearded, Blue-tailed and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Malabar, Coppersmith and White-cheeked Barbets, Grey-fronted and Yellow-footed Green-pigeons, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Green and Mountain Imperial-Pigeons, Emerald Dove, Malabar Grey, Indian Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbills, Blue-faced Malkoha, Malabar Starling, Southern Hill Myna, Blyth's and Clamorous Reed Warblers, Western Crowned Warbler, Black-throated Munia, Forest and Citrine Wagtails, Pied Bushchat, Malabar Lark, Indian Swiftlet, Brown-backed and White-rumped Needletails, Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl,  Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Jerdon's, Jungle and Savanna Nightjars, Spotted and Jungle Owlets, Oriental Scops-owl, Brown Hawk-owl, Brown Wood-Owl, Brown Fish-Owl, Indian Swiftlet, Rufous-bellied, Indian Spotted and Black Eagles, Crested Serpent-Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Openbill, Indian Spot-billed and Knob-billed Ducks, Grey-headed Swamphen, Slaty-breasted Rail, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Collared, Stork-billed, Black-capped, Blue-eared and Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers, Pallas's Gull, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Kentish Plover, Terek Sandpiper.

Bonnet Macaque, Northern Plains Grey Langur, Indian (Malabar) Giant Squirrel.
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