Trip Report to
This was a birding holiday organised by Naturetrek www.naturetrek.co.uk . It was a late booking as I had a few days holiday to use up before the end of March, so I grabbed the Naturetrek brochure to see where I could get to. Paul had expressed a desire to go to
Guide Saman Kumara
28th February Heathrow -
2nd March Kitugala
3rd March Kitugala – Nuwara Eliya
4th March Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plain
5th March Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Embilipitiya
6th March Embilipitiya- Uda Walawe- Sinharaja
7th March Sinharaja
8th March Sinharaja -
International flights to
I applied for a Sri Lankan visa on-line at a cost of US$30 (about £20)
As this was a ‘package tour’ (cost £2245 ) with all accommodation and food provided I exchanged about £100 to 20,000 Sri Lanka Rupees at
The climate of
The weather was hot (30°+ C) and sunny for the most part but we also had some heavy rain showers and some cloud covering on a few days.
After dropping my car off at The Renaissance Airport Hotel at Heathrow I jumped on the Hoppa Bus and checked in for my evening flight to Colombo Sri Lanka.
After arriving in
We were all up for 6am and walked down the road again. We quickly logged another three endemics, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon (3), Brown-capped Babbler (4) and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (5). Grey-breasted Flycatcher was also a tick for me as was Long-billed (Loten’s) Sunbird. After breakfast we walked into the forest where our next four endemics were Orange-billed Babbler (6), Chestnut-backed Owlet (7), Black-capped Bulbul (8) and Sri Lanka Myna (9) Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was a popular sighting . We added a few common species in the form of Common Iora, Common Tailorbird, Emerald Dove, White-bellied Drongo and Purple-rumped Sunbird. Jerdon’s Leafbird was a lifer for me. We had permission to go into a private property where we had help finding an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. Sadly the light was extremely poor in the dense vegetation and my photo is not good!
White-bellied Drongo Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
After a lunch-break in the hotel and a delightful swim in the hotel swimming pool watching Blue-tailed Bee-eaters overhead, we crossed a rope bridge and entered the forest.
Hotel Swimming pool at Kitugala Kelani River
Rope bridge across the
Here we watched a Black Eagle pass overhead as well as seeing a Malabar Trogon which as a lifer, I was delighted with. I also life-ticked Yellow-browed Bulbul after adding Asian Brown Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch and Black Bulbul to the list. Another three endemics, Spot-winged Thrush (10), Sri Lanka Crested Drongo (11) and Sri Lanka Swallow (12) soon followed. We walked out of the forest and watched two workers harvesting some rice. It seemed a back-breaking job. A Grey Wagtail made the most of the available insects. The forest was certainly full of birds as we watched a Lesser Yellownape hammer one of the trees. A Crested Hawk Eagle flew above us as we searched for new species. An Oriental White-eye, Golden-fronted Leafbird and Little Cormorant added themselves to the growing list as we turned back towards the hotel.
We had a pre-breakfast walk across the river which produced Shikra, Alexandrine Parakeet and another two endemics Sri Lanka Junglefowl (13) and Green-billed Coucal (14). Pura and I had both been up in the night with a stomach upset which was making life a bit difficult for us both to say the least!
Shikra Sri Lanka Junglefowl
After breakfast (what little Pura and I had of it) we had a three hour drive to Nuwara Eliya. We stopped at Ginigathhena to admire a sitting Crested Serpent Eagle before setting off to stop once again to look at a tea plantation being picked by Tamil workers near Bogahawatta. Here we added our fifteenth endemic, a Sri Lanka White-eye (15).
Crested Serpent Eagle
Tea Plantation Sri Lanka White-eye
A little further along the road we stopped again at Bogahawatta to admire a waterfall and to visit a tea shop where I purchased a sample of
Pura and I were both still suffering from food poisoning and we both refused lunch. Later in the afternoon we walked along a track in the forest where there were many Eucalyptus trees. We were greeted by a showy Yellow-eared Bulbul (16) and a Dull-blue Flycatcher (17) both endemics. Mark enjoyed the Scarlet Minivet as it flitted around. We added Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike before we realised that we had a small bird wave coming through the trees. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Greenish Warbler were also added to the list as well as other common species already mentioned.
Yellow-eared Bulbul Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Another endemic gave itself up with good views but there was no light for a photograph. The Sri Lanka Woodpigeon (18) was good to see well. We walked back up the track and stood around some roadside vegetation. After playing a tape we had good views of Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler (19) darting around deep in the vegetation. Before we reached the hotel we admired a Jungle Crow and a White-bellied Sea Eagle.
We left the hotel at 5am and drove for an hour to Horton Plain, as it was critical to be in the park by 6am. After Saman had obtained the ticket at the entrance, we drove for a few minutes and then walked back to a small pool by the roadside. Soon we were watching a pair of Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush (20). I rushed back to the van to fetch my camera but there was not enough light for a photograph and all too soon the birds had disappeared. A couple of minutes later we had our twenty-first endemic a Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (21). We added Indian Blackbird before returning to the van. I felt sorry for Pura who was too poorly to join us and had stayed in bed. I still felt rough but was managing on no food and a diet of sugary fizzy drink! The prospect of a long walk with no knowledge of toilet facilities did not fill me with joy! Sally had said she felt better and so we went along with Saman’s plans to walk to ‘Little World’s End’. We journeyed on towards a car park after watching Pied Bush Chat in the early morning mist, Paddyfield Pipit, Jungle Crow, Hill Swallow and Brown Shrike. We watched Sambar Deer near the car park and took no pride in the knowledge in the fact that Elephants once roamed free here before the British shot them all.
Pied Bush Chat Sambar Deer
Hill Swallow Jungle Crow
Hill Swallow Jungle Crow
After parking the vehicle we set off along a track way. It was a pleasant walk in the sun along a track that had some tricky parts to it but except for Alpine Swift and Zitting Cisticola we saw very little else. I felt sorry for Mark who had wanted to walk further but with Sally and I in precarious health he kindly agreed to return to the van.
We played tourist and watched the trains that were blocking our route home and eventually arrived at the hotel just as the thunder and lightning struck. The rain was torrential. I spent the time writing up notes and sorting through a few photos. Once the rain had eased a bit, we ventured out to Victoria Park. It was still raining and worse still, the park was crowded with hundreds of school children. Not ideal birding conditions! I was maddened as I really wanted to see the target bird well in good light! Pittas are a favourite of mine, but they are never the easiest to see or photograph because of the habitat they like.
We searched an area that Saman knew held an Indian Pitta but it was still raining hard as we sheltered under a bandstand-like shelter. It was not to be. We walked up the side of the park and added a few life ticks for me that included Pied Thrush, Forest Wagtail and
Pura and I were still suffering badly and persuaded our driver to take us into town for some emergency supplies of fizzy drink and something we felt might ease our stomachs. Spicy food at evening meals was out of the question!
We wandered around for an hour or so in much better weather in the early morning light. Oriental Magpie Robin and Paddyfield Pipit posed for photos. I managed to see a Booted Warbler but it soon flitted away.
Paddyfield Pipit Oriental Magpie Robin
Soon it was time to leave and we got back in the vehicle for a long drive to Embilipitiya. We had not been travelling for long before we stopped at a private garden where the owner allowed us to wander through the thick vegetation down a trail. Here we watched a White-browed Bulbul, Black-rumped Flameback, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Black-hooded Oriole and Brown Fish Owl in flight. Birds were obviously mobbing something in one of the trees and with a bit of manoeuvring we managed to stand so that we could see the Brown Wood Owl lurking deep in the vegetation of a tree.
Black-rumped Flameback Black-hooded Oriole
Brown Wood Owl Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike
We continued on our way stopping at Ella for lunch. As Pura and I were still suffering we didn’t eat much but enjoyed the panoramic views over the valley below. A Coppersmith Barbet was calling from a tree in the garden as Asian Palm Swift were flying overhead. A Legge’s Hawk Eagle kindly flew above us as we enjoyed the relaxation of watching from our chairs soaking up the sun.
Ella Purple-rumped Sunbird
Another couple of brief stops produced a photo opportunity for Chesnut-headed Bee-eater, Red-wattled Lapwing, Wool-necked Stork and Malabar Pied Hornbill besides adding Painted Stork, Indian Peafowl and Little Egret to our lists.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Woolly-necked Stork
Malabar Pied Hornbill
We begged Saman to stop by a marshy area where we only had a few brief moments where there were many trip ticks. Saman was keen to get going as he wanted to reach the hotel before dusk so that we had a chance of seeing an owl. So I called out the birds to the others as quickly as I could (Sorry Sally!). We logged Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Great White Egret, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Darter, Lesser Whistling Duck, Whiskered Tern, Grey Heron, Indian Pond Heron and Common Kingfisher.
Indian Pond Heron Grey-headed Fish Eagle
We motored on through road-works and arrived at the hotel just before dusk. Saman soon located the Indian Scops Owl roosting in the tree not far from the hotel reception at Embilipitiya. It was rather a posh hotel and Sally and Mark went down to the buffet-style evening meal. Pura and I were still suffering but after a while I thought, given that it was a choice of meal, I might find something without any spice in it, so I joined Mark and Sally and enjoyed a light pudding.
We left at 5.30 am for
Sally Saman Mark and Pura Jerdon’s Bushlark
After only a few metres I had my first lifer of the day in the form of Jerdon’s Bushlark. It sang beautifully as we admired an Indian Peafowl sitting up a tree. We all enjoyed the Little Green Bee-eater that posed for its photo.
Indian Peafowl Little Green Bee-eater
A Plain Prinia and Black-winged (shouldered) Kite were trip ticks as were Blyth’s Reed Warbler and Yellow-eyed Babbler.
Black-winged (shouldered) Kite Yellow-eyed Babbler
We added Indian Black Robin, Barn Swallow, Blyth’s Pipit, Jungle Prinia, Orange-breasted Pigeon,
Sri Lanka Woodshrike Orange-breasted Pigeon
I added Marshall’s Iora and Blue-faced Malkoha as lifers before Mark picked out a movement in the grass beside us. We seemingly stared at nothing before suddenly we found ourselves watching a Jungle Cat lurking. It caused great excitement amongst us as it sloped off deeper into the vegetation not to be seen again. Other wildlife came in the form of Water Buffalo that were cooling down in the lakes or deep puddles!
Jungle Cat Water Buffalo
Uda Walawe White-bellied Sea Eagle
We stopped to admire a
White-throated Kingfisher Elephant
Indian Roller Coppersmith Barbet
Crested Hawk Eagle Painted Stork
Just before we reached the exit we located a Brown Fish Owl sitting in the shade up one of the trees.
Brown Fish Owl
After leaving the park we started the drive to
The journey to Sinharaja was a long one and we sat back and relaxed in the vehicle admiring the hillside scenery covered in either tea plantations or thick vegetation. At one point there was some local excitement as an Elephant had wandered away from a forest and was causing concern in a tea plantation. We also stopped for some antibiotics for Pura and I, not that Pura ended up with any, but that is another story!
Stopping en route to
We eventually arrived at our birding lodge in
Sadly, I don’t have any photos for today as I was simply too poorly to carry my camera. We had been told that we would be on our feet all day after the initial jeep ride up the rough track and I knew it would be all I would be able to do to carry myself. This was unfortunate as there were still 9 endemics still to go and I would have liked some photos.
Our day started with a jeep ride up a very rough track. I have done many rough tracks over the years but on a bad stomach it is not great!! We had also become entangled with another fourteen-strong birding group which is not good for forest birding. I hoped that this situation was not going to last all day as it would drive me crazy. We failed to see our first target bird but Saman was confident he would find it later in the day or tomorrow. We continued on up the hill in the jeeps where we watched White-faced Starling (25) at the top of the hill.
Luckily we left the other group and drove back down a little to walk the trail into the forest. Along the path Ashy-headed Laughingthrush (26) crossed the path in front of us. We watched for a while before continuing on. A spot for the Scaly Thrush drew a blank despite our best efforts. A pair of Red-faced Malkoha (27) kept company with a bird wave of birds that we had seen before. At the research station Mark was delighted when a Sri Lanka Magpie (28) left his calling card on him as he sat beneath it as it perched on the rafters. In nearby vegetation a Legge’s Flowerpecker (29) showed all too briefly before flitting off.
After lunch (more sugary drink for me, as I gave my lunch away) we made our way down to the stream where once again we merged with the other group. I had a short view of the Scaly Thrush (30) before Saman suggested that we move away and go back down to the stream later. We crossed the stream and went in search of the Crimson-backed Flameback. We heard drumming and sure enough there was the Crimson-backed Flameback (31). We had good views before creeping silently back down to the stream where we had excellent views of the Scaly Thrush scratching around in the leaf litter. We were all picking off leeches from ourselves but it was nowhere as bad as other Asian forests that I have been in.
Serendib Scops Owl (Sally Wallington)
We were all thrilled with our sighting, especially being so close and did not care about the leeches we had on our clothes!
This only left one more endemic to see. Across the road Saman had obtained permission to go into the house. Out of the back window we watched Ski Lanka Spurfowl (33) darting in and out of the forest edge feeding on food put down for the owners chickens. I was ecstatic at having seen all 33 endemics plus my much-wanted Indian Pitta. We all returned to the lodge as happy bunnies!
As the pressure was now off, having seen all 33 endemics, Saman arranged a pre-breakfast walk along the lane by the lodge. We ambled along watching Purple-faced Leaf Monkey in the trees before watching Asian
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey Crested Treeswift
I found it incredibly difficult to take a picture of the Crested Treeswift as they were just so fast.
At breakfast a Red-vented Bulbul was more intent on having our breakfast than we were.
Asian Paradise-flycatcher Sri Lanka Swallow
Red-vented Bulbul Brown Shrike
After breakfast we wandered the lanes again admiring a Brown Shrike as well as having a look at a few plants. All too soon it was time for group and individual photos and saying goodbye to Sinharaja.
Sue at Blue Magpie Lodge Sinharaja Mark Sally Sue Saman Pura
After lunch we drove to the airport hotel near
Mark, Sally, Pura and I agreed to meet at dawn and we wandered around the hotel grounds. We admired a Shikra that had roosted overnight amongst the palm trees. Red-vented Bulbul were around as were Cattle Egret. We made our way into breakfast before saying goodbye to Pura who was on a later flight back to