BIRDING AROUND THE WORLD

Subtitle

South Andaman Island:  April 14 - 23, 2007

Participants: Rich Hopf, Keith Turner and Jon Hornbuckle

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands hold many endemics: 11 and 6 respectively in Clements, with an additional 8 and 2 splits in Rasmussen and Anderton (2005). Some of the splits are in Handbook of Birds of the World, eg Andaman Bulbul, Pycnonotus fuscoflavescens, but others not, eg Andaman Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina dobsoni.   The Nicobars are closed to all visitors and by all accounts are likely to remain so. There is also an endemic Aceros hornbill on the volcanic island of Narcondam, 240 km northeast of Port Blair, which it might be possible to visit if you could charter a decent sized boat.

We spent a week on South Andaman and saw all the endemics except Andaman Barn-owl, Tyto deroepstorffi, an R and A split, although views of the Wood-pigeon and Nightjar were flight only. We had hoped to do some good snorkeling but our single attempt proved disappointing as the 2005 tsunami appears to have wrecked at least some of the reefs. From our experience, it should be possible to see most of the endemics in a 3-4 day visit.

GENERAL INFORMATION
A Restricted Territories visa can be obtained on arrival at Port Blair airport for no charge. There is NO need to apply for one beforehand as stated on the Indian High Commission website!

We flew on the budget airline Air Deccan, reliable and much cheaper than rival Jet Airways and Indian Airlines – about £100 return.  Only problem was booking the tickets as their website did not accept non-Indian credit cards, so we did it through [email protected] and paid them in cash at our hotel in Kolkata (VIP International, Free School Street - recommended).

We traveled to 3 sites - Mount Harriet, Chidiya Tapu and North Wandoor – the first by ferry and taxi, the others by taxi hired for the day or half-day – usually 500 Rp (£6) for an afternoon, a bit more for a morning.

After one night in the well-positioned but poorly managed, Megapode Nest Resort, we stayed in the excellent Sun Sea Resort - 950 Rp single, 1400 Rp double.

Recordings of the crake and owls had been obtained from friends and were useful, but the nightjar recording did not provoke any response.

There are a few internet cafes and ATMs in Port Blair.  

The weather was hot during the daytime, and very humid in the forest. There were a few heavy showers on the first 3 days after which it was dry. The main rainy season should be July-Aug and the tourist season Sept-Dec.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We are most grateful for help from Debotosh Bhattacharya of Help Tourism, Dave Farrow, Paul Holt, Krys Kazmierczak, Göran Pettersson, Mathias Ritschard and Aparna Singh.

ITINERARY

16 April: Fly Kolkata to Port Blair, check in at Megapode Nest Resort, p.m. Chidiya Tapu.

17 April: Chidiya Tapu a.m., transfer to Sun Sea Resort; Sippighat and North Wandoor p.m.

18 April: Mount Harriet all day.

19 April: Chidiya Tapu a.m., Sippighat and North Wandoor p.m.

20 April: North Wandoor, Jolly Buoy Island and Sippighat.

21 April: Mount Harriet a.m., Corbyn’s Cove, Sippighat and North Wandoor p.m.

22 April: Chidiya Tapu a.m., Mount Harriet p.m.

23 April: Fly to Kolkata.

 

SITES

Mount Harriet - detailed in A Birdwatchers’ Guide to India by Kazmierczak & Singh. Best reached by taking the 5.0 am ferry from Chatham Pier to Bamboo Flats, then vehicle to the entrance gates – admission is 250 Rp.  We had hoped to stay a couple of nights in the Rest-house at the top, which Aparna Singh kindly offered to book for us, but it was closed due to the general water shortage. All the specialities except barn-owl and teal are here but some are more easily seen at the more open Chidiya Tapu. There is small restaurant with drinks and good Indian food but slow service. “Dossing” overnight in the clean shelters was not permitted when we were there.

Chidiya Tapu – a small village at the southeastern tip of South Andaman, some 30 km from Port Blair. It used to be a popular tourist spot but not now as the coral reef is defunct, apparently. Just before the village, the main road passes though partly-logged forest for 2-3 km. This was our favourite site as birding was easy along the road, and traffic light. We saw all four forest owls on our first evening here in a stretch of only 200-300m on the Port Blair side of the Km 2 post. The only forest bird we did not find here was Andaman Cuckoo-shrike. We had to go inside the forest a short distance to see the Crake.

There is a right turn just before the village, which soon passes a patch of tall mangroves. This is good for Ruddy Kingfisher and the endemic race of Crested Serpent-eagle. At the end of the Port Blair road lies a protected area with wide trails. Apanda said this was good but our only visit coincided with a running competition, ie lots of disturbance. The coastal path, which a Swedish group had found rewarding, was also noisy, due to post-tsunami reconstruction work.     

North Wandoor the Centre for Island Ecology, (11°36.9’N., 92°37.2’E) some 30 km southwest of Port Blair, lies in an area of primary forest patches, mangroves, farmland and paddy. The staff were friendly and helpful. We visited 3 times in search of the barn-owl and nightjar, both of which occur, but only had a single sighting of the nightjar. The coast was good for Ruddy Kingfisher, while Andaman Crake and Blue-eared Kingfisher were seen at the Centre entrance; the forest doubtless held many of the endemics. Nearby Wandoor is the boarding point for boats to Jolly Buoy Island (10 am daily) - poor for birds - but it was not possible to land on the forested Red Skin Island, as advocated by K and S.

Sippighat – this used to be a good area of marsh and tidal creeks, on the way to Wandoor,  but is mostly under water now thanks to the tsunami. We saw good numbers of Andaman Teal and waders here on our 4 visits but did not find any decent marshland.

 

TRIP LOG

Arrived at Port Blair on time at 09.15, with lots of Indian tourists but few Westerners. With visa formalities soon accomplished, took taxi to Megapode Nest Resort on the other side of the non-descript town. They did not have a record of our emailed reservation and could only accommodate us for one night. Rang Aparna Singh, the resident birder, who agreed to meet us at noon. Birded the leafy grounds, until stopped by a thunder-storm; retired to the restaurant. Aparna gave us the “bad” news that we could not stay at Mt Harriet rest-house but offered to arrange accommodation at the Centre for Island Ecology, our best bet for the Barn-owl. Saw our first endemic when the rain stopped, an Andaman Coucal drying out. Taxi to Chidiya Tapu and birded along the road - a hive of activity with numerous parrots feeding in several fruiting trees along with the endemic Cuckoo-dove, Bulbul, Starling, Drongo and Treepie. Andaman Serpent-eagle and Woodpecker also showed well. At dusk a Nightjar called briefly, for the one and only time on the trip, and was spotted by Keith, then a Hume’s Hawk-owl responded to play-back, came in but soon departed. It was followed by an Andaman Hawk-owl which gave good views. Oriental Scops called but could not be seen, then an Andaman Scops, possibly 2, came in easily and was seen well. Finally an Oriental Scops called again, differently from mainland birds, very close and was spot-lit, so completing the set in less than an hour! We sped back to the hotel to celebrate with beers, but had to drink outside the restaurant as alcohol was not allowed inside.

 

We returned to Chidiya Tapu at 05.00, well past dawn, arriving at 05.30. The Flowerpecker and Green-pigeon were bagged, along with Violet Cuckoo and Orange-headed Thrush, leaving Andaman Crake as the top target. Rich turned up trumps by enticing one out of the undergrowth, eventually to within 5m. Only problem was that as it was so hot and humid my specs kept misting up! We returned to Megapode Nest at 01.30 and then transferred to the Sun Sea Resort. Drove north to Sippighat to look for the Teal: 11 were located on the furthest stretch of tsunami water, on the right of the road. We continued to the Ecology Centre at North Wandoor and had a lengthy talk with the manager. Blue-eared Kingfisher and Pintail Snipe gave good views but no Barn-owl. Rich checked the mangroves to look for Ruddy Kingfisher, which was calling, but without success, missing the nightjar that flew over the pond. On the journey back to town the taxi was bombarded by flying beetles.

 

Our next port of call was Mt Harriet. We went to Chatham pier for the first ferry at 05.30, only to find it had left on time at 05.00 so we had to wait till 06.00. Keith and I took a car to the top of the mountain (300Rs plus 250Rs each for entry), then walked slowly back  to the entrance gates. It was very quiet, with only Changeable Hawk-eagle, Andaman Serpent-eagle, Green-pigeons and Bulbuls showing well. Returning to the top, we had a good lunch at the small restaurant, after a lengthy wait, and spent the afternoon at the watch-points, seeing lots of Flowerpeckers and a pair of Spot-breasted Pied (Fulvous-breasted) Woodpeckers feeding at length. The most unusual sighting, I later discovered, was what I immediately identified as a Brahminy Kite flying distantly near the coast below; had I realized it was so rare, I would have paid more attention to it. We waited until dusk for nightjars but had no response although Keith did see one in flight. After a short shower, we walked down the slippery short-cut to Panighat on the coastal road, hearing both Hume’s Hawk-owl and Oriental Scops. A motor tricycle took us to the pier where we caught the 07.30 ferry back to Port Blair. A tick-free day!    

 

We had ordered a taxi for 03.30 in order to reach Chidiya Tapu before dawn, to look for the nightjar. It did not come so we walked down to the market and found one there but by then it was a little too late. However, Keith and I did see Andaman Woodpigeon in flight, our only sighting despite much effort spent by us all. Plenty of birds but the only new one was the relatively pale Crested Serpent-eagle on view at the mangroves. Returning to the hotel, we rested before returning to North Wandoor. Andaman Teal numbers had increased and Rich had good views of Ruddy Kingfisher but still no Barn-owl or Nightjar.

 

The next day Rich returned to Mt Harriet while Keith and I took most of the day off to visit Jolly Buoy Island for swimming and snorkeling. We started on the coast at North Wandoor, hearing but not seeing Ruddy Kingfisher. The distinctive race of Stork-billed Kingfisher and 2 Pacific Golden-plover in breeding plumage were consolations. There was a scrum for tickets and permits at Wandoor pier at 09.30 but eventually we set sail to Jolly Buoy, an hour away. Took some time to get ashore in the two glass-bottomed boats – only a few colourful fish, poor quality coral.  The friendly Indian tourists included a professor of philosophy at Kolkata Uni. Good swimming but few birds on the small island. Returned to Wandoor, arriving at 3.30, then drove back to Sippighat where Long-toed and Red-necked Stints showed well. Rich failed to find anything new on Harriet.

We returned to Mt Harriet the next day, taking the 05.00 ferry. At the National Park entrance gates we spotted an Andaman Cuckoo-shrike - sitting on a small nest 20m up a large tree. I watched it for some time while KT walked down the road and saw an Andaman Crake in leaf-litter at a culvert some 100m below the gates. Walked the 2.5 km to the top of Mt Harriet, seeing little of note until just beyond the rest-house where a singing Thick-billed Warbler was persuaded to show. Walking down to the bottom, found another Thick-billed Warbler 1km beyond the entrance. Took a tricycle back to Bamboo Flats for the 11.25 ferry. At 2.30 pm taxied to North Wandoor via Corbyn’s Cove and Sippighat. Finally caught up with a pair of Ruddy Kingfisher at the coast, one of which displayed by calling loudly with wings half open; two Slaty-breasted Rails were also seen. Back at the Ecology Centre, an Andaman Crake walked across in dim light but still no owl or nightjar.

 

On our last full day Keith and I returned to Chidiya Tapu. An Orange-headed Thrush sang at length and 4 Treepies together were unusual, but no wood-pigeons. In the tall mangroves a Ruddy Kingfisher was very territorial and almost hit me during play-back. The supporting cast included a Dusky Warbler, a displaying Crested Serpent-eagle and an invisible singing warbler which could have been the rare Pale-footed Bush-warbler Cettia pallidepes. Back in town, we visited the Anthropological Museum, near the hotel, but did not bother with Port Blair’s major sites – the Cellular Jail and Chatham Saw Mill! Rich and I caught the 3.10 ferry to Bamboo Flats and walked the 350m elevation from Panighat to Mt Harriet. Good views of a pair Andaman Woodpecker on the way up but little at the top. Stayed till dark, but no nightjars, then walked down main track hearing Hume’s first, followed by Andaman Hawk-owl and Scops-owl near the gates - saw the latter and heard Oriental Scops near the main road. Caught the 7.30 pm ferry and ate near the market. The following morning flew back to Kolkata on time with Air Deccan.

 

 

SPECIES LIST

Taxonomy and names as in Rasmussen and Anderton (2005). P = photo taken.

 

Great Egret, Ardea alba

Several daily, not as common as Intermediate.

 

Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia

Up to 20 daily.

 

Little Egret, Egretta garzetta

A few most days.

 

Pacific Reef-Heron, Egretta sacra

1 at Sippighat.

 

Chinese Pond-Heron, Ardeola bacchus                       P

Up to 20 daily, some in breeding plumage. R & A list it as a winter visitor along with Indian Pond-Heron, Ardeola grayii; as id of these 2 species in non-breeding plumage is very difficult, we cannot say which species the non-breeding plumage birds were.

 

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis                                   P

Up to 20 daily.

 

Striated Heron, Butorides striata spodiogaster              P

6 on the Jolly Buoy Island day, 3 Corbyn’s Cove area and singles near Wandoor.

 

Andaman Teal, Anas albogularis                              P

At Sippighat there were 12 on 17th, 32 on 19th, 20 on 20th and 21st.

 

Black Baza, Aviceda leuphotes

2 at Chidiya Tapu (RH).

 

Brahminy Kite, Haliastur indus

1 near the coast below Mount Harriet (JH). Listed for Andamans but no specimens, according to R & A.

 

White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster

Up to 6 at Sippighat and 3 in Jolly Buoy area.

 

Crested Serpent-Eagle, Spilornis cheela                     P

Singles in the mangroves at Chidiya Tapu, including display flight on 22nd when another was heard calling.

 

Andaman Serpent-Eagle, Spilornis elgini                     P

Up to 3 Mount Harriet and 1 or 2 Chidiya Tapu.

 

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Spizaetus cirrhatus

Singles at Mount Harriet daily.

 

Andaman Crake, Rallina canningi

Singles seen and others heard at Chidiya Tapu & Mount Harriet KT) and North Wandoor (JH).

 

Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus

1 or 2 on 2 dates at North Wandoor.

 

White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus

Up to 4 daily.

 

Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea

Singles on 3 dates.

 

Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus

3 at Sippighat.

 

Pacific Golden-Plover, Pluvialis fulva                         P

Up to 10 Sippighat, 2 North Wandoor.

 

Mongolian Plover, Charadrius mongolus

Up to 20 at Sippighat.

 

Pintail Snipe, Gallinago stenura

1 Sippighat, 4 North Wandoor.

 

Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica

5 Sippighat on 17th.

 

Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus

Up to 3 Sippighat.

 

Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata

1 Sippighat on 20th.

 

Common Redshank, Tringa totanus

Up to 8 Sippighat.

 

Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia

Up to 3 Sippighat.

 

Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola

1 or 2 Sippighat.

 

Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos

Up to 4 most days.

 

Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis

Up to 15 Sippighat

 

Long-toed Stint, Calidris subminuta                          P

30 Sippighat on 20th and 2 on 21st.

 

Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana                 P

6-10 Port Blair, 30 Wandoor – Jolly Buoy.

 

Andaman Woodpigeon, Columba palumboides

The only definite record was of 3 in flight together in good light at Chidiya Tapu. There were a few other “good candidates” in flight here and at Mt Harriet but difficult to distinguish from Green Imperial-pigeon.

 

Red Collared-dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica

Up to 30 daily.

 

Andaman Cuckoo-dove, Macropygia rufipennis               P

1 Chidiya Tapu on 16th, 2 on 17th; heard daily here and Mount Harriet.

 

Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica maxima

2-4 daily Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Andaman [Pompadour] Green-pigeon, Treron chloropterus   P

Common Chidiya Tapu, Mount Harriet and N Wandoor, with 40 on 19th.

 

Green Imperial-pigeon, Ducula aenea andamanica            P

Up to 20 daily.

 

Alexandrine Parakeet, Psittacula eupatria magnirostris      P

Up to 20 daily Chidiya Tapu.

 

Red-breasted Parakeet, Psittacula alexandri abbotti

Up to 20 daily Chidiya Tapu, 2 N Wandoor.

 

Long-tailed Parakeet, Psittacula longicauda tytleri          P

Up to 5 daily Chidiya Tapu. A potential split according to R & A.

 

Vernal Hanging-parrot, Loriculus vernalis                    P

Up to 15 daily.

 

Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus

Heard Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus

A male at Chidiya Tapu on 17th - may be an undescribed race (R & A). A cuckoo at Mt Harriet on 18th was either a female of this sp. or Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx maculates.

 

Asian Koel, Eudynamys scolopacea malayanus

5 singles Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Andaman Coucal, Centropus andamanensis                    P

Up to seen daily and commonly heard.

 

Andaman Scops-owl, Otus balli                               P

Singles seen Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Oriental Scops-owl, Otus sunia modestus

1 Chidiya Tapu, heard Mount Harriet.

 

Andaman Hawk-owl, Ninox affinis

1 Chidiya Tapu, heard Mount Harriet.

 

Hume's [Brown] Hawk-owl, Ninox obscura

1 Chidiya Tapu, heard Mount Harriet and N Wandoor.

 

Andaman Nightjar, Caprimulgus andamanicus

Singles Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet (KT), and N Wandoor (JH).

 

White-bellied (Glossy) Swiftlet, Aerodramus esculenta

Up to 50 daily.

 

Edible-nest Swiftlet, Aerodramus fuciphagus inexpectatus

2 nesting inside Port Blair airport terminal and 2 at N Wandoor. Probably overlooked.

 

Brown-throated Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus

5 or 6 most days Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting rufigastra         P

Singles N Wandoor, Chidiya Tapu mangroves and below Mount Harriet.

 

Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis osmastoni      P

2 N Wandoor on 17th and 21st

 

Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda mizorhina             P

2 N Wandoor and Chidiya Tapu mangroves, with others heard.

 

White-throated Kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis saturatior  P

Up to 8 daily.

 

Collared Kingfisher, Todirhamphus chloris davisoni          P

Up to 4 daily.

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Merops philippinus

A single sighting at N Wandoor (JH).

 

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Merops leschenaultia andamanensis  P

5 N Wandoor on 19th.

 

Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis gigas

2 Chidiya Tapu on 17th.

 

Spot-breasted Pied Woodpecker, Dendrocopos analis andamanensis   P

Up to 6 daily.

 

Andaman Woodpecker, Dryocopus hodgei                     P

2-4 daily Chidiya Tapu and 2 at base of Mount Harriet on 22nd.

 

Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica

20 at Sippighat on 17th.

 

House (Pacific) Swallow, Hirundo tahitica javanica

Fairly common throughout.

 

Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus                       P

1 or 2 on the road daily at Chidiya Tapu and 1 at Wandoor jetty on 19th.

 

Western Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava

1 at N Sippighat on 17th.

 

Large Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina macei andamana              P

2-4 daily at Chidiya Tapu, and 1 at Mt Harriet.

 

Andaman [Bar-bellied] Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina dobsoni     P

Female on the nest in first big tree on right after Mount Harriet NP entrance gates, with male in attendance briefly, on 21st.

 

Small Minivet, Pericrocotus cinnamomeus “osmastoni”        P

Up to 10 daily Chidiya Tapu, with 20 on 19th, and up to 6 Mount Harriet and N Wandoor.

 

Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus flammeus andamanensis

2-4 daily Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Black-naped Blue Monarch, Hypothymis azurea tytleri      P

Up to 8 Chidiya Tapu, including feeding young on 22nd, and 2-4 Mount Harriet.

 

Mangrove Whistler, Pachycephala grisola

1 or 2 Chidiya Tapu mangroves and Jolly Buoy Island.

 

Andaman [Black-headed] Bulbul, Pycnonotus fuscoflavescens  P

2-4 daily Chidiya Tapu and 8 Mount Harriet.

 

Red-whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jocosus whistleri

Widespread and common.

 

Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus lucionensis                    P

Up to 6 daily.

 

Orange-headed Thrush, Zoothera citrine andamanensis     P

Singles Chidiya Tapu, twice, and Mount Harriet.

 

Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa dauurica

1 at Mt Harriet.

 

Oriental Magpie-Robin, Copsychus saularis andamanensis    P

Widespread with several seen daily.

 

Andaman [White-rumped] Shama, Copsychus albiventrls     P

2-4 seen daily at Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet, with others heard.

 

Oriental Reed-Warbler, Acrocephalus orientalis

1 singing at Corbyn’s Cove. A large Acro at Sippighat was either this sp. or

Indian [Clamorous] Reed-Warbler, Acrocephalus [stentoreus] brunnescens

 

Thick-billed Warbler, Acrocephalus aedon

2 singing on Mt Harriet.

 

Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus

1 in low scrub by Chidiya Tapu mangroves on 22nd and a warbler “tacking” at N Wandoor on 21st was probably this sp.

 

Andaman [Plain] Flowerpecker, Dicaeum virescens            P

Common atop Mt Harriet with up to 20 seen daily but only a few at Chidiya Tapu and N Wandoor.

 

Olive-backed Sunbird, Cinnyris jugularis andamanicus       P

Widespread with a few seen daily.

 

Oriental White-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus

10-15 daily.

 

White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata fumigata            P

A small flock of c.10 at N Wandoor.

 

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

Widespread and common.

 

Asian Glossy Starling, Aplonis panayensis tytleri

Widespread and common.

 

Andaman White-headed Starling, Sturnia erythropygia     P

Widespread and fairly common, especially around N Wandoor.

 

Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis - introduced

Widespread and common.

 

Common Hill-Myna, Gracula religiosa andamanensis          P

Up to 10 daily at Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis andamanensis P

Up to 10 daily at Chidiya Tapu, Mount Harriet and N Wandoor. A potential split according to R & A.

 

Asian Fairy-bluebird, Irena puella                           P

Up to 10 daily at Chidiya Tapu and Mount Harriet.

 

Andaman Drongo, Dicrurus andamanensis andamanensis      P

Up to 10 daily at Chidiya Tapu, Mount Harriet and N Wandoor.

 

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus otiosus  P

Up to 10 daily at Chidiya Tapu, Mount Harriet and N Wandoor.

 

Andaman Treepie, Dendrocitta bayleyi                       P

4-5 daily at Chidiya Tapu, but only 2 seen at Mount Harriet.

 

Eastern Jungle Crow, Corvus levaillantii andamanensis

Widespread in small numbers.

 

 

Recent Photos

Recent Videos

1017 views - 0 comments
1039 views - 0 comments
1633 views - 0 comments

Newest Members