Thursday, 20 March 2014

Sri Lanka 1-3 March

Joy and I plus the Keith Wimbush aka “The Captain” and Ron Thomas aka “Godfrey” left my house a little before 3pm on the 28th February. The trip down to Heathrow was uneventful but rainy. We managed a couple of Red Kite on the M40 but little else. Everything when like clockwork, we parked up, got dropped off at Heathrow, up the escalator booked in the baggage and straight onto the plane.

Eleven hours later we landed in Sri Lanka, collected our luggage, changed some currency, then walked out to be met by our guide Chami and representative who I had dealt with on the internet Perry. It could not have been easier. I had organised everything myself and we were looking forward to ten days birding with a couple of days whale watching on the Indian Ocean to round off the holiday.

It was a long drive to Kitulgala, not great in distance but progress was slow. We did however, stop a couple of times to do a bit of birding. The first stop produced, Sri Lanka Swallow, Ashy Woodswallow, Brown Shrike and numerous Egrets. The second stop I had my first tick of the week in the form of a Lesser Yellownape, we also saw Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Flameback and Shikra.

We arrived at the Plantation Hotel, Kitulgala at around 4pm. It was a good standard hotel and the room was comfortable with air conditioning. After a quick shower we were out birding on the outskirts of the village. We had been warned beforehand about Leech’s, Ron seemed to think a bite would be terminal! He seemed rather pre-occupied with what might bite him rather than what he might see. One of his oft used phrases (and there were many) was “Are they dangerous”.

Back to birding, we soon had our first proper endemic – Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, but the bird we were hunting for was Chestnut-backed Owlet one of two Sri Lankan endemic Owl species. Children from the local house/hut joined us in the search and they were so happy, even though they appeared to have nothing (a lesson for us all there me thinks). Eventually the bird appeared although it was by this time rather dark. So with two endemics under the belt we headed back to the hotel for food and a good nights sleep.

We met the next morning for breakfast at 6am then proceeded to cross the river by ferry, which was a hollowed out log, there was barely enough room to stand but we managed it – and it was quite exciting. We made our way along the trail, Chami our guide had been up at 3am to locate the roost site for the main target for the holiday the recently described Serendib Scops Owl. There were another couple of groups after the bird, but the guides had it sorted between them and there was a telescope set up. We got good views – but picking the bird up from the trail with binoculars was near impossible.

Serendib Scops Owl
We carried on birding seeing Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Crested Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Brown-capped Babbler and Dark-fronted Babbler. Also, myself and the Captain picked up a couple of Leech’s, the little buggers had gone straight through our socks and helped themselves to an arm full of blood! We spend the next few hours checking ourselves every five minutes (mental note to self – buy some Leech Socks).

After lunch we travelled into the hills and had a good few hours birding seeing more endemics: Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot, Layards Parakeet and Yellow-fronted Barbet. Then it was back to the hotel for some more good food and another night of sleep.

The next morning saw us birding in the Kitulgala village where we saw a further four endemics, Green-billed Coucal, Spot-winged Ground-thrush, Legge’s Flowerpecker and Sri Lanka Junglefowl. After breakfast we changed hotel headed to the Blue Magpie Lodge where we saw Black Eagle.

Black-hooded Oriole

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

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