The 6 o'clock departure from the hotel got us to the river ferry crossing in 20 minutes, which is an experience in itself. Totally different from that in The Gambia, it is a much smaller vessel, and doesn't seem to dock safely - people generally seemed to jump off before it had stopped. We arrived at Morji Beach just before 7am, with the light just beginning to be sufficient for visibility. The most productive part of the beach is on an elbow, which overlooks the meeting of the river and the sea. We were disappointed at first, since there were only 3 or 4 Gulls present. As we stood for a while, it was obvious that gulls and terns were coming in from the sea, with a good number passing by upriver, and we then also discovered small groups of Kentish Plover only feet away, with a large collection of sandplovers further back. Standing in the same place for over 1 hour was rewarding. During that time, many birds passed by into the river, with a proportion landing on the beach, including all the common Gulls we were likely to see, as well as the odd Little, Sandwich & Common Tern. A flypast (very close) of Little Pratincoles early on was extra icing on the cake.
After a short 10 minute drive further North, we arrived at Mandrum Beach, which had a sandbar 50 metres offshore, and many Great Black-headed Gulls, interspersed with groups of Gull-billed, Lesser Crested & Sandwich Terns. This is also reputed to be a possible Crab Plover location, but not today.
On the road back to the ferry, and after a couple of miles, we spotted some birds on open parched farmland, and this was a productive diversion. Initial Malabar Larks then turned up Pied Bushchats and Blue Rock Thrush, followed by a small field which seemed alive with Indian Robins. On the other side of the road, Brahminy Starlings were approachable.
The ferry ride back was as novel as the first crossing, only this time we stood outside and took in the sights of a half finished bridge that will take another 6 years to complete, masses of people on the boat, and a perched Blue-tailed Bee-eater. The terminal at the other side was much busier than first thing in the morning - horns blaring, scooters and lorries crammed everywhere.
We were dropped off at the entrance to the Club Cabana, adjacent to Baga Forest, which Naresh confidently told us was where the Fish Owls were. He led us around a small copse near the road, but it seemed obvious that they were only there occasionally, although we did see White-throated Fantail. However, after almost wandering off in the wrong direction, 2 older birders gave us directions to the Fish Owl nest. After about 400 metres, and totally overshooting the mark, we found the Owl on the nest, glaring back at us. It was bigger and much more impressive than the books suggest. Other notable birds here were Blue-winged Leafbird, Common Iora, and Red-whiskered Bulbul. One or two raptors put in appearances through the canopy.
At the Beira Mar for the last hour of daylight, and back on the balcony overlooking the marsh. It was just as well we came earlier in the week - there was no sign of either the Cinnamon Bittern or Ruddy-breasted Crake! However, half a dozen Painted Snipe came out into the open as the light was failing (much better than the half hidden birds we had seen before). Just as we were about to leave, a Barn Owl ghosted past in the gloom.