Wednesday 17 January

The view of long sandy beaches and coconut palms greeted us as we made our approach to the capital Colombo. We touched down at 1340 local time and were soon in the queue for Immigration. After collecting our luggage we entered the Arrivals Hall where Deepal, our local specialist birding guide, was waiting for us – without doubt, we had the best birder in Sri Lanka accompanying the tour.

The bus arrived and took us to our first hotel, which was close to the airport. Deepal introduced our driver, Janaka and his helper Nilantha, they also would be with us for the duration of the trip.

After checking-in and freshening up we met for a walk around the lush gardens of the hotel. This gave us our first introduction to the birds. A Shikra, a small Accipiter, shot across the sky whilst we watched a Black-rumped Flameback, a very colourful woodpecker, hammering a coconut palm. We found a superb Forest Wagtail, which had come across a moth larva to devour, at the edge of the lawn. This bird can be decidedly difficult to find and, only last month, I had tried to find this species without luck in southwest India.

Alongside the buildings a Water Monitor, more than two metres long and looking like a small dragon, took little notice of us, walking away at his own pace. We were later to find that this was a relatively small one! The water’s edge had pond herons and a few egrets together with Little Cormorants. A flight of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters passed overhead whilst we watched a Brown-headed Barbet, through the scope, as it gave its monotonous call. A pair of Koel was seen and then we heard the raucous call a Stork-billed Kingfisher (what a bill!), which appeared to order on the electricity wires. It hadn’t been too bad a walk!

We met again for dinner; a very nice buffet was on offer with plenty to satisfy the vegetarians in the group!