Thursday, 20 March 2014

Sri Lanka – Blue Magpie Lodge 4-6 March

We eventually arrived at the Blue Magpie Lodge as the heavens opened. Chami parked the bus right under the shelter so we managed to access the dinning area without getting wet. Straight away the kettle was on and we birding from the dining area whilst enjoying coffee and tea plus some Ginger Nut biscuits! There were lots of Munia feeding in the wetland adjoining the Blue Magpie Lodge and they were joined by the ever present Red-vented Bulbul, Emerald Dove, Oriental Magpie-robin and a host of other birds.

Emerald Dove
We were up at 5.30am had breakfast and entered the Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness Area via jeep up a mountain trail. That in itself was amazing! We then birded a trail through the forest for 4km seeing a handful of endemics – in no particular order: White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Myna, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Grey-headed Laughing-thrush and Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. We also saw Indian Pitta which particularly impressed Joy and Ron.

There were a host of other birds and mammals for that matter. But unfortunately, Leech’s were a problem, we seemed to be forever searching for them, they attach to your boots and slowly work there way up your body until they reach bare skin, removing them isn’t easy. We had just nailed down a flock of Red-faced Malkoha and Grey-headed Laughing-thrush, when Joy noticed a Leech on her hand, by the time I caught up with her and then removed the Leech – only for it to attach itself to me, then her, then me again, the birds had gone – fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long to see them again.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

We then stopped at the research centre (checking each other for Leech’s) then I had a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie eating out of my hand, not once but three times, unfortunately Joy couldn’t get a photograph, but I did get a photograph of one perched on my Scope!
Chami, Blue Magpie and Joy complete with Leech Socks.

We birded all the way back to the Jeep seeing more birds – the highlight was a pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths which really impressed Joy.

After lunch we birded the road by the Blue Magpie Lodge seeing a variety of species. The next morning saw yet another early start with the main target being the Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, this bird proved to be rather elusive and after three hours fighting our way through thick jungle I felt more like a Chindit than a birder!

We eventually arrived in a heavily wooded Dell with a ridge ahead of us – one of our guides pushed the bird through and I picked it up briefly as it landed on a log, within seconds it had gone never to be seen again despite searching! I tried not to get too excited as the others had all missed the bird. In the afternoon we were offered the chance to see Spot-bellied Eagle-owl but it involved a bit of climbing!

After clambering out of the jeep we descended a steep path to a wide river, we then crossed the river on a causeway which was about an inch under water, then passing through a small village we made our way up the steep hillside through tea plantations. We reached the forest and the path got steeper, we eventually arrived at a heavily wooded rocky escarpment where Chami located the nest, unfortunately the adult was not at home but we did see a well grown chick. The return journey was more of the same and we were all blowing a bit when we eventually arrived back at the jeep!

The next morning we were heading to Uda Walawe National Park but not before we had a search for a first for Sri Lanka a Blue-and-white Flycatcher. We had searched previously for the bird which was by the park entrance but had failed to connect. This morning we got lucky and the bird gave great views as it fed in the trees above us.

On a general note the Blue Magpie Lodge was excellent, it was the most basic of all the accommodation but it was comfortable and all the staff were friendly and helpful and the food was excellent!

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