Forest Owlet. Photo: Tony Sawbridge
Thought to be lost to the world, the Forest Owlet was rediscovered in 1997 in northwest Maharashtra, India, following some impressive detective work by Pamela Rasmussen and others. Despite extensive searching, there was a remarkable gap of 113 years between the collection of a few specimens in the late 19th century and Dr Rasmussen’s rediscovery. The Forest Owlet remains a rare and little-known bird, but there are some good sites for it and Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary northeast of Mumbai is arguably the best and certainly most accessible.
This short trip can be taken on its own or as a pre-tour extension to either our 2019 South India and the Andaman Islands tour, or our 2020 West India: Gujarat tour. (The two tours run in alternate years). It is also possible to join this trip as an extension after the India: Goa tour. (See details below).
Days 1-2: We’ll begins early this morning in Mumbai, India’s largest and arguably most vibrant city, and drive about three hours north to our guest house on the edge of Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. Once there we’ll begin searching the dry teak forest for our prize, the elusive Forest Owlet. We’ll have the better part of three days for our quest, focusing on the early morning and early evening when the owlets are most active.
A variety of other species can also be found here, including the range-restricted Vigors’s Sunbird, the vociferous Red-naped Ibis, Malabar Trogon, and Indian Paradise Flycatcher. Sulphur-bellied Warbler is common while Western Crowned Warbler and Tawny-bellied Babbler are less so. Other nocturnal birds we stand a good chance of seeing include Jungle Nightjar, the magnificent Mottled Wood Owl, and both Jungle and Spotted Owlets.
Short-toed Snake Eagle and Changeable Hawk-eagle are also fairly common in this forest, as are White-eyed Buzzard and Yellow-footed Green Pigeon. More elusive species such as Painted Francolin, Jungle Bush Quail, and Red Spurfowl all occur and, assuming we find the Forest Owlet fairly quickly, we’ll spend time searching for these as well. A supporting cast of other interesting birds includes Striated Heron, Crested Treeswift, Alpine Swift, Red-breasted and Taiga Flycatchers, and both Thick-billed and Pale-billed Flowerpeckers. We’ll spend both nights in a guest house close to the wildlife sanctuary.
Day 3: After a final morning in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary we’ll return to Mumbai mid-afternoon where the tour ends.
Note: Those staying on to join the West India tour will fly from Mumbai to Kochi this evening and spend two nights and one day there before the start of the South India tour. The flight from Mumbai to Kochi and the extra nights’ accommodation in Kochi are not included.
Those wishing to join the Forest Owlet tour from India: Goa tour will fly from Goa to Mumbai early on the last day of the Goa tour. The Forest Owlet tour price does not include flight from Goa to Mumbai.
Details of the additional costs can be obtained from the Sunbird office.
Updated: 04 May 2020