Saturday 20 January 2007

Our morning walk, before breakfast, was around the hotel gardens where the barbets were in the same tree, still gorging on the fruit, and a Brown Shrike perched sentinel on the same branch as yesterday. A Spot-winged Thrush appeared all too briefly, but couldn’t be relocated and didn’t react to the playback.

We left and started the journey towards Ratnapura. We stopped for a few of the large raptors, now active in the sun and the resultant thermals – Oriental Honey-buzzard, Shikra, a fine Black Eagle and at one stop there were four Crested Serpent-Eagles and a Crested Hawk-Eagle together. At a roadside stall we tried the refreshing king coconuts before moving on again.

On the outskirts of a small village we pulled in to look at a roost of Indian Fruit Bats, better known as Flying Foxes. Many were using their wings as fans and it must have been extremely hot for them in the glaring sun. We arrived at our hotel at midday and went to lunch straight away. Deepal told us the whole story behind his finding of the new owl species. It started with him hearing an unknown call in 1995 to seeing a bird six years later in 2001. The fieldwork, mostly at night, was to estimate numbers and to research as much as possible. The scientific paper, co-authored with Pamela Rasmussen of Michigan State University Museum, was published in 2004. It is a shame that his notable find has been affected by cynicism and envy by some in Sri Lanka.

We took a walk late afternoon, close to the hotel yet adding new species to our growing birdlist. A White-browed Fantail danced around a wooden gate for us, we saw a beautiful Asian Paradise Flycatcher resplendent with his long flowing tail, and another endemic, Ceylon Small Barbet, was scoped excavating a hole. The distinct two-note whistle of an Indian Pitta came from the tea plantation alongside the hotel.

We retired early; tomorrow we would need to be away in the early hours.