TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
JEWEL OF THE INDIAN OCEAN
February 26th - March 12th 2005
Sri Lanka is an extremely beautiful island, with a well-established tourist infrastructure that enables birders to visit prime habitats, whilst staying in some very nice hotels. Sri Lankan food is also terrific, never hot but delicately flavoured with oriental spices. Limosas tours to Sri Lanka focus on the southern half of the island, the lush forests of the 'wet zone' being home to all of the endemic birds, while the dry zone and montane forests bring in a wealth of characteristically Indian species and support an exciting array of winter visitors, often in huge numbers. Sri Lankan ornithologist Upali Ekanayake is a remarkable leader, with a talent for whistling up the shyer endemics, his speciality being the Brown-capped Babbler. Thanks to Upalis intimate knowledge of the island and its bird communities, we are able to visit a wide variety of great birding locations from coastal wetlands to scrubby grasslands, tropical rainforest to cooler montane forests. Culture and leisure activities are not neglected either, with an opportunity to see a working tea factory and an evening visit to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy adding a religious slant. With some splendid hotels and great food, Sri Lanka certainly lives up to everyones expectations and makes this one of Asians outstanding birding destinations.
Our first serious birding started at Kitulgula, an area of primary and mature secondary forest just 3 hours drive from Colombo. We spent two days exploring the forests, farmlands and fields surrounding our delightful hotel, and were treated to a wealth of memorable experiences. Who will ever forget that wonderful pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths cuddling up to each other on a branch just 10 metres from where we stood in broad daylight. Slowly rocking from side to side, the male slowly extended his wing over the female and yawned! Little doubt these would be voted Bird of the Tour, it would need to be something pretty spectacular to better this. Our walks in the forests brought us many special birds including the endemic Crested Drongo, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Spot-winged Thrush and Legge's Flowerpecker. Kitulgula is also well known as a favoured stakeout for one of Sri Lankas most elusive endemics; Green-billed Coucal. Although never guaranteed, it is seen so regularly that this must be one of the best possible places to catch up with it. And so it was that, as we waited at Upalis stakeout, a bird called. Upali responded, and within five minutes a Green-billed Coucal flew sedately across the river and gave us eyeball views.
Moving on to Sinharaja Forest, which has a well-deserved reputation as the best site in the country to catch up with the islands endemic birds. Situated in the low hills in the wet zone of the island, it is home to a wealth of unique birds, and for some including White-faced Starling, the only remaining site where these species can be seen. Our two mornings here proved a great success. Everyone enjoyed their own personal favourites here, whether it was the Sri Lanka Frogmouth sitting on its nest, the mixed parties with Ashy-headed Laughing Thrushes and Red-faced Malkohas cavorting through the forest, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpies feeding directly over our heads, superb Malabar Trogons pretending not to be there or, indeed, those White-faced Starlings that we almost gave up on, but then they showed so well, or just the wonderfully close Sri Lanka Junglefowl coming to feed right by us at the Research Station a truly stunning bird when seen at such close quarters. Birding in tropical rain forest is always an exciting experience because you never know what you will see next. Long periods of inactivity are punctuated with bursts of activity, with birds all around, and then gone again, as quickly as they came. By spending two mornings in Sinharaja we encountered several bird waves containing birds we had missed on the previous day, enabling everyone to catch up with those special species. The one bird that did let us down though was the ultra-elusive Sri Lanka Spurfowl. Our efforts to tape in a calling male were frustrated by its inconvenient location on a steep slope, with little space for us all to se a good vantage point. Space was tight and the angle poor, so only Barry and Upali got onto the bird before it realised we were not another spurfowl, and it shot into the bush, not to return.
Sinharaja also provided our final chance for Serendib Scops Owl. After missing it at Kitulgula earlier, everyone was keen to give it a second try, despite the long drive involved. We arrived shortly before dusk, in time to watch our first Crimson-backed Flamebacks cavorting in a roadside tree prior to roosting. As dusk fell, Upali played the tape and immediately got a response! He tried again, another response we were in business. A few more attempts, and in it came, closer and closer until we guessed it was directly in front of us. Upali flicked on his torch and there it was, just 20 metres from us Serendib Scops Owl brilliant. Undoubtedly the rarest of Sri Lankas many endemic birds and the one I thought we had the least chance of seeing. With a 100% success rate on our recent tours, Limosa can confidently offer the very best opportunities to see this delightful little owl.
Uda Walawe National Park not only provides a convenient break in the journey between Sinharaja and Tissamaharama, but is an important and attractive wildlife site in its own right and well worth a visit. Upon entering Uda Walawe, we stumbled across a Barred Button-quail, followed almost immediately by that enigma of the pipit world, the elusive Blyths. Indian Elephants abounded, and although the first generated excitement, we were soon to become blasé. It was the raptors, however, that stole the morning though, with superb views of perched White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle and Changeable Hawk Eagle, plus a distant Osprey something of a local rarity in these parts. Other birds were pretty good as well here, with Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Indian Pitta and Forest Wagtail putting in their first appearances, plus our only Plum-headed Parakeets of the tour. Leaving Uda Walawe behind, we headed onto Tissamaharama (shortened to Tissa) in the dry southeast of the island. Surrounded by wetlands, Tissa provides a convenient base for exploring the nearby Yala and Bundala National Parks. It was also here that we watched a lovely pair of White-naped Woodpeckers courting on a tall coconut palm, Black Bitterns flapping lazily over reed-covered tanks and noisy Clamorous Reed Warblers singing from stands of Typhus.
Yala National Park, situated in the southeast of the island is, by far, the best-known wildlife site in Sri Lanka. Not only does it possess an outstanding diversity of wetland and dry forest birds, but is also home to large numbers of Indian Elephants and the highest density of Leopards in Asia. Birds abound here, with the deeper pools and their isolated islands being home to numerous Eurasian Spoonbills, Painted storks, Black-headed Ibis and a multitude of egrets and herons, many of which were breeding. The shallower lagoons with muddy edges held a multitude of shorebirds, with Marsh Sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plovers and Lesser Sandplovers competing for attention with the more familiar Redshanks, Common Sandpipers and Grey Plovers. Nearby, huge Muggar crocodiles lay motionless in the shallows. It was also here that we encountered our first Great Thick-knees, a peculiar shorebird related to the familiar Stone-curlew of Europe, but with all its body parts appearing five sizes too large. At one point we drew to a halt beside a stationary car and discovered they were photographing a Leopard! Great, and immediately our driver could see it. But where? He tried to explain but our understanding of his English wasnt up to the excitement of the moment. Ten frantic minutes later, and we still could not see it, this was rapidly becoming pythonesque! We knew we are looking in the right place; we knew it was lying on the ground just 40 metres from us, but where? There were now six cars vying for position and still nobody could see it apart from our driver. Then Upali in the second Land Rover spotted it and all there finally see it. But still we cannot. Eventually, Mary noticed a movement, just the flick of an ear, revealing a distinctive black and white pattern. But that was about all we could make out, plus the top of its head. As everyone struggled to get onto it, it stood up, gave us a twirl and a second one, a pretty large kitten really, walked across the clearing. Smiles all round, and Sri Lankas top predator was safely on the list. Sadly, as we were leaving, we received news that a villager had been killed by an Elephant earlier that morning, actually outside the Park along the entrance road we had driven along. The villagers were up in arms, and the police had been called in to calm the rising tempers. As the populations of both mankind and Elephants continue to increase, such conflicts are sure to occur with increasing frequency. Let us hope that a compromise can be found for, without its wildlife, our planet will suffer and we will all be the poorer.
Bundala NP, one of just two RAMSAR sites on the island, is also one of Sri Lankas smallest National Parks, covering 6,000 ha. Despite is size, it is often considered to be the single best site for wetland birds in the country, and home to thousands of transient shorebirds during the northern winter. This time though, the effects of the recent tsunami had impacted upon the reserve. Previously shallow lagoons were now brimming with water, so some favoured feeding sites were lost and birds were widely dispersed with far more suitable habitat available than is usual. In addition, ongoing repairs to the saltpans were causing disturbance to some of the better sites. Despite this, hundreds of Little Stints fed by the roadside, and with them smaller numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and Lesser Sandplovers. With them, we managed to locate single Greater Sandplover and Sanderling. Unusually, there were many more terns at Bundala than is typical, with good numbers of Caspian, Gull-billed, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns roosting on a disused saltpan.
Moving into the hills and the cooler surroundings of Nuwara Eliya (pronounced Nureliya), we soon encountered its most characteristic feature, torrential rain. This failed to deter us, and an afternoon stroll through Galways Forest brought us our first montane endemic; the strikingly attractive Yellow-eared Bulbul. As the first afternoon drew on, Victoria Park, a popular manicured garden in the centre of town, beckoned. This is unquestionably the best site on the planet to see the striking Pied Thrush and the rain, which by this time had just about stopped, had also cleared the crowds from the park and we had the place to ourselves. A few tense minutes later, during which little was seen, a succession of exciting birds appeared, with Forest Wagtail by the stream, followed by the recently split Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush sitting in the open on top of a bush, and a male Pied Thrush perched in a tree. Brilliant. We could not have done better. As we left things to quieten down, we bumped into yet more Pied Thrushes, typically sitting motionless in the trees, although some were in full song; we estimated a minimum of seven males, but only one female appeared.
A pre-dawn start saw us arriving at the fabled Arrenga Pool at Horton Plains, just as it was starting to get light. A Brown Wood Owl called softly in the distance and the endemic Whistling Thrush whistled nearby. A short burst of song, but without a glimpse, he was across the road and into the forest. Upali managed to find him, and later Peter glimpsed it, but for the rest of us, it was a trail of shadows and Blackbirds but what Blackbirds these are, can these really be the same species as those that hop around my back garden in Suffolk? Back to business, as we waited, Large-billed Leaf and Green Warblers showed well, as did our first Dull Blue Flycatchers. The finding of the endemic Sri Lanka Bush Warbler raised the spirits. Even better when a pair were discovered to be constructing a nest in roadside ferns, only the second time Upali had witnessed this. Uniquely amongst Bradypterus, the sexes of this species are separable by iris colour; that of the male being wine red, and that of the female appearing strikingly white. Yellow-eared Bulbuls were abundant, Mary and Peter bumped into a female Kashmir Flycatcher, and an Oriental Honey-buzzard circled the skies. A brief halt at Pattipola added Hill Swallow and Great Tit to the list. Our final morning in the hills, and we still needed Kashmir Flycatcher. Although small birds including Dull Blue Flycatchers, Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers, Yellow-eared Bulbuls, Great Tits and Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrikes abounded, after spending an hour or so searching without success, we turned around to leave. Exactly on queue, a cracking male Kashmir Flycatcher appeared by the roadside. No problems with this showy character. He hung around for long enough to all to savour. What a stunningly beautiful creature.
We had just one endemic to go, Crimson-fronted Barbet. Upali was relaxed. As we cruised towards Kandy, taking in some splendid scenery and stopping en-route at the Glenloch tea factory (actually quite interesting Hill Swallows nesting inside, and a decent cuppa at the end), he predicted that we would soon be savouring this final goodie, after all Kandy had been his home for over 30 years, and he knows its birds better than anyone. The colonial style Suisse Hotel was very much to our tastes, and following a quick lunch, we set off for the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens in the middle of town. What a super place! We got the barbet without a problem, but with Alexandrine Parakeets screeching overhead, Forest Wagtails, Tickells Blue Flycatchers and Indian Pittas in the undergrowth, there was much to see. Calling Common Hawk-cuckoos quickly lead us to a tree festooned with caterpillars, chrysalis and, of course, cuckoos. With the Common Hawk-cuckoos, we found a Banded Bay Cuckoo, delicately open chrysalis and feeding on the contents. As dusk fell, we watched tens of thousands of Flying Foxes in their roost. This must be one of the largest roost in the subcontinent, and by far the most spectacular. Our final morning at the Uda Wattakele reserve on the outskirts of Kandy produced, for some, the only views of Indian Blue Robin while Brown-breasted Flycatcher, yet more Forest Wagtails, Brown-capped Babblers, an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher and adult Rufous-bellied Eagle rounded off our bird list.
After two weeks on this wonderful island, we had notched up 232 species including, between us, all 33 or 34 of the recognised and proposed endemic species. But Sri Lanka is more than just endemics. Its great birds and mammals make it one of the top wildlife watching destinations in Asia. Combined with its stunning scenery, lush forests and rich wetlands and you have a combination that is difficult to beat. Sri Lanka is most certainly not just India. The birds may be Indian, but the culture and customs of its people are quite different, and make for a perfectly wonderful and relaxed holiday. There has never been a better time to visit Sri Lanka
SYSTEMATIC LIST OF BIRDS
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Only seen near Tissa, with a few pairs at Debarawewa Marsh, and numerous near Bundala NP.
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
Up to 30 at Bundala and in Yala NP. A feral population from Colombo zoo accounted for the parties of 'tame' birds on the lake by the Trans Asia Hotel, Colombo.
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis (=Indian Shag)
Widely recorded on deeper waters around Embilipitiya and Tissa, plus a small number by the Trans Asia hotel and at Bellanwalla Marshes in Colombo.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
At least two on the lake at Embilipitiya.
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Widespread and recorded daily except on 3 March.
Darter Anhinga melanogaster (=Oriental Darter)
Several in Uda Walawe, Bundala and Yala NPs. A. melanogaster is usually treated as a polytypic species including the Asian form along with both African A. (m.) rufa and Australian Darters A. (m.) novaehollandiae.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
A good sprinkling by wetlands in the 'dry' zone.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Several in lowland marshes, including Bellanwalla Marshes in Colombo, and numerous around Tissa, Yala NP and Bundala NP.
Great Egret Ardea alba (=Great White Egret)
Widely recorded in small numbers, maximum of 45+ on 5 March. .
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia (=Yellow-billed Egret)
Widely recorded, with distribution similar to that of Great Egret, but in smaller numbers, maximum of 20+ on 6 & 7 March.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Common and widely recorded.
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii (=Paddybird)
Widespread and recorded daily
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Widespread and abundant, 1000+ recorded on four dates.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus (=Little Green, Green-backed or Mangrove Heron)
Two at Bundala on 7 March. Now again separated from Green Heron B. virescens of North America.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Noted in small numbers at Bellanwalla Marshes in Colombo, Embilipitiya, Uda Walawe, Bundala and Uda Wattakele in Kandy.
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Widely recorded with at least two at Bellanwalla marsh, two at Embilipitiya, one at Debarawewa, and two or three near Bundala NP.
Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis
One flew across the river at Kitulgula on 2 March was only seen by Mary. A more satisfactory and prolonged views of at least two birds, including one perched in the top of a bush for several minutes near Tissa on 6 March and another noted the following day.
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
Several gatherings by lowland wetlands in the 'dry zone' near Tissa, with a maximum of 30 at Bundala.
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans (=Open-billed Stork)
Small numbers widely recorded by lowland wetlands and paddyfields. Most unusual was a party of seven feeding by the lake in Kandy. Apparently quite a local rarity.
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus (=White-necked Stork)
A pair at Udawalawe NP, four at Yala NP and two shortly after leaving Tissa on 8 March.
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
A pair at Yala NP on 6 March. Only 2-3 pairs believed to remain on the island.
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephala (=Oriental White Ibis)
Widely recorded by lowland wetlands. Most unusual was one in flight over Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, on 10 March. Despite living in Kandy for over 30 years, this was Upalis first sighting in this area.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (=White Spoonbill)
Small numbers at Bundala NP and Yala NP, with a maximum of 20+ in Yala on 6 March.
Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica (=Lesser Whistling-teal)
Small parties by many lowland wetlands, including Bellanwalla Marshes in Colombo, although the max was only 20+ at Yala NP.
Cotton Pygmy-goose Nettapus coromandelianus
Six on a roadside pool on 5 March while we ate lunch, en-route to Tissa.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Six at Yala NP on 6 March and 45+ near Hambantota the following day.
Garganey Anas querquedula
Seven at Bellanwalla marsh, Colombo, with 95+ at Yala NP and 60+ in and near Bundala NP, and 10+ near Hambantota.
Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus (=Crested Honey Buzzard)
Widely scattered in ones and twos throughout the island, maximum of 6 on 1 March.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus (=Black-winged Kite)
At least 12 at Udawalawe NP, followed by singles at Horton Plains and Bomuruella Forest on 9 March. Again separated from White-tailed Kite E. leucurus of the Americas and, the Black-shouldered Kite E. axillaris of Australia.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Widely recorded throughout the lowlands.
White-bellied Sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
Noted daily on wetlands in the dry zone including Uda Walawe, Bundala NP and Yala NP, plus one in Kandy on 10 March. An immature over the lake at Nuwara Eliya on 8 March was unusual for that location.
Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus
Three at Uda Walawe, and 2-3 in or near Bundala NP on 6 & 7 March.
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Widespread in small numbers. Endemic subspecies S. c. spilogaster
Montagus Harrier Circus pygargus
A ringtail at Uda Walawe on 5 March.
Shikra Accipiter badius
The most numerous raptor, noted on all but two dates, with a maximum of 10 on 1 March.
Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis (=Oriental Black Eagle)
Singles at Kitulgula on 28 February and 1 March, Sinharaja on 4 March, and a pair over the road near Kandy on 10 March. This fine eagle feeds chiefly on giant squirrels in Sri Lanka.
Rufous-bellied Eagle Hieraaetus kienarii
An adult over Uda Wattakele, Kandy on 11th.
Changeable Hawk-eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus (=Crested Hawk-eagle)
Only seen at Kitulgula, Uda Walawe NP and Yala NP. Sri Lankan and southern Indian birds were formerly treated as a distinct species, Crested Hawk-eagle S. linaetus, and might well be re-split in the future. Endemic subspecies S. c. ceylonensis
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
One at Uda Walawe NP on 5 March.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
One in Yala NP on 6 March.
Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata (=Ceylon Spurfowl) ENDEMIC
Heard at Sinharaja on 3 & 4 March. A calling male closely approached our group on 4 March, but was only seen by Upali and Barry. This bird continues to live up to its shy and elusive reputation.
Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayetti (=Ceylon Junglefowl) ENDEMIC
Widely noted in Sinharaja and in forests of the dry zone, including Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs. Males particularly attractive.
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristata (=Blue Peafowl)
Common in dry wooded grasslands, i.e. Uda Walawe, Bundala and Yala NPs.
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator (=Common Bustard-quail)
Small numbers seen at Uda Walawe, Bundala and Yala NPs. Endemic subspecies T. s. leggei
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Widespread and common.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (=Purple Coot, Purple Gallinule)
Widely recorded by lowland wetlands, including Bellanwalla Marshes in Colombo. The various populations of this bird are accorded species status by some, the form occurring in Sri Lanka is Grey-headed Swamphen P. p. poliocephalus.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Two at Bellanwalla Marsh and four in Bundala NP.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Plentiful in marshlands at Bellanwalla Marsh, Colombo, and in the Tissa-Yala area; many had full long tails of breeding plumage.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Numerous on saltpans and lagoons in the Bundala and Yala areas.
Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (=Eurasian Thick-knee)
One near Uda Walawe NP on 5 March. Ones and twos noted daily around Tissa, Yala and Bundala NPs.
Great Thick-knee Burhinus recurvirostris (=Great Stone-plover)
Six at Yala NP on 6 March, followed by four near Bundala NP later the same day. The following day, 4+ in Bundala NP. Superb bird. Now separated from Beach Thick-knee E. magnirostris = neglectus of Australia and southeast Asia.
Small Pratincole Glareola lactea
Two at Yala NP and four at Bundala salt pans.
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus
Four on a roadside pool on 5 March, followed by 10+ in Yala NP, 10+ in Bundala NP and a further 15+ on wetlands near Bundala.
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
Common and widespread throughout lowland fields and marshes. Endemic subspecies V. i. lankae
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva (=Lesser Golden Plover)
10+ at Yala NP and just one at Bundala NP.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (=Black-bellied Plover)
Two near Bundala NP on 6 March, and at least 15 in the NP the following day.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Only recorded at Uda Walawe and in the Tissa region, with a peak of 20+ at Bundala NP on 7 March.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (=Snowy Plover)
20+ in Yala NP on 6 March were followed by 80+ on wetlands near Bundala NP later the same day. The next day, 150+ at Bundala NP and 60 near Hambantota.
Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus (=Mongolian Sand Plover)
At gathering of at least 1,000 at Bundala NP on 7 March was particularly impressive. Elsewhere, six near Uda Walawe NP, 200+ near Bundala NP and 60+ at Hambantota.
Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaultii
Singles at Bundala NP on 7 March and at Hambantota later the same day.
Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
Two near Tissa on 5 March, 6+ in Yala NP the following day and five in and near Bundala on 7 March.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Two at Yala NP on 6 March, with 60+ near Bundala later the same day. On the following day, 40+ in Bundala NP. All were of the large nominate form.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
One near Bundala on 6 March.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
At least 15 at Yala NP and 100+ at Bundala NP. Smaller numbers noted outside these parks.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Following ones and twos on roadside pools as we approached Tissa on 5 March, at least 20 at Yala the next day, and 100+ on saltpans at Bundala NP. Smaller numbers noted outside these parks.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
At least 15 at Yala NP and 25+ at Bundala NP. Scattered singles elsewhere in the Tissa region.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Most numerous in Bundala with 20+ there on 7 March, and up to 10 in nearby pools just outside the NP. Otherwise just eight on roadside pools near Uda Walawe on 5 March.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
A small scattering of ones and twos at widely scattered locations on eight dates, including two in Victoria Park in the centre of Nuwara Eliya.
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Four at Yala and eight at Bundala NPs.
Sanderling Calidris alba
One at Bundala NP on 7 March.
Little Stint Calidris minuta
400+ at Bundala salt pans and 80+ at Yala NP. Smaller numbers elsewhere in the Tissa area.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
25+ at Bundala salt pans, six at Yala NP and 20+ at Hambantota.
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
Two at Yala NP and one near Bundala NP on 6 March. The following day, at least 25 in Bundala NP, and four off Legombo beach on the last day.
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Up to 10 feeding over roadside pools between Uda Walawe and Tissa, and two in Yala NP. Most, however, were found in and around Bundala NP, with 70+ on the main saltpan, and 12+ just outside the park.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Just four in Yala NP, but more numerous at Bundala with 20+ there on 7 March.
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna benghalensis
At least 20 with other terns on saltpan embankments at Bundala on 7 March.
Crested Tern Sterna bergii (=Swift Tern)
A minimum of 180 birds on the Bundala saltpans on 7 March, plus a handful over sea off Legombo on the last day.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
About 60 at Bundala lagoon, with smaller numbers on tanks at Tissa and at Yala.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
The most numerous and widespread tern, recorded from Colombo, and widely throughout the lowlands.
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus (=White-winged Tern)
One on a roadside pool near Uda Walawe was followed by 50+ at Bundala 7 March and smaller numbers just outside the park.
Feral Rock Dove Columba livia
Widely noted in towns and villages.
Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon Columba torringtoni (=Ceylon Wood Pigeon) ENDEMIC
Singles in flight at Sinharaja, Horton Plains and Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Common and widespread. Endemic subspecies S. c. ceylonensis
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Regularly heard and frequently seen, with up to six daily at Sinharaja. Not noted on just two dates. Endemic subspecies C. i. robinsoni
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicincta
Frequent in forests of the dry zone, particularly at Uda Walawe and Yala NPs. Endemic subspecies T. b. leggei.
Sri Lanka Green Pigeon Treron pompadora (=Pompadour Green Pigeon) ENDEMIC
Numerous in forests, especially in the wet zone. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations of mainland India and southeast Asia, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea
Widely recorded in wooded areas.
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria (=Large Indian Parakeet)
Widespread in small numbers, although many only seen in flight. Best views came from Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, where several perched in dead trees and showed particularly well.
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri (=Ring-necked Parakeet)
Common and widespread.
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala (=Indian Blossom-headed Parakeet)
Just two at Uda Walawe NP on 5 March. Now separated from the Blossom-headed P. roseata, of northeast India and southeast Asia.
Layard's Parakeet Psittacula calthropae (=Emerald-collared Parakeet) ENDEMIC
Seen particularly well from the veranda of the Blue Magpie Lodge, where four birds were feeding on a fruiting tree. Small numbers noted elsewhere, mostly in flight, but also seen perched at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy. Typically rather flighty.
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot Loriculus beryllinus (=Ceylon Lorikeet) ENDEMIC
Quite common in wooded areas and parks of the wet zone, including Kitulgula, Sinharaja, and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.
Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus (=Jacobin Cuckoo)
Singles at Bellanwalla Marsh, Colombo, and Uda Walawe NP, followed by five in and around Bundala NP on 7 March and one as we walked along the road through Yala NP the following day.
Common Hawk-cuckoo Cuculus varius
Two seen and a further two heard in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy. Feeding on chrysalis of small caterpillars that festooned one particular tree. Endemic subspecies C. v. ciceliae.
Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii
Regularly heard at Kitulgula and Sinharaja, but just one bird seen, at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, where it was feeding with Common Hawk-cuckoos on chrysalis of small caterpillars. Endemic subspecies C. s. waiti.
Grey-bellied Cuckoo Cacomantis passerinus (=Plaintive Cuckoo)
One in the tree by the hotel at Kitulgula, followed by two in Uda Walawe NP, and three in Yala, plus an interesting hepatic bird at Bundala NP on 7 March. Now treated as distinct from the rufous-bellied Plaintive Cuckoo C. merulinus of southeast Asia.
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
Heard most days and occasionally seen.
Blue-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus viridirostris
One showed well at Debarawewa, Tissa, while we waited for the White-naped Woodpeckers to show. Elsewhere, two in Bundala NP on 7 March and two by the roadside in Yala NP the following day.
Sirkeer Malkoha Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii
At least four in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March and one near Bundala NP the following day. Several prolonged views of what can be a skulking bird.
Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus ENDEMIC
Four at Sinharaja on 3 March rocketed through the canopy and most only glimpsed them. Fortunately, a more obliging bird showed well the following day.
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Widespread and seen or heard daily in small numbers.
Green-billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus ENDEMIC
Two at Kitulgula on 28 February showed well, as did one there the following day. Elsewhere, one seen briefly in Sinharaja on 3 March and heard there the following day.
Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena (=Indian Collared Scops Owl)
Great scope views of a roosting bird in a garden at Tissa.
Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmanni ENDEMIC
Only discovered in 2001 and described as a species new to science in July 2004. After hearing one calling at Kitulgula on 1 March, the heavens opened and we retreated without making further progress. Fortunately, Upali had a back up site available, and we had great views of a perched bird near Sinharaja on 3 March.
Brown Fish Owl Bubo zeylonensis
Again, great scope views of a perched bird in a garden by the Debarawewa tank at Tissa on 5 March. In addition, one flushed at Uda Wattakele, Kandy, on 11 March, but only seen by Barry. Endemic subspecies K. z. zeylonensis.
Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica
A distant bird could just be heard calling at first light on the Horton Plains.
Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanonotum ENDEMIC
Regularly heard at Kitulgula and Sinharaja but only one bird seen, at Kitulgula on 1 March, were we enjoyed prolonged views of a bird attracted into Upalis imitation of its call. In the past, has been treated as a race of both Jungle Owlet G. radiatum or Barred Owlet G. cuculoides, although this treatment is no longer recognised.
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
One at Yala NP on 6 March.
Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger (=Ceylon Frogmouth)
Fabulous views of a roosting pair in broad daylight at Sisira's River Lodge near Kitulgala on 1 March. Watching them cuddle up to each other, rocking and swaying on the branch, then yawning and wing stretching was one of the most memorable aspects of this tour. The following day we were shown a nest near Sinharaja on which the male was incubating. Voted bird of the tour.
Jerdons Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis
Heard near Bundala NP on 6 March and one seen briefly there the following evening. Endemic subspecies C. a. awquabilis.
Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus (=Small Indian Nightjar)
Seen and heard near Bundala NP on 6 & 7 March. One bird sitting in the road at dusk showed particularly well in our spotlight. Endemic subspecies C. a. eidos.
Indian Swiftlet Collocalia unicolor (=Indian Edible-nest Swift)
Common and widespread. A very complex genus, has been treated as a form of Edible-nest Swiftlet C. fuciphaga
Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
Surprisingly numerous this year, and recorded daily between 28 February and 4 March at Kitulgula and Sinharaja, with a maximum of 20+ over Sinharaja on 3 March.
Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
Widespread throughout the lowlands in both the wet and dry zones. At least 12 over Kandy on 10 March was the highest single count.
Little Swift Apus affinis
Small numbers recorded on eight dates, with a peak of 15+ over Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy, on 11 March. Most authorities now separate birds from northeast India and southeast Asia as House Swift A. nipalensis. Sri Lankan birds of the race A. a. singalensis are considered to belong with the African and Indian races as part of A. affinis but, in truth, show features associated with A. nipalensis, in having blacker plumage and a slightly more developed tail notch. Endemic subspecies A. a. singalensis.
Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
Small numbers noted about woodland edge and scattered trees throughout, but most numerous at Yala and Bundala NPs.
Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
A pair at Sinharaja 3 March and one there the following day. Endemic subspecies H. f. fasciatus.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis (=Small Blue or River Kingfisher)
Singles noted at widely scattered locations throughout, but only regularly seen near Tissa, and at Yala and Bundala NPs. Three at Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy, showed particularly well as we waited for the appearance of its smaller relative.
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithacus (=Black-backed Kingfisher)
One seen briefly on two occasions at Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy on 11 March.
Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
Singles at Bellanwalla marsh, Colombo, and at Uda Wattekele Forest, Kandy.
White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (=White-throated or Smyrna Kingfisher)
Widespread throughout the country.
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis (=Lesser Pied Kingfisher)
Singles at Bellanwalla marsh, Colombo, Uda Walawe NP, and near Hambantota, plus two over the sea at Legombo our final evening.
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Common throughout the dry lowland regions of Sri Lanka.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Common and seen daily except 10 March.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaultii
Four at Bodinagala on 28 February was followed by 50+ at Bundala NP on 7 March, and 46+, in ones and twos, by the roadside as we ascended to Nuwara Eliya on 8 March.
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Small numbers noted throughout the lowlands.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Only one seen this year, at Yala NP on 6 March, although one was heard the previous day.
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill Ocyceros gingalensis (=Ceylon Grey Hornbill) ENDEMIC
Up to four together at Kitulgula but apparently absent elsewhere. One heard at Sinharaja and one seen in Yala NP on 8 March were the only other reports. Now split from Malabar Grey Hornbill O. griseus.
Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
Five at Uda Walawe NP on 5 March and two in Yala NP the following day.
Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica (=Green Barbet)
Widely recorded, with ones and twos noted most days. Formerly treated as a race of Lineated Barbet M. lineata of southeast Asia and the Himalayas. Endemic subspecies M. z. zeylanica.
Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons ENDEMIC
Widely recorded in ones and twos, but generally absent from the dry zone.
Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla (=Ceylon Small Barbet) ENDEMIC
Heard at Bellanwalla marsh, Colombo and Kitulgula but only seen around Kandy, where we finally enjoyed good looks at four or more birds in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala (=Crimson-breasted Barbet)
Two at Uda Walawe NP, and then regularly heard and occasionally seen near Tissa, and in Yala and Bundala NPs.
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Dendrocopos mahrattensis (=Mahratta or Yellow-fronted Woodpecker)
One at Uda Walawe NP, four at Bundala NP and two at Yale NP.
Rufous Woodpecker Celeus brachyurus
One by the roadside in Yala NP on 8 March was the only record.
Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
Following one at Kitulgula on 28 February, just two at Sinharaja on 4 March plus one heard there the previous day. Endemic subspecies P. c. wellsi.
Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense (=Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker)
Relatively widespread in ones and twos, although six noted at Debarawewa, Tissa, on 5 March. Endemic subspecies D. b. psarodes.
White-naped Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes festivus (=Black-backed Yellow Woodpecker)
A pair gave outstanding views as they worked a stand of tall palms near Tissa on 5 March. One seen by Barry near the hotel in Tissa the following day. Endemic subspecies C. f. tantus.
Crimson-backed Flameback Chrysocolaptes stricklandi ENDEMIC
Four seen well in Sinharaja on 4 March and a pair excavating a nest hole at Uda Wattakele, Kandy, on 11 March. Also heard at Horton Plains on 9 March. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India and elsewhere in southeast Asia, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
Seen or heard on eight dates, with Uda Walawe and Yala NPs providing the bulk of all sightings. However, the bird in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, on 10 March showed particularly well, allowing everyone their best views.
Jerdon's Bushlark Mirafra affinis
A common roadside bird in the grasslands of Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs. A recent revision separated this taxon from the Rufous-winged or Bengal Bushlark M. assamica.
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix grisea (=Ashy-crowned Finch-lark)
At least 30 in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March, followed by 25+ near Bundala NP the following day, and 15+ in Bundala NP on 7 March.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (=Common Swallow)
Widely recorded and noted daily.
Hill Swallow Hirundo domicola
Nice looks at three birds at Pattipola Station below Horton Plains, and at the Glenloch Tea Factory. Formerly included in Pacific Swallow H. tahitica.
Sri Lanka Swallow Hirundo hyperythra ENDEMIC
Widely recorded, with one pair nesting in a culvert under the main road north of Tissa passing through Yala NP. This taxon differs from Red-rumped Swallow in its deep rufous underparts and rump, and the call also seems to differ from that of other races Red-rumped Swallows, from which it has recently been split. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India and elsewhere, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
A party of at least 40 birds perching in a dead tree in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March. These birds would presumably be of one of the northern, migratory forms, probably H. d. nipalensis of the Himalayas or H. d. erythropygia of the plains of India.
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
Three in Udawalawe NP on 5 March, followed by two in Victoria Park on 8 March and Hakgala Botanical Gardens, Nuwara Eliya on 9 March. Three in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 10 March and two at. Uda Wattakele, Kandy, the following day.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
One in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March and at least five on roadside pools later the same day. Small numbers also noted near Bundala. All birds appeared to be of the race M. f. beema.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Noted in small numbers at Kitulgula, Sinharaja and Nuwara Eliya, mostly in flight, calling.
Oriental Pipit Anthus rufulus (=Paddyfield Pipit)
The form A. r. malayanus was common along coastal lowlands at Bundala and Yala NPs, a few pairs of much paler, sandy birds of unknown subspecies in highlands at Pattipola Station. The tropical races of the complex were formerly included within a wide ranging Richards Pipit A. novaeseelandiae.
Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii
At least four at Udawalawe NP on 5 March.
Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina melanoptera
Heard at Kitulgula, plus a female at Yala NP on 6 March and a male by the roadside as we walked through Yala NP on 8 March.
Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
Small parties in dry forests of the Udawalawe and Yala NPs.
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus (=Flame or Orange Minivet)
Small numbers regularly encountered in the wet zone and Yala NP.
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus (=Pied Flycatcher-shrike)
Singles at Bodinagala on 28 February and Uda Wattakele, Kandy on 11 March. All other sightings came from Nuwara Eliya, including Hakgala Botanical Gardens and Bomuruella forest, where it was fairly numerous in the small bird parties. Typically seen in pairs associated with mixed feeding parties. Endemic subspecies H. p. leggei.
Black-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus ENDEMIC
Small numbers noted in all mature wet zone forests. The Sri Lankan form melanicterus is now split by Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) from other populations of Black-headed Yellow or Black-crested Bulbul P. flaviventris occurring on mainland Asia, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
Common and widespread throughout the tour.
Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus ENDEMIC
Six at Victoria Park and Galways Forest, Nuwara Eliya on 8 March, 20+ in forest above Horton Plains the following day, and 12+ at Bomuruella forest on 10 March.
White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus
One at Blue Magpie Lodge on 2 March. Elsewhere, three at Yala and 15+ at Bundala NPs, but generally quite elusive. Endemic subspecies P. l. insulae.
Yellow-browed Bulbul Iole indica
Frequently noted in moist forests of the wet zone at Kitulgula, Sinharaja and Kandy, but absent from the dry zone and upland forests. Endemic subspecies I. i. guglielmi in wet zone.
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus (=Grey Bulbul)
Small numbers noted at Kitulgala, Sinharaja, Nuwara Eliya and at Kandy. Endemic subspecies H. l. humei.
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis (=Jerdon's Leafbird)
Just one bird noted, at Debarawewa, Tissa, on 5 March. Confusingly, the Sri Lankan and Indian races of Blue-winged Leafbird lack blue wings. Endemic subspecies C. c. jerdoni.
Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
Up to four daily at Kitulgula and Sinharaja, plus three in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Widely scattered throughout in small numbers.
Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush Myophonus blighi (=Arrenga) ENDEMIC
The male was singing and calling at the usual site at Horton Plains on 9 March, but was only seen by Upali and Peter H.
Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii (=Pied Ground Thrush)
An estimated seven or eight birds in the late afternoon at Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya, on 8 March. Several males allowed prolonged scope views, but only one female noted.
Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera ENDEMIC
Superb views of two birds at Kitulgala. Others heard at Sinharaja and Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush Zoothera imbricata
A pair near the stream behind the research station at Sinharaja on 4 March were only seen by Barry, but one in Victoria Park on 8 March showed well for several minutes. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India and elsewhere, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula (=Southern Blackbird)
At least six in montane forest at Horton Plains on 9 March. Also heard in Galways Forest the previous evening. These birds differ greatly from northern populations and, along with the birds inhabiting southern India, may represent a distinct species T. simillimus. Endemic subspecies T. m. kinnisii.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis (=Fan-tailed Warbler)
Relatively common in damp lowland grasslands. Noted at Bellanwalla marshes, Colombo, Uda Walawe NP, Bundala and Horton Plains. Endemic subspecies C. j. omalurus in the wet zone.
Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii (Franklin's Wren-warbler)
One in song at Yala NP on 8 March. Endemic subspecies P. h. leggei.
Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica (=Large Wren-warbler)
Regularly heard in Yala and Bundala NPs. Endemic subspecies P. s. valida.
Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis (=Ashy Wren-warbler)
Common in Uda Walawe NP with at least 12 noted. Elsewhere, just one in Victoria Park on 8 March. Endemic ssp P. s. brevicauda.
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata (White-browed Prinia, Tawny-flanked Prinia)
Relatively common in scrubby grasslands throughout. Previously included within Tawny-flanked Prinia P. subflava of Africa. Endemic subspecies P. i. insularis.
Sri Lanka Bush Warbler Bradypterus palliseri (=Ceylon Warbler) ENDEMIC
Three in low scrub at Horton Plains on 9 March, including a pair nest building. Also one in Bomuruella Forest, Nuwara Eliya, the following day.
Blyth's Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
Surprisingly few noted, with just ones and twos at Kitulgula, Uda Walawe NP, Victoria Park and Horton Plains.
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
A singing male at Debarawewa, Tissa, on 5 March, and at least 10 in song near Bundala the next day. Endemic ssp A. s. meridionalis.
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Widely recorded. Endemic subspecies O. s. sutorius in the lowlands and O. s. fernandornis in the hills.
Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris
Two seen at Horton Plains on 9 March and one at Bomuruella forest the following day. Occasionally heard in song elsewhere.
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus (=Bright Green Leaf Warbler)
Widely recorded in woodland but absent from dry areas visited. Only birds showing the characters of the race P. t. nitidus were noted. This taxon is occasionally treated as distinct species, Green Warbler P. nitidus.
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Singles at Ratnapura on 2 March and at Sinharaja the following day.
Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui (=Layards Flycatcher)
Single birds occasionally recorded in the forests of the wet zone, including Bodinagala, Kitulgula and Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy. Absent from the dry lowlands and highland regions.
Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra (=Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher)
A female at Horton Plains on 9 March was seen only by Mary and Peter H. Fortunately, a absolutely stunning male appeared at the last gasp at Bomuruella forest, Nuwara Eliya, on 10 March, and stayed around for long enough to allow everyone to see it. Has previously been considered a subspecies of Red-breasted Flycatcher F. parva.
Dull-blue Flycatcher Eumyias sordida (=Dusky-blue Flycatcher) ENDEMIC
Three at Horton Plains and two at Hakgala Botanical Gardens, 9 March. At least five in Bomuruella forest, Nuwara Eliya, 10 March.
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
At least four at Bodinagala, two in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and eight or more at Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy. Endemic subspecies C. t. jerdoni.
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis (=Grey-headed Flycatcher)
At least five seen and many more heard around Nuwara Eliya. Endemic subspecies C. c. ceylonensis.
Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea (=Indian Bluechat)
Always hard to see. This year, occasionally heard in forested areas but on our final morning, however, two or three males appeared at the Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy, and were seen by some of our group.
Oriental Magpie-robin Copsychus saularis (=Robin Dayal)
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Good looks at a singing male in Yala NP on 8 March. Others heard at Uda Walawe NP, Yala NP, and Uda Wattekele reserve, Kandy. Endemic subspecies C. m. leggei.
Indian Robin Saxicoloides fulicata (=Black-backed Robin)
Frequently recorded in dry areas visited, and also in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy. Endemic subspecies S. f. leucoptera.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata (=Pied Stonechat)
Frequently seen about Nuwara Eliya and on the Horton Plains, usually in pairs. Endemic subspecies S. c. atrata.
White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola (=White-breasted Fantail)
One at Ratnapura on 2 March. Thereafter, ones and twos regularly encountered at Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs.
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Bodinagala was the best site, but also noted at Sinharaja and Uda Wattekele reserve, Kandy. Endemic ssp H. a. ceylonensis.
Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Widespread, seen most days. Many mature males with white plumage and long central tail feathers. Endemic ssp T. p. ceylonensis.
Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons ENDEMIC
A party of eight in Sinharaja on 3 March and 25+ there the following day.
Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum fuscocapillum ENDEMIC
Singles or pairs noted at Bodinagala, Kitulgula, Sinharaja and Uda Wattekele reserve, Kandy. Responded well to Upalis rendition of its song.
Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus melanurus ENDEMIC
Widely heard in Sinharaja, and at Horton Plains, Hakgala Botanical Gardens and Bomuruella forest, Nuwara Eliya, Usually elusive and difficult to see, but several responded well to Upalis imitation of the song.
Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka races P. m. melanurus of the wet lowlands, and P. m. holdsworthi of the dry lowlands and hills, from other populations of Indian Scimitar-babbler P. horsfieldii on mainland India, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra (=Rufous-bellied Babbler)
Another shy babbler, seen briefly as a small party worked its way through roadside scrub near Bundala on 6 March. Endemic subspecies D. h. phillipsi.
Black-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps (=Dark-fronted Babbler)
Occasionally encountered in forests at Bodinagala, Kitulgala, Sinharaja, Nuwara Eliya and Uda Wattakele reserve, Kandy. Absent from forests in the dry zone. Endemic subspecies R. a. nigrifrons in the wet zone and R. a. siccatus in the dry zone and hills.
Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense
A party of 12+ in Uda Walawe on 5 March was seen fairly well by all. Just one other record of a single bird at Bundala on 7 March. Endemic subspecies C. s. nasale.
Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens (=Ceylon Rufous Babbler) ENDEMIC
Numerous in wet zone forests at Kitulgula and Sinharaja. Formerly considered a race of Jungle Babbler T. striatus of India.
Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis
Widely recorded throughout the tour. Endemic subspecies T. a. taprobanus.
Great Tit Parus major (=Grey Tit)
Frequently seen in upland forests and gardens at Nuwara Eliya. These grey and white taxa are occasionally separated as Cinereous or Asian Grey Tit P. cinereus. The race occurring in Sri Lanka is P. m. mahrattarum.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
Six at Sinharaja on 3 March, followed by eight in Hakgala Botanical Gardens and two at Bomuruella forest, Nuwara Eliya.
Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica
Widely recorded in small numbers throughout the country. Endemic subspecies L. z. zeylonica.
Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiatica
Only recorded in the dry zone, with up to ten daily at Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs and in the Tissa area.
Long-billed Sunbird Cinnyris lotenia (=Loten's Sunbird)
Occasionally encountered in ones and twos throughout, but only 12 birds in total seen. Endemic subspecies C. l. lotenia.
Legge's Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens (=White-throated Flowerpecker) ENDEMIC
Ones and twos noted in the forests of the wet zone at Kitulgala and Sinharaja.
Tickell's Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos (=Pale-billed Flowerpecker)
Widely recorded in the wet zone and Nuwara Eliya region.
Sri Lanka White-eye Zosterops ceylonensis (=Ceylon Hill White-eye) ENDEMIC
The only record away from the hills concerned four birds in Sinharaja forest on 3 March. Generally common and widespread in forests of Horton Plains and about Nuwara Eliya.
Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosa
Widely recorded throughout, but apparently absent from the dry zone. A few birds noted at Nuwara Eliya. Endemic ssp Z. p. egregia.
Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus (=Black-headed Oriole)
Widely recorded throughout the country. Endemic subspecies O. x. ceylonensis.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Widely recorded throughout tour. Most, if not all, birds were strikingly pale and grey, and resembled birds of the form L. c. lucionensis that occur in eastern China and winter in the Philippines. Quite why these birds should be wintering in both Sri Lanka and the Philippines, with other races occurring between, remains something of a mystery.
Sri Lanka Woodshrike Tephrodornis affinis ENDEMIC
Two at Yala NP on 6 & 8 March, and one at Bundala NP on 7 March. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India and elsewhere throughout southeast Asia, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
Widespread throughout and noted daily except 9 March. Endemic subspecies D. c. leucopygialis in the wet zone and D. c. insularis in the dry zone. .
Sri Lanka Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorinus ENDEMIC
Numerous in wet zone forests, where it was noted in Kitulgala and Sinharaja forests. Formerly treated as a subspecies of Greater Racket-tailed Drongo D. paradiseus. Rasmussen & Anderton (in press) propose to split the endemic Sri Lanka race from other populations on mainland India and elsewhere, although the justification for this decision has not yet been published.
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
Two at the hotel at Ratnapura, 2 March and 20+ en route to Tissa, 5 March. Elsewhere singles noted by the roadside 8 and 11 March.
Sri Lanka Blue Magpie Urocissa ornata (=Ceylon Magpie) ENDEMIC
Heard calling at Kitulgula on 1 March but not seen. Fairly common at Sinharaja forest, with six there on 3 March and four the following day. One bird on a nest near the Research Station.
House Crow Corvus splendens
Widespread and extremely common, but generally absent away from towns and villages, particularly at higher elevations.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos (=Jungle Crow)
Widespread and common, but not as abundant as the previous species. Sri Lankan and peninsular Indian birds are perhaps separable from Large-billed Crow of eastern Asia and the Himalayas as Jungle Crow, C. levaillanti.
Southern Hill Myna Gracula indica
Two at Kitulgula on 28 February and 1 March. Elsewhere, four in Yala NP on 8 March, and common in the Kandy region, with 12+ in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 10 March and 10+ at Uda Wattakele the following day.
Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys (=Ceylon Grackle) ENDEMIC
Noted on three days at Sinharaja forest, with a maximum of eight on 3 March.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Widespread and abundant. Endemic subspecies A. t. melanosturnus.
White-faced Starling Sturnia senex (=White-headed Myna) ENDEMIC
Three in a fruiting fig by the Research Station in Sinharaja Forest on 3 March. Heard there again the following day.
Brahminy Starling Temenuchus pagodarum (=Brahminy Myna, Black-capped Starling)
Four at Yala National Park on 6 March.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Widespread and common in highland towns and around Kandy, but less numerous elsewhere.
Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
A male building a nest at Uda Walawe NP on 5 March.
Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica
At least 15 in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March, and eight in Bundala NP on 7 March.
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata (=Striated or Sharp-tailed Munia)
Only seen in the rice paddy below the veranda at the Blue Magpie Lodge, were a group of 12 or more were feeding with other munias.
Black-throated Munia Lonchura kelaarti (=Sri Lanka/Ceylon Hill Munia) ENDEMIC
At least two birds in the rice paddy below the veranda at the Blue Magpie Lodge showed particularly well. Recently separated from Black-throated or Rufous-bellied Munia of south India, which becomes L. jerdoni. However, this split is not recognised by Rasmussen & Anderton (in press), who can find no evidence to justify this decision.
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata (=Spotted Munia or Nutmeg Mannikin)
Widely recorded in small numbers.
Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca (=Chestnut Munia)
Over 100 in Uda Walawe NP on 5 March.
SYSTEMATIC LIST OF MAMMALS
Names and sequence follow Duff, A and Lawson, A (2004) Mammals of the World: A checklist. London, A&C Black.
Indian Hare Lepus nigricollis
One in Yala NP and two in the early morning as we drove to Horton Plains on 8 March.
Black Rat Rattus rattus
One at the Research Station at Sinharaja forest on 3 March, and another in Victoria Park at Nuwara Eliya.
Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel Rafula macroura (=Grizzled Giant Squirrel)
Ones and twos noted at Bodinagala, Kitulgala, Sinharaja and Galways Forest, Nuwara Eliya.
Indian Palm Squirrel Funambulus palmarum (=Southern Palm Squirrel)
Widespread throughout the lowlands.
Dusky Palm Squirrel Funambulus sublineatus (=Dusky Striped Squirrel)
Ones and twos noted daily in the Nuwara Eliya region.
Layard's Palm Squirrel Funambulus layardi (=Layard's Forest Squirrel)
Only recorded at Kitulgula and Sinharaja forests.
Leopard Panthera pardus
Two seen close to the road in Yala NP on 6 March, presumably a female with a large cub.
Common Indian Civet Viverricula indica
One pre-dawn at Horton Plains on 9 March.
Short-tailed Mongoose Herpestes brachyurus
Singles in Yala NP on 8 March and in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on 10 March. Indian and Sri Lankan populations formerly treated as Indian Brown Mongoose H. fuscus.
Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithii
Several seen in Yala and Bundala NPs.
Golden Jackal Canis aureus
One at Uda Walawe NP on 5 March and two close to the roadside in Yala NP on 6 March.
Indian Flying Fox Pteropus giganteus
Widely recorded, but the huge colony in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, must be one of the largest anywhere within southern Asia. Impressive in flight!
Tufted Grey Langur Semnopithecus priam
Common in dry forest at Bundala and Yala NPs. Formerly lumped under Hanuman or Northern Plains Grey Langur S. entellus.
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus vetulus vetulus
Seen well at Bodingala, Kitulgula and Sinharaja forests.
Bear Monkey Trachypithecus vetulus senex
The shaggier-coated highland form of the previous species, seen well in forests at Horton Plains and at Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Toque Macaque Macaca sinica
Frequently encountered in forests from sea level to the mountains.
Eurasian Wild Boar Sus scrofa
At least 25 at Yala NP on 6 March.
Sambar Cervus unicolor
Two at Horton Plains NP on 9 March.
Chital Axis axis (Axis or Spotted Deer)
Six at Uda Walawe and 30+ Yala NP.
Wild Water Buffalo Bubalus arnee
At least 40 at Uda Walawe, and numerous at Yala and Bundala National Parks, but relatively few resembled the true big-horned beasts that occur in Nepal and elsewhere in Asia. Presumably derived from domestic stock?.
Asian Elephant Elephas maximus
At least 20 at Uda Walawe and 12 in Yala NP. None seen with tusks. Just after we passed along the entrance road to Yala NP on 6 March, a villager was killed by an irate elephant. A poignant reminder that Elephants are always dangerous.
The following species were identified during the tour.
Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris
Southern House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus
Green Garden Lizard Calotes calotes
Common Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor
Horned Lizard Ceratophora stoddarti
Horned Lizard Ceratophora sp.
Common Skink Mabuya carinata
Common Indian Monitor Varanus bengalensis
Water Monitor Varanus salvator
Common Rat Snake Ptyas mucosus
© The Travelling Naturalist and Limosa Holidays 2005