Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Andamans

After a long night’s sleep we enjoyed a decent breakfast before driving to the airport for our 12.05pm flight to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. It took just over two hours and upon arrival we found the permit formalities to be a relatively quick affair and we soon had our luggage and met up with our excellent local guide, Vikram. A short drive took us to our hotel in the town and we quickly unpacked and got our birding gear together before driving to Chidiyatapu Forest. Along the way we stopped along the coast to scope Pacific Golden Plover, both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Pacific Reef Heron and Collared Kingfisher. A flock of Andaman Drongos was our first endemic tick, quickly followed by several Andaman Treepies accompanying them. There was lots of activity and we followed this flock along the road, seeing Common Emerald Dove, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red-breasted Parakeet, a few flyover Common Hill-Mynas, brief Andaman Woodpecker, and eventually a couple of us got on Andaman Cuckoo-Dove, possibly the hardest endemic to find. An Andaman Coucal also tried to get itself run over by one of our vehicles, and needless to say it didn’t hang around for good views!

As the light began to fade we drove further, stopping to look at a Stork-billed Kingfisher perched above the road and some Glossy Swiftlets flying over, before continuing on to the Andaman Nightjar site. At dusk one began calling inside the forest and we got really excited, but only Stephen caught a glimpse of it before it disappeared for good, although a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo was quite spectacular as it flew over our heads. A very frustrating experience but we soon put this to the back of our minds as a Hume’s Hawk Owl began calling, it wasn’t responsive at all, but a calling Walden’s Scops-Owl was a lot closer and we managed to track it down after a lengthy battle. Well it was right over our heads and only about 10 feet away – but what a cracker. 

Walden's Scops-Owl

Whether you split this from Oriental Scops-Owl or not, to get such brilliant close views is a real privilege. So we drove a little further and my driver then spotted a Hume’s Hawk-Owl perched on telegraph wires beside the road and we had cracking views of two birds in the spotlight. Wow! Further on it didn’t take long to find an Andaman Hawk-Owl, and although it was a little shyer than his cousin we enjoyed repeated views of it perched in nearby trees as well as flying around us on several occasions. So we were very happy with this and returned to the hotel for dinner. But I couldn’t understand why the restaurant of the hotel wouldn’t serve us beer with our meal, when there was a bar just a few floors below…?

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