Goa: Birding and herping

Talking about Goa, the first few things that conjure up in the mind are the beautiful beaches, the shining sun, exotic holidays, alcohol (for those inclined towards that) and of course relaxation. I am no different. I had a chance to visit Goa for the first time about 7 years ago for a vacation with my family. Never knew then, that there existed another side to Goa covered with greenery.

The Western Ghats, which form most of eastern Goa, have been internationally recognised as one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Western ghats are well known for their rich flora and fauna. According to Wikipedia, Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries boast of more than 1512 documented species of plants, over 275 species of birds, over 48 kinds of animals and over 60 genera of reptiles. Goa has many famous ‘National Parks’, including the renowned Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on the island of Chorao. Other wildlife sanctuaries include the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary.

During the period from 2014 to 2016, I have the privilege of making five visits to Goa (twice during the rains looking for amphibians and reptiles (herping) and thrice during the December – January months for birding).

You arrive at Goa (either at the airport or at Madgaon railway station). You are driven to the far east side of Goa, to the outskirts of Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. After about 15 minutes of driving, you find yourselves surrounded by lush green forest. It is a sight to behold and the weather too is pleasant. Nestled in the middle of the greenery, we arrive at the resort which is one of the best places to stay and explore. Near the resort, we can easily spot Little Spiderhunter, Purple Sunbird, Forest Wagtail, Malabar Hornbill, Vernal Hanging Parrot (the only parrot found in India) and many many varieties of birds during year end. But that is not belittling the rainy season in any way, as we get to see a wealth of amphibians, insects and reptiles.

We also visit Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Tambdi Surla, some interior parts of Goa and finally a visit to Zuari River & Maina lake. During the months of December and January, we have 6 sessions of birding in which one can easily see over a hundred species. We also have a night trail to catch a glimpse of nightjars, frogmouths and owls just outside the resort.

During the visit in the rainy season, we get the opportunity to visit Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary. It is an hours drive from our resort as we pass through the scenic beauty of the western ghats. The tracks of Mhadei are full of blood sucking leeches. Anti leech socks are a must-wear during the trail. Walking through the woods while it is raining is a unique experience. The evening trail at Tambdi Surla is fascinating. The thrill of walking in the darkness with humidity, coupled with the pouring rains gives goosebumps and it is definitely a not-to-be-missed experience.

A visit to Zuari river is an opportunity to get a glimpse of six species of Kingfishers viz White-throated, Pied, Common, Collared, Black-capped and Stork-billed. Other birds to sight include Osprey, White-bellied Eagle, Greater Crested Tern, Peregrine Falcon. If you are lucky, you will also get to see ‘mugger’ crocodiles.

Our Visits
Feb 2014, Dec 2014 & Dec 2015 for birding

Aug 2014 & 2015 for herping

About Western Ghats
The Western Ghats, spread over six states in western and southern India, cover an area of approximately 165,000 sq. km. They are far more ancient than the larger and better known Himalayas. The Western Ghats forests, rivers, and grasslands contain an extraordinary diversity of species, including rare and threatened species and endemics found nowhere else in the world.

Source: Wikipedia

About Goa
The widest belt of forests along the western ghats is in Goa and neighbouring Karnataka state.

Source: Wikipedia

Planning for wild life tour visit www.wild-india.in

Birding heaven – Chopta

At Wild India Eco Tours, Chopta – Uttarakhand is one of our favourite bird-watching destinations and this tour in April 2016 as good at it gets. We sighted over 140 species of birds and got some mesmerising views of the the beautiful snow clad Himalayas. Key sightings from bird-watching perspective included the Pygmy Wren & Scaly-breasted Babblers, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Bearded Vulture, Red-billed Chough, Golden Bush Robin, Koklass Pheasant, Read More

Wild India’s first visit to Kaas Plateau in year 2013

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

When you hold a camera, the first thought that comes to mind is to capture the different hues of nature and instinctively the first objects that come to mind are flowers (maybe butterflies too but they are too fast for a novice to capture on his camera). This is the feeling I had when I held the camera during the initial days.

It was the year 2013, when we arranged our first visit to Kaas Plateau. Being a social media freak, I already had a party of friends who had been there umpteen number of times. Their pictures on social media were stunning. I was already making plans on what I desired to see and how I would capture the myriad colours of the blooming flowers.

This was to be our first visit to Kaas plateau and we wanted to make it a memorable trip. More than a dozen enthusiastic nature lovers with a botanist were all set to experience the grandeur of Kaas. The botanist, as we learnt along the rest of the journey, helped us identify most of the flowers and explained to us the importance of the flower. And yes along with that, she also gave us the scientific names, most of which were tongue twisters and difficult to remember.

We started from Mumbai late in the evening (around 2300 hours) in a 21-seater bus. Around 0330 when we were dosing as our chauffeur continued driving through the streets of Pune, we heard BOOM. As luck would have had it, we had a flat tyre in the middle of the night! It took a good half an hour to replace it. We were back on track after that and by 0700 hrs we were at Satara. All of us were more than eager to dump our bags and head straight to the fields.

Kaas plateau was about 25 kms. from the city. For a first timer, looking at the plateau is a heavenly sight. With so many beautiful species of flowers, one could spend the entire day taking photographs. After this experience, we continued to Kaas lake where we continued to gaze at the flowers and also got to sight birds.

We passed through beautiful scenic landscapes of Maharashtra with a couple of stops looking for birds & flora while visiting Chalkewadi Wind Mills. On our way back we stopped at Thosegar waterfall, a scenic spot located near the village of Thoseghar to witness the grand waterfalls. During one of our visits, we even spotted a green vine snake there.

On the second day, we had a hearty lunch and headed back to Mumbai with some wonderful memories.

Places visited during our visit were Kaas Plateau, Chalkewadi Wind Mills and Thoseghar waterfall.
Some of the species we saw there include:

  • Pleocaulus ritchei (Topli Karvi)
  • Ceropegia oculata, vincaefolia, media & jainii
  • Habenaria rariflora (Ground Orchid)
  • drosera indica & burmannii
  • Smithia hirsuta (Hairy Smithia) & agharkarii
  • Murdannia lanuginosa (Abolima)
  • Impatiens lawii
  • Habenaria heyneana (Toothbrush Orchid)
  • Cyanotis fasciculata (Nilwanti)
  • Dipcadi montanum (Deepkadee)
  • Pinda concanensis
  • Vigna vexillata
  • Euphorbia laeta (Square root plant) ….. and many many more.

At Wild India, we organise tours every September. Do join us to explore the amazing Kaas. It will be a memorable experience.

About Kaas Plateau
The Kaas Plateau also known as the “Kaas Pathar” is a plateau situated 25 kilometres from Satara in Maharashtra, India. It is situated high hill plateaus and grasslands turns into a ‘valley of flowers’ during monsoon season, in the month of August. Kaas Plateau has more than 150 or more types of flowers, shrubs and grasses. Kaas plateau is a World Natural Heritage site.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaas_plateau

Best time to visit kaas is during August and September

For more information on a trip to Kaas Plateau, e mail us on info@wild-india.in

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