Introduction | Daily Log &
Site Details | Systematic List | Other Wildlife
This report describes a trip to
Sri Lanka made in early 1999. Sri Lanka has something like 26 endemic species
(depending on whose taxonomy you follow) including some superb birds such
as Red-faced Malkoha. A number of other species are shared only with southern
India and some tasty winter migrants include Indian Pitta and Pied Thrush.
Though we visited most of the major sites this was not a full on birding flog.
We booked a package holiday on the coast at Kalutara and subsequently arranged
for a ten day tour of the island with a A. Baur (Travel), a Colombo based
company. We managed to see over 200 species including nearly all the endemics
plus some good mammals and other wildlife and were well pleased with the trip.
By dispensing with the beach days the manic lister could probably see all
the endemics in two weeks.
We had various trip reports and
site gen but by organising the tour with Baur we almost didn't need this.
They are well used to taking birders round and had suggested what turned out
to be sensible amendments to our original itinerary. The total cost of the
Baur 'tour' worked out at about £30 each per day. This seemed very reasonable
as it included full board at Martin's Bungalow and half board elsewhere, all
the permits, guides at Sinharaja, two jeep safaris (these alone can cost upwards
of $60 per person) and of course the air conditioned minibus and driver. We
can certainly recommend Baur who can be contacted either by FAX (0094-1-548
493) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Their transport manager is Mr Anura De
Silva. Presumably the cost per person would be less for larger groups or if
you stayed at cheaper hotels (notably than the Queens in Kandy which was a
bit of a treat). With hindsight we should have got a flight only and booked
the whole trip with Baur. The last couple of days by the coast to chill out
were a bit boring - one would have been sufficient.
26 January - 2030 flight from Gatwick.
27 January - Arrived at Colombo
at 1420 local time (6 hours ahead of the UK), cleared immigration by 1520
and just over 2 hour drive to Hibiscus Hotel, Kalutara. First lifer was Yellow-billed
Babbler, which proved to be a very common species, seen from the room.
28 January - Spent the day acclimatising
and did some birding near the hotel. Best birds included Alpine Swift, Indian
Koel, Purple-rumped and Loten's sunbirds, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Pale-billed
Flowerpecker and Alexandrine Parakeet.
29 January - After a sleepless
night (jetlag) and early cup of tea our driver Saman arrived bang on time
at 0500 and whisked us away in an air conditioned minibus on the long drive
to Sinharaja. A brief stop in the foothills produced Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike
and White-browed Bulbul. Purchased food in Kalawana for our two-night stay
at Martin's Bungalow. Transferred from the minibus to a jeep for the c.5km
of rough track to the Forest Department's Kudawa office where permits were
arranged. You can stay here for Rs220 a night but it is still a further 3km
on an even rougher track to Martin's Bungalow and it is not until you get
there that you are entering good primary forest. Met John Hewitt (it's a small
world - we met him in Goa four years ago!) and a couple from Lancashire and
teamed up with them for the afternoon along with the compulsory, but very
sharp eyed and knowledgeable (no bins either) guides. Highlights included
Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Lesser Yellownape, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Malabar Trogon,
Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot, Indian Swiftlet, Pompadour Green
Pigeon, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Greater Racket-tailed
Drongo (local race without full rackets), Brown-breasted and Dull Blue flycatchers,
White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Myna, Black-capped and Yellow-browed bulbuls,
Ashy-headed Laughing-thrush, Indian Scimitar-babbler and Orange-billed Babbler.
Many of the species were in a couple of big feeding flocks, which were initially
located by the noisy calls of the Orange-billed Babblers. After dark we saw
a female Sri Lanka Frogmouth, with the aid of a good torch and a tape, along
the track below Martin's. Excellent food rounded off a fine day.
30 January - Walked essentially
the same route as yesterday in the morning, along the main track from the
reserve entrance to the research station. In the afternoon walked other paths
closer to Martins. Picked up various new mostly less conspicuous species.
These included Sri Lanka Spurfowl (often heard but hard to see), Sri Lanka
Grey Hornbill, Layard's Parakeet, Green Imperial and Sri Lanka Wood pigeons,
Changeable Hawk Eagle, Sri Lanka White-eye, Spot-winged Thrush and Large-billed
31 January - Legge's Flowerpecker
from Martins at breakfast. As we were leaving we were shown Green-billed Coucal,
one of the most elusive endemics, near the park entrance along the river.
It was nesting in the garden of one of the park rangers and gave excellent
scope views for five minutes. All but two of the 26 endemics have been seen
at Sinharaja though most of the high altitude species are easier seen elsewhere
- we were lucky to see the wood pigeon here, for example. In all we recorded
20 endemics here in just a couple of days and the site is an absolute must.
Drove down to the southern coastal
area and birded at Kalametiya for a couple of hours. Good numbers of water
birds. Highlights included Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Painted Snipe, Great Thick-knee,
both sand plovers, Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark. Checked
into the Tissa Rest House for two nights.
1 February - 'Jeep safari' to Yala
National Park from 0700 - 1000. Good site with confiding mammals as well as
birds, particularly water birds. Highlights included Malabar Pied Hornbill,
Indian Peafowl (displaying to the jeep), Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, White-bellied
Sea Eagle, Painted Stork, Black-necked Stork and Brahminy Starling. Though
more or less confined to the vehicle the birding was still good and the drivers
happy to stop at any time on request. Did a little more birding outside the
park entrance seeing Barred Buttonquail and Blue-faced Malkoha before heading
back to Tissa. After lunch birded round Tissa Tanks. First Yodha Wewa where
we saw a colony of Baya Weavers and Ashy Woodswallow. Later, on the far side
of Tissa Tank outside the rest house. we saw Yellow Bittern and large numbers
of water birds, mynas and parakeets going to roost.
2 February - Another 'jeep safari',
this time to Bundala from 0800 to 1300. Luckily it was cloudy and therefore
not too hot. Other trip reports suggested that the site can be birded on foot
but this is no longer the case as the park is now fully open. Unlike Yala
you can leave the vehicle, which we did frequently. It would certainly be
dangerous to explore some areas on foot without guides, as one of the highlights
was a male Indian Elephant. We heard from some fishermen how while cycling
through the park their friend had recently been killed by an elephant. Highlights
included Pied and Grey-bellied cuckoos, Blue-faced Malkoha, Stone-curlew,
Great Thick-knee, Yellow Bittern, Blue-winged Leafbird, Sand Martin, Jungle
Prinia, Forest Wagtail, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Black-headed
Munia. Did more birding around Tissa Tanks in the afternoon seeing Black Bittern,
Cotton Pygmy-goose and Blyth's Reed Warbler plus more of the same as yesterday.
3 February - Set off for the hill
country after breakfast, stopping briefly at Wirawila Wewa just NW of Tissa
where there was a colony of Streaked Weavers in a small 'reed' (Typha) bed.
Stopped briefly en route at the Surrey Tea Estate seeing Velvet-fronted Nuthatch,
Dull Blue Flycatcher and Great Tit but little else. Checked into the Rock
Hotel, Nuwara Eliya. In the afternoon visited the botanical gardens at Hakgala
but almost continuous heavy rain severely hampered our birding. Yellow-eared
Bulbul, Forest Wagtail and Sri Lanka White-eye were seen. Tried for the whistling-thrush
nearby late on but could not find the path down to the river near km post
83 so tried the waterfall site with no luck.
4 February - Up at 0430 to be at
the Arrenga Pool on Horton Plain before dawn. Easily achieved this on the
improved road - it now takes just over an hour rather than the three hours
it used to. No sign of the whistling-thrush, however, but good views of Sri
Lanka Bush-warbler, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Blackbird, Dark-fronted Babbler and
lots of Sri Lanka White-eyes and Yellow-eared Bulbuls. Continued to Worlds
End where it costs a rather expensive $12 for tourists to enter. It's a stunning
area of upland grassland and patches of lichen and epiphyte encrusted elfin
forest. The 10km walk to the amazing viewpoint and back via Bakers Falls was
a bit of a flog but worth it. We saw Greater Flameback in the forest; Pacific
Swallow near Worlds End itself and the common birds of the grassland were
Zitting Cisticola, Paddyfield Pipit and Pied Bushchat. Talked to one of the
rangers who is a birder and told us that the munia occurs in the area, favouring
riverine habitats, and was abundant when the bamboo flowered a couple of years
ago. We missed this endemic (which we thought would be easy, and may be at
Hakgala if it is not pouring down with rain). Tried Hakgala again in mid afternoon
but it started raining on my arrival so went to Victoria Park at 1700 (not
raining here!). Saw stunning Pied Thrushes, Green Sandpiper and Forest Wagtail.
One of the gardeners is into the birds and said dawn would be best for Indian
5 February - 0630 and how right
he was - stunning Indian Pitta at first light on one of the paths and also
Indian Blue Robin a few feet away. No sign of Kashmir Flycatcher, for which
this is a stake out. They perhaps vary in numbers from year to year (or I
just missed them). Set off for Kandy after Breakfast, stopping at the Glen
Loch Tea Factory, Katukitula where 2 briefly observed hirundines appeared
to be Eurasian Crag Martins (which would have been the first record for Sri
Lanka if the ID had been clinched). Spent most of the afternoon at the Royal
Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya seeing Golden-fronted Leaf-bird, Alexandrine
Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot and a large scorpion. Stayed at the very
up market Queens Hotel.
6 February - Birded Uddawatakele
after an early breakfast (in the town immediately behind the Temple of the
Tooth, not 'a few km north east of the town' as reported in Where to watch
birds in Asia). This proved excellent with Brown-capped Babbler (much easier
here than at Sinharaja where we did not see it), Indian Pitta, Brown Wood
Owl, Black-naped Monarch, Hill Myna and Emerald Dove. Later an attempt to
visit the Water Catchment area above the town was thwarted first by heavy
rain then by finding that access was not possible until Monday anyway. Nonetheless
we saw Sri Lanka Small Barbet on the way up. The lake in Kandy has a few water
birds including a colony of Black-crowned Night Herons and several Spot-billed
Pelicans, though the latter may be suspect.
7 February - Back to the coast
after breakfast where a tour of Colombo produced more Spot-billed Pelicans
on Beira Lake though these are said to have originated from Colombo Zoo.
8-9 February - Relaxing by the
coast seeing a few birds though Asian Brown Flycatcher was the only trip tick.
10 February - Flew back to the
Sequence and names follow Grimmett,
Inskipp and Inskipp (1998) except for three extra endemics as listed in the
OBC's 'Birdwatcher's Guide to Sri Lanka' (1997) - I'm all for following the
local view! There are also a handful of English names used in HBIS that I
couldn't bare to use in which case the HBIS names are given in square brackets.
'E' indicates an endemic species, 'e' an endemic subspecies.
*Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix
Heard calling at Sinharaja on 29 and 30. At least three groups on the latter
date but just a single poor view of two flushed from the side of the track
towards the research station.
*Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus
A female on the track below Martin's Bungalow, Sinharaja and a male behind
the research station on 29, two males and a female there next day, a male
at Kalametiya on 31, 12 at Yala on 1, a pair at Bundala on 2 and three on
Horton Plain on 4.
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
50 at Yala, including a male displaying to the jeep, and one at Tissa on 1,
and 75 at Bundala next day.
Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna
Eight at Kalametiya on 31, 15 at Yala and 20 at Tissa Tanks on 1 with 30 at
Bundala and 80 at Tissa next day.
Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus
10 at Tissa on 2 - a male and female on one Tank, a female with seven small
downy young on another.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
One at Yala on 1.
Garganey Anas querquedula
Nine at Kalametiya on 31, 20 at Yala on 1, 80 at Bundala and nine at Tissa
Tanks next day.
Common Teal Anas crecca
A female with garganey at Bundala on 2.
*Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator
One walked across the road close to the minibus near the entrance to Yala
Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
Singles at Sinharaja on 29 and 30.
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium
benghalense psarodes e
One or two at Kalutara on three days plus one at Kalametiya on 31 and two
at Tissa next day.
*Greater Flameback Dinopium
lucidus stricklandi e
Two at Sinharaja on 30 and a pair in the elfin forest near World's End, Horton
Plain on 4.
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima
Common in the lowlands and foothills e.g. regular at Kalutara, Tissa and Kandy
area where abundant in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Not seen in
the high hills.
*Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima
Common at Sinharaja with up to 15 in a day. Five at Uddawatakele on 6.
*Sri Lanka Small Barbet Megalaima
rubricapila E [Crimson-fronted Barbet M. r. rubricapilla e]
One near the lake in Kandy on 6, when other barbets presumed to be this species
were calling but not seen at Uddawatakele.
*Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill Ocyceros
Three at Sinharaja on 30.
*Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros
One at Yala, not far from the entrance, on 1.
Hoopoe Upapa epops
Two at Yala on 1.
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
A male and female at Sinharaja on 29, three males next day. Most in feeding
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Two at Bundala on 2 and one en route from Kandy to the coast on 7.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
One at Bundala and one at Tissa Tank on 2.
Stork-billed Kingfisher Halcyon
Three or four each day at Tissa including a pair regularly outside our room
in the Tissa Rest House.
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon
Much the commonest kingfisher with up to 20 a day in all lowland areas and
foothills though seemed scarce in the high hills e.g. round Nuwara Eliya.
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
One or two at Tissa Tank on 1 and 2, plus two at Bundala on the latter date.
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Eight at Kalametiya on 31, 15 at Yala on 1 and 50 at Bundala on 2.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops
Widespread and common, especially in the lowlands, with 200 at Bundala on
2 the biggest count. Present even in the highest hills with five on Horton
Plain on 5.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops
Two at Kalutara on two dates, one at Yala on 1 and six at Bundala next day.
*Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus
One or two adults, including a calling male, at Bundala on 2.
*Grey-bellied Cuckoo Cacomantis
Three singles at Bundala on 2.
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
Common at Kalutara with up to nine in a day, a male at Tissa on 1 and another
at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5.
*Blue-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus
One near the entrance road to Yala on 1 and two at Bundala next day.
*Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus
This superb endemic was seen daily at Sinharaja with four on 29, three on
30 and one on the entrance road on 31. Most were with feeding flocks.
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Common: one or two regular at Kalutara including the hotel garden, heard at
Sinharaja (near Martin's), two at Kalametiya on 31, up to three at Tissa and
eight at Bundala on 2.
*Green-billed Coucal Centropus
This elusive endemic was nesting in the garden of one of the park rangers
near the start of the track to Sinharaja and we had excellent scope views
of one for several minutes in riverside vegetation on 31.
*Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot Loriculus
Common at Sinharaja with up to 15 in a day, two at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical
Gardens on 5, three at Uddwatakele on 6 and two in the hills en route from
Kandy to Colombo next day. Often picked up on call, which is thin and high-pitched
but quite loud.
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula
Three at Kalutara on 28, evening roost flights of up to 25 over Tissa Tank
on 1 and 2, 20 in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5 and five at
Uddawatakele next day.
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula
Common round Kalutara including a pair at a nest in a palm trunk on 8. Commonest
in dry lowlands with evening roost flights of up to 300 over Tissa Tank. 15
in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5. Not seen at Sinharaja or in
the Nuwara Eliya area.
*Layard's Parakeet Psittacula
Singles at Sinharaja on 30 and 31.
*Indian Swiftlet Collocalia
Six near the entrance to Sinharaja on 29 and 31, 15 near Hakgala Botanical
Gardens on 3 with six there and six over the Rock Hotel, Nuwara Eliya next
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
Up to 15 at Kalutara, two at Sinharaja on 29, two at Tissa on 1 and 2 and
four at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5.
House Swift Apus affinis
10 at Yala on 1, three at Bundala next day and quite common in Kandy including
birds screeming through the theatre during the Kandy dancers' performance.
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Three over the Hibiscus Hotel at Kalutara on 28.
Crested Tree Swift Hemiprocne
Four at Yala and two at Tissa on 1, three at Bundala next day and one at the
Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5.
*Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica
One flushed from a path side in Uddawatakele on 6.
*Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus
A female calling in the Caribbean Pines along the track below Martin's Bungalow
after dark on 29 responded to a tape and was seen flying several times at
treetop hight in the bright moonlight and finally by torch sat on a branch.
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Feral birds common in all villages, towns and cities, seen almost daily. No
wild types noted.
*Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon Columba
One from Martin's Bungalow, Sinharaja on 30 was the only one seen. This was
a stroke of luck as it is scarce here and we subsequently missed it at more
usual sites round Nuwara Eliya.
*Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula
Seven at Sinharaja on 30 and one next day.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Small numbers seen almost daily in all areas visited.
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Two seen and another calling at Uddawatakele on 6.
*Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron
11 at Yala on 1 and one at Bundala next day.
Pompadour Green Pigeon Treron
A male at Martin's Bungalow, Sinharaja on 29 and a female or immature next
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis
Up to 10 in a day round Kalutara included a pair with three small downy young
on 9 (breeding is normally June - October, HBIS), one at Kalametiya on 31,
20 at Bundala on 2, up to 40 at Tissa Tanks and up to four in Victoria Park,
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Two from the bus from the airport, in marshes near Colombo, on 27, one at
Kalametiya on 31, one at Bundala on 2 and up to 30 at Tissa Tanks, mostly
paired up and breeding behaviour noted.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Two at Kalametiya on 31 and five at Tissa Tanks on 2.
Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
One at Kalametiya on 31, one at Yala on 1 and two at Bundala on 2.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa
One at Kalametiya on 31, 20 at Yala on 1 and six at Bundala on 2.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Three at Bundala on 2.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
10 at Kalametiya on 31, 40 at Yala on 1 and 100 at Bundala on 2.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnalis
Seven at Kalametiya on 31, 80 at Yala on 1 and 150 at Bundala on 2.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
One at Yala on 1, three at Bundala and one at Tissa Tanks on 2.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
One at Bundala on 2 and one or two at Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya on 4 and
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Seven at Bundala on 2.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Two at Kalametiya on 31, 10 at Yala and two at Tissa Tanks on 1, 15 at Bundala
on 2, one in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya, on 4 and 5 and one at Kalutara on
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
12 at Kalametiya on 31, one at Yala on 1 and two at Bundala on 2.
Little Stint Calidris minuta
25 at Yala on 1 and 50 at Bundala on 2.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Four at Kalametiya on 31, three at Yala on 1 and 25 at Bundala on 2.
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula
One flushed by the minibus at Kalametiya on 31.
Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus
20 at Bundala on 2.
*Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris
20 at Kalametiya on 31 and four at Bundala on 2.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus
70 at Kalametiya on 31, 150 at Yala on 1, 250 at Bundala on 2 and up to six
at Tissa Tanks.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus
Eight at Kalametiya on 31, two at Yala on 1, six at Bundala on 2 and up to
300 at Tissa Tanks.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis
20 at Kalametiya on 31, 10 at Yala on 1 and two at Bundala on 2.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Two at Kalametiya on 31 and singles at Yala on 1 and Bundala next day.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius
Two at Yala on 1 and four at Bundala on 2.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Four at Kalametiya on 31, five at Yala on 1 and six at Bundala on 2.
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius
300 at Kalametiya on 31, 150 at Yala on 1 and 100 at Bundala on 2.
Greater Sand Plover Chardrius
1+ at Kalametiya on 31.
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus
One at Kalametiya on 31, three at Yala on 1 and 10 at Bundala on 2.
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus
15 at Kalametiya on 31, 30 at Yala on 1, 50 at Bundala on 2, up to 15 at Tissa
and several at various other sites at low to moderate altitiudes with paddies.
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
One at Yala on 1 and 15 at Bundala next day.
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon
Six at Kalutara on 28, 25 at Kalametiya on 31, five at Yala on 1, 50 at Bundala
on 2 and up to 20 at Tissa Tanks.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
An adult and immature at Kalametiya on 31, 30 at Bundala and one at Tissa
Tank on 2.
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna benghalensis
One at Bundala on 2.
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii
Most of the moderate numbers of big sterna terns distantly offshore at Kalutara
were probably this species but off the beach at Kalametiya was the only one
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
45 at Yala on 1, seven at Bundala on 2 and one or two at Tissa Tank. At least
some of the birds had very contrasty outer primaries and grey centres to the
rump and tail. Saunder's does occur but may be indistinguishable in winter
and the local race of little has a grey rump anyway.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
Very common at fresh wetlands with 10 at Kalametiya on 31, 30 at Yala on 1,
300 at Bundala on 2, up to 550 at Tissa Tanks and 10 on a lake in the middle
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias
leucopterus [White-winged Tern]
Nine at Bundala on 2.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Confined to lowland areas with four near Colombo on 27, up to 11 in a day
at Kalutara and singles near Kalametiya on 31 and at Yala next day.
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus
An adult at Yala and an immature at Tissa Tank on 1.
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis
Singles at Sinharaja on 30, en route to Nuwara Eliya (in the foothills) on
3 and at the Glen Loch Tea Factory, Katukitula on 5.
Shikra Accipiter badius
One at Kalutara on 28, one en route from Sinharaja to Tissa on 31, three at
Bundala on 2, one en route from Kandy to Colombo on 7 and three from the bus
taking us to the airport on 10.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
A pale phase at the Glen Loch Tea Factory, Katukitula on 5.
*Rufous-bellied Eagle Hieraaetus
One at Sinharaja on 29.
*Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus
Two at Sinharaja on 30, two at Yala on 1 and one soaring with the booted eagle
at the Glen Loch Tea Factory, Katukitula on 5.
Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus
nipalensis kelaarti e
One flew over the 'Arrenga Pool' on Horton Plain early on 4.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Seven, including a pair with two small chicks, at Kalametiya on 31, two at
Yala on 1, two at Bundala and one at Tissa Tank on 2.
Asian Darter Anhinga melanogaster
Three at Kalametiya on 31, six at Yala on 1 and up to 10 at Tissa Tanks.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Common at lowland wetlands with small numbers seen in the hills. 500+ at Tissa
Tanks on 2 included a tree nesting colony with many well grown youg in the
nests. Small numbers in the hills e.g. the lake at Nuwara Eliya and good numbers
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax
Similar to the previous species with maximum count a large roost of 1500 at
Tissa Tank on 2. Good numbers on the lake in Kandy but not seen in the higher
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Common - four at Kalametiya on 31, six at Yala on 1, six at Bundala on 2,
up to three at Tissa and 20 (breeding colony) on the island on Kandy Lake
on 6. A few others at various roadside paddies.
Great Egret Casmerodius albus
Common - 10 at Kalametiya on 31, 20 at Yala on 1, 50 at Bundala on 2, up to
15 at Tissa and others at various other paddies and wetland sites.
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx
Common, locally abundant - four at Kalametiya on 31, two at Yala on 1, 200
at Bundala (most in paddies near the main road) on 2, up to five at Tissa
and numerous roadside sightings in paddies.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Very common in wetlands, paddies and other cultivation in almost all areas
with maximum of 1000 going to roost at Tissa Tank on 2.
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
Very common at wetlands, paddies and even seen on the hotel lawns. Maximum
of 200 at Tissa Tank on 2 but rarely counted.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Two at Kalametiya on 31, 10 at Yala on 1, 10 at Bundala on 2 and up to 40
at Tissa including an active heronry on an island just offshore from the Tissa
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
One at Kalametiya on 31, three at Bundala on 2 and up to eight at Tissa.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax
Up to nine at Tissa Tank and a colony of 75 on the island in Kandy Lake.
*Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Three at Tissa Tank on the evening of 1 with one there and one at Bundala
*Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis
Excellent scope views of one at Tissa Tank on the evening of 2.
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis
Two at Yala on 1, 30
at Bundala on 2 and up to 120 at Tissa.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea
12 at Yala on 1 and 15 at Bundala on 2.
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus
Sri Lanka is the stronghold for this globally threatened bird. Easy to see
but numbers not large. 12 at Kalametiya on 31, one at Yala on 1, 12 at Bundala
on 2 and up to 25 at Tissa. Five on the lake in Kandy and one on Beira Lake,
Colombo, presumed suspect (birds at the latter apparently originated from
*Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
20 at Yala on 1, 40 at Bundala and 22 at Tissa Tank next day.
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Two at Yala on 1, two at Bundala on 2 and up to 15 at Tissa Tanks.
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus
A male at Yala on 1.
*Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
One at close range on a path in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya, at 0630 on 5.
Two singles at Uddawatakele next day, each about 5m from a main track.
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis
A male at Bundala on 2.
Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis
Two at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Common, with small numbers seen at almost all sites from Nuwara Eliya to the
coast. Total of about 40 bird-days and up to 10 in a day.
*Sri Lanka Blue Magpie Urocissa
One at Sinharaja on 29 and two on 30. This stunning endemic was always seen
singly, not usually with feeding flocks, and was surprisingly unobtrusive
but for its piercing squeaky call.
House Crow Corvus splendens
The trash bird of the trip - common almost everywhere and abundant and tame
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Also very common and widespread though never in the huge numbers of the previous
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
One at Yodha Wewa, Tissa on 1.
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus
Up to four at Kalutara, singles at Sinharaja on 29 and 30, Yala on 1 and two
at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5.
*Black-headed Cuckooshrike Coracina
Four in an area of tea cultivation en route to Sinharaja on 29 and two females
at Bundala on 2.
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus
Up to eight daily at Sinharaja and a female en route from Kandy to the coast
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus
Two at Sinharaja on 29, one at World's End on 4 and two at Victoria Park,
Nuwara Eliya on 5.
White-browed Fantail Rhipidura
One at Yala on 1 and six at Bundala next day.
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus
The common drongo in Sri Lanka, frequent in the wet lowlands and lower hills
e.g. Kalutara, Sinharaja and Kandy with up to 10 in a day.
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus
paradiseus lophorinus e
Four with feeding flocks at Sinharaja on 29 and six there next day. The race
has elongated and twisted outer tail feathers rather than full rackets.
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis
Two at Sinharaja on 30 and one at Uddawatakele on 6.
Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone
One or two at Sinharaja on 29 and 30, singles at Kalametiya on 31, Yala on
1, Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya on 4, Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on
5 and two at Kalutara on 8. Several white males.
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Two at Sinharaja on 29 and 30, eight at Yala on 1, two at Bundala on 2 and
one at the Surrey Tea Estate on 3.
Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis
Six at Bundala on 2.
*Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii
Six males in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya on 4 and five males and a female
there next morning.
*Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera
Three singles at Sinharaja on 30, two of them singing males and two seen well.
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
A total of 11 at the Arrenga Pool and in patches of elfin forest near World's
End on 4. Fairly shy but showed well at dawn - quite a distinctive race.
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa
One at Kalutara on 8.
*Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa
One or two at Sinharaja each day. Leg colour perhaps the most obvious difference
*Dull Blue Flycatcher Eumyias
One at Sinharaja on 29 (an occasional visitor here), one at Surrey Tea Estate
and one in the gorge near Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 3 with two there next
day plus one at the Arrenga pool, Horton Plain.
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis
Singles at Sinaharaja on 29, Surrey Tea Estate on 3 and Uddawatakele on 6.
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa
Two in the gorge near Hakgala botanical Gardens on 3 and one in the gardens
themselves next day.
*Indian Blue Robin Luscinia
A male on the same path as an Indian pitta in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya
at dawn on 5.
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus
Common and widespread. Recorded almost daily except at Sinharaja.
Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata
One at Kalutara (on the hotel roof) on 27. Very common in the dry lowlands
with two at Kalametiya on 31, 40 at Yala on 1, 50 at Bundala next day and
several at Tissa.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Common on the high grasslands of Horton Plain National Park with 20+, all
paired up, on 4. Smaller numbers present around Nuwara Eliya including from
the Rock Hotel.
*White-faced Starling Sturnus
Five at Sinharaja on 29 and seven next day. With feeding flocks.
*Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum
Three, including a singing male, at Yala on 1.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Common at almost all sites, recorded almost daily (missed on just one day,
at Sinharaja), often in good numbers, e.g. hundreds going to roost at Tissa
Tank at dusk.
*Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys
One at Sinharaja on 29 and six next day.
Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
Six at Uddawatakele on 6.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta
Singles at Surrey Tea Estate on 3, Hakgala Botanical Gardens next day and
Uddawatakele on 6.
Great Tit Parus major mahrattarum
Three at Surrey Tea Estate and 10 at Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 3 the 12
at Horton Plains and five in the botanical gardens next day.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
One, perhaps two, at Bundala on 2. Though mentioned in at least one trip report
and Wijesinghe's 1991 checklist the old records are controversial and some
consider that plain martin (R. diluta) may account for most or all
or that they are best considered only as Riparia sp. This bird (or
birds - two sightings about an hour and several hundred metres apart) had
the call, obvious complete dark breast band and brown upperparts seemingly
the same as European birds.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Only common in the dry lowlands but present here in large numbers, especially
at Bundala and Yala. Also seen in the Nuwara Eliya area with 20 on wires en
route back from Horton Plain on 4.
*Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
15 hawking over the cliff edge and nearby grassland at World's End, Horton
Plain, on 4.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
One or two twice at Kalutara, up to ten at Sinharaja with a few on the way
there, two at Yala on 1 and five at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
on 5. A striking race with deep rufous underparts.
*Black-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus
melanicterus E [Black-crested Bulbul P.m. melanicterus e]
Up to eight in a day at Sinharaja.
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus
Common and widespread being seen every day.
*Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus
Common in the high hills. Six at Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 3 and four next
day when also 15 at Horton Plain, and four or five in Victoria Park, Nuwara
Eliya on 4 and 5.
White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus
Two in tea growing area en route to Sinharaja on 29, one at Yala on 1, 10
at Bundala on 2, four at Surrey Tea Estate on 3 and three at Kalutara on 9.
Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole indica
Up to six at Sinharaja and three at Uddawatakele on 6.
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
15 each day at Sinharaja and 12 at Uddawatakele and six in the Kandy Water
Catchement area on 6.
*Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica
One at Bundala on 2.
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
in the dry lowlands - one at Kalametiya on 31, five at Yala on 1, six at Bundala
next day and up to five at Tissa Tanks.
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis
One or two each day at Tissa and one at the Rock Hotel, Nuwara Eliya on 4
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola
Up to eight in the Tissa area and one of the commonest birds of the grasslands
of Horton Plain with 30 on 5. Call seemed more metallic/mechanical than European
birds and display flight slightly different as well, though looked the same.
*Sri Lanka White-eye Zosterops
One at Sinharaja on 30. Common in the higher hills with up to 10 at Hakgala
Botanical Gardens, 20 on Horton Plain and 10 at Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya.
Oriental White-eye Zosterops
at the Surrey Tea Estate on 3.
*Sri Lanka Bush Warbler Bradypterus
Excellent views of one skulking in roadside tall herbs at the Arrenga Pool
early on 4. The one bird we saw where the illustration in HBIS is poor. Responded
Blyth's Reed Warbler Acrocephalus
One at Tissa Tank on 2, one in the ravine near Hakgala Botanical Gardens on
3, three in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya and one in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical
Gardens on 5.
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus
One singing at Kalametiya on 31 and at least six at Bundala on 2 (two of them
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
One at Bundala on 2 looked close to autumn UK birds in general appearance
so was presumably of the race blythi.
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus
Up to four at Kalutara and one or two in the Nuwara Eliya area.
Green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus
[Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides nitidus]
Up to six at Sinharaja, five at Hakgala Botanical Gardens, three at Horton
Plain, and a few in the Kandy area. All seen well appeared to be 'green' nitidus,
apart from one at Sinharaja, which appeared to lack any yellow tones below,
and was possibly 'greenish' trichiloides/viridanus.
*Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus
One at Sinharaja on 30 - call very distinct from green(ish).
*Ashy-headed Laughing-thrush Garrulax
Four at Sinharaja on 29, near the research station and not really associated
with a feeding flock.
*Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum
A singing male at Sinharaja late on 29 responded to the tape but could not
be seen in the gloom. On 31 I was shown a nest with two eggs near the start
of entrance track to the reserve. It was a woven ball of grasses with a circular
side entrance only a few cm above the ground in a patch of dense low (<30cm)
cover by a track. This was in an area of tea and other cultivation well away
from dense forest but with a well vegetated wet flush nearby. There was no
sign of the adult birds. Luckily the species proved easy to see at Uddawatakele.
A pair was seen on the forest floor first thing and later four birds, seemingly
two rival pairs, spent some time hopping about in the middle of a main track
displaying to each other.
*Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus
horsfieldii melanurus e
Three seen in a feeding flock at Sinharaja on 29. Heard there next day.
Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla
atriceps nigrifrons e
Up to six at Sinharaja on 29 and 30, four at the Arrenga Pools and two at
World's End on 4.
*Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides
Common and noisy at Sinharaja where it formed the bulk of, and drew attention
to, the large mixed species feeding flocks and 50+ estimated there on 29.
*Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides
Very common in most lowland sites with e.g. up to 30 at Kalutara and 20 at
Bundala. Common in the lower hills but not seen around Nuwara Eliya.
Rufous-winged Bushlark Mirafra
One at Yala on 1 with three at Bundala next day including a singing bird.
Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix
50 at Kalametiya on 31.
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
One at Kalametiya on 31.
*Legge's Flowerpecker Dicaeum
A male from Martin's Bungalow, Sinharaja, on 31.
Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum
erythrorhynchos ceylonense e
Frequent at Kalutara (up to four), common at Sinharaja (up to 10), 10 at the
Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5 and two at Uddawatakele next day.
Purple-rumped Sunbird Nectarinia
Frequent in most sites but not seen around Nuwara Eliya. Up to six at Kalutara,
two at Sinharaja, five at Yala, 10 at Bundala, 10 at the Royal Peradeniya
Botanical Gardens and two at Uddawatakele.
Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica
A male en route from Sinharaja to Tissa on 31, one or two at Tissa each day
and 10 at Bundala on 2.
Loten's Sunbird Nectarinia lotenia
Common except in the high hills. Up to six most days at Kalutara, 10 at Kalametiya
on 31, five at Yala next day, several at Surrey Tea Estate on 3, three at
the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 5, two at Kandy on 6 and two in
our driver's garden in Gampaha on 7.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Commonly seen in towns and villages throughout.
Forest Wagtail Denrdonanthus
One at Bundala on 2, one in Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 3, three at Victoria
Park, Nuwara Eliya on 4 and two there next day.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Two at Kalametiya on 31.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
One at Sinharaja on 29 and common at various sites in the Nuwara Eliya area
with up to six in a day.
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi
One at Kalametiya on 31.
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus
15 at Kalametiya on 31, two at Yala on 1, six at Bundala on 2, two at Tissa
next day, common on the grasslands of Horton Plain (20 on 4) and five on 5
including two nest building at the Rock Hotel.
*Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar
Four nest building at a small pool choked with Typha at Wirawela Wewa just
north of Tissa on 3.
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
Colony of 15 or more nest building in small trees by Yodha Wewa, Tissa on
White-rumped Munia Lonchura
Two at Surrey Tea Estate on 3.
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura
Frequent in small numbers in dry lowlands and the hills with six at Kalametiya
on 31, three at Yala on 1, three at Bundala on 2, two at Surrey Tea Estate
on 3, two between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plain on 4, two at the Rock Hotel
on 5 and two at Kandy on 6. Overlaps in altitude with Hill Munia, which we
*Black-headed Munia Lonchura
Two at Bundala on 2.
[*=lifer for JPM 54]
Common Flying-fox Pteropus giganteus
Locally abundant with big day time roosts en route from Sinharaja to Tissa,
in the large rain trees by Tissa Tank, in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
and in Colombo. Small numbers seen round Kalutara.
Grey Langur Semnopithecus priam
Six at Kalametiya on 31, eight at Yala on 1, 100+ at Bundala on 2 and lots
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus
Up to seven each day at Sinharaja, 10 of the highland race ('bear monkey')
in Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 3 with six there next day and two at Kalutara
Toque Monkey Macaca sinica
20 at Bundala on 2, 10 at waterfall en route to Nuwara Eliya on 3, two in
Hakgala Botanical Gardens on 4, common at Kandy including round the Temple
of the Tooth and en route back to the coast.
Palm Squirrel Funambulus palmarum
Widespread common and noisy with bird like calls. Sometimes tame and often
kept as a pet e.g. by our driver.
Giant Squirrel Ratufa macroura
Singles at Sinharaja on 29 and 30, 1 balancing along overhead wires near a
king coconut stall en route to Tissa on 31 was semi tame and answered to the
Golden Jackal Canis aurea
Two at Yala on 1.
Small Civet Viverricula indica
One ran across in front of the minibus before dawn on the entrance road to
Yala on 1.
Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi
One at Yala on 1.
Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithi
One at Bundala on 2.
Indian Elephant Elephas maximus
A young bull at Bundala on 2.
Wild Boar Sus scrofa
30+ including family groups at Yala on 1.
Spotted Deer Axis axis
100+ at Yala on 1.
Sambur Cervus unicolor
12 on Horton Plain on 4.
Water-buffalo Bubablus bubalus
150+ at Yala on 1.
I had no information about other
groups but reptiles were much in evidence. Our guide at Sinharaja pointed
out two species of Calotus lizard to us: C. versicolor (green garden
lizard) and C. calotus. Crocodiles were seen at Yala, Bundala and Tissa
Tanks including some large individuals. Those at Bundala were apparently estuarine
crocodiles while that at Tissa was presumably the freshwater species. Monitor
lizards were frequent including the smaller yellow dotted water monitors at
a number of sites including Kalutara and the spectacularly large land monitors,
notably at Bundala. This is the second largest lizard after Komodo dragon.
Geckos were widespread in our accommodation with the Tissa Rest House being
stiff with them. Only one snake was seen, a specimen of 2m or more by the
path at Sinharaja, which we were told was a black snake (non venomous). More
dangerous, perhaps, was a large black scorpion in the Royal Peradeniya Botanical
Gardens that was shown to us by a gardener. The giant wood spiders in the
spice garden en route from Kandy to Colombo could have been equally unpleasant
if the bloke showing us round could be believed.
Butterflies were spectacular as
usual in the tropics. The three biggest Sri Lankan species were all common
at Sinharaja - the Sri Lanka Bird-wing, Blue Mormon and Sri Lanka Wood-nymph.
A decent book does exist, apparently.
Much of the flora is endemic. Again
there are some good books but they are expensive and hard to obtain and anyway
there isn't time! The spectacular endemic orchid Arundina graminifolia
was hard to miss at Sinharaja, however.