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23 November–8 December 2023

This tour provides an excellent introduction to the Indian subcontinent with little travel involved, good facilities and a fine range of birds. We will split our time between the coastal area and productive inland forests at the foot of the Western Ghats. Target species for this tour include Indian Pitta, the endemic Vigors's Sunbird, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Collared Kingfisher and Malabar Grey Hornbill.

Day 1 We will take a late afternoon overnight direct flight from London Gatwick to Goa. Please note that only one charter airline now flies direct, so our tour dates are timed to coincide with their flight schedule.

Day 2 Once in Goa, we will transfer to our hotel in the coastal resort of Arpora, arriving about lunchtime. We will spend the first seven nights of the tour here, birding locally and gradually moving further afield as we explore the birdlife of Goa's coastal belt. In the afternoon we will explore the surrounding fields, seeing our first Indian birds of the tour. We might expect to see Black (Black-eared) and Brahminy Kites, White-throated Kingfisher, Asian Koel, Black Drongo, Asian Green Bee-eater, Pied Bush Chat and Long-tailed Shrike. We will also take a walk up Baga Hill, where we should see a good selection of birds such as Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbuls, Purple, Purple-rumped, Loten's and Vigors's Sunbirds and Blue-faced Malkoha. At dusk, we may see Spotted Owlet around our hotel.

Day 3 Today we will explore a little further afield, spending the morning at Arpora Woods, a productive area of scrub and woodland just a few minutes' drive from our hotel. Some of our target species this morning include Indian Pitta and Rufous Woodpecker, while we should also see White-bellied Sea Eagle overhead. Other species include Indian Peafowl, Indian Roller, Common Iora, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Yellow Tit, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets, Rufous Treepie, Indian Blackbird and Spotted Dove. In the afternoon we will visit Pilerne Lake; as a smaller wetland it lacks the larger waterbirds but is an excellent site for Stork-billed and Common Kingfishers, Intermediate Egret, White-breasted Waterhen and Eurasian Moorhen, while in the surrounding fields Yellow-wattled Lapwing can be found alongside the commoner Red-wattled Lapwing.

Day 4 This morning we will visit Carambolim Lake, an excellent and extensive marshy wetland where we should see Indian Pond Heron, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Grey-headed Swamphen, Oriental Darter, Little and Indian Cormorants, Black-headed Ibis, Asian Openbill and Asian Woolly-necked Storks, Small Pratincole, Pin-tailed Snipe and Greater Painted-snipe, with Steppe Eagle, Osprey and Ashy Woodswallow overhead. In a small area of woodland surrounding the village we will look for Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Brown Boobook at roost, while in the open fields Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Streak-throated Swallow, Siberian Stonechat and Rufous-tailed Lark may be found. After lunch, during the heat of the day, we will visit the picturesque old Portuguese town of Old Goa, before spending the afternoon at Divar Island. Although only a few kilometres from the state capital Panjim, Divar is accessible only by ferry and, as a result, is comparatively quiet, providing excellent habitat for a good selection of species in dry fields and woodland surrounding villages. Here we hope to see Mongolian Short-toed Lark, Oriental Skylark, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Blyth's, Tawny, Paddyfield and Richard's Pipits, Indian Robin, Black-winged Kite and raptors including Eurasian Marsh Harrier and Pallid and Montagu's Harriers.

Day 5 We will have an early start this morning, leaving our hotel at 06.00 to drive inland to Shrigao, where we will explore a quiet patch of reedbeds, grasslands and mangroves along the Mandovi River. Here we will look for Red Avadavat, Tricoloured Munia, Baya Weaver, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Cinnamon Bittern, Blyth's and Clamorous Reed Warblers, with both Indian Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles overhead. As we return to Arpora for lunch, we will pause to bird from a causeway through the marshy grasslands that flank the river at Paithona, looking for Purple Heron, Western Reef-heron, Black-capped Kingfisher, Jungle Myna, Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munias, Wire-tailed Swallow, Malabar Lark, Ashy and Grey-breasted Prinias and Paddyfield Warbler. In the afternoon we will visit the mature mixed woodland surrounding the spring in the village of Saligao. The variety of birds here is excellent and species we will look for include White-bellied Drongo, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Jungle and Plain Prinias, Greenish Warbler, White-spotted Fantail, White-cheeked Barbet and Greater Coucal.

Day 6 We will start today with a drive to Morjim Beach on the north shore of the Chapora Estuary, where large numbers of gulls and terns congregate at high tide. Here we may see Caspian, Lesser Black-backed (Heuglin's), Pallas's and Brown-headed Gulls and Great Crested, Lesser Crested, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns. Waders are also present in large numbers; most will be familiar European species but there will also be Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. There is also a roost site for Black-crowned Night-heron here, while other target species include Bay-backed Shrike and both Rosy and Brahminy Starlings. After lunch we will revisit either Baga Hill or Arpora Woods.

Day 7 This morning we will take a leisurely half-day boat cruise up the Zuari River and into the smaller, mangrove-lined Cumbarjua Canal. Our main target here is the scarce and localised Collared Kingfisher, alongside other kingfisher species, herons, waders, gulls and terns, and, if we are lucky, Lesser Adjutant and Slaty-breasted Rail. In the afternoon we will make a brief stop at Batim Lake before visiting Agacaim, where we will look for waders on the exposed mudflats; these may include Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers and Temminck's Stint.

Day 8 Today, our last day at the coast, will be left flexible to allow sites to be revisited in case we have missed any particular species. The day will be divided into two so that we can return to our hotel at midday to pack for tomorrow's transfer inland to the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary.

Day 9 We have a very early start this morning for the drive inland to the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, where we will spend four nights in the dense forests that cloak the foothills of the Western Ghats. We will spend our time here searching for forest specialities and species endemic to the Western Ghats along forest trails and in nearby villages. We will arrive at our lodge in time for breakfast followed by a full day of birding. In the lodge grounds we will find an array of exciting species, most of which will be new to us, and these may include Orange-headed Thrush, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Tickell's Blue and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Black-naped Monarch, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Black-rumped and Malabar Flamebacks, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Dark-fronted and Puff-throated Babblers, Little Spiderhunter and Crimson-backed Sunbird.

Days 10–12 These further three full days will be spent birding from our lodge and at nearby sites within Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. The forests host Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Jungle Owlet, Black-hooded and Black-naped Orioles, Yellow-browed, Grey-headed and Flame-throated Bulbuls, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, while forest streams here are home to Black-backed Dwarf-kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Brown-breasted and White-bellied Blue Flycatchers, and Indian Blue Robin. Evening is a good time to visit the nearby 13th-century Tambdi Surla Temple, sited in a forest clearing where White-rumped Needletail can be seen overhead. We are likely to see many raptors throughout our stay and will also dedicate some time to watching from a viewpoint overlooking the hills as they rise on the thermals. Crested Goshawk, Besra, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Legge's Hawk-eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard and Peregrine (Shaheen) Falcon are all possible. During our stay we will also make a half-day visit to nearby Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. Although small, Bondla holds some excellent mixed forest at the foot of the Ghats that supports species such as Common Hawk-cuckoo, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Jungle Babbler, White-browed Bulbul, White-rumped Shama, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Indian Swiftlet, Crested Treeswift, Brown-capped Pygmy and White-naped Woodpeckers, Chestnut-tailed Starling, and six species of drongo. Other species possible around the camp and at Bondla include Verditer Flycatcher, Square-tailed Bulbul, Brown-headed and Malabar Barbets, Malabar Parakeet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Chestnut-headed and Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Large and Black-headed Cuckooshrikes, Orange and Small Minivets, Jerdon's and Golden-fronted Leafbirds, Western Crowned Warbler, Nilgiri and Thick-billed Flowerpeckers, Malabar Starling and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon. Each day, in the heat of the day, we will take a break for lunch and to freshen up at our lodge before resuming birding in the afternoon. We hope to find roosting Brown Fish Owl and Brown Wood Owl, and in the evenings we will search for night birds including Indian and Oriental Scops Owls, Jungle and Jerdon's Nightjars and the amazing Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

Day 13 After a final morning spent in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, we will depart on the drive to Patnem in southern Goa (2.5 hrs). We will break the journey at Maina and Curtorim Lakes, two excellent marshy wetlands which host a good selection of waterfowl, waders, storks and an occasional Grey-headed Lapwing. We will arrive at our hotel at Patnem in the evening.

Day 14 We have two days at Patnem, from where we will explore southern Goa's wildlife sanctuaries – Cotigao and Netravali. Today we will visit Cotigao, an area of superb mixed deciduous forest interspersed with large stands of bamboo that is noticeably drier than the vegetation of Goa's other forested reserves. Although Cotigao is home to a similar array of species to the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, some of the more sought-after forest specialities are more confiding here. Being able to drive into parts of the reserve allows us to cover a large area and varied habitats as we look for Forest Wagtail, Malabar Woodshrike, Asian Emerald Dove, Green and Mountain Imperial Pigeons and White-bellied Woodpecker.

Day 15 We will make an early start today for the drive inland to Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary. Once we enter the sanctuary gates, a forest track takes us on one of Goa's most scenic drives as we climb towards the peaks of a series of rounded hills. The quiet forests here are home to Indian Scimitar Babbler, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Lesser Yellownape, Speckled Piculet, Malabar Trogon, Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, various bulbuls, and, if we are very lucky, the southern Indian endemic Rufous Babbler. At the village of Verlem, which lies inside the sanctuary, we will scan the skies for a selection of raptors including Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle and Black Eagle.

Day 16 We will have to leave Patnem early for the drive to the airport and our flight back to London Gatwick, where the tour ends.

General Information Goa is quite hot at this time of year but rain is unlikely. The pace is easy but the heat can be tiring at times. On most days we will split the birding into two sessions, with a break in the middle of the day so we can take time off to relax. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Insects are not a major problem but you must take precautions to avoid other health risks. Visas are required and can be processed online. Accommodation is in medium-standard hotels at the coast and in cottages inland, all with private facilities.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 4; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader; 12 with 2 leaders.

Indian Pitta

Indian Pitta

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