I hadn’t been to Goa since January and for me that was an unusually long interval.
Over the 5 days we were there I demonstrated to my wife that I had owls at my beck and call, added a new species to the already long list off birds sighted on the property, discovered (another) unusual animal residing in the walls of the farmhouse and had a snake that refused to allow us to enter the house.
All in all I’d say it was a pretty normal trip to Goa!
Read on for details…
Goa was hot!
The positive side to the heat was that birds flocked to the bowls of water I had placed in the backyard.
It was not only the birds that dropped in for a sip.
Over a year ago I had bought a tent that I planned to take to Goa but never got around to doing so. This trip I finally remembered to put it in the suitcase.
It allows one person to be seated inside, and when combined with a couple of camouflage sheets that I had lying around it did make a truly wonderful bird hide (even if I say so myself 😉 ).
I set up the hide about 20 yards from the birdbaths and was rewarded with some really nice images.
The icing on the cake was the Indian pitta bird below. I have never seen this bird on my property before and I was thrilled to add yet another species to the list.
The Indian pitta is a shy bird. Thanks to the hide it hopped around not more than 15 yards from me without a care in the world!
Every eveing just after sunset I’d scan the trees with my torch for owls. About a year ago I got some great sightings of a brown hawk owl but try as I might, I have never seen one since then.
Last month in the Andamans our birding guide used his phone and a speaker to mimic the call of various owls and was quite successful in getting them to come to where we were.
Using the brown hawk owl call I had on my phone, I sent out the call a couple of times. Within minutes I got a response, first from a distance and then from very close. In no time at all we had, not one, but two owls perched on trees in the yard calling back at us!
Unsure of the ethics of enticing the birds via their calls and then illuminating them with a powerful torch I took only a couple of images before leaving them alone.
On our first night, April Fool’s day, we popped in to one of our favorite haunts, O Cocqueiro looking forward to a nice pre-dinner drink followed by a good meal. Strategically located on N.H.17, the new Supreme Court ruling of no alcohol to be served within 500 meters of a National Highway made sure that the joke was on us.
To make matters worse a facelift to the premises was accompanied by a nosedive in the food. Back home, not being in the best of moods I unlocked the collapsible grill that protected the front door and slammed it open.
It was then that that Vanessa yelled: “Snake!!!”
Jumping back I could see the head and body of a long thin snake (I still have no clue on its ID) on top of the grill frame. Using a stick I tried to scare it away by banging on the metal grill but it refused to budge. Instead it coiled back, threatening to strike if we made a move to open the door.
We found out later that I had inadvertently jammed its tail in the bars of the grill when I slammed it open. Unable to run away it had no option but try and protect itself, explaining the atypical show of aggression.
The following night we were in for another surprise.
The outer walls of the house are clad in laterite stone. Though it looks nice, it is porous and within the stone’s natural pits and crevices a number of creatures have taken residence over the years. Including lizards, fruit flies, tarantula spiders and scorpions.
A movement midway up the wall prompted me to shine the torch in that direction. A tiny furry body with Mickey Mouse ears and beady black eyes stared back at me for a moment before disappearing into one of the cracks in the laterite.
It looked like a family of field mice added themselves the farmhouse wall’s list of residential creatures. It also presented an ominous explanation to the presence of the snake in the vicinity.
On most afternoons, a wide variety of raptors ride the thermal currents above the farmhouse. These include black kites, brahmini kites, white-bellied sea eagles and spotted eagles. Below are a couple of raptors I got on this trip…
Driving past one of the nearby fields I had noticed large numbers of cattle egret and glossy ibis. Many of the latter were in full breeding colours. Taking the camera there one afternoon I got some nice images one of which is seen below.
Finally, sitting out in the Garden one evening, the gardener tells us that a couple of weeks ago he had spotted a strange creature moving about in one of the trees in the bordering property. His description (translated from hindi): a small black animal with a long bushy tail that looked like a cross between a mongoose and a cat and was comfortable moving between the branches of the large trees.
A quick search over the Internet and the closest animal that fitted the description and the location was a Nilgiri Marten. This was a rare animal that is on the endangered list and feeds mainly on birds. With the water bowls attracting a large number of birds this would be an ideal hunting ground for such an animal.
Giving me yet another reason to keep up my visits to Goa. And when sunsets like the one above are available right on one’s front porch I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I’m cracked to live in Mumbai!