Mount Harriet

On the way up Mount Harriet, Senthil pulled up to the side of the narrow road and pointed out this view. You could be as hard pressed as us to make the connection: this is the picture on the back of the twenty rupee note. The light house is the Port Blair light house.

Panorama of Mt. Harriet while crossing from Port Blair

For our last birding trip this holiday we’d woken up at sunrise on Christmas day to take a ferry across the bay to a jetty at Bambooflats. From there it was an easy drive up to Mount Harriet. The ferry runs every half hour. Mount Harriet is a protected forest, which means that it is fenced off, and has a gate manned by forest guards who open it at 8 every morning, and close it again at 5.

A brown crow butterfly on Mount Harriet, Port Blair

The guards on duty were very pleasant, and gave us a brochure of the park with a check-list of birds. The Family took a quick glance at it and said “There’s a lot we haven’t seen yet”. Later when I looked at it and said, “We saw so many”, I got a withering look from her. We added Andaman green pigeons to our list, and had more sightings of birds we had already seen before.

A sulphur butterfly in Mount Harriet, Port Blair

Our attempts at bird watching soon came to an end as the road filled up with a series of loud jeeps, some honking. We were told that a judge of the supreme court was visiting. His security detail drove up and down the mountainside making sure that it was safe for him. Birds don’t like this kind of disturbance, and retreated into the forest. We also gave up and left. On our way out the forest guards said that our tickets are valid till closing time, so we could come back later. We thanked them for this consideration, but we had other plans for the evening. In any case, we had a new bird in our list, and a couple of good photos of butterflies.

Birding in South Andaman

Birding map around Port Blair

We did birding in four spots around Port Blair, marked by the green patches in the map here. Chidiyatapu was a mix of forest and shoreline. Since the Andaman Trunk Road passes through the forest, and disturbs the birds, our best viewing here was early in the morning. Sippighat and Ograbranj are wetlands, and yielded very good sightings. Mt. Harriet in Bambooflats is another place where a day can yield good sightings. We visited Sippighat in the afternoon of December 22, Chidiyatapu the same night and again in the morning of December 23. We did birding in Ograbranj in the afternoon of December 23, and went up to Mt. Harriet on December 25.

Red collared dove

The Andaman group of Islands is full of endemics (marked with a star in the list below), and also has winter visitors. Even though I had done my reading, I was startled by the variety of visitors. I’d never expected to see Daurian’s starlings here. Andaman is so far from our normal birding grounds that our bird list is full of lifers (marked in bold):

  1. Alexandrine parakeet: Chidiyatapu
  2. * Andaman drongo: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  3. * Andaman bulbul: Chidiyatapu
  4. * Andaman collared kingfisher: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Sippighat, Ograbranj, Neil Island
  5. * Andaman (brown) coucal: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
Andaman Green Pigeon
  1. * Andaman cuckoo-dove: Chidiyatapu
  2. * Andaman flowerpecker: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  3. * Andaman green pigeon: Mt. Harriet
  4. * Andaman shama: Chidiyatapu
  5. * Andaman treepie: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  6. Asian brown flycatcher: Mt. Harriet
  7. Asian fairy bluebird: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  8. Barn swallow: Mt. Harriet, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  9. Black bittern: Ograbranj
  10. Black drongo: Ograbranj
Blue Tailed Bee Eater
  1. Black-naped oriole: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  2. Blue-tailed bee-eater: Mt. Harriet, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  3. Brahminy kite: Chidiyatapu
  4. Broad-billed sandpiper: Sippighat
  5. Brown hawk owl: Chidiyatapu
  6. Brown shrike: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  7. Brown shrike (Philippine): Mt. Harriet
  8. Brown-backed needletail: Mt. Harriet
Chinese Pond Heron
  1. Cattle egret: Sippighat
  2. Chestnut headed bittern: Ograbranj
  3. Chinese pond heron: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  4. Common coot: Sippighat
  5. Common crow: Sippighat
  6. Common kingfisher: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  7. Common moorhen: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  8. Common myna: Sippighat
  9. Common redshank: Sippighat
  10. Common sandpiper: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat
  11. Common sparrow: Port Blair
  12. Cotton teal: Sippighat
  13. Curlew sandpiper: Sippighat
  14. Daurian starling: Sippighat
  15. Eastern jungle crow: Mt. Harriet, Sippighat
Eurasian Whimbrel
  1. * Edible-nest swiftlet: Ograbranj
  2. Eurasian curlew: Sippighat
  3. Eurasian Whimbrel: Sippighat
  4. * Glossy swiftlet: Mt. Harriet, Sippighat
  5. Gray heron: Ograbranj
  6. Green imperial-pigeon: Chidiyatapu
  7. Indian cuckoo: Chidiyatapu
  8. Indian pond heron: Ograbranj
  9. Intermediate egret: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  10. Large egret: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  11. Lesser sand plover: Sippighat
  12. Lesser whistling teal: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  13. Little green heron: Sippighat
  14. Little-ringed plover: Sippighat
  15. Long-toed stint: Sippighat
  16. Oriental magpie-robin: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat
Pacific Golden Plover
  1. Pacific golden plover: Mt. Harriet, Sippighat
  2. Pacific reef-egret: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Neil Island
  3. Pacific swallow: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat
  4. Pintailed snipe: Sippighat
  5. Purple swamp hen: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  6. Racquet-tailed drongo: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Neil Island
  7. Red-breasted parakeet: Chidiyatapu, Ograbranj
  8. Red-cheeked parakeet: Chidiyatapu
  9. Red-collared dove: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  10. Red-necked stint: Sippighat
  11. Red-throated pippit: Sippighat
  12. Red-whiskered bulbul: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Sippighat
  13. Scarlet minivet: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet
  14. Small egret: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  15. Small minivet: Chidiyatapu
Stork-billed Kingfisher
  1. * Spot-breasted woodpecker: Chidiyatapu
  2. * Stork-billed kingfisher: Ograbranj
  3. * Striated heron (Andaman): Mt. Harriet
  4. * Sunda teal: Ograbranj
  5. Vernal hanging parrot: Chidiyatapu
  6. Violet cuckoo: Ograbranj
  7. White-bellied sea-eagle: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Ograbranj, Neil Island
  8. White-breasted waterhen: Ograbranj
  9. White-headed starling: Chidiyatapu
  10. White-rumped munia: Chidiyatapu, Ograbranj
  11. White-throated kingfisher: Chidiyatapu, Mt. Harriet, Sippighat, Ograbranj
  12. Wood sandpiper: Sippighat
  13. Yellow bittern: Sippighat, Ograbranj
  14. Yellow wagtail: Chidiyatapu, Sippighat
White-rumped Munia

We are amateur birders, and I hardly have a spotter’s eye. The Family spends more time on it. We did our birding in Andaman with Shaktivel, Gokul and Senthil. Shakti guides tours in the Andamans, and his next project is to take a group to Great Nicobar. Gokul is a zoologist, collecting data for a checklist of birds in the Andamans. This will be the core of his Doctoral thesis. During our three days of birding, we met up with Mark Smiles, who is an excellent birder, and guides bird tours in Dubai.

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