India - Goa:
Sunbirds, Sea-eagles and Sandplovers (birds and butterflies)
A 15-day, small group bird and butterfly watching tour of this popular holiday destination, exploring a mosaic of habitats from beaches, mangroves, rivers and wetlands to endemic-rich tropical forests.
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.
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, Grey-headed and Brahminy Starlings, Loten’s and Vigors’s Sunbirds, Tickell’s Blue, Asian Brown and Indian Paradise Flycatchers, Black-naped Monarch, Jerdon’s Leafbirds, 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, 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 selection of dryland butterflies, including Common Crow, Blue, Glassy and Striped Tigers, Lemon, Blue and Chocolate Pansies, Common Jezebel, Common Sailer, Common Castor, Tiny Grass Blue and Grass Jewel, the smallest in the Indian region.
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, Indian White-rumped Spinetail, Brown-backed Needletail, Crested Serpent-eagle, Rufous-bellied and Black Eagles, and a selection of night birds including Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian 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, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, Grey Junglefowl and Red Spurfowl. We will no doubt encounter an impressive selection of butterflies in this region, with spectacular forest swallowtails and endemics that include Tamil Yeoman, Tamil Lacewing, Blue Oakleaf, Paris Peacock and Blue Mormon, with Indian Sunbeam, Leaf Blue and Common Map along forest streams, and the striking Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the Indian region.
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 Indian 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 Gaudy Baron, Red-spot Duke, Common and Crimson Rose, 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.
2 December - 16 December 2020
with Leio De Souza
1 December - 15 December 2021
with Leio De Souza
Duration: 15 days
Maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader
2020: £ 2380 (Goa/Goa)
2021: £ 2450* (Goa/Goa)
Single room supplement 2021: £ 330
Single room supplement 2022: £ 340*
Deposit: £ 500
Estimated flight costs: £ 800
Estimated visa costs: £ 20
Custom tours (November to February)
2020: from £ 3375 per person
2021: from £ 3450 per person*
[prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together; costs for other group sizes on request]
Information on what's included
*2022 costs provisional
Tour grading: Easy.
Almost all birding will be on foot along quiet, paved roads or well-marked trails, some by boat; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent in the field in warm, often humid conditions, with early starts and some late evenings, but with midday breaks most days.
Accommodation: Comfortable good to medium standard hotels and wildlife lodges throughout, all with private facilities.
Photography: Good to excellent
Key species: Indian Pitta, Malabar Trogon, Small, Vigors's and Loten's Sunbirds, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Black-throated Munia, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, White-bellied, Heart-spotted and White-naped Woodpeckers, Malabar Woodshrike, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Dark-fronted and Indian Rufous Babblers, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Flame-throated, Grey-headed, Yellow-browed ans Square-tailed Black Bulbuls, Orange Minivet, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar and White-cheeked Barbets, Grey-fronted Green-pigeon, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbills, Malabar White-headed Starling, Southern Hill Myna, Malabar Lark, Ceylon Frogmouth, Jerdon's Nightjar, Oriental Scops-owl, Brown Hawk-owl, Rufous-bellied Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Collared, Blue-eared and Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers, Pallas's Gull, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Bonnet Macaque, Northern Plains Grey Langur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, butterflies including Tiny Grass Blue, Blue Oakleaf, Tamil Lacewing, Blue Mormon, Paris Peacock and Southern Birdwing.
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