In a taxi, overtaking a lorry, with a scooter overtaking us and a bus heading straight for all of us. It can only be India; a great destination for a birding trip. However, the times they are a-changin, as someone once said. On this, my fourth visit to Goa over 20 or more years, I stayed up near Morjim beach. When we were first here the ferry across the Chapora river took five cars every 15 minutes, now the new bridge takes 50 cars a minute.
Morjim beach now has few or no birds due to disturbance. The sand banks that once teemed with sand plovers now have drunken Indians and topless Russians. The Russians come to Goa in increasing numbers and they seem highly unpopular with the locals, who complain about their prostitutes, money and drugs. The Olive Ridley turtle nesting site has just two nests this year, underneath the makeshift football pitch.
To the south, Baga paddyfields get smaller and smaller, a new road leads to a festival site built on one end. The Pintail Snipe now both drum and bass. The greying taxi driver/bird guide once proudly ushering birders to his shiny new van dashes over as he recognises me from six years back, as the plush, tinted windowed, a/c Toyota motors by. The new money has passed him by. And the first one now will later be last.
However, just up river from Morjim beach there are still birdy places to be found if you search them out. Sandbanks with large flocks of Pallas's, Slender-billed and Heuglin's Gulls, Lesser Crested, Great Crested and Caspian Terns, riverside paddies with ibis, jacana, storks and waders.
I ventured out on a few of the usual trips. A trip up the Zuari river with point blank kingfishers, marsh muggers and waders. We took a trip with our taxi man in his now battered old van around Chorao island and the Salim Ali reserve. On the way he is desperate to show us the Indian Pitta in the scrub next to his house. He checks it out every day but with no-one to show. The island produces Lesser Adjutants, Woolly-necked Storks, harriers, waders galore, pipits and chats. Back at the hotel, the scrub next to, and overhanging, the pool provides daily practice on Taiga Flycatcher, Green Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler, with Crested Treeswifts adding glamour overhead and Syke's Warblers on the nearby scrubby hill.
British birders seem to be few and far between in Goa today. The young turks of birding have long since moved on to new frontiers. However, this is still a good place to cut one's Indian birding teeth. Although some of the old haunts are not what they used to be, there are still plenty of birds to be found if you get off the beaten track.