Hans Westerlaken's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
Travel Report by Hans Westerlaken - Dec 2012 to Jan 2013
Tour Start: 
Friday, December 21, 2012
Tour End: 
Friday, January 4, 2013

Trip Report Year:

Hans - Caroline
Hans & Caroline


Bird Trip Sri Lanka                   
22nd of December 2012 – 3rd of January 2013

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. 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.


Day-to-day itinerary

On the 21st of December we flew Qatar Airways from Brussels via Doha to Colombo, arriving there at 08.00 hours. The airfare was quite low for Christmas time, only 870 Euros.


22nd of December

We were picked up by our guide and drove slowly towards Kitulgala. In the afternoon we made a walk around the police station and Sisiras River Lodge.

Best species seen : Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Spot-winged Thrush, Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Orange-billed Babbler.


Accommodation : Plantation Hotel (good)


23rd of December

Early morning walk in the same area and an afternoon walk in the rainforest across the river.
Near Sisiras Lodge we saw  Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Brown-capped babbler,

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher ( heard only ). In the rainforest we heard Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush and Sri Lanka Spurfowl but they remained elusive as did Serendib Scop’s Owl. In the late afternoon we saw a

Green-billed Coucal near the hotel.

24h of December

After rather a long drive to Sinharaja Rainforest we walked part of the trail into the forest which runs from Martin’s Place into the reserve.

We saw Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush just before the forest opens at the research centre and came across a flock including Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Red-faced Malkoha and Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush.

On the way back at dusk we heard a Serendib Scop’s Owl , but it was too late to search for it. A Chestnut-backed Owlet was calling around Martin’s Lodge.

Accommodation : Martin’s Lodge (basic)


25th of December

After a short walk around Martin’s Lodge we did the same trail in the forest. Around the Lodge we saw Sri Lanka Blue Magpie ( foraging on insects in the dining area), White-throated (Legge’s)

Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo,Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Orange-billed Babbler, Large-billed Leaf Warbler and Spot-winged Thrush.

Despite extensive searches Sri Lanka Frogmouth and Serendib Scop’s Owl could not be located this morning. A Malabar Trogon and a flock containing the same species as on the 24th were seen. After lunch we went down towards the village to find Sri Lanka Spurfowl, a female of which we finally caught glimpses of. A Yellow-fronted Barbet was much more obliging. Sandana’s search for

Sri Lanka Frogmouth was fruitful but coincided with a tropical downpour and an invasion of leeches.Still, one of the highlights of the trip. In the pouring rain a Watersnake made use of the pools.


26th of December

In the morning another attempt was made to see Serendip Scop’s Owl but it was still playing hard to get. In a flock we saw Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Green-billed Coucal and Malabar Trogon.

After lunch we walked down to the village to see the Serendib Scop’s Owl which had been located that morning by a park employee. We had great views of the bird whose depiction in the Helm Guide is completely wrong.


27th of December

Morning drive to Udawalawa, visiting the Elephant Transit Home after lunch. Afternoon walk near the Transit Home produced Spot-biled Pelican, Oriental Scop’s Owl, Loten’s Sunbird and Blue-faced

Accommodation : Safari Village Hotel (average)


28th of December

Morning drive in Udawalawa National Park. Asian elephants are quite abundant in the open parts of the park as are Jerdon’s Bush Larks and Black-headed Munias. Hundreds of Rosy Starlings roosted in the bare trees. In the more wooded areas Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Orange-breasted Green Pigeon were new species to me.

In the afternoon a wetland near  Tissamaharama was visited. Best birds here : Watercock, Black ,

Yellow and Cinnamon Bittern. Accommodation : Hibiscus Garden Hotel (good)


29th of December

A full day’s safari in Yala National Park. Because of the holidays the park was very crowded and we had to queue to glimpse the first leopard of the day. Still many birds were seen in this attractive park with open areas, lakes teeming with birds and the sea.

Highlights included : Pied Cuckoo, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Blue-faced and Sirkeer Malkoha, Brown

Fish Owl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, dustbathing Little Green Bee-eaters, Asy-crowned Finch Lark, Oriental Skylark, Sri Lanka Swallow, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Brahminy Starling and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch.

Most thrilling was a leopard nearly catching a spotted deer at very close range yielding some fine video footage.


30th of December

Successful early morning search for White-naped Woodpecker  near Tissamaharama.Longish drive to

Nuwara Eliya with an unproductive stop forBrown Wood Owl andSri Lanka Woodpigeon.

Late afternoon visit to Victoria Park, finding Forest Wagtail, Indian Blue Robin and “twitching” Kashmir Flycatcher and Pied Thrush .An Indian Pitta showed itself on the grass at dusk.

Accommodation : Binota Residency (average, excellent staff )


31st of December

Early start at 4.30 for the Horton Plains. Stop near the entrance for Sri Lanka Blue Whistling Thrush,

Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, who all cooperated nicely.Dull-blue Flycatcher eluded us here though.

During the walk to World’s End we saw Indian Blackbird, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler and Hill Swallow but only heard Crimson-backed Woodpecker.

The afternoon visit to Victoria Gardens produced no new species but fine views of Indian Pitta.


1st of January

8.30 start for Hakgale Botanical Gardens. On the way we tried successfully for Dull-blue Flycatcher and also saw a male Kashmir Flycatcher.

Apart from stunning views of a pair of Pied Thrushes, the only birds of note were Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and Yellow-eared Bulbul. The afternoon was spent strolling around Nuwara Eliya.


2nd of January

An early morning attempt to see Crimson-backed Woodpecker failed but a Sri Lanka Whisling Thrush briefly showed . Visit to tea-factory en route.

Drive to Kandy and late afternoon walk from the hotel seeing Lesser Hill Myna, Crimson-froned Barbet and incidentally finding a pair of Crimson-backed Woodpeckers, our last endemic species tobe seen.

Accommodation : Nature Walk Resort ( average/good )


3rd of January  2013

Pre-dawn visit to Udawatta Kelle Forest Reserve only hearing Brown Wood Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, but seeing Brown Fish Owl. Attempts at seeing Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher were thwartedby a tropical downpour.

Morning visit to the Temple of the Tooth and afternoon/evening drive to Negombo arriving at 20.00. Brown Hawk Owl calling and seen at parking lot King Coconut Restaurant. 23.00 Drop-off airport.


4th of January

4.50 flight to Brussels, arrival at 14.20 local time.

Systematic list of species observed

1 Little Grebe   several at Yala NP
2 Spot-billed Pelican   seen at Udawalawe,  Yala NP, lakes near Tissa
3 Little Cormorant   common near water bodies
4 Indian Shag   8 near Tissa lakes
5 Great Cormorant   2 flew over Tissa lakes
6 Oriental Darter   singles seen at most large water bodies
7 Little Egret   small numbers near water bodies
8 Intermediate Egret   idem
9 Great Egret   fairly numerous in suitable habitat
10 Grey Heron   small numbers near waterbodies
11 Purple Heron   4 near Tissa Lakes
12 Eastern Cattle Egret   common
13 Indian Pond Heron   common
14 Black-crowned Night Heron   2 at Tissa Lakes
15 Yellow Bittern   2 a Tissa Lakes
16 Cinnamon Bittern   1 at Tissa Lakes
17 Black Bittern   1 at Tissa lakes
18 Painted Stork   small numbers at Udawalawe en Yala NP
19 Asian Openbill   singles throughout
20 Woolly-necked Stork   singles at Tissa and Yala NP
21 Lesser Adjutant   1 fine adult at Yala NP
22 Black-headed Ibis   common in suitable habitats
23 Eurasian Spoonbill   30 in Yala NP
24 Lesser Whistling Duck   common in suitable habitats
25 Oriental Honey Buzzard   only two observations en route
26 Black-winged Kite   most common at Udawalawe and Yala NP
27 Brahminy Kite   idem
28 White-bellied Sea Eagle   a few at Udawalaw and Yala NP
29 Grey-headed Fish Eagle   1 at Udawalawe
30 Crested Serpent Eagle   small numbers throughout
31 Shikra   two birds en route
32 Himalayan Buzzard   1 bird at Horton Plains
33 Black Eagle   three birds en route
34 Booted Eagle   1 bird at Udawalawe ( light phase )
35 Mountain Hawk Eagle   1 between Tissa and
36 Common Kestrel   1 Udawlawe, 1 Yala NP
37 Sri Lanka Spurfowl E heard Kitulgala, 1 seen Sinharaja, 1 heard Surrey Estate
38 Sri Lanka Junglefowl E 1 seen Kitulgala, several at Martin’s Lodge
39 Indian Peafowl   common at Udawalawe and Yala NP, sparse elsewhere
40 Barred Buttonquail   1 crossed the track at Yala NP
41 White-breasted Waterhen   common in marshy areas
42 Purple Swam Hen   common in marshy areas
43 Common Moorhen   common in marshy areas
44 Pheasant-tailed Jacana   common in marshy areas
45 Watercock   one female-plumaged individual at Tissa
46 Pacific Golden Plover   6 at Yala NP
47 Grey Plover   1 at Yala NP
48 Little Ringed Plover   10+ Yala NP
49 Kentish Plover   2 Yala NP
50 Lesser Sand Plover   4 Yala NP
51 Greater Sand Plover   10+ Yala NP
52 Yellow-wattled Lapwing   seen in most wet areas in small numbers
53 Red-wattled Lapwing   seen in most wet areas in small numbers
54 Black-tailed Godwit   6 at Yala NP
55 Common Redshank   10+ at Yala NP
56 Common Greenshank   5 at Yala NP
57 Marsh Sandpiper   5+ at Yala NP
58 Green Sandpiper   1 at Tissa
59 Wood Sandpiper   10+ at Yala NP, 2 at Tissa
60 Common Sandpiper   scarce in most wet areas
61 Ruddy Turnstone   10+ at Yala NP
62 Curlew Sandpiper   30+ at Yala NP
63 Black-winged Stilt   scarce in most wet areas
64 Indian Stone Curlew   3 at Udawalawe, 2 at Yala NP
65 Great Thick-knee   2 at Yala NP
66 Gull-billed Tern   several at Tissa and Yala NP
67 Great Crested Tern   several from Yala NP beach
68 Roseate Tern   1 at Yala NP
69 Whiskered Tern   common in most wetland locations
70 White-winged Black Tern   common in wetland areas; thousands at dusk at Yala NP
71 Rock Pigeon   common in the highlands
72 Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon E 2 near Horton Plains entrance
73 Spotted Dove   common throughout
74 Emerald Dove   common in lowlands
75 Orange-breasted Pigeon   common at Udawalawe and Yala NP
76 Sri Lanka Green Pigeon E 8 at Kitulgala
77 Green Imperial Pigeon   common in lowlands
78 Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot  E common in lowlands, e.g. Sissara, Kitulgala
79 Alexandrine Parakeet   several at Kitulgala and Nuwara Eliya
80 Rose-ringed Parakeet   only noted in the highlands in small numbers   9
81 Plum-headed Parakeet   several noted in the highlands
82 Layard’s Parakeet E seen in most lowland areas
83 Green-billed Coucal E 1 at Kitulgala, 2 Sinharaja
84 Southern Coucal   seen and heard at Kitulgala and Sinharaja
85 Sirkeer Malkoha   1 in flight at Yala NP
86 Red-faced Malkoha E 4 seen in Sinharaja
87 Blue-faced Malkoha   seen  at Udawalawe and Yala NP
88 Asial Koel   1 female in Hibiscus Gardens, 1 Udawalawe, 1 Yala NP
89 Sri Lanka  Crested Drongo   E   several around Martin’s Place
90 Common Hawk Cuckoo   1 at Kitulgala
91 Grey-bellied Cuckoo   1 at Udawalawe
92 Serendip Scop’s Owl E 1 seen outside Sinharaja Forest, 1 heard 2 kms from Martin’s Place along the main trail.
93 Oriental Scop’s Owl   1 roosting near Elephant Transit Centre, Udawalawe
94 Brown Fish Owl   1 roosting at Yala NP and 1 Udawatta Forest, Kandy
95 Brown Wood Owl   1 heard at Udawatta Forest , Kandy
96 Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (HO)   1 heard at Udawatta Forest, Kandy
97 Brown Hawk Owl   1 seen on King Coconut Restaurant grounds, Negombo
98 Chestnut-backed Owlet  E   1 seen near Sisiras Lodge, heard at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja
99 Sri Lanka Frogmouth E a pair seen near Martin’s son’s house, Sinharaja
100 Jerdon’s Nightjar   1 seen just outside Yala NP
101 Indian Swiftlet   seen at most lowland locations e.g. Sinharaja
102 Asian Palm Swift   seen at all lowland locations
103 Little Swift   seen at most locations
104 Crested Tree Swift   several seen at Sinharaja and Yala NP
105 Malabar Trogon   1 at Kitulgala, 5 at Sinharaja including an injured male
106 Common Kingfisher   several near Tissa, in Udawalawe and Yala NP
107 Stork-billed Kingfisher   seen at Tissa, Udawalawe and Yala NP
108 White-throated Kingfisher   seen at all locations
109 Pied Kingfisher   1 at Tissa Lakes
110 Little Green Bee-eater   very common Udawalawe and Yala NP
111 Blue-tailed Bee-eater   seen at all lowland locations
112 Chestnut-headed Bee-eater   only seen at Sinharaja and Yala NP
113 Indian Roller   1 at Udawalawe,  1 Yala NP
114 Hoopoe   common at Yala NP
115 Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill E 5 near Sisiras Lodge, 2 at Sinharaja
116 Brown-headed Barbet   several seen and heard in Sinharaja, Udawalawe and Yala NP
117 Yellow-fronted Barbet E 1 seen at close range in Sinharaja and Kandy
118 Red-fronted Barbet E 2 seen near Nature Walk Resort, Kandy
119 Coppersmith Barbet   1 seen at Udawalawe NP
120 Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker   1 seen at Yala NP
121 Lesser Yellownape   1 seen at KItalgula, 1 at Sinharaja
122 Black-rumped Flameback   singles seen at Kitalgula and Sinharaja
123 Crimson-backed Flameback    2 seen near Nature Walk Resort, 3 at Udawatta Forest, Kandy
124 White-naped Woodpecker   a pair near Tissa Lakes
125 Indian Pitta   1 seen at Sisiras Lodge, Udawalawe NP and Victoria Gardens
126 Jerdon’s Bushlark   common at Udawalawe NP; several seen at Yala NP
127 Ashy-crowned Finch Lark   5+ at Yala NP
128 Oriental Skylark   7 at Yala NP
129 Barn Swallow   common throughout
130 Hill Swallow E 3 near World’s End, Horton Plains   21
131 Sri Lanka Swallow E 4 near Kitalgula; several at Yala NP
132 Forest Wagtail   3 in Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya, 1 Hakgala BG
133 Grey Wagtail   common in highlands, e.g. Horton Plains and Victoria Park
134 Paddyfield Pipit   seen in most open habitat
135 Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike   1 at Yala NP
136 Small Minivet   several seen at Kitulgala
137 Scarlet Minivet   seen in most lowland locations
138 Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike   1 at Kitulgale, 1 at Hakgala BG
139 Sri Lanka Woodshrike E two at Yala NP
140 Asian Paradise Flycatcher   seen at most lowland location, including white males
141 Black-naped Monarch   1 seen en route to Nuwara Eliya
142 White-browed Fantail   seen at Tissa Lakes, Udawalawe and Yala NP
143 Black-capped Bulbul   1 at Kitulgala, 2 at Sinharaja
144 Red-vented Bulbul   common throughout
145 Yellow-eared Bulbul   common on Horton Plains and around Nuwara Eliya
146 Whit-browed Bulbul   2 near Elephant Transit Home, Udawalawe
147 Yellow-browed Bulbul   common at Kitulgala and Sinharaja
148 Black Bulbul   common at Kitalgula; several seen en route
149 Common Iora   2 seen at Sinharaja
150 Marshall’s Iora   1 seen at Udawalawe, 2 at Yala NP
151 Jerdon’s Leafbird   1 seen near Kitulgala, 1 Sinharaja, 1 en route to Kandy
151 Golden-fronted Leafbird   2 seen near Kitulgala, 1 en route to Kandy
152 Brown Shrike   seen on most dates
153 Pied Thrush   1 male in Victoria Gardens, a pair at Hakgala showed well
154 Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush  E   1 near Horton Plains entrance, 1 in Nuwara Eliya stake-out
155 Spot-winged Thrush E 2 near Sisira Lodge, common around Martin’s Place, Sinharaja
156 Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush E 1 heard near Kitulgala, 1 seen well at Sinharaja
157 Indian Blackbird   a male near the entrance to World’s End, Horton Plains
158 Asian Brown Flycatcher   seen at Kitulgala, Sinharaja and Nuwara Eliya
159 Brown-breasted Flycatcher   1 at Kitulgala, 1 at Sinharaja
160 Kashmir Flycatcher   2 at Victoria Gardens, 1 near Hakgala, 1 in Nuwara Eliya
161 Dull-blue Flycatcher E 1 near Hakgala BG
162 Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher   2 at Kitulgala, 1 at Udawatta Forest, Kandy
163 Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher    5+ Hakgala BG, 2 Horton Plains, 1 Nuwara Eliya
164 Indian Blue Robin   a male at Victoria Gardens
165 Oriental Magpie Robin   seen at all localities
166 White-rumped Shama   2 seen at Udawalawe, 1 at Yala NP
167 Black-backed Robin   common in Udawalawe and Yala NP
168 Pied Bushchat   2 at Horton Plains
169 Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush  E three flocks at Sinharaja
170 Brown-capped Babbler E small flocks at Sisira Lodge, Sinharaja and Udawatta Forest
171 Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler  E   seen at Sinharaja, Victoria Gardens and Hakgala BG
172 Dark-fronted babbler   several seen at Sinharaja
173 Yellow-eyed Babbler   2 seen at Udawalawe NP
174 Orange-billed Babbler E small flocks at Sisira Lodge and at Sinharaja
175 Yellow-billed Babler   seen at most locations
176 Zitting Cisticola   seen in most open areas
177 Grey-breasted Prinia   2 at Udawalawe
178 Ashy Prinia   1 at Udawalawe and 1 at Nuwara Eliya
179 Plain Prinia   only seen at Yala NP
180 Common Tailorbird   common throughout  23
181 Sri Lanka Bush Warbler  E 1 near entrance Horton Plains and World’s End
182 Syke’s Warbler   1 seen and heard at Yala NP
183 Green Warbler   1 seen at Kitulgale , 1 Sinharaja
184 Large-billed Leaf Warbler   1 seen at Kithulga, 2 seen at Sinharaja
185 Great Tit   common at higher elevations e.g. Horton Plains, Victoria Park
186 Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   a pair at Yala NP
187 Legge’s Flowerpecker E 3 around Martin’s Place
188 Pale-billed Flowerpecker   2 around Martin’s Place,
189 Loten’s Sunbird   1 at Udawalawe, 2 Yala NP, 1 Tissa Lakes
190 Purple-rumped Sunbird   common Kitulgala, Yala NP, Tissa
191 Purple Sunbird   2 seen near Kandy
192 Sri Lanka White-eye E common in highlands, e.g. Victoria Park, Horton Plains
193 Oriental White-eye   common in lowlands
194 White-rumped Munia   common around Sinharaja
195 Scaly-breasted Munia   common around Sinharaja
196 Black-throated Munia   2 just outside Sinharaja
197 Black-headed Munia   common at Udawalawe NP
198 House Sparrow   common in urban areas
199 Baya Weaver   singles seen at Udawalawe and Yala Np
200 White-faced Starling E several seen on two dates at Sinharaja
201 Brahminy Starling   2 at Yala NP
202 Rosy Starling   500+ roosting at Udawalawa NP
203 Common Myna   small numbers throughout
204 Sri Lanka Hill Myna E 2 seen from Martin’s Place
205 Lesser Hill Myna   common around Kandy
206 Black-hooded Oriole   seen on all days outside the highlands
207 White-bellied Drongo   only seen around Kitulgala
208 Sri Lanka Crested Drongo  E 3 at Sinharaja
209 Ashy Woodswallow   2 en route to Udawalawe
210 Sri Lanka Blue Magpie E common at Martin’s Place and Sinharaja
211 House Crow   very common throughout
212 Jungle Crow   common throughout  13

66 lifers

Tour Categories:

Author/s of the report: 
Hans Westerlaken


Group size: 
Members of the group (clients): 
Hans Westerlaken
Caroline Westerlaken