Now fully acclimatised we departed with packed breakfast soon after 0530 for the 1½ hour drive to Bodhingala, a forest area where we hoped to find the first of the 33 endemic species. Breakfast was consumed either en route or as soon as we arrived. We set off to walk a ‘there and back’ route along the wide forest trail. Exotics such as Paradise Flycatcher and Malabar Trogon showed well as did an array of small flycatchers – Monarch, Tickell’s Blue and Brown Breasted. Our first endemics were soon on the list too in the shape of Brown Capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and Ceylon Crested Drongo (formerly a sub-species but one of eight species elevated to full status following the recent taxonomic review).
Green Billed Coucal is the main endemic to see at this site and after a lot of effort everyone had good views of a pair of these large shy birds.
By mid-morning it was very hot and time to move on to Kitulgala and its riverine forest. We arrived at the Rest House Lodge in time for lunch. Perched above the Kelani River, this lodge has a wonderful wooded garden and views across the river to inviting looking forested hillsides. Late afternoon and it was time for the dugout canoe ride across the river. One of the highlights of the tour, the decidedly precarious looking canoe is actually a very stable and safe platform on which to be ferried across the river. The usual Stork Billed Kingfisher flew by as we crossed. No sooner had we got a short way along the forest trail the skies started to darken and with distant thunder it was soon raining heavily which put paid the the day’s birding activities. We did manage to see three endemics – Yellow Fronted and Ceylon Small Barbet and a flock of Orange Billed Babblers, but little else. Back at the lodge a very confiding Emerald Dove sheltered from the rain in a garden bush.
We rounded off the day sitting about drinking tea and Uditha powered up his laptop to show us his impressive collection of bird photographs including many endemics we hoped to see in the coming few days..