Birds and Wildlife of Sri Lanka 2009

Ann Lawson and Andrew Duff , 9th-24th December 2009

We booked a 14-day custom tour for two people with Bird and Wildlife Team (Pvt) Ltd. ( which included: good quality accommodation, breakfast, dinner, an air-conditioned 7-seater mini-bus and driver, park entrance fees and jeep services where necessary, mineral water and the services of an excellent guide, Lester Perera.

We had spent 10 days in India in March 2009 and expected Sri Lanka to be somewhat similar. It wasn’t! We were struck by the orderliness and cleanliness wherever we went (we did not spend any time in big cities other than Kandy).

International Flight
We booked our flights through Trailfinders, initially with Kingfisher Airlines for £400 each. Unfortunately they cancelled the onward flight from Bangalore to Colombo so Trailfinders quickly found us an alternative direct flight with Sri Lankan Airlines but at an additional £105 each.

Visas & taxes
A visa is not currently required. There was no departure tax.

1US$ =111.52 rupees. We exchanged US$400 (approx. £250) at the airport and this was more than enough to cover additional expenses i.e. tips, beers, soft drinks, camera permits, laundry, e-mails, souvenirs and some lunches. (We found that the generous packed breakfasts we had from the hotels were substantial enough for lunch as well.)

Overland travel
Road conditions were variable; the A roads were reasonably fast but everywhere our careful driver needed to avoid stray dogs which had a habit of sleeping too close to the edge of them. The road to Martin’s Forest Lodge at Sinharaja was the worst: 3kms of lurching and bumping round hair-pin bends on a very rough track! Minor roads were often slow because of potholes. Due to the impending election there were some road checkpoints but we were waved through, only being stopped at Uda Wattakele which is close to the Presidential Palace in Kandy.

We stayed in comfortable hotels with A/C at Kitulgala, Embilipitiya, Yala, Kandy, and Negombo; without A/C at Sinharaja and Nuwara Eliya where it wasn’t needed. Martin’s Forest Lodge is quite rustic but we had a perfectly adequate room with mosquito nets and an en suite with a hot shower.

Our guide book had warned of stomach upsets but we had no problems at all. (After a particularly unpleasant attack of giardiasis in Madagascar in 2008 we were careful to avoid all salads and raw vegetables.) We were delighted to find a wide variety of tasty curries and buffets available wherever we went, including roadside cafes.

The main problem in Sri Lanka are leeches, which are very common in forested areas. Leech socks are strongly recommended. Usual inoculations are advisable but not compulsory. We had started taking anti-malarials (Chloroquine and proguanil) but Lester commented that they were unnecessary where we were going so we stopped taking them.

230V AC 3-point round pin plugs.

Books and reports
We found the following books and travel guides useful.

Birds: A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka – John Harrison (Oxford University Press, 1999). A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent – Krys Kazmierczak (A. & C. Black, 2000).

Mammals: Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent – K.K. Gurung & Raj Singh (Academic Press, 1996).

Travel: Sri Lanka – Royston Ellis (Bradt, 2008).
Sri Lanka – (Lonely Planet, 1996).

December 9th 21:25 dep. London Heathrow
December 10th 13:30 arrive Colombo; drive to Kitulgala. Evening visit to Kitulgala FR.
December 11th Full day at Kitulgala
December 12th Full day at Kitulgala
December 13th Morning in Kitulgala FR; drive to Sinharaja, birding en route.
December 14th Full day at Sinharaja FR
December 15th Full day at Sinharaja FR
December 16th Drive to Embilipitiya via Ratnapura, Wawulpane Bat Caves and Uda Walawe NP.
December 17th Uda Walawe NP; Bundala NP.
December 18th Yala NP; Palatupana Salt-pans
December 19th Tanks around Tissa; Bambarapokanda (for bats); Diyaluma Falls; Adisham nr. Haputale; Surrey Tea Estate; Nuwara Eliya
December 20th Horton Plains NP; Victoria Park; road along side Galway’s Land Sanctuary
December 21st Bomuru Ella FR; Victoria Park; road along side Galway’s Land Sanctuary; Bomuru Ella FR
December 22nd Bomuru Ella FR; drive to Peradeniya Botanical Gardens; Uda Wattakele FR; Kandy
December 23rd Temple of the Tooth, Kandy; drive to fish market near Negombo
December 24th 05:45 dep. Colombo 12:15 arr. London Heathrow

December 9th
21:25 and we were still boarding! Took off at 22:35 but made up some lost time.

December 10th
Arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport at Negombo just before 14:00 and were quickly cleared through customs, collected our baggage and were met by Lester Perera and our driver, Christy. We stopped a few times en route for Ashy Woodswallow, Indian Swiftlet, Ceylon Hanging-Parrot and Pompadour Green Pigeon before arriving at Kitulgala resthouse. After a much needed cup of tea we went down to the Kelani River at 18:30 to take the ‘boat’ across. The ‘boat’ turned out to be a dugout canoe and outrigger with a slit about 20cm wide, just big enough to get your feet inside! The locals crossed standing up but our balance wasn’t good enough for that and we sat uncomfortably on the edge. We were too tired to go as far as the paddyfields for the Serendib Scops Owl but were delighted to see a Red Slender Loris and a Small Indian Civet.

December 11th
06:30 A cup of strong, sweet tea and then across the river again (the boatman said we were improving!). A slow walk through the village produced the following new birds: Spot-winged Thrush, Yellow-billed and Orange-billed Babblers, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Brown-breasted Flycatcher and a tantalising glimpse of Indian Pitta. Further along the track we heard Ceylon Spurfowl calling but they could not be induced to show themselves. We got back to the hotel at 10:50 for a very late breakfast! A Dollarbird was an unusual find, seen from the terrace of the resthouse. We then took the mini-bus to the nearby Sisira’s River Lounge for Chestnut-backed Owlet which responded by flying over our heads not to be seen again – very frustrating. So back to the resthouse for a siesta before crossing the river again in the late afternoon to visit the Serendib Scops-Owl site. We heard it but were unable to locate it. We did see a Brown Hawk-Owl and Ceylon Frogmouth; also an Asian Palm Civet, Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel and another Red Slender Loris. In order to reach the paddyfields it had been necessary to negotiate a fast-flowing stream using stepping stones. Ann is not renowned for agility in such matters, especially in the dark, and therefore waded across which was tricky enough with slippery stones underfoot. Back at the resthouse by 21:30 and time to de-leech before a very late dinner and collapsing into bed.

December 12th
We met Lester at 06:00 and walked next door to the large garden of Rafters Retreat to search for Chestnut-backed Owlet. We were pestered by three mongrels which kept on trying to nip our ankles until Andrew out-growled the leader. We had no luck with the owlet so we had breakfast before setting out again for Sisira’s River Lounge. As we drove down the road to the lodge Lester heard a Green-billed Coucal calling. Oh boy did it give us the run-around! We ended up in someone’s back garden (with their permission) clambering down into a rough, uncultivated area before this shy, reclusive bird finally gave itself up. Our luck still held at Sisira’s when the owlet was found roosting right next to the car park. We then had extremely close views of a Brown-capped Babbler before returning to the resthouse and making the journey across the river. It was a Saturday and the bathing place was crowded with rowdy youths and fat middle-aged blokes flicking water at each other. Their womenfolk stood around taking care of the children with a few younger ones venturing in fully clothed – very modest. We took a different route to a lovely stream where there were lots of butterflies but not too many birds so returned to the resthouse for a sandwich lunch and a siesta.

Lester was getting worried about finding the Serendib Scops-Owl and asked if we minded him going to look for it while we rested. At 15:15 there was an urgent knocking on our door and Lester, with his friend Uditha, urged us to quickly don our leech socks and boots. Soon we were at the paddyfields and Lester warned us to approach carefully as we had to leave the path and scramble through the forest. The Serendib Scops-Owl was so well camouflaged in dense low cover that at first we couldn’t see it. Unfortunately there was not enough light for any decent photos. Hoping to capitalise on our good fortune we searched for Ceylon Spurfowl with no luck. When big drops of rain started to fall Ann made a bee-line for the stepping stones before they became too wet and slippery. By the time we got back to the resthouse we were drenched but we had seen Serendib Scops-Owl which made it worthwhile.

December 13th
Our last chance to see Ceylon Spurfowl at Kitulgala so we went to a new site. Lester attempted to lure a calling pair in front of us but they circled round behind us. After repositioning ourselves we tried again and this time Andrew had a sight of one which quickly fled. Lester and Ann pursued them quietly with one being flushed in front of them but Ann didn’t see it. Tired and frustrated Ann was prepared to give up but not Lester! We hurried to the paddyfields to a different territory and this pair responded initially but then went quiet. Just as we were leaving they started calling again so we made one last ditch attempt which paid off. Hurrah! Other good birds seen included: Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Indian Blue Robin, Shikra and Ceylon Junglefowl. After a very late breakfast (11:30) we showered, packed and were on our way to Ratnapura by 12:45.

We stopped briefly in Ratnapura at the National Museum but they had changed their opening times and were now closed on Sundays. However we did see Long-billed Sunbird. Other stops along the way to Sinharaja produced Peregrine Falcon (of the local Shaheen race), White-browed Fantail and Crimson-fronted Barbet. It was getting dark by the time we had transferred our luggage to the jeep which would take us up to Martin’s Forest Lodge – a bone-shaking journey one wouldn’t wish to do often! There is no longer any access to Sinharaja FR after dark so we had a delicious dinner and an early night. It was much cooler here and we were glad of our cotton mummies to supplement the thin sheets.

December 14th
After a substantial breakfast during which we were entertained by 5 Ceylon Magpies coming to feast on the fat moths in the dining area, we strolled along the track to the reserve, stopping on the way to see White-faced Starlings and Ceylon Myna. The wide logging track inside the reserve makes birding easy but once off it there are plenty of leeches! We had excellent views of Malabar Trogons, Layard’s Parakeet and Black Bulbul. At 08:45 we were joined by Sunil, one of the park rangers who annoyed us by walking too far ahead, flushing a Ceylon Spurfowl from the track before we had a chance to see it. The Scaly Thrushes we were seeking were not calling and we had tried several swampy areas before we arrived at the research station. Lester and Sunil went off to explore while we enjoyed a break. Suddenly Lester reappeared gesticulating wildly: they had found a Scaly Thrush on a nest! We approached cautiously, keeping our distance and were able to get good photos. (We have since learnt that the nest was predated by Ceylon Magpies). Also at the research station we had good views of Ceylon White-eye, Red-faced Malkoha and Ceylon Magpies. We returned to Martin’s for an excellent lunch of rice and curry and a siesta until 15:45. When we returned to the reserve we hadn’t gone far when the grey clouds rolled in and the lightning started followed by enormous raindrops. We beat a hasty retreat to Martin’s having seen Ceylon Junglefowl (remarkably confiding), skulking Ashy-headed Laughing-thrush, Forest Wagtail, Spot-winged Thrush, Green Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black-throated Munia and White-throated Flowerpecker. Between the reserve barrier and Martin’s lodge we surprised a Green-billed Coucal feeding in the roadside bushes. The expected downpour never materialised so we tried the immediate vicinity of the lodge for Oriental Bay-Owl (recently split as Ceylon Bay-Owl) but without success.

December 15th
It was raining heavily the next morning and, as we had seen just about everything possible at Sinharaja, we decided to wait for the rain to ease off and enjoy the antics of the Magpies. A Crested Serpent-Eagle and a Black Eagle were seen from the veranda. Sunil arrived at 08:15 just as it cleared up. There was not much bird activity but the leeches were out in full force. However we did flush a Spot-winged Thrush almost from under our feet! At the research station we had another confiding male Ceylon Junglefowl and a wary Dusky Palm Squirrel. On our way back it began to rain again but as we approached the barrier it eased off and we paused to listen to Ceylon Spurfowl calling from the inaccessible far side of the disused paddyfields. Suddenly Lester heard a flock of babblers coming through and amongst them were several Ashy-headed Laughing-thrush so we were able to get good views. After lunch and a siesta we found a Cinnamon Bittern and a flock of Brown-backed Needletails flew through. As we waited for dinner there were bats flying in to feed on the moths; Martin said they were Woolly Horseshoe Bats but we are not sure they were identifiable. After dinner we again tried for Bay-Owl but had to be satisfied with a dark form of Golden Palm Civet, a rare Sri Lankan endemic mammal.

December 16th
We left Martin’s early after enjoying great views of two White-faced Starlings and the journey down the track wasn’t nearly so bad as going up! On the way back to Ratnapura we had to make a diversion along windy, pot-holed, narrow roads as a bridge had collapsed on the main route. (Lester had much to say about the state of the roads!) We turned off the A18 to take another windy road to the bat caves at Wawulpane (also spelt Vavulpane etc.) which we had requested. First we were taken to a derelict house where we saw Schneider’s Roundleaf Bat and then we walked about a kilometre to the actual limestone caves. Unfortunately the river was in full spate and it wasn’t possible to gain access to the inner chambers. Andrew and Lester scrambled down the steep, slippery rocks as far as it was possible to go and were able to see some distant unidentifiable bats.

We travelled on to Uda Walawe NP, stopping for a while on the main road beside the reservoir for Spot-billed Pelican, Woolly-necked Stork, Pallid Harrier, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Green Sandpiper, Alpine Swift, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Citrine Wagtail, Small Minivet, Long-billed Sunbird, Gray-breasted and Plain Prinias. It started raining again so we checked into our hotel in Embilipitiya.

December 17th
We were out at 05:00 with a packed breakfast for the drive to reserve HQ at Uda Walawe. Lester wanted to get there early for the Barn Owl that is sometimes present at the HQ, but it wasn’t there. After the necessary paperwork was completed we collected our park guide and set out in an open-top jeep but some of the tracks were impassable after the recent heavy rain. It was useful to compare Little and Indian Cormorants side by side to be certain of the ID. Raptors were present in good numbers including Booted Eagle, Eurasian Kestrel and Gray-Headed Fish-eagle. and we finally caught up with Baya and Streaked Weavers and Indian Silverbill. Our only Eurasian Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Blyth’s Pipits and Crested Treeswifts of the trip were seen here. On our way out of the park our guide said he knew a good site for owls and took us to the car park of the nearby elephant orphanage where 2 Indian Scops-Owls were roosting. When we got back to our hotel there was a wedding party in full swing and we felt very scruffy in our birding gear but the bride and groom graciously allowed us to photograph them. The ladies looked so elegant in their beautiful saris.

Next we headed for Bundala NP for an afternoon game drive rather than to Tissa as was originally planned. This made good sense as we would drive past Bundala to get to Tissa. Andrew and Lester spent some time wader-watching from the roadside but it was very hot in the midday sun yielding a few new birds for the trip such as Northern Pintail, Garganey, Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint and Small Pratincole. There is a new state-of-the-art visitors centre at Bundala with a covered terrace with tables and seating overlooking the lagoon. From it we watched dozens of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, a few probable Pin-tailed Snipe and a pair of Collared Doves, the latter being rather unusual so far south. Our drive in a covered jeep took in most of the varied habitat and the highlights included good views of Indian Pitta, Yellow Bittern, Great Thick-knee, Caspian Tern, Oriental Skylark, Sirkeer Malkoha, Common Woodshrike and a flight view of Blue-faced Malkoha for Ann. Asian Elephants, Indian Hares, Star Tortoise and Green Turtle were also seen. As we drove away from the park Lester suggested a stop at a friend’s house for a cup of tea; it turned out that he had spent some time in the area many years previously involved in monitoring turtles and we were happy for him to catch up with the couple who had been his hosts. It did mean that we were quite late in arriving at Kirinda only pausing briefly for the Indian Nightjar on the track and merely glancing at the bull Asian Elephant browsing close to the reception area.

December 18th
Another early start, reaching Yala NP at 05:20 where our park guide was waiting. Lester had known and encouraged this lad’s interest in natural history when he lived in the area and they were delighted to see each other. We went in search of Brown Fish-Owl but had no luck and even White-browed Bulbul played hard to get but we did eventually see one well. Our driver (the same one that we had at Bundala )and park guide were both sharp-eyed and knew what we wanted to see, working very hard. Jerdon’s Leafbird, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Malabar Pied-Hornbill, Common Woodshrike, Plaintive Cuckoo, a large flock of Small Pratincoles and Yellow-wattled Lapwing were among the birds seen. We stopped for breakfast at the Tsunami Memorial on the site of the former park bungalow, of which only the foundations remained and where 49 people had lost their lives. Ruddy Mongoose, Golden Jackal, Sambar, Chital, Tufted Grey Langur, Eurasian Wild Boar, Asian Elephant, Wild Water Buffalo and a dead Olive Ridley were also seen.

We returned to Yala Village Hotel during the heat of midday before visiting the saltpans at Palatupana. It was still very hot at 15:00 so we spent some time around the Bird Club’s bungalow hoping to find migrant cuckoos and woodpeckers but throughout our trip they were noticeably absent. However the lagoons had plenty of waders and we spent a couple of hours there seeing Pacific Golden-Plover, Whimbrel, 100s of Marsh Sandpipers and Little Stints, 5 Broad-billed Sandpipers, Ruff, Lesser and Greater Crested Terns, Little Tern, Saunders’s Tern, Whiskered and White-winged Terns. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for a Jerdon’s Nightjar then had a leisurely buffet dinner discussing politics and enjoying an expensive bottle of beer (430 rupees!).

We left Yala Village Hotel just after 05:30 taking a picnic breakfast with us. The Indian Nightjar was again on the track to the main road. We stopped at a large tank near Tissamaharama (Pannegamuwa) where we saw several Watercocks, Indian Cormorant, Striated Heron, Yellow Bittern, Comb Duck, Purple Swamphen and a Whiskered Tern. Travelling on we next stopped at a river crossing which is supposed to be a good site for White-tailed Iora. We saw a couple of Common Ioras before crossing a ricketty wooden foot bridge to try the garden of one of the villagers. Unfortunately we could only find Common Ioras so we decided to press on. The A2 north to Wellawaya was tarmacked and in good condition so we made good time before turning on to the A4 which wasn’t so well-maintained. Soon after we took a side turning which threatened to peter out in the middle of nowhere. Lester was determined to show us as many bat species as possible and this was a detour to a cave he knew of. When he mentioned leeches and stepping stones Ann opted to stay in the vehicle! There was one species of bat, Leschenault’s Rousette, which came up to the cave entrance and afforded some good photographs.

Our next stop was due to be at Bambarakanda as we had requested to see the waterfall there. However we stopped for a cup of tea opposite the Diyaluma Falls and decided they were quite spectacular enough, much to Lester’s relief as the others were a bit out of our way and meant a lot more driving for Christy. He suggested we stop near Hatupale for lunch and to visit Adisham, now a Benedictine Monastery but formerly the stately home of one Sir Thomas Villiers. Our guide book suggested he built it to resemble Leeds Castle in Kent but really there was no resemblance. It was strange however to see this grey, granite pile in such surroundings. It was very busy and we only spent a short time inside the grounds and library but we walked down the road alongside the Tangamale Sanctuary finding our first Yellow-eared Bulbuls and Great Tit.

On next to the Surrey Tea Estate near Keppetipola for a pair of Brown Wood-Owls and good views of Ceylon Wood-pigeon against a background of an aviary full of budgerigars which the young daughter of the estate manager was successfully breeding. We also stopped en route for our only Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters of the trip. After such a long and eventful day we were glad to reach the Galway Forest Lodge at about 17:30 where the lobby was decked out with a nativity scene, Christmas tree and fairy lights. The buffet dinner was particularly good that night if rather cosmopolitan: soup, fish in batter and chocolate eclairs being amongst the dishes on offer. A pleasant change from rice and curry.

December 20th
Another long day. We left the hotel at 05:00 arriving at the Horton Plains NP barrier at about 06:30. It was cold with swirling misty clouds which didn’t lift until quite late – 09:30ish. We saw the Ceylon Whistling-Thrush reasonably quickly but neither the Ceylon Bush-Warbler nor the Dull-blue Flycatcher were responsive with only Lester glimpsing the former. We drove from one side of the park to the other, stopping for Common Buzzard, Pied Bushchat, Ceylon Wood-pigeon, Pacific (Hill) Swallow and Black-rumped Flameback. The cloud lifted sufficiently for us to photograph Adam’s Peak and by 10:30 was busy with weekend day-trippers making the journey to World’s End to admire the view. We didn’t go farther than the ‘canteen’ at the Visitors Centre where a warming cup of coffee costing 40 rupees was most welcome. We pished for a while amongst the scrubby vegetation but without any response.

We travelled back to Nuwara Eliya and after a lunch stop headed for Victoria Park which was full of young courting couples. We got some very odd looks as we trooped through with our birding gear especially when we began peering under bushes and into some of the less salubrious areas where litter was deposited. However it paid off and we had excellent views of Indian Pitta and Pied Thrush. After an all too brief visit to the shops we returned to our hotel so Christy could go off duty having just done a 12 hour stint! Lester was keen to go out along the road bordering Galway’s Land Sanctuary (entrance fee 10US$ + 15% tax!) to try for the Bush-Warbler and Dull-blue Flycatcher. The latter was seen well but the former was only heard so it was fortunate we had still had one more day in this area.

December 21st
We set out at 06:30 in the drizzle and a temperature of 16C – just like a summer’s day at home! We drove to Bomuru Ella and walked up and down the road until about 08:00 when the rain became quite heavy. After eating our packed breakfasts we decided that a better option for Kashmir Flycatcher might be Victoria Park but the rain was persistent and there were few birds about. So we returned to the hotel until the rain eased off and we were able to walk along the edge of the Sanctuary again. The Dull-blue Flycatcher was in the same place as yesterday but of Kashmir Flycatcher and the Ceylon Bush-Warbler not a sniff. We watched the women picking tea and the men pulling up leeks (Nuwara Eliya seems to be the place for leeks) and fended off their children from the nearby shanty village who came asking for ‘school pens’. At 15:00 we set off for Bomuru Ella and trudged up and down the road in the rain. Almost when we had given up we saw a movement low down at the side of the road and then the bird popped up close to us – a Kashmir Flycatcher at last! We eventually called it a day at 17:00 when the rain became torrential; we just had a few more hours the next morning in which to find our Ceylon Bush-Warbler.

December 22nd
Back to Bomuru Ella at 06:30 where it was still drizzling and our hopes too were dampened. Lester was determined to find the Bush-Warbler so once again we tramped up and down the road. At last a flock came through and with it a Bush-Warbler was heard. Lester attempted to call it in but it refused to be drawn. We caught a glimpse of movement and Andrew and Lester had a brief view of it creeping along the ground then it was heard calling but some distance from the road. Time to tuck our socks into our trousers and go in after it! We slithered down into the gully and followed the call and, yes, at the eleventh hour, there was our Ceylon Bush-Warbler. Elated we headed back to the hotel then set off for Kandy.

Naturally we had to stop at a tea factory where we were given free tea and allowed to eat our packed breakfasts. Of course we repaid the hospitality by buying a few gifts of boxes of tea. An Oriental Honey-buzzard circled overhead as we returned to the mini-bus. We avoided the lads trying to sell bunches of flowers on the series of hair-pin bends and pushed on to Peradeniya Botanical Gardens near Kandy. Walking through the wooded areas near the river did not produce the hoped for hawk-cuckoo but provided plenty of entertainment in the form of the park wardens. They patrol these areas and at intervals blow their whistles when they come across couples who are getting too close i.e. holding hands or have their arms around each other. Some of the more canny youngsters walked behind the wardens then settled down to snuggle up once they were out of sight. We had good views of Long-billed Sunbird, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail, Ceylon Hanging-Parrot, Brown-breasted Flycatcher and our only Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher of the trip.

We checked into the grand-looking Hotel Suisse across the lake from the Temple of the Tooth which we had asked to be included on our itinerary. A slight adjustment to our plans meant that we visited the Uda Wattakele FR now instead of the next morning in order to have more time at the Temple. There was a heavy police and military presence in Kandy as the president was in residence and lots of ‘important’ people were in town prior to the forthcoming presidential election. In the reserve itself there were armed soldiers and we had a strict time limit with the park closing at 18:00. The area around the lake produced Southern Hill Myna while on our walk towards the monastery we saw Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-rumped Flameback, and Alexandrine and Rose-ringed Parakeets.

December 23rd
After a lie-in and late breakfast we drove round the lake to a side entrance of the Temple of the Tooth. Security is very tight since the bombing of the Temple by Hindu extremists in 1998 and everyone has to pass through a cubicle for a body search. We left our optics behind as we’d read of other groups not being allowed to take them in (there would have been little need of them). We arrived early for the 10:00 opening of the casket which houses the casket containing the tooth; it isn’t possible to see the tooth itself. (For the history and significance of the tooth, said to have been Buddha’s, visit We admired the baby elephants brought by their keepers to present garlands of flowers at the front entrance having first left our shoes at the kiosk as everyone enters bare-footed. There were hundreds of devotees carrying their offerings of lotus flowers or with bottles of oil to be blessed. Also lots of parents with young babies bringing them for a blessing. The downstairs hall wasn’t too crowded and we watched the ceremonial toing ang froing as acolytes carrying gorgeously embroidered cushions, flasks of oil etc entered the ornate lower chamber which could be glimpsed as they entered it. Outside this chamber were four musicians with drums and a horn who paraded around the outside seven times stopping at the four compass points and sounding their instruments. Just before 10:00 we pushed our way upstairs in order to see the inner chamber; anyone suffering from claustrophobia should not attempt it! We were squeezed and squashed and elbowed in a seething throng all vying for a position to see the opening of the outer casket. We managed to be in the right place amidst the crush after which the crowds began to disperse and we visited the various museums. We really enjoyed the spectacle and ceremonial pomp although it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

We had one last request before our final night in Sri Lanka and that was to head for the coast north of Colombo to try for Brown-headed Gull which Ann had not seen. Once we reached Kegalle Christy began to take the minor B roads because this was his home territory and he knew lots of short cuts. We stopped at a roadside cafe for a buffet lunch (prawns were cooked specially for us as the curried meat was considered too hot!) and arrived at the fish market in the early afternoon. Here we were approached by a local character who claimed to have helped Rick Stein on his Asian cookery programme. When we told him we lived near Bristol he asked if we supported Bristol Rovers or Bristol City! Unfortunately there were no gulls at all just lots of Whiskered Terns with some Great Crested Terns but we did get excited when a dark shape was seen on the horizon. As it flew towards the shore we were surprised to see that it was a Brown Noddy which was quickly chased off by the crows.

Our final bit of birding was in the grounds of the Taj Airport Garden Hotel at Negombo which has an extensive garden and lagoon where we saw Yellow Bittern, Red-wattled Lapwing, Pied Kingfisher and heard a Yellow Wagtail. After a buffet dinner it was an early night as we had a wake-up call booked for 02:15.

December 24th
Just a short drive from our hotel to the airport and trouble free check-in and enough time to make use of the free internet stations provided in the departure areas. Our flight took off pretty much on time and as it wasn’t full we were able to stretch out across four seats to catch up on lost sleep. Shortly after midday we touched down at Heathrow and went to spend Christmas with family in Kent.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Sri Lanka with its relatively accessible birding sites, its friendly people and beautiful scenery. 12-14 days would be a reseasonable length of time in which to see all the endemics as well as a good number of southern Indian subcontinent near-endemics. In total we saw or heard 235 birds species but with a noticeable absence of some woodpeckers. There is also a wealth of butterflies, reptiles and mammals and we were delighted to see many of them (26 mammals, 14 reptiles and 46 species of butterfly). To escape the British winter for a couple of weeks and for some great birding then Sri Lanka is to be recommended. We can’t praise our guide, Lester Perera, highly enough for his expertise, enthusiasm but above all for his knowledge of the birds and their habitats.

Nomenclature and classification follow Clements’ Birds of the World: a checklist 6th edition (2007), including updates as taken from the Cornell University Press updates page ( to 18 December 2009.

Endemic species and forms are marked (E).

Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna javanica
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP, Yala NP and a few birds at the Tissa Tanks.

Cotton Pygmy-Goose Nettapus coromandelianus
3 at the Tissamaharama tanks.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta
3 at Bundala NP.

Garganey Anas querquedula
A few at Bundala NP.

Ceylon Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata (E)
1 seen and flight views of another bird at Kitulgala FR. Heard on the far side of the paddy-fields at Sinharaja FR with one seen on the path by Lester and our park guide.

Ceylon Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii (E)
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR (very tame), Yala NP, Bundala NP.

Ceylon Junglefowl

Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Fairly common throughout the lowlands.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
1 at Bundala NP.

Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
10+ at Uda Walawe NP and small numbers at Yala NP .

Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
A couple at Uda Walawe NP, 2 at the tanks near Tissamaharama, a few at Kandy.

Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Very common throughout on rivers, paddies and tanks.

Darter Anhinga melanogaster
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP, Yala NP and at the tanks near Tissamaharama.

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
2 at Bundala NP, 1 at the Tissa Tanks and 1 at the Taj Airport Garden Hotel, Negombo .

Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
1 flushed in abandoned paddyfields near the barrier at Sinharaja FR.

Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP, Yala NP and at the tanks near Tissamaharama.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Seen at Bundala NP, Yala NP and at the tanks near Tissamaharama.

Great Egret Ardea alba
Regular but in small numbers on paddies and wetlands, mainly at the coast. The form concerned is sometimes split as Eastern Great Egret Ardea modesta.

Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Seen most days; much more abundant than Great or Little Egrets.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Fairly common throughout, but much scarcer than the preceding species.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Abundant throughout. The form concerned is sometimes split as Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus.

Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayii
A very common and widespread species.

Striated Heron Butorides striatus
Singles by the river at Kitulgala (unusual this far inland), Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP, and at the tanks near Tissamaharama.

Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
Fairly common at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Good numbers at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Seen almost daily, usually in paddyfields.

Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
3 at Uda Walawe NP and 1 en route to Nuwara Eliya.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
2 at Uda Walawe NP, 1 at Bundala NP, 2 at Horton Plains NP and 1 en route to Kandy.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
2 at Uda Walawe NP, 1 at Yala NP and 1 at Bundala NP.

Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Seen on a number of occasions en route and at Kitulgala, Uda Walawe NP and in Kandy.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
3 at Uda Walawe NP, 1 at Yala NP, 2 over Horton Plains NP and 1 at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.

Gray-headed Fish-Eagle ichthyaetus
1 at Uda Walawe NP and 1 at Yala NP.

Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela
Seen almost daily.

Pallid Harrier macrourus
A stunning, almost ghostly male prched in a tree at Uda Walawe NP.

Shikra Accipiter badius
1 at Kitulgala and 1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Besra Accipiter virgatus
1 at Kitulgala (at roost above the track after dark), 1 at Sinharaja Reserve, 1 at Yala NP and 1 at Horton Plains NP.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
2 at Horton Plains NP. Rasmussen & Anderton (Sibley Guide 2005) regard this form as belonging to Himalayan Buzzard B. burmanicus.

Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis
1 at Kitulgala FR and 2 at Sinharaja Reserve.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriochis kienerii
1 at Kitulgala FR.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP, and 1 at the Tissa Tanks.

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
1 between Sinharaja and Ratnapura was of the distinctive race peregrinator (Shaheen Falcon).

White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
A fairly common species in wet areas.

Watercock Gallicrex cinerea
4 at the Pannegamuwa Tank, Tissamaharama.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Seen in good numbers around Tissamaharama and at Yala and Bundala NP. This form is sometimes split as Gray-headed Swamphen P. poliocephalus.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
1 at the Tissa Tanks, 10+ at Bundala NP Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus Seen at Uda Walawe NP and Yala NP. The form concerned is sometimes split as Indian Thick-knee B. indicus.

Great Thick-knee Burhinus recurvirostris
10 at Bundala NP and 1 at Yala NP.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus
3 at Yala NP.

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
Seen in small numbers along the coast.

Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Seen at Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva
3 at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Lesser Sand-Plover Charadrius mongolus
Seen at Bundala NP and at Palatupana Saltpans.

Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
5+ at Bundala NP and a few at Palatupana Saltpans.

Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
A single one at Bundala NP.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
A few seen en route and at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Seen regularly on tanks and all weedy ponds. Very common at Bundala NP.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Seen at Uda Walawe, Bundala NP, and at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Only 1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
A few seen at Bundala NP and 1 at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
4 at Uda Walawe NP, then 100s at Bundala NP and common at Palatupana Saltpans, where they frequently behaved like phalaropes.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
2 at Uda Walawe NP and several at Bundala NP.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Seen at Bundala NP and at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
3 at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Seen at Bundala NP and Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
A few at Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Little Stint Calidris minuta
Abundant at Bundala NP and at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Good numbers at Bundala NP and common at Palatupana Saltpans, Yala NP.

Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
5 in the Little Stint flock at Palatupana Saltpans, Yala NP.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
A few at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura
A group of c.15 snipe sp. at Bundala NP were probably this species.

Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator
10+ at Uda Walawe NP, 2 at Yala NP.

Small Pratincole Glareola lactea
50+ in a loose flock at Bundala NP.

Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
1 came close in-shore to join the Whiskered Tern flock at the fish market near Negombo.

Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Fairly common at Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Saunders’s Tern Sternula saundersi
1 adult seen well at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP. Some of the other “little terns” at this site may have been this species.

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Some at Uda Walawe and common around Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
1 at Bundala NP.

White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
1 at Bundala NP and very common at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
Common at wetlands and at the coast throughout.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo
2 at the fish market near Negombo.

Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Seen at Bundala NP and at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
A few at Palatupana Saltpans,nr Yala NP.

Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Feral birds were common in villages and towns.

Ceylon Wood-Pigeon Columba torringtoni (E)
2 at the Surrey Tea Estate and 1 at Horton Plains NP.

Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
2 at Bundala NP, an unusual record in southern Sri Lanka.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
A very common species throughout Sri Lanka.

Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Seen daily at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR.

Orange-breasted Pigeon Treron bicinctus
1+ at Uda Walawe, several at Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Pompadour Green-Pigeon Treron pompadora
2 en route to Kitulgala and 5+ at Sinharaja FR. This endemic form is sometimes split as Ceylon Green-Pigeon T. pompadora sensu stricto (E).

Green Imperial-Pigeon Ducula aenea
A fairly common and widespread species.

Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens nr Kandy and Uda Wattakele FR.

Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
Seen at Bundala NP, Yala NP, tanks nr Tissa and Uda Wattakele FR.

Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
1 at Uda Wawale NR.

Layard’s Parakeet Psittacula calthropae (E)
5 at Kitulgala FR and at Sinharaja FR.

Ceylon Hanging-Parrot Loriculus beryllinus (E)
Up to 10 a day at Kelani River FR and Sinharaja FR, a few at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens nr Kandy and at Uda Watakele NR in Kandy.

Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
5 at Bundala NP and 1 at Yala NP. This form is sometimes split as Gray-bellied Cuckoo C. passerinus.

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus
Only 1 seen at Bundala NP.

Blue-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus viridirostris
1 seen briefly in flight at Bundala NP.

Sirkeer Malkoha Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii
2 at Bundala NP.

Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus (E)
8+ at Sinharaja FR.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Seen or heard in small numbers throughout.

Green-billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus (E)
Good views eventually of 1 near Sisira’s River Lounge at Kitulgala and 1 at Sinharaja FR.

Serendib Scops-Owl Otus thilohoffmanni (E)
1 seen roosting at Kitulgala FR.

Indian Scops-Owl Otus bakkamoena
2 birds seen roosting near the elephant sanctuary at Uda Walawe.

Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanonotum (E)
1 seen at Sisira’s River Lounge and 1 heard at Kitulgala FR.

Brown Wood-Owl Strix leptogrammica
A pair seen roosting at the Surrey Tea Estate.

Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata
1 seen and heard at dusk at Kitulgala FR.

Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
1 roosting in Kitulgala FR.

Jerdon’s Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis
1 seen well (spotlighted) at Yala NP.

Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus
Singles seen on sandy tracks at Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
5+ at Sinharaja FR.

Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor
A fairly common and widespread species.

Alpine Swift Apus melba
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

House Swift Apus nipalensis
Surprisingly scarce with 1 at Kitulgala FR and other ‘probables’ seen distantly near bridges en route.

Asian Palm-Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
Small numbers en route and at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.

Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
3 at Uda Walawe NP.

Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
5 at Sinharaja FR.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Seen on a few occasions.

Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
2 in trees above the river at Kitulgala resthouse.

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
A very common and widespread species.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
2 at Bundala NP and 1 at Tissa tanks.

Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Good numbers at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Seen almost daily.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti
5 seen on roadside wires in a town en route from Yala to Nuwara Eliya.

Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Singles at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
1 bird seen daily at Kitulgala, opposite the resthouse.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Ceylon Gray Hornbill Ocyceros gingalensis (E)
Up to 6 a day at Kelani River FR, heard at Sinharaja FR and 15+ at Yala NP.

Malabar Pied-Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
2 at Uda Walawe NP and 5 at Yala NP.

Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica
Fairly common at the lower elevations.

Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons (E)
3 at Kitulgala FR and 1 seen and more heard at Sinharaja FR.

Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapillus
1 at Ratnapura, 2 at Uda Wattakele FR, and others heard. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Ceylon Small Barbet M. rubricapillus sensu stricto (E).

Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
1 at Uda Walawe NP and a few others heard.

Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
1 at Kitulgala FR.

Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense
2 at Kitulgala FR, heard at Sinharaja FR and Uda Wattakele FR.

Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus
1 at Horton Plains NP and 1 at Bomuru Ella FR. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Crimson-backed Flameback C. stricklandi (E).

Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
1 seen briefly at Kitulgala FR, then good views of singles at Bundala NP and in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya.

Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus
2 at Bundala NP and 1 at Yala NP. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Ceylon Woodshrike T. affinis (E).

Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
2 seen en route to Kitulgala.

Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Quite common and present at most sites visited.

Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina melanoptera
1 at Yala NP.

Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
2 at Uda Walawe NP.

Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
Small numbers daily at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR and Nuwara Eliya. The form concerned is sometimes split from Scarlet Minivet P. speciosus of northern India and southeast Asia as Orange Minivet P. flammeus sensu stricto.

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus
4 at Nuwara Eliya.

Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
A few seen mainly en route.

Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus
Seen at Kitulgala and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.

White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
Seen daily at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
Seen at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR. Heard at Uda Wattakele FR. The endemic form concerned lacks tail rackets and is often split as Ceylon Crested Drongo D. lophorinus (E).

White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola
1 seen en route to Sinharaja FR.

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR and Uda Walawe NP.

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR, Uda Walawe NP and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy. Both races were encountered: race ceylonensis is endemic and race paradisi (with a white morph male) is a winter visitor from India.

Ceylon Magpie Urocissa ornata (E)
Close encounters with 5 individuals each morning when they came to feed on the moths at Martin’s Forest Lodge, Sinharaja. Also some very tame colour-ringed birds at the research station in Sinharaja FR.

Ceylon Magpie

House Crow Corvus splendens An abundant town species, with 100s at the fish market near Negombo.

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos A generally common and widespread species, especially in rural areas, with 30+ at our lunch stop at Uda Walawe NP.

Jerdon’s Bushlark Mirafra affinis Fairly common at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark Eremopterix griseus 10+ at Uda Walawe NP, a few at Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Ashy crowned Sparrow Lark

Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula

2 on the lagoon bunds at Bundala NP.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
A fairly common species.

Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
5 en route to Horton Plains NP and 4 en route to Kandy. This montane form has very different habits from southeast Asian Pacific Swallows and is sometimes split as Hill Swallow H. domicola.

Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
3 en route to Kitulgala. The resident endemic form concerned, with deep red underparts and lacking a neck collar, is sometimes split as Ceylon Swallow C. hyperthyra (E). We also saw a paler, more typical individual at Bundala NP which was presumably a migrant of one of the Indian races.

Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
Small numbers at Horton Plains NP and near Nuwara Eliya.

Great Tit Parus major
1 at Adisham and near Nuwara Eliya.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
1 at Sinharaja FR and 4 near Nuwara Eliya.

Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus
Small numbers at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Black-capped Bulbul P. melanicterus sensu stricto (E).

Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
A very common and widespread species.

Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus (E)
1 at Adisham (Tangamale Sanctuary), also small numbers at Horton Plains NP and at Nuwara Eliya.

White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus
2 at Yala NP.

Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole indica
Fairly common at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR.

Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Fairly common at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR. The form concerned is sometimes split as Square-tailed Black Bulbul H. ganeesa.

Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus
Common in woodland everywhere.

Large-billed Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris
Small numbers at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR and Nuwara Eliya.

Sykes’s Warbler Hippolais rama
A single bird at Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya.

Blyth’s Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
Several at Uda Walawe NP, 3 at Bundala NP and 1 at Horton Plains NP.

Ceylon Bush-Warbler Bradypterus palliseri (E)
1, very difficult to find but eventually seen briefly, at Bomuru Ella FR; also heard at Galway’s Land Sanctuary and Horton Plains NP.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP and Horton Plains NP.

Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Heard regularly and a few seen in secondary habitats.

Gray-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii
3 at Uda Walawe NP.

Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica
2 at Bundala NP.

Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis
6 at Uda Walawe NP and 1 at
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
Seen at Uda Walawe NP and Bundala NP.

Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense
Seen at Uda Walawe NP. This species is now regarded as belonging with the Old World warblers (Sylviidae).

Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
1 at Kitulgala FR.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui
3 at Kitulgala FR, 4 at Sinharaja FR and 1 at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra
1, after a struggle, at Bomuru Ella FR.

Dull-blue Flycatcher Eumyias sordidus (E)
1 from the roadside at Galway’s Land Sanctuary.

Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
Heard in Kitulgala FR and a single bird seen at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens in Kandy.

Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea
1 at Kitulgala FR and 2 at Horton Plains NP.

Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
Seen in small numbers almost daily.

White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Heard at Yala NP.

Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicatus
Seen at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Common at Horton Plains NP.

Ceylon Whistling-Thrush Myophonus blighi (E)
A single seen and heard well in misty conditions at Horton Plains NP.

Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii
1 at Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya.

Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera (E)
4 at Kitulgala FR and 1 at Sinharaja FR.

Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma
1 on a nest at Sinharaja FR. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Sri Lanka or Ceylon Scaly Thrush Z. imbricata (E).

Blackbird Turdus merula
2 on Horton Plains on 20th. The form concerned is sometimes split as Indian Blackbird T. simillimus.

Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons (E)
7 at Sinharaja FR.

Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum fuscocapillus (E)
4 at Kitulgala FR and 2 at Sinharaja FR.

Indian Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR and Bomuru Ella. The endemic form concerned is sometimes split as Sri Lanka or Ceylon Scimitar-Babbler P. melanurus (E).

Indian Scimitar-Babbler

Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra

2 at Bundala NP.

Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps
4 at Kitulgala FR and 4 at Sinharaja FR.

Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens (E)
Seen daily at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR.

Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis
Seen almost daily, mostly in gardens and secondary habitats.

Ceylon White-eye Zosterops ceylonensis (E)
Small numbers at Sinharaja FR and around Nuwara Eliya.

Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus
Small numbers at Kitulgala FR and Bundala NP.

Southern Hill Myna Gracula indica
1 at Uda Wattakele FR, Kandy.

Ceylon Myna Gracula ptilogenys (E)
3 at Sinharaja FR.

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
A very common and widespread species.

White-faced Starling Sturnia albofrontata (E)
2 at Sinharaja FR.

Brahminy Starling Temenuchus pagodarum
3 at Yala NP.

Rosy Starling Pastor roseus
Small flocks at Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Jerdon’s Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni
Singles at Kelani River FR and Sinharaja FR. This is a recent split from Blue-winged Leafbird C. cochinchinensis.

Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
1 at Kitugala FR.

White-throated Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens (E)
1 at Kitulgala FR and 2 a day at Sinharaja FR.

Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
Seen in small numbers at Kitulgala FR, Bundala NP and around Nuwara Eliya.

Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica
A fairly common and widespread species.

Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus
Singles at Yala NP, Bundala NP and at the tanks near Tissa.

Long-billed Sunbird Cinnyris lotenius
Seen in small numbers at Ratnapura, Uda Walawe NP and at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.

Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
1 heard at the Taj Airport Garden Hotel, Negombo.

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
1 female at Uda Walawe NP.

Gray Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Fairly common.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Oriental Pipit Anthus rufulus
1 at Uda Walawe NP and a few at Yala NP, Bundala NP, and at Horton Plains NP.

Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii
Common on the tracks at Uda Walawe NP.

Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
1 at Sinharaja FR, 2 in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya and 1 at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Fairly common in villages and towns.

Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar
10+ at Uda Walawe NP.

Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
10+ at Uda Walawe NP and 1 at Yala NP.

Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica
2 at Uda Walawe NP.

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
Small numbers at Uda Walawe NP.

Black-throated Munia Lonchura kelaarti
2 at Sinharaja FR.

Nutmeg Mannikin Lonchura punctulata
2 at Uda Walawe NP.

Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca
Common at Uda Walawe NP.

Nomenclature and classification follow Duff, A. & Lawson, A. Mammals of the World: a checklist (London: A & C Black, 2004). Endemic species are marked (E).

Indian Hare Lepus nigricollis
17 at Bundala NP and 1 at Yala NP.

Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel Ratufa macroura
Small numbers at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR and at Nuwara Eliya.

Layard’s Palm Squirrel Funambulus layardi
1 at Sinharaja FR.

Indian Palm Squirrel Funambulus palmarum
Seen throughout the visited areas.

Dusky Palm Squirrel Funambulus sublineatus
1 at Sinharaja FR and seen daily around Nuwara Eliya.

Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus
1 spotlighted at night at Kitulgala FR, apparently a very rare sighting in Sri Lanka. The form concerned is sometimes called Small Ceylon Flying Squirrel.

Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica
1 at night at Kitulgala FR.

Golden Palm Civet Paradoxurus zeylonensis (E)
1 spotlighted at night at Sinharaja FR (of the dark form, a potential split according to our guide).

Rusty-spotted Cat Felis rubiginosa
1, crossing the road carrying a rat in its mouth, at night en route to Yala NP.

Indian Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii
1 en route from Yala to Nuwara Eliya.

Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithii
2 between Sinharaja and Ratnapura and 1 at Yala NP.

Short-tailed Mongoose Herpestes brachyurus
1 between Ratnapura and Wawulpane Caves.

Golden Jackal Canis aureus
3 at Yala NP.

Indian Flying Fox Pteropus giganteus
Large numbers near Embilipitiya and in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.

Leschenault’s Rousette Rousettus leschenaulti
Abundant in the bat cave near Wellawaya.

Leschenault’s Rousette

Schneider’s Roundleaf Bat Hipposideros speoris

Numerous in a derelict house near Wawulpane Caves.

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Schneider’s Roundleaf Bat

Red Slender Loris Loris tardigradus (E)

2 spotlighted at night at Kitulgala FR.

Tufted Grey Langur Semnopithecus priam
Common at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP and Bundala NP.

Purple-faced Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus vetulus (E)
A few seen at Sinharaja FR with the highland race (locally called Bear Monkey) seen en route to Horton Plains NP and at Bomuru Ella FR.

Toque Macaque Macaca sinica (E)
2 at Kitulgala FR, small numbers at Sinharaja FR, Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP, Bundala NP, with the furrier highland race seen near Nuwara Eliya.

Eurasian Wild Boar Sus scrofa
8 at Yala NP.

Sambar Cervus unicolor
1 at Yala NP and 5+ at Horton Plains NP.

Chital Axis axis
2 at Bundala NP, common at Yala NP.

Wild Water Buffalo Bubalus arnee
Seen at Yala NP. Previously considered to be feral Domestic Water Buffalo B. bubalis, a recent paper classifies the water buffalos in Yala NP as a subspecies of Wild Water Buffalo B. arnee migona (Groves, C. & J. Jayawardene, J. 2009. The Wild Buffalo of Sri Lanka. Taprobanica 1(1): 55-62 – abstract available at

Domestic Water Buffalo Bubalus bubalis
Feral animals seen in small numbers at Uda Walawe NP.

Asian Elephant Elephas maximus
Good numbers at Uda Walawe NP, Bundala NP and small numbers at Yala NP.

Nomenclature and classification follow the Sri Lanka reptile website Endemic species are marked (E).

Indian Star Tortoise Geochelone elegans
4 seen from the jeep at Bundala NP.

Green Turtle Chelonia mydas
1 seen from cliffs at Bundala NP, identified by our guide.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea
1 dead on the beach at Yala NP, identified by our guide.

Land Monitor Varanus bengalensis
Several at Yala NP.

Water Monitor Varanus salvator
3, including two basking on partly submerged logs close to the Hotel Suisse, on the lake in Kandy.

Common Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor
1 identified by our guide at Yala NP.

Green Forest Lizard Calotes calotes
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard Otocryptis wiegmanni (E)
Several at Kitulgala FR.

Rhino-horn Lizard Ceratophora stoddartii (E)
1 found on the main track at Bomuru Ella FR.

Rhino-horn Lizard

House Gecko Hemidactylus sp.
Several geckos seen, but not identified to species.

Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris
A few at Bundala NP.

Sri Lankan Blossom Krait Balanophis ceylonensis (E)
1 amongst the leaf litter at Kitulgala FR.

Rat Snake Ptyas mucosa
This large and imposing snake was seen hunting at Palatupana Saltpans, nr Yala NP.

Nomenclature follows the Sri Lanka butterflies website Endemic species are marked (E).

Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus
Common at Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Common Tiger Danaus genutia
Several at Yala NP.

Common Crow Euploea core asela
Common throughout.

Double-branded Black Crow Euploea sylvester montana
Several at the tea stop nr Diyaluma Falls.

Ceylon Tree Nymph Idea jasonia (E)
Numerous and easily seen floating about the canopy at Sinharaja FR.

Blue Glassy Tiger Ideopsis similis exprompta
Several at Sinharaja FR.

Glassy Tiger Parantica aglea
Singles at Bundala NP and Yala NP.

Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace leopardus
2 at the beach at Bundala NP.

Dark Blue Tiger Tirumala septentrionis musikanos
Several at Yala NP.

Ceylon Treebrown Lethe daretis (E)
1 at Horton Plains NP.

Common Evening Brown Melanitis lede ismene
1 at Kitulgala FR.

Gladeye Bushbrown Nissanga patnia
Moderately common.

White Four-ring Ypthima ceylonica
Fairly common at Kitulgala FR and Sinharaja FR.

Common Castor Ariadne merione taprobana
1 by the track to Wawulpane Caves.

Great Eggfly Hypolimnas bolina
1 at Kitulgala FR and 1 at Sinharaja FR.

Chocolate Soldier Junonia iphita pluviatilis
Common throughout.

Lemon Pansy Junonia lemonias vaisya
1 at Bundala NP.

Blue Admiral Kaniska canace haronica
1 at Adisham (Tangamale Sanctuary).

Common Sailor Neptis hylas varmona
1 at the bat caves nr Wellawaya.

Common Lascar Pantporia hordonia sinuata
1 by the track to Wawulpane Caves.

Common Leopard Phalanta phalantha
1 at Kitulgala FR and 1 at Horton Plains NP.

Indian Red Admiral Vanessa indica nubicola
1 at Horton Plains NP. This is the only regular site for the species in Sri Lanka.

Cruiser Vindula erota asela
1 at Sinharaja FR.

Tawny Coster Acraea violae
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Common Cerulean Jamides celeno tissama
1 at Sinharaja FR. Other “blues” seen briefly may well have been this species.

Quaker Neopithecops zalmora
Several by the stream that crosses the track to Wawulpane Caves.

Large Guava Blue Virachola perse ghela
1 at Uda Walawe NP.

Common Albatross Appias albina darada
Abundant at Yala NP.

Pioneer Belenois aurota taprobana
Abundant at Yala NP.

Mottled Emigrant Catopsilia pyranthe minna
Several at Horton Plains NP.

Lemon Emigrant Catopsilia pomona
Common throughout.

Small Salmon Arab Colotis amata modestus
1 at Yala NP.

Common Jezebel Delias eucharis
Common in the lowlands.

Three-spot Grass Yellow Eurema blanda
Common at Sinharaja FR research station. Other unidentified “grass yellows” seen regularly.

White Orange Tip Ixias marianne
Common at Yala NP.

Psyche Leptosia nina
Common on roadsides etc.

Common Jay Graphium doson
Common by a stream at Kitulgala FR and at the tea stop nr Diyaluma Falls.

Tailed Jay Graphium agamemnon menides
1 at Uda Walawe NP and 1 at the tea stop nr Diyaluma Falls.

Lime Butterfly Papilio demoleus
Seen at Uda Walawe NP and Yala NP.

Red Helen Papilio helenus mooreanus
1 at Adisham (Tangamale Sanctuary) and 1 at Horton Plains NP.

Blue Mormon Papilio polymnestor parinda
Seen at Kitulgala FR, Sinharaja FR and at the tea stop nr Diyaluma Falls.

Common Rose Pachliopta aristolochiae ceylonica
Fairly common in tea estates, gardens etc.

Crimson Rose Pachliopta hector
1 at Bundala NP.

Common Birdwing Troides darsius (E)
Singles seen well at Kitulgala FR and SInharaja FR.

Restricted Demon Notocrypta curvifascia
1 at Sinharaja FR research station.

Water Snow Flat Tagiades litigiosa ceylonica
1 at Adisham (Tangamale Sanctuary).