2013

Trip reports from 2013

André Weiss Pryde's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2012 Dec 30
Tour End: 
2013 Jan 17

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André Weiss Pryde

 

 

After having explored the birds of India on several occasions, the endemic species of Sri Lanka finally called for me. I ended up seeing all of them and many other bird species and some great mammals. I can absolutely recommend this beautiful island: good birds, good food, nice people and very easy to organise.

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Author/s of the report: 
André Weiss Pryde

Erik Mølgaard's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Nov 22
Tour End: 
2013 Dec 7

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This consists of a brief report with species list and photos.

Marianne and Erik M%F8lgaard

Author/s of the report: 
Erik Mølgaard

Jonathan Francis Uren's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Nov 2
Tour End: 
2013 Nov 17

Trip Report Year:

We had a very enjoyable time in Sri Lanka and Nandana proved to be a superb guide for the birds, other wildlife and cultural sites. He made the holiday an excellent experience for us all and we appreciated the great efforts he made to find all the birds he possibly could for us. We only missed 3 targets and all of them were almost impossible to find, no Pied Thrushes - we were too early, Scaly Thrushes weren't calling and were impossible to find and Serendip Scops Owls did not co-operate despite great efforts by Nandana and the local guides in Sinharaja.  If we come back to Sri Lanka we will be delighted if Nandana were our guide again.
 
We will write a trip report and once it is complete we will send you a copy for your website and we look forward to meeting you again in August at the Birdfar.
 
Thanks again for organising an excellent trip for us

Author/s of the report: 
Jonathan Francis Uren

Ella Maria and Leif Bisschop-Larsen's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Jan 29
Tour End: 
2013 Feb 12

Trip Report Year:

Country:

Leif, Ella Maria and Senerath

This report summarize our 15 days trip to Sri Lanka with notes on sites visited and a list of the species of birds and mammals seen.

As our first visit to South East Asia we chose Sri Lanka because of the country’s rich nature with a great biodiversity within a rather small geographic area.

The tour was planned after contact to some of Sri Lanka’s tour operators specializing in birding and wildlife tours. We chose WalkWithJith and agreed on a program staying only in 4 different lodges/hotels in order to make the tour easy without too much driving. The driver Senarath Bulathsinhala not only took us safely from place to place (from day 5), but he was also a very knowledgeable and helpful birding and wildlife guide. In some of the national parks local guides accompanied us, and they were helpful too. During the first days in Sinharaja Forest Reserve Sandun was our guide and he introduced us to many new species as well as cultural matters.

The tour introduced us to some of the main habitats of Sri Lanka: The rain forest in the south-west lowland wet zone (Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Hiyare Forest), the central highlands with montane grassland and cloud forest (Horton Plains National Park), highland tea country (e.g. Ella), freshwater wetlands (Tissamaharama tanks and paddy-fields, Yala National Park), coastal lagoons/saltpans (Bundala National Park, Yala National Park) and finally the ocean to the south with marine mammals.

Author/s of the report: 
Ella Maria
Leif Bisschop-Larsen

Hans Westerlaken's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2012 Dec 21
Tour End: 
2013 Jan 4

Trip Report Year:

Country:

Nandana, Hans Westerlaken and Caroline

We used the services of Walk With Jith. This is one of the lesser known companies than for example Bauer or Jetwing. Walk With Jith charged us $500 less than Bauers, namely $1550/1180Euros. We managed to see all 33 endemics and more. This was mainly thanks to our excellent guide Nandana. He is a free-lance guide who also works for Bauers and other companies and his skills and determination in the field are excellent. He worked hard to show us all the required species and we actually only missed seeing one much sought-after species, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher.

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Author/s of the report: 
Hans Westerlaken

John Kirman's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Jan 5
Tour End: 
2013 Jan 15

Trip Report Year:

John Kirman, Ginny Smith and Jan Kirman

Very many thanks, Jith for a wonderful two weeks which surpassed our expectations in all respects; also many thanks to Dilan for his good company & careful driving which has a big significance on the enjoyment of a holiday like this –we all felt safe with him 100% of the time.

With the exception of a sloth bear which we didn't set eyes upon. I think we had good sightings of all the animals we thought we might see; also many species of wonderfully colored butterflies and such a wide variety too of botanical interest Last but not least, the birds of which we saw around 190 species & many of which provided excellent scope – and /or binocular – felling sightings. The hotels were all five, even if varying somewhat in quality, but the main thing was the fascinatingly wide variety variety of character they offered from the fine colonial Hotel Suisse in Kandy to the relatively primitive but highly characterful & peaceful Martin's Lodge (No traffic and associated noise – only the sound of waterbirds) in the heart of Sinharaja Rain Forest. Food was fine too throughout – a plethora of cuisines which is what we expected & enjoy. Finally another BIG THANK YOU to Jith – his arrangement & planning worked seamlessly & he is the ideal guide – not overbearing but always humorous, eagle-eyed &, not least, knowledgeable – an excellent ambassador for Sri Lanka! The local guides in in various places were very good too. All-in-all a truly memorable experience! We will recommend you to our trading native-loving friends without hesitation.

Author/s of the report: 
John Kirman

Carsten Fog's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Feb 10
Tour End: 
2013 Feb 24

Trip Report Year:

Country:

Janne Thomsen, Upali and Carsten Fog

Report of sighting of Oriental Scrub Robin in Nuawara Eliya in Gregory Park - 11 - 25 February 2013 by Carsten Fog

1. Species, including age, sex and plumage type, or whichever of these is known. The species observed was an Oriental Scrub Robin or Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes). It was..........

Places Visited in the tour:

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Author/s of the report: 
Carsten Fog

John Diley's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Mar 18
Tour End: 
2013 Apr 3

Trip Report Year:

Jhon and Anne Diley

A keen birder of over 50 years & wife Anne, a non-birder...

"For me, this was one of the best holidays we have ever had.  After the initial deep reluctance & reservations on Anne`s part, having read on the inter-net the horror stories as regards the many potential safety hazzards, she enjoyed the whole experience immensely & I`m sure would not have missed it for the world.  The people were lovely & friendly without exception.  The flights with Emirates were first class as was the hotel accommodation [with one big exception – Martin`s Lodge!]  The food was on the whole good, often really good.  The travel company “Walks with Jith” under the umbrella organisation of  “Responsible Travel”, could not be faulted.  We were well looked after at every step of the way & their initial organisation was first rate without a single glitch.  Our driver/guide ...

Places Visited in the tour:

Author/s of the report: 
John Diley

Keith Pigdon's Trip Report

Tour Strat: 
2013 Mar 31
Tour End: 
2013 Apr 15

Trip Report Year:

Country:

Nancye, Manju, Upali and Margaret

Keith Pigdon, Nancye Pigdon  and Margaret Wilson, from Melbourne, Australia

Three retired adults were met at the airport on arrival in Sri Lanka and driven to our hotel in the wee small hours of the morning by our careful and very pleasant trip driver Manju. A great way to start a visit to a new country! We had been well prepared for the visit through numerous email contacts with Jith and the detailed information he provided on currency, tipping, food, health, clothing etc.

We met our very knowledgeable and friendly guide Upali on the first day and were each presented with a great little package containing an excellent map of Sri Lanka, a pocket bird book and a tally list to keep records of what we were to see. All of these were of great use to us throughout the trip. Nice touch Jith. Our vehicle was a new A/C comfortable van. Given the problems we had had with a poor quality vehicle on a previous trip to Africa we were well pleased with the van.....

Author/s of the report: 
Keith Pigdon

PART IV - Whale Watching in Sri Lanka

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David Hill & Chris Hill - Sri Lanka Trip Report – Jan/Feb 2013 (PART IV) 
Whale Watching in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has recently come to prominence as one of the best places in the world to view the world’s largest mammal – the Blue Whale.

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Whale watching only kicked off as a commercial venture in Sri Lanka around 2006, following a theory by a British marine biologist, Dr Charles Anderson, who hypothesized that whales migrate between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, passing close to the Sri Lankan east coastland due to its proximity to the continental shelf.

The Blue Whales are the highlight of any whale watching trip, but it is possible to see up to 8 species of whale and 5 species of dolphin.  The most commonly encountered are:

- Blue Whales – the largest mammal on earth weighing in at 150-170 tones and up to 30 metres in length.  The Blue Whale’s tongue alone weights 2.7 tons!

- Sperm Whales – the largest toothed animal on earth but smaller than the Blue whale at up to 20.5 metres long and weighing up to 57 tons.

- Fin Whales – the world’s second largest living mammal, growing up to 27m long

- Spinner Dolphins – famous for their aerial acrobatics, leaping and spinning out of the water

The below sightings board shows what was actually seen on the Mirissa Water Sports trips in February 2013.

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Commercial whale watching trips depart from a number of spots along the coast on a daily basis throughout the whale watching season (December to April).  To try to get the best of the sea conditions, the trips leave early in the mornings (6:30 – 7am) and usually last about 4 hours.

We went with a company called Mirissa Water Sports and were on one of their two boats they had leaving from Mirissa.  Once in the whale watching area, we were joined later by other vessels that had left from other spots along the coast.  There were a maximum of 12 whale watching boats in our vicinity but we were rarely in close proximity.

Our captain and spotters were very experienced and were able to consistently predict the whales movements – getting us in good positions so the whales were approaching us on their own terms as opposed to us encroaching into their space.

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Our boat had plenty of  viewing space on both the upper and lower levels, in contrast to some of the other boats which appeared crowded in comparison.

Based on our trip, would certainly recommend Mirissa Water Sports – not least for the quality of our experience and their behavior around the whales.

The whale migration routes are a fair distance off shore past the shipping lanes – we went out  a maximum of 17km according to GPS readings.  One Bottlenose dolphin was briefly seen on our way out but there were generally few birds and little to see until we passed the continental shelf.

Our first sighting was of a distant whale but as we got closer to where it initially breached, we were able to enjoy close view of these impressive mammals as they calmly approached us.

Our close views enable us to also see the Remora fish that attached themselves to the whales, hitching a ride and feeding around the whale without causing it any discomfort.  These fish can be seen in some of the shots, particularly on the tail fluke.

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The whale migration routes seemed to overlap with the commercial shipping lanes and damage was noticed on some of the whales, particularly the tails (although it is impossible to know how this was caused).  For example, in the photo above the tip on the right of the tail is missing but healed.

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The whales would come to the surface and you would see several plumes of spray from their blow holes over a minute or two before taking a deep dive when you may see their tail fluke.

From a photography perspective, this meant you would only really get to see either their blow hole, dorsal fin or tail out of the water at anyone time, making it impossible for a photograph to show more than part of the huge mammals.

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I took two camera bodies with me on the trip – one mounted with a 300mm lens and the other a 24-70mm.  I found that even with the rocking of the boat, the 300mm was most useful of the two and where I got my best shots.  In hindsight, a zoom in the range of 70-200mm zoom would probably be best although this may be a bit short for some of the whales and particularly the dolphins.

Apart from the minor swell, the other challenge was the light and glare off the sea.  This meant the light was a bit flat in a number of photographs but the majority of sightings where with the sun in our backs (it was either luck or down to the skill of the skipper).

In addition to the whales (over ten individuals were estimated to have been seen), we encountered a large pod of Spinner Dolphins on our way back to shore.

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I couldn’t help but see the irony in this crowded boat spewing exhaust fumes as it raced to get close to a breaching whale – eco-tourism in action indeed!

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