''We are enjoying reliving our holiday and looking at the birds again in the field guide as we go through your excellent report.'' ....Mr and Mrs M, Gloucestershire

 

''We wanted to thank you again for a wonderful holiday. We had a great time. '' .... Mr M and Ms B, Notts. Nov 2011

 

''Thank you again for a great holiday. I really enjoyed it and appreciated all your hard work finding birds.'' .... Ms M, Dec 2012

 

 

 

INDIA'S WESTERN GHATS

an amazing variety of birds in a colourful and friendly destination

 

 

 

 click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos

 

 

 

Goa has established itself as a most attractive destination, where guaranteed sunshine can dispel the gloom experienced during a cold, damp British winter. For the slightly more adventurous, this is a great holiday destination, with mile after mile of palm-fringed, golden beaches, a patchwork of bird-rich habitats and friendly locals.

 

Three hours drive inland takes us to the cool forested mountains of Karnataka and the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. From the comfort of our lodge, we will search for exciting birds and mammals, on foot and by jeep.

 

Throughout the trip there is an abundance of great habitats; huge river estuaries to monsoon forests; mangrove swamps to lowland jungle; and bird-filled lakes to dry scrubland. Consequently, the bird life is rich and varied, giving an excellent introduction to Indian birds as well as offering a number of Western Ghat endemics. Resident birds are joined by winter visitors from Siberia and the Himalayas. The bird list from our previous visits is truly outstanding with highlights including Chestnut Bittern, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Slaty-breasted Rail, Great Knot, Small Pratincole, Brown Fish Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Ceylon Frogmouth, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Malabar Trogon, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, White-bellied Woodpecker, Indian Banded Bay Cuckoo, Indian Blue Robin, Forest Wagtail, Indian Pitta and Little Spiderhunter.

 

Bird Holidays was the first company to organise birding tours to this exciting destination and no-one knows its birdlife better.

 

 

ITINERARY

 

GOA

Ideally situated to explore Goa’s richest sites, we will spend the first eight nights a couple of miles inland from the coast near Arpora.

 

A few minutes drive away is the village of Baga, famous as a resort and one of the original retreats of the hippies who came here in the late 1960’s. The variety of habitats here is outstanding. In the marshes there are Painted Snipes, Chestnut Bitterns, Watercocks, Indian Spotted Eagles and superb Black-capped Kingfishers. On a wooded hillside we will look for Amur Falcon, Common Peafowl, Black-rumped Flameback, White-spotted Fantail-flycatcher, Indian Yellow Tit and Vigors’s Sunbird, whilst in drier areas there are Rose-coloured Starlings, Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Indian Nightjars, Indian Robins and Ashy-crowned Finch-larks. These are in addition to the many common species which abound: Smyrna Kingfishers, Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Plum-headed Parakeets, Brahminy Kites, Great White Egrets, Little Green Bee-eaters and Red-rumped Swallows.

 

Close to our hotel, a wooded hill at Saligao is home to Asian Paradise Flycatchers, endemic Malabar Whistling Thrushes, Puff-throated Babblers and, with luck, the unusual-looking Brown Wood Owl. Another site nearby has proved reliable for the endemic Indian Pitta.

 

The bird spectacle at Carambolim Lake is the most impressive in Goa. Much of the lake is covered with lilies and other aquatic vegetation, allowing the gallinules and jacanas to walk right across it. Purple Gallinules, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Little Cormorants, Intermediate Egrets, Lesser Whistling Ducks and Garganey are among the most numerous species. Both Indian Shag and Indian Darter can also be found. Raptors hunting over the lake may include Greater Spotted and Booted Eagles. The list of other scarce and exciting possibilities is just too long to include.

 

The Mandovi River estuary and its associated mangroves and marshes on Chorao Island are a veritable haven for birds. At low tide hundreds of Indian Pond Herons stalk their prey alongside numerous Western Reef Herons. Waders include Lesser Sand Plover, Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers, and Little and Temminck's Stints. Walking on a raised bank through mangroves, we should find Green-backed, Purple and Night Herons, and Lesser Adjutant Stork. A boat trip on the backwaters here should produce close views of the very local White-collared Kingfisher.

 

Further north, the River Chapora meets the Arabian Sea. Here the magnificent White-bellied Sea Eagle shares its home with Great Black-headed Gulls, numerous Brown-headed Gulls and Siberian Gulls. Crested and Lesser Crested Terns can be compared at close range.

 

THE WESTERN GHATS

On day ten we will head inland to the hills of the Western Ghats. We will stop en route to visit a working spice farm, where we can see a variety of plants and trees which produce the spices for which the region’s cooking is famed. The farm is located in the forest, huge trees providing shelter from the sun. Birds abound too; Little Spiderhunter and Malabar Whistling Thrush are reliable here.

 

We will drive into the state of Karnataka, spending three nights near Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. We will stay at the Bison River Lodge, a picturesque spot surrounded by good habitat. The Kali River flows through the garden and on our recent visit we saw five species of kingfisher in the grounds and Grey-headed Fishing Eagle nearby. Malabar Pied Hornbill and Malabar Grey Hornbill are both common.

 

On short walks from the lodge we will look for forest birds such as Blue-bearded Bee-eater and White-bellied Woodpecker. In the evening Ceylon Frogmouths call; we will try to find them roosting during the day.

 

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is a national reserve and is well protected. We will explore it on a jeep safari. Mammals are regularly seen, including Palm Civet, Chital, Indian Bison, Muntjac, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel and Malabar Giant Squirrel. We saw an Indian Pangolin on one visit!

 

Fairy Bluebirds shine in the sunlight and both Golden-fronted and Blue-winged Leafbirds can be seen feeding in flowering trees. Scarlet Minivets chase each other around the tree tops. Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters are fairly common in the clearings. Barbets call incessantly and include the endemic Crimson-throated. The prettiest woodpecker in the forest must be the dainty Heart-spotted Woodpecker. Pairs of this endearing little bird, with heart-shaped spots on their tertial feathers, flit from branch to branch.

 

Raptors are frequently seen. Both Crested and Rufous-bellied Hawk-eagle breed here and the strange-looking Crested Serpent Eagle is common.

 

On day 13 we will drive to Molem, spending our last three nights at the Molem Dudhsagar Resort. Recently rebuilt, with luxury rooms and an excellent restaurant, this is a lovely place to end our tour. There will be birds on our doorstep and we will also venture to the lush forests at Tamdi Surla. In the vicinity of a 12th Century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, we will find some rare forest birds such as Blue-eared Kingfisher, Malabar Trogon and, if we are lucky, one of India’s biggest birds, the Great Pied Hornbill.

 

Purple, Small and the Loten's Sunbird all busily move from one flowering plant to the next. Black-naped, Tickell's Blue, Brown and White-bellied Blue Flycatchers are all here. Thrushes include the smart Orange-headed Ground Thrush and Blue-headed Rock Thrush. Babblers include the endemic Black-fronted. Greater Racket-tailed Drongos do indeed make a racket as they fly over the tree tops, calling excitedly. Bulbuls are represented by Yellow-browed, White-browed, Red-vented and Red-whiskered. However, the prize among these birds goes to the endemic Flame-throated Bulbul.

 

On the last morning it is then a drive of a little over an hour to the airport, arriving in good time for our flight home.

 

CLIMATE AND PACE

The lower elevations are hot and humid, but it is cooler in the highlands, where rain is also possible. Early to bed and early to rise is the comfortable way to see the wildlife. When the birds rest in the early afternoons so will we. Most breakfasts will be at around 6.30am. Mornings and late afternoons will be spent in the field, involving short walks. There will be very little uphill walking.

 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full-board accommodation is provided. Eight nights are at the Hotel Presa di Goa near Arpora. This lovely hotel is a restored country house, with Portuguese colonial décor. It is small and friendly; a world away from the busy resort hotels on the coast. At Dandeli we will stay three nights at the good quality Bison River Lodge. Finally we have three nights at the Molem Dudhsagar Resort. All rooms have private facilities en suite and air conditioning. The food served will include a choice of Indian, Chinese and Western dishes.

 

PRICE INCLUDES …..

All birdwatching excursions with Bird Holidays leader and expert local driver/guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 10th, ending with breakfast on 24th), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, local transport by mini-coach, boat trips, jungle activities, reserve entrance fees and international flights.

 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Cost of obtaining an Indian visa (approx. £40). Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry. Please note: the Indian authorities have now introduced the eTV, a vastly simplified tourist visa scheme, saving us all time and money.

 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flight to Goa from Manchester Airport using the charter services of Thomson Airlines. Outbound flight departs early evening, return flight arrives back late afternoon. It may be possible to fly from London Gatwick; please call for details.

 

 

 

 

15 nights including

one overnight flight:

                               

Principal leader:

 

Driver/guide:

 

Maximum group size:

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before

27th July 2018):

 

Full Cost:

 

Deposit:

 

           

9th to 24th November 2018

 

Paul J. Willoughby

 

Lloyd Fernandes

 

10 clients with one leader

 

 

£3290 per person sharing

(£480 single supplement)

 

£3440 per person sharing

 

£1000

 

Malabar Whistling Thrush - a beautiful bird of forest streams.

Small Minivets are common in the forest

Coppersmith Barbets call throughout the day

Ashy Woodswallow

Little Green Bee-eaters are very common

Lesser Adjutants can be found in small numbers

 

Indian Roller

 

Orange-headed Ground Thrush

 

 

 

 

click here to see the photographs in our Western Ghats Album

 

 

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