Goa has shown me more forest birds in the last 3 years than the rest of the country seen this far. Bharatpur or Bhindawas has shown a higher density in wetland birds but since it’s the colorful forest birds that I generally seek, Bondla in Goa has had a special place in my heart. So much so that recently, when a Pranik healer gently suggested that I, among her other disciples, envision a calming place, I could only think of the forested path lined with Gulmohar laden trees in Bondla…such is the effect of a walk on this single winding path showing a profusion of colors in birds.
Our first visit to Bondla was in the company of the bird guide, Raymond (also Rama Govekar) who had carried a scope on that walk and he’d barely take a few seconds to focus it on a bird of interest. On that first walk, I remember being amazed by the iridescent colors of an Emerald Dove, sheer numbers of the beautiful Indian Pitta and the comfortable look about a dainty Black-naped Monarch sitting in the tiniest of cup-shaped nests hanging between two stems. On the most recent trip to Goa, I managed two visits to Bondla but Kishore was lucky enough to cover it two more times and that too with Raymond pointing out birds to him…a luxury I couldn’t manage as Raymond was busy those days.
Some quick facts on Bondla for those who’re still to get there: It is 50 km away from Panjim, about 90 minutes away from North Goa, placed next to a village called Usgaon and it’s the smallest Wildlife Sanctuary of Goa. Most locals visit it for its zoo but I found the zoo inside rather small and sad looking on a visit. I hear that its current Forest Range Officer is trying everything in his power to organize the place and yet ensure that it remains undisturbed by Goa’s growing commercial activities. For those interested in a look at the zoo should avoid it on its weekly closed day of Thursdays. Those interested in birding can go there any morning, whether low or peak tourist season, but they should start walking around the place by 6:30 am.
The area Kishore and I prefer scanning is the 4-5 km forested stretch from its tiny board going up to a pond appearing on the left. Both sides of the road show many birds and the regular ones that have remained imprinted on my mind are: Emerald Dove, Indian Pitta, White-rumped Shama, Blue-faced Malkhoha, Scarlet Minivets almost always in pairs, Orange-headed Thrushes, White-cheeked Barbets, Black-hooded and Golden Orioles, Black-naped Monarch, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Blue-bearded Bee-eaters and the graceful Racket-tailed Drongos—one place one is sure to see them in good numbers.
For those keen on a guided walk of Bondla, the ever-busy Raymond can be reached at +919922271840.