We all decided to climb the 600 foot high rock this morning, starting early to avoid the heat of the day. The walk in to the base of the rock gave us Forest Wagtail and a Shaheen Peregrine chasing the swifts. As we climbed the rock’s precarious stairways we found one Shaheen Falcon perched and then watched another snatching a Little Swift off the rock face.
The views from the top are worth the climb, the 360 degree panorama over the surrounding countryside is breathtaking.. We were back by mid-morning and relaxing in the pool and exploring the hotel gardens. Whilst watching a Brown Headed Barbet at its nest hole an Indian Pitta hopped through the bushes and then a Orange Headed Ground Thrush appeared in the same patch of shrubbery. Several of the group also came across a Dwarf Wood Kingfisher which posed for photographs; we had only had fleeting views of this species thus far.
After lunch it was time to depart for the long drive back to Colombo. Several stops at suitable wetlands failed to produce the elusive Cotton Teal, probably the commonest bird we missed.
The farewell dinner was at the Taj Airport Hotel watching Sri Lanka v India in the cricket world cup on a large screen TV. We were at the airport in plenty of time for our 0215 flight to London which left on time, and were back at Heathrow at breakfast time on 24th March to a temperature of 5degrees C!
We finished with a total species count of 249 which included 6 species seen only by Uditha. ( A score of anything over 240 is very good indeed). All 33 endemics had been seen and all seen well. We also saw many of the endemic subspecies.
Uditha proved to be a brilliant guide, his knowledge of all the birds, their calls and songs was very impressive as was his backup knowledge of all other aspects of the country’s natural history, His snake catching skills were a real bonus as were his abilities on the snooker table and carom board. And above all, his forward planning, to make sure our hotels had adequate stocks of Elephant Ginger Beer!
A memorable tour. We look forward to travelling with The Bird and Wildlife Team again in 2008.
Selected Notes on the 33 endemics:
Sri Lanka Spurfowl
Arguably the hardest of the endemics to see. A single male at Kitulgala on 12th March. Seen very well as it walked through a sunlit patch of forest as close range. Only heard calling in Sinharaja.
Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl
About ten individuals – males and females- around the forest house in Kitulgala on 13th March. Two at the Forest Research Station, Sinharaja on 14th March. Up to 15 in Sinharaja on 15th March. Mainly around the research station and including a hen with chicks and a male perched in the open on a low branch side by side with a Sri Lanka Magpie.
Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon
One showed well perched at close range in Sinharaja on 15th March.
Ceylon Green Pigeon
Singles at Kitulgala on 13th march and Yala on 17th March.
Four together at Sigiriya feeding in a fruiting tree on 22nd March with singles there on 21st and 23rd March.
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot
Small numbers seen well at Kitulgala and Sinharaja. Best views were in trees around Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja.
Odd ones elsewhere.
Seen only at Sinharaja. Up to 12 feeding low down in trees at point blank range outside the dining room at Blue Magpie Lodge on 14th March. 6 feeding more distantly at same location on 15th March
Red Face Malkoha
A flock of 4 around the forest dwelling at Kitulgala on 13th March. 3 at Sinharaja on 14th, 2 being at the Forest Research Station, and a single on the forest trail.
Green Billed Coucal
Always difficult to see for such a large bird. Pair of birds seen well at Bodhingala on 12th was the only sightings.
Serendib Scops Owl
One at Kitulgala on 13th March.
2 individuals out in the open on and around their tree nest hole at Kitulgala on 13th March
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
3 at Bodhingala on 12th, singles at Sinharaja on 13th and 14th March.
Odd ones at Bodhingala, Kitulgala and Sinharaja. 2 at Nuwara Eliya on 19th.
Best views were of very close birds coming to fruit on bird tables outside dining room windows at Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja on 14th, 15thth and 16th March.
Ceylon Small Barbet
Odd ones at Kitulgala and Sinharaja and Sigiriya. Had to wait till Botanical Gardens, Kandy on 21st March for good views. Up to 6 feeding in a fruiting tree.
One with the Red Faced Malkohas at Kitulgala on 13th March. A flock (!) of 5 on the drive from Sinharaja to Embilipitya on 16th March. 3 at Sigiriya on 22nd March
Ceylon Crested Drongo
Best views at Bodhingala on 12th March where a pair appeared to be feeding young at a nest. Up to 6 at Kitulgala on 13th March , odd ones at Sinharaja on 14th and 15th March
Sri Lanka Magpie
Up to 6 seen at point blank range at Forest Research Station, Sinharaja on 14th and 15th March. Two on Sinharaja forest trail on 15th March
Singles at Yala on 17th March and Bundala on 18th March were only sightings.
Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush
3 birds at Horton Plains on 20th March
Singles seen well in Kitulgala on 13th March and 2 at Sinharaja on 14th. One right out in the open at close range below the dining room windows at Blue Magpie Lodge on 15th March
Ceylon Scaly Thrush
Two pairs around Research Station, Sinharaja on 14th March. This shy and secretive species proved very difficult to observe, and not all the group managed to see them
White Face Starling
Up to 10 birds both perched and in flight at Sinharaja on 15th March.
Sri Lanka Myna
Two showed well in trees around Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja on 14th, then one on the 15th March.
Dull Blue Flycatcher
Good views of up to 6 at Horton Plains on 20th March
Small numbers seen most days. Perched and in flight.
Black Capped Bulbul
Recorded at Kitulgala, Sinharaja, Best views were of very close birds coming to fruit on bird tables outside dining room windows at Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja on 14th, 15thth and 16th March.
Good views of up to 10 at Horton Plains on 20th March
Sri Lanka White-eye
One in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya on 19th March, up to 6 at Horton Plains on 20th March
Sri Lanka Bush Warbler
Good views of up to 6 at Horton Plains on 20th March
Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush
A flock of up to 20 on the Sinharaja forest trail on 14th March and 6 in exactly the same place on 15th March
Brown Capped Babbler
A single bird at Bodhingala on 12th March, 3 at Udawatakele on 22nd March
Ceylon Scimitar Babbler
Two birds showed well near forest dwelling in Kitulgala on 13th, 3 at Sinharaja on 15th March, 3 at Horton Plains on 20th March
Orange Billed Babbler
Usual flock of up to 20 birds around the village in Kitulgala forest on 12th and 13th March. Odd ones in Sinharaja on 14th, 15th March
White-throated Flowerpecker/Legge’s Flowerpecker
Odd ones in Kitulgala and Sinharaja on 13th and 14th March and Sigiriya on 22nd March