The Steens were not birdwatchers when they arrived in Loutolim but soon found themselves drawn to the sights and sounds of so many different species that were new to them. They started to take pictures, upgrade binoculars and purchase the de facto guide to Goan birding – Salim Ali’s Book of Indian Birds – where they now identify and log all Susegad sightings. Currently their total stands at over 50, and counting. Binoculars and reference books are, of course, available to guests of Casa Susegad if they wish to better or increase this tally!
Casa Susegad does not claim to be, though, a destination in itself for birders… but as a base sitting centrally between the Salim Ali, Bondla and Netravali sanctuaries, or as an R&R end to a serious and self-denying birding trip, then it has no equal. Casa Susegad guests Tony and Carol Spencer, who had come to merely relax at Casa Susegad after an intense bird watching trip, sitting in hides and the like, were one such couple and were amazed when they identified more than twenty different species from their terrace chairs in just one afternoon in November!
So what did their trained eyes see?
Well, whilst Casa Susegad is home to both the black and greater racket tailed drongo, it was the smaller white bellied drongo that took a liking to a quick skimming dip at the surface of the pool for insects around about afternoon tea time (and Carol’s fantastic photo is shown at right).
Directly above the swimming pool the banks, shrubs and trees make a beautiful backdrop especially when illuminated by the setting sun. Both the Indian treepie and two adolescent bulbuls can be seen enjoying the sun’s last rays on what we call the scruffy tree that sits on our horizon. Below them, in the middle distance, a small flock of golden orioles were dancing between the lower trees to complete a perfect image.
Further up the land, in the Jungle Garden, the waterfall attracts many birds for drinking and bathing, especially in the very dry months leading up to the June monsoons. There is a handy sandstone bench near the statue of Ganesh overlooking the fall, and it was from here that the four photographs in the composite image to the right were taken – during just one action-packed afternoon.
The Tickell’s blue flycatcher was the first to announce its arrival when it flew into the lower branches of the tamarind tree. The ever-present red vented bulbul then just sailed straight on to the side of the fall as did the oriental magpie robin shortly after. The white throated kingfisher was the only bird that day that didn’t have a dip. It just stared hopefully at the top feeder pond but, alas, no fish for him that day!
Above this garden, the various woodpeckers walk the trees – most commonly it is the black shouldered and rufus species that are seen (and heard) here.
Meanwhile on the terrace, perhaps India’s prettiest bird, the western crimson (or Vigors’s) sunbird, common in the Western Ghats but restricted to the area around this spine of hills, feeds on the flowers, dipping its long curved beak to extract the nectar. At least two pairs live here throughout the year and are often intersperced by other species such as the Loten’s Sunbird.
At the other side of the Casa, in the middle of the Casa Susegad renovations of 2006, an African fig tree was planted in the front orchard garden and it now draws a lot of attention from not only the local long tailed langurs – the red vented bulbul and the black hooded oriole both also enjoy the fruit and it is indeed a rare occasion now for the human inhabitants of the Casa to get to taste those figs. The pictures of this last was taken from the comfort of the Steen lounge.
At other times, this tree is home to the harsh noisy calls and tumblings of an unruly flock of jungle babblers – the seven brothers (or ‘sat bhav’ in Konkani) as they are locally known. Did you know that when the group is feeding one bird volunteers as a sentry looking for predators?
The one that got away? Well, the missed picture opportunity that Norman most regrets was when four great pied hornbills, heralded by their noisy wing beats, came to overnight in the Jungle Garden, but the sight of them will never be forgotten.
Back to your relationship with the Casa! Well, it is probably one of the most comfortable places to do some birding in Goa, even though it doesn’t have professional hides. It is also great for a long suffering spouse!
Casa Susegad is within very easy reach of Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is not too far either. The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on Chorao Island is also within an hour’s drive, but you do need to time your journey to tie in with the ferry across.
Norman and Carole do not claim to be anything other than enthusiastic amateurs, but they more than make up for that in their welcome to fellow birding enthusiasts!
Click/tap on any image to enlarge!