In late November five friends joined Sue and me on a custom birding tour to Sri Lanka, which had been organised by Deepal Warakagoda of the Bird and Wildlife Team. Deepal was our guide for two weeks and his knowledge of the Sri Lankan avifauna and ability in the field were remarkable. In addition to being a skilled field-ornithologist, Deepal is a delightful companion with a broad knowledge of both Sri Lankan history and culture and so it was a constant pleasure to spend time in the field with him. This was undoubtedly one of the most pleasurable and successful birding tours that any of us had been on in recent years.
Our tour was designed to see as many of the Sri Lankan endemics as possible, plus a good selection of the Regional specialities, and we visited most of the main birding sites, including Kitulgala, Ratnapura, Sinharaja, Udawalawa National Park, Tissamaharama, Bundala National Park, Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains National Park, Kandy and Sigiriya. This itinerary was very successful and during the course of the two weeks we saw some 250 species, including all 33 of the current Sri Lankan endemics. The highlights were many and various, but stunning views of Red-faced Malkoha, White-naped Woodpecker, Pied Thrush, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Ceylon Scaly Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher and good numbers of Indian Pittas were truly memorable. The number of owls recorded was remarkable – eight species were seen, including wonderful views of Ceylon Bay Owl, Serendib Scops-Owl, Brown Fish Owl and a magnificent Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl.
Overall it was a very well organised tour, with comfortable accommodation and good food, and it was a joy to visit such a wonderful country and to go birding in an area where wildlife and people coexist so well. One notable feature of the tour was that we enjoyed superb views of virtually all the birds we saw, in no small part due to Deepal’s expertise.