The name ‘Goa’ means vacation in the literal sense !! Does’nt it ? Whenever you hear anybody travelling to Goa , it conjures up the image of Sun, beach , fun , frolic, great food , great people and a mind blasting vacation .
But beyond all this beach, sun and frolic there is a ‘wild’ Goa . A Goa which is rich in fauna and flora . The small state supports a huge section of the Western Ghats which passes through it and is rich in its bio diversity . Be it the ‘tiger’ at the top of its food chain , be it the ‘black panther’ found in the deep forests , be it the different water birds which crowd its shores and its chain of rivers , backwaters and rivulets to the forest birds and the reptiles and insects which are found in every nook and corner of the lovely state.
Out of the total 3700 sq km of the state, 1472 sq km is covered by forests . 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. Other wildlife sanctuaries include the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary located on the island of Chorao.
I have been travelling to Goa since 1990s when my family migrated to Goa. But my real discovery of the natural gems started in 2006 when I started bird photography .
Just sitting at the veranda ( porch ) of our house in Ponda, helped me realise the variety of birds which came visiting . A white breasted kingfisher is a regular daily visitor , so are the pale billed flowerpeckers , crimson backed sunbirds,
purple sunbirds, purple rumped sunbirds , fan tailed flycatchers , tickell’s blue flycatchers , jungle babblers , common ioras, small minivets and a very punctual couple …the Black rumped Woodpecker !!Once I moved beyond the confines of my home in the intermittent visits , a whole new world opened . My visits to Carambolim Lake opp Karmali Station , the lake of the now Syngenta factory , Farmagudi engineering College grounds and Bondla National Park were amazing . The new species which got added to the kitty fueled my desire to explore the wild part of Goa event further .
The fields around Ponda on the Madkai road gave me an exceptionally bold Stork Billed Kingfisher who allowed me very very close .
During the same shoot, I came across a very philosophical common kingfisher
and a Median Egret which was having a frog for lunch .
Old Goa area along with the Carambolim Lake and the fields beyond were an awesome place for kingfishers, ducks , storks , etc . The above image of the common kingfisher on a beautiful perch was from there . Also saw the wire tailed swallow collect mud for its nest building in the same area .
I was waiting for my cousin to arrive via train and was waiting near the Karmali Station and I got this Darter sunning itself . The lesser Whisting teals also camp in the Carambolim Lake . It is difficult to get them through the thick foliage , but they are there most of the times.
One of my best sightings of the Little Heron was on a boat ride at the famed Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary near Panjim . The ferry took us from Ribander across the Mandovi River and then we drove down to Chorao Island.
Another awesome place is the Morjim Beach in North Goa . This is a place which is a must do if you want to shoot some waders and water birds . The best time to go here is the morning , when the cool breeze and rising sun makes for a great setting to shoot birds. You will see a lot of health and yoga aficionados going through their routines.
Shot a flock of Heuglin’s Gull taking off . The hi key image is one of my favourite wader images .
The Kentish Plover makes for a very interesting subject . Easy to approach if you lie still and let them absorb you as a part of the environment.
My top haunt of Goa is the Bondla National Park and Tambdi Surla where I have spent my maximum shooting time . There have been more times when I have come back with nothing as far as images go. But it has managed to send me back happy and with a smile ………………always !!
One of the highlights has been the image of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher . I was there with my nephew ‘ Rohit’ an awesome birder , 7 days in a row . On the 8th day, he could not accompany me for the trip , and I got this that same day . The beauty of this small kingfisher is unparalleled . When I saw him through my viewfinder, just about 20 ft away , I was so mesmerized, I forgot to press the shutter .
Just a few metres away, before I sighted the ODKF, I was busy shooting the Orange headed Thrush .
The other big catch for me was the Malabar Trogon , the Phantom of the Western Ghats . A dear friend and an avid birder Pankaj Lad was with me when I shot this . His expertise ensured that me and my brother Sandesh made some lovely images of this hard to get bird .
Shot this through the foliage to get the phantom on a dreamy perch .
I was wandering the National park near the zoo, when I thought I had sighted a couple of Spotted Owlets. On close examination , it turned out to be the Jungle owlets which were a lifer for me . After an hour of waiting they surprised me by perching at eye level across the road !
Beyond Bondla National Park is Tambdi Surla which is a part of the Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park near Mollem. Another of the rare jewel , the Blue eared Kingfisher is found here .
Another bird high on the rarity list is the Sri Lankan Frogmouth which can be found at Tambdi Surla .
I also had the good fortune of clicking the Heart Spotted Woodpecker at less than minimum focussing distance and I had to use an extension tube to get him in focus .
And then there is the Zuari River , a minefield of waders and river birds . Balchandra Kamat is the undisputed king of this area . One boat ride with him and you understand the depth of knowledge he has about the birds which you find here . Right from the perigrine falcon, the osprey, the white bellied sea Eagle , the black capped and the Collared Kingfisher and the guaranteed sighting of the mugger , it is a treat to be there .
Definitely the place to get an image of the Greater Crested Tern , and Mr Kamat knows how to approach the birds without disturbing them .
While I was looking for the Black capped Kingfisher , this Collared Kingfisher obliged me by giving a lovely photo-op in great light .Goa beckons me like no other birding place . Each time I go there I find something new to shoot .
My better half and my children have been quite supportive of my hobby, but cringe at the idea of ‘Goa’ as a vacation spot , mainly because they then have to answer the barrage of ‘ you guys are sooo lucky, you go to Goa so many times’ statement from their friends . Now it is time, for me to show them the fun frolic side of Goa too . Dont know how I will be able to manage that ? But I hope for the sake of the longevity of my hobby and my longevity as a ‘hubby’ I succeed . AMEN !