iBirdz

Backwoods

I would have to say that my experience at Backwoods was my favourite of the whole holiday in Goa. Sarah and myself stayed at Backwoods for three nights and four days, an extra day and night compared to everyone else who had booked in. We therefore had the company of Ian and Lynn along with Wildwings group for the first three days then we spent one day with only Loven our guide.
Backwoods Camp

Pramod guided Wildwings whilst the four of us; Ian, Lynn, Sarah and myself were led by Loven. We were picked by taxi or minibus and driven to Backwoods early in the morning, around 5.30. Grey Junglefowl was spotted just before our first stop with the Backwoods team.
Oriental Scops Owl
On arriving there on the first day we walked from the road, up a new road, not yet complete, up to the camp. This track passed some fields and round the edge of the forest.
The first birds Loven found were a pair of roosting Oriental Scops Owls. Other new species were Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Black Bulbul, Malabar Parakeet, Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Greater Flameback, Black-crested Bulbul and Grey-headed Bulbul on the way to the camp.
On reaching the camp Loven showed us to a small bamboo stand only 20 feet from the camp entrance. On closer inspection in the middle of the Bamboo we could see a pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths. These were brilliant to watch. They would occasionally open one or both eyes to check that we weren't to close, shuffle around on their perches and go back to sleep. If anyone got too close one of the birds would rock from side to side on its perch, ensuring that said person backed off so as not to frighten the birds away. We teased Loven commenting on the fact that the birds were in the same position each day. "They must be stuffed Loven". They were looking in opposite directions on one occasion. "Loven you came out in the night and moved them round".

Backwoods Camp
Sri Lanka Frogmouth

After watching the Frogmouths we had some breakfast, which was very tasty as was all the food at the camp.
After eating we were led into the forest to look for Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. We were shown the nest site and no birds were to be seen. We then wandered around for a good two hours catching brief unsatisfactory glimpses of a large owl in flight. Eventually we caught up with Wildwings and Pramod checking out a mixed feeding flock. I noted Blue-capped Rock Thrush and Forest Wagtail amongst other birds. With more eyes at work Pramod and Loven managed to spot the male Spot-bellied Eagle Owl high up in a tree. We got Ians scope onto the bird and everyone took a peek. As I looked the bird turned its head and looked directly at us. What a magnificent view. After allowing each member of the group to have a good look it flew silently off and disappeared into the forest.
Mahadeva Temple, Tambdisurla In the afternoon on the first day we made the short journey to Tambdi Surla Temple. Here we checked out the temple and the birds in the surrounding trees. Lovelies such as Asian Fairy Bluebird were to be found.
We next ventured onto the field close to the temple. Loven picked up the call of Malabar Trogon. We moved in the direction of the calls into the woods to find the bird perched fairly low down with its back to us, showing only a little of the pink breast as it was a male bird.
I only saw one other Trogon, a male high up in the trees on our last day at Backwoods, again facing away from us. Very few people saw Trogon at either Backwoods or Bondla, as they are quite scarce in November, becoming more numerous into December and January.
We returned to the field in time to see a Crested Serpent Eagle alight in a palm tree.
As we scoped the bird Sarah asked what are those. I looked and to my intense excitement saw three Great Hornbills flapping over the trees coming to land in a tree not too far away.
Other birds seen in this area were Crested Treeswift, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Malabar Grey Hornbill and a possible White-bellied Woodpecker, which flew across the trees behind us.
As the light faded an Indian Scimitar Babbler could be heard on the hillside. Loven remarked on how difficult they are to find. The bird and its mate were however located by Loven the next day in the same area.
The whistling of large wings was heard overhead and two more Great Hornbills could be picked out in the late evening sky as they flew to roost.
Next was the turn of the nightjars. A single bird was seen hawking over the field in the darkness. It was soon lit up by the powerful beam of a torch wielded by Loven and a second by Pramod. The bird proved to be a Grey Nightjar. Thus ended our first day.
The next two days followed a similar pattern. We all met for tea and biscuits at first light then headed off into the forest, returning for breakfast at around 9.30 or 10.00. After breakfast another forest walk or trip to the temple was made with a return for dinner at around 12.30 or 13.00 hours depending on how the birding was going. On one morning walk we struggled to find anything as it was overcast for a while and the birds seemed to have moved to the edge of the forest. A Red Spurfowl saved the day as we disturbed it heading for the edge of the forest.
After dinner we were given a few hours off to please ourselves. Some people took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, whilst others, myself included continued the quest for more birds. I also took the opportunity to take some photographs of the local Butterflies and Dragonflies.
At around 3.30 to 4.00 in the afternoon siesta time was called to a halt. A second round of tea and biscuits was offered round and then we were off again for more birds.
Forest Trail
Other birds found at Backwoods were Black-rumped Flameback, Brown-headed Barbet (in the camp), White-cheeked Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (in the camp), Blue-eared Kingfisher (near the temple and very close in the camp), Chestnut-headed Bee Eater, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Indian Swiftlet, Collared Scops Owl (heard only around the camp one night), Jungle Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl (2 viewed from the river by spotlight on a staked out perch), Jerdon's Nightjar (caught in the headlights on an early morning foray for Pitta which we didn't find), Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Eurasian Woodcock (over the field near the temple), Shikra, Besra, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Large-billed Crow, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Black-naped Oriole (one male along the approach track to the camp), Black-hooded Oriole, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Black, Ashy, White-bellied, Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (one white morph seen), Malabar Whistling Thrush, Common Iora, Orange-headed Thrush, Nilgiri Blackbird, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin (hours spent looking but only heard unfortunately), Oriental Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, Chestnut-tailed Starling (white headed race), Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Red-whiskered, Red-vented and Yellow-browed Bulbul (in the camp), Blyth's Reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler (very common), Western Crowned Warbler (more numerous on later visits by others), Malabar Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark (in the fields), Dark-fronted Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Little Spiderhunter (a site by the river), White-rumped Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Black-throated Munia (in the fields close to the camp), Common Rosefinch (a grotty female) plus several other common species.
Fields & Hillsides at Backwoods On our final day we had Loven to ourselves and the previous night I had given him a wish list of birds I would like to see.

The early morning was a little uneventful picking up Large Woodshrike near the camp but little else. We checked out a Pitta site at first light and managed to hear two Pittas but didn't see them.
We did find seven Puff-throated Babblers (one off the list) and White-eyed Buzzard at the Black-shouldered Kite site.

The second walk of the morning was much better with Rufous Woodpecker and Spangled Drongo being ticked off the list along the approach track to the camp and an odd looking Drongo was found and eventually identified as the Sri Lankan race of Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.
We continued along the track meeting up with the road that was being built before stopping in the shade of a large tree for a spot of raptor watching over the hills opposite us.
After a while Loven spotted the first raptor, a Black Eagle, which was followed by four or five more. I then spotted a different eagle, identified by Loven as Mountain Hawk Eagle, the first of the year.
The last site visited was Tambdi Surla to look for Needletails. Unfortunately there were none around on this occasion. We finally left Backwoods, having had probably the best birding experience of my life up to now.

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