Doreen Ang, 28 Burgundy Drive , Singapore 658831
Am just back from a 10-day Endemic Tour to Sri Lanka. Mr Deepal Warakagoda (aka Mr Serendib) was kind enough to lead me and together with Lim Kim Seng, we had great birding. This was my 14th overseas birding trip in the past 2 years across 8 countries and so far hands down, has got to be the best in terms of guide, results, accommodation and synergy. For birders who have been to Sri Lanka, imagine what it’s like to enjoy good, long views of the Serendib Scops-owl, Indian Scops-owl, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Brown Fish-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet and a Sri Lanka Frogmouth in BROAD DAYLIGHT? Scoped views too except for the Serendib Scops-owl which was barely 10 metres from us! … not many birders have seen this rare new discovery and we’re lucky to probably be the first two Singaporeans to have succeeded, all made possible and many thanks to Deepal! Together we had good views of all the 33 Sri Lanka endemic birds by the 8th day! (34, if you include the Sri Lanka Hill Munia Lonchura kelaarti.)
Our tour covered most of the usually visited places excluding North, East and South-east Sri Lanka. Sites visited were the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve (wet zone remnant lowland forest) in Kithulgala, Sinharaja Forest Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) near Ratnapura, Udawalawe National Park (dry zone scrub and grassland), Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya (hill station), Horton Plains National Park (2000m forest and grassland plateau situated 15km south of Nuwara Eliya), Udawattakelle Sanctuary (forest) in Kandy, Chilaw Sandspit + one other wetland north of Negombo. It rained very heavily on our last afternoon at Sinharaja and we birded with brollies in Victoria Park and Horton Plains National Park. Kim Seng’s two pairs of shoes gave way due to the wet grounds and he was down to slippers from Negombo onwards. Leech bites – it’s 5-2 (5 to Kim Seng and 2 to Doreen). Screaming works!
Here is a brief itinerary and a small selection of the birds we saw:
DAY 01 – 05 Jan 08: arrived at Bandaranaiyake International Airport at 0815 hrs on SQ 466. 3-hour drive to Kithulgala as we birded along the way. Two nights stay in a/c deluxe rooms at Kithulgala Rest House overlooking the Kelani River (of the ‘Bridge over River Kwai’ fame). To reach the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, we had to cross the river in a dugout canoe – simply love the adventure! We even crossed the famed Bridge!
Sri Lanka Junglefowl (1m & 2f tog), Sri Lanka (Pompadour) Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Serendib Scops-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Malabar Trogon, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka (Crimson-fronted) Small Barbet, Crimson-backed Flameback, Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka (Red-rumped) Swallow, Black-capped Bulbul, Spot-winged Thrush, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo & Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
DAY 03 – 07 Jan 08: birded near Kithulgala Rest House in the morning before drive to Sinharaja. 3 nights stay at the Blue Magpie Lodge which was 20 mins away from the Sinharaja Forest Reserve Gate. Solar-powered private hot shower. Power generator switched off between 2200hrs – 0500hrs. A bit basic for me, but the delicious Lanka sambal and great hospitality made up for it.
Crested Goshawk, Black eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Sri Lanka Spurfowl (m & f), Sri Lanka (Scaly) Thrush, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Hill Munia, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Myna & Sri Lanka Frogmouth.
DAY 06 – 10 Jan 08: after breakfast, we left for Embilipitiya. Overnight stay at the luxurious Centauria Tourist Hotel overlooking a lake (such a welcome contrast with a/c, tv, private balcony and hairdryer at last!). In the afternoon, we did a little safari in the Udawalawa National Park in an open jeep.
Booted Eagle, Indian Peafowl, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Pied Cuckoo, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Indian Scops-owl, Malabar Pied Hornbill & White-browed Bulbul.
DAY 07 – 11 Jan 08: took 5-1/2 hours to reach hilly Nuwara Eliya. Two nights stay at the Galway Forest Lodge. We birded at Victoria Park and Horton Plains National Park. Deepal surprised us one evening by inviting 5 of his colleagues/friends to join us for dinner, one of whom was Lester Perera.
Slaty-legged Crake, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Hill (Pacific) Swallow, Sri Lanka (Common) Wood-shrike, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Indian Blackbird, Pied Thrush, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher (m & f), Dull Blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush-warbler & Sri Lanka White-eye. A pair of Marshall’s Iora observed at a special site.
DAY 09 – 13 Jan 08: drove to Kandy. Overnight stay at Hotel Suisse, a typical colonial building. Visited nearby Udawattakelle Sanctuary.
Brown Fish Owl (a pair), White-rumped Shama & Lesser Hill Myna..
DAY 10 – 14 Jan 08: drove to Chilaw Sandspit and one other wetland north of Negombo. Overnight at Brown’s Beach Hotel.
Cotton Teal, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier, Grey Francolin, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little Stint, Indian Stone Curlew, Great Thick-knee, 7 species of terns, Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark, Oriental Skylark, Richard’s and Paddyfield Pipits & Hume’s Whitethroat.
Mammals seen included the Sri Lanka Giant, India Palm, Sri Lanka Jungle and Dusky-striped Jungle Squirrels, Ruddy & Brown Mongoose, Toque Macaque, Tufted Grey Langur, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Chital, Domestic Water Buffalo, Asian Elephant and oh my, a slimy Giant Earthworm.
We flew home the following morning on SQ 467 at 0930 hrs … pleased with our total count of 228 bird species – 227 seen + 1 heard only (Brown Hawk-owl). For the record, Kim Seng has now completed all the 12 Malkohas in the world and is quite happy with his 76 lifers. I have not tallied mine yet, there’s time. Right now, my mind is racing on where to go next ………
Do contact me please if any of you would like to see all the endemics in Sri Lanka with Deepal. He is your best bet, for sure.
28 Burgundy Drive
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