(continued from Part 2)
Day 5 – 30th Jan
This morning we headed to a stretch of forest at the southern end of Havelock, past Kala Pathar beach, escorted by Sudip, a staff member at the resort. He took us first to his village, where on a pair of adjacent trees, hundreds of green imperial pigeons and Asian glossy starlings roosted high up. Some ficus trees had attracted a flock of black-naped orioles and long-tailed parakeets (all with short tails, though! moulting?) who were at easy photographing distance. The male parakeets with their bright red cheeks and the female with her pale pink cheeks looked extremely photogenic as they feasted on the berries. The path to the forest led through some fields ruined by the tsunami, and I was pleased to discover another Andaman endemic – white-headed starling offering me a pose on a raised embankment.
The forest too was degraded due to the sea water which had rushed in during the tsunami, and left the salt behind as it evaporated. Other than large flocks of red collared doves and pompadour green pigeons, we saw a large cuckooshrike (Andaman subspecies), a male and female Asian fairy bluebird, an Andaman serpent eagle calling and briefly in flight, and most exciting of all, the endemic we had been waiting for – the spectacular Andaman woodpecker, which sadly did not allow for a shot. The morning ended with Sudip inviting us to his house for a drink, and proceeding to climb the coconut tree to fetch it – the sweetest tender coconuts we’ve ever had!
Back at the resort, post lunch we rented scooters from the market and set about to explore beach No. 7, aka Radha Nagar beach, rated one of the top beaches in Asia by Time magazine. Some birding enroute to explore part of the trail towards Elephant beach, and I added Andaman drongo and Alexandrine parakeet to my images. The beach was spectacular – white sands, gorgeous blue water and huge trees right next to it. Quite well-maintained too, except for a garbage dump hidden behind some rocks where a pair of Pacific swallows hovered about. A board from the tourism dept listed the dos and don’ts, with its corny tagline “Emerald. Blue. And You.” After the mandatory tender coconut, we watched the sunset and headed back to the resort.
Day 6 – 31st Jan
Ram/Madhavi went snorkelling today with the Island Vinnie gang. I had to drop out for various reasons, but decided to make the most of the last morning at Havelock. Found a black-naped monarch flycatcher and the whimbrel in its usual spot on the beach in front of the resort. We still had the scooter, and I commissioned my spouse as driver and we headed out in search of white-breasted woodswallow which Madhavi had seen the evening before on the way to Radhanagar beach. Found a flock perched on the wires soon after the market area.
At Radhanagar, the forest near the Barefoot resort echoed with the calls of Andaman woodpecker, but attempts to track it down were futile. A pair of fulvous breasted woodpeckers chasing each other were similarly uncooperative, and a singing oriental magpie robin was the only obliging avian. Heading back to the resort, we finished packing and lazed in the hammocks. Ram/M were incredibly late coming back but were bursting with excitement at their snorkelling experience, and I resolved to come back next year with contact lenses and do some snorkelling while the corals are still around.
On the ferry back to Port Blair, we enjoyed the cool breeze on the deck and watched the sunset setting the sea on fire. Groups of flying fishes skipped in and out of the water, providing much excitement, and there was also a brief sighting of a dolphin. At Port Blair we grabbed a quick dinner, and headed to Chidiya Tapu for the final night’s stay, which we had arranged through my mother’s friend who was a senior Govt official in Port Blair for several years. It took a while to get there in the darkness, and finally we managed to convince the caretaker to open two rooms for us and collapsed on the beds, exhausted.
Day 7 – 1st Feb
Morning birding revealed the usual suspects seen previously – next to the forest guest house, flocks of Pompadour green pigeons, stork-billed and common kingfisher (first of the trip!), and Andaman serpent eagle. Walking up to the forested area, orange-headed thrush was found foraging in the undergrowth, while racket-tailed drongos kept up their noisy racket-making. Walking back, I alarmed a white-breasted water hen which managed to escape through the wire fence. Red collared doves on the roadside, and white-rumped munias near the forest rest house. We watched the antics of the cute vernal hanging parrots from the balcony of the guest house, and reluctantly packed our bags for the journey back to the airport, for which Babu had shown up well in time with his taxi.
Pics from Kala Pathar:
Pics from Radhanagar, en route and Island Vinnie beach:
Pics from Chidiya Tapu: