Thursday 25 January 2007

Today’s excursion took us to Bundala National Park. On the way we stopped at two flooded areas to check the waders present. Many were recognizable from back home – Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Redshank, Greenshank but the Marsh Sandpipers and Lesser Sandplovers gave it a more eastern flavour. A most obliging Shikra was seen on the ground tearing and devouring prey, then to perch for some time to have its photo taken.

At the entrance to the reserve was a huge gathering of Open-billed Storks, certainly more than one thousand, and a sight I had not seen before. At the park headquarters we boarded our pre-arranged jeep that would take us along the dirt tracks. Just after starting we had to stop for a Star Tortoise that had decided to cross from one side to the other. Waterbirds were abundant with storks, egrets and waders in profusion. The scrubby areas held many birds that, by now, we were getting used to seeing and identifying but a Ceylon Woodshrike was a new endemic and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater was handsome and much admired.

We ate lunch at the hotel and visited another tank in the afternoon where Indian Reed Warblers were singing but difficult to see, most keeping low from the wind. Flocks of hundreds of Garganey and Pintail lifted from water in the distance.

A nearby coconut grove looked perfect for White-naped Woodpecker and we weren’t wrong. We found a striking female, which remained perched for minutes clinging to the palm tree. We tried the tank once more and this time we had flight views of the warbler. A Crested Hawk-Eagle started to call from a large tree close to the roadside and we found it to be building a nest. In the scope we had super views of this impressive raptor, complete with its long crest blowing in the breeze.