Mark Taylor's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
The Sri Lanka trip
Tour Strat: 
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Tour End: 
Monday, November 28, 2005

Trip Report Year:

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

Travel Report by Mark Taylor, 2005

This travell report is by Mark Taylor. He is the General Sales Manager (New vehicles) of the BMW group (Doncaster), Melbourne, Australia. This is a comprehensive 17 day trip report. Our sincere thanks to him for providing this report free of charged and we are amazed that you really did this 17 page report for us.

223 species of birds were observed in this trip! See the full list here.

The Sri Lanka trip

Day 1 Monday 14 November 2005 5:00PM

This consists of flying Singapore Airlines to Singapore then transiting straight away to the plane to Sri Lanka . Customs is uneventful. Prasanjith is waiting at the other end and takes me to the Goodwood International Plaza , a run down business hotel where I am able to sleep well. The hotel is in the Economic Free Zone adjacent to the airport. Apparently this is where much garment manufacturing takes place but all must be exported. However if you want some cheap brand name clothing, there might be some overruns and seconds as good as the real thing, at a roadside stall just around the corner.

Mark Taylor with Prasanjith Caldera
Mark Taylor with Prasanjith Caldera

Day 2 Tuesday 15 November 2005

Disturbed during the night, I decide I will take a peek out the window. All I can see are two ghostly figures outside in the garden, so I quickly close the window again and go back to bed. In the morning, I see my first new bird, the Yellow-billed Babbler, very exciting, and known by everyone else in Sri Lanka as the Common Babbler, as it is common. Hence it is the first bird I see. It is in fact sitting on the head of one of the ghosts in the garden, a life-size white human sculpture, looking somewhat less eerie in the daylight.

For breakfast I have some strangely grey scrambled eggs served with delicious pineapple juice and some toast. Prasanjith has stayed the night as well so as to introduce me to Jayaweera, who is a nice chap, and off we set. It is very quiet on the roads, and a lot of the shops are closed. I ask Jaya why. He tells me it is the full moon, which is always a National Public Holiday. Along the way he slows down and points out birds here and there that he is able to observe whilst negotiating the traffic that seems to follow Very Few Rules.

First stop is the Cave Temple at Dambullah. Let me tell you about the illusion. The temple is at the Very Top of the Very Large Rock. There is a pretend cave entrance at the Very Bottom. It certainly fooled me into thinking there was a short walk. It is a lot further up than the initial 30 metres of horizontal courtyard traversing from the car park. There are a number of beggars along the way up who are not very pushy though, so I am able to negotiate my way to the top without buying postcards, a mystery box or a pet monkey. The first highlight is a Blue-breasted Quail, which emerges from a cave to look for food amongst a pile of rotting rubbish. We are fortunate enough to have excellent close-up views with the naked eye as it walks in and out of the cave.

Mental Note Number One!

Take binoculars everywhere! When they are at the bottom of a Very Large Rock, it is too late to go back and get them.

Ultimately, a monkey decides that it will spoil this party. In fact, this is to be a common theme, as follows. Interesting bird in tree just out of sight, interesting human looking for bird, annoying monkey scampers though trees to look see, interesting bird flies away.

The caves have been in use for over 2000 years, initially by the type of monk who will just sit there and meditate. A bit later on, some more monks came along. They made the caves bigger, and redecorated with over 400 Buddhas. These monks were the type of monk who charge tourists to visit. Fortunately, on the value for money stakes, it is well worth the climb. There are lots of old ones there (Buddhas, not monks), and the story behind their creation is very interesting. After successfully negotiating the steps down and avoiding the beggars we hop into the car just as is starts to precipitate heavily.

The rain clears up quickly, and we are able to stop at the side of the road and observe a number of small birds. These including the Small Minivet, a dozen Rose-ringed Parakeets calling out and flying around, and both the Jerdon's and Golden-fronted Leafbirds. We continued on towards Sigiriya, stopping at a restaurant just outside the village, just as it starts to precipitate again (Sigiriya is in the dry zone, but it is the wet season). I have a traditional Sri Lankan curry, which consists of a large serving of rice, accompanied by a number of individual curry dishes, in this case, nine. Typically, there is one meat dish, predominantly bone and sauce, and the rest vegetable, with one salad, one salsa, and pappadums. It is hot, and delicious. As we leave, the rain stops, and we park at the start of an elevated road heading toward the rock. On one side is a small tank (dam) and on the other some secondary forest. Here we are able to do our first serious birding of the trip. Some great birds are seen including the Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple-rumped and Long-billed Sunbirds, Black-headed Orioles and Asian Paradise Flycatcher.

Once we have a good look around, we drive to the place where we are staying. We pass two nice-looking resorts, and the pot-holed road becomes seriously worse. We then pass a sign warning of the dangers of wild elephants beyond this point. So we travel down the seriously rutted dirt track though the scrub. The next sign reads ''Certain Doom 1 Km." Actually it was more like 3 Km, and I am wondering if I am about to be kidnapped (not really). After passing through a small village, the road, as it could kindly be described, turns into an impassable seriously-rutted dirt track. A small laneway off to the side miraculously becomes the entrance to the CES, the Centre for Eco-cultural Studies.

We arrive and we are definitely off the beaten track. The buildings of the CES are scattered though the bush and not easily discerned. To get to my rustic yet charming hut I first have to walk hunched over though a tunnel of overhanging branches. It consists of one bedroom, an open bathroom and large verandah with two additional beds. The building is of mud construction with a thatched roof. Late that afternoon we go on a birdwalk with the guy who runs the Centre, Sujeeva. He is very knowledgeable on the local flora and fauna, and points out some nice birds, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Rufous-winged Bushlarks amongst them. We heard the Barking Deer and Samba Deer. They had seen elephants on the road that morning and there are some leopards about.

Did l mention that the weather is humid, but the temperature mild?

Dinner is made from ingredients grown by the local villagers, traditional Sri Lankan curry again. It is quite delicious. Chicken bone curry, with some unidentified vegetable curries, flavoured with interesting flavoured leaves, stalks and crunchy things. A spicy coconut sambal gives a lift to the curry. Electricity here is solar and 12 volt, and the lighting is not bright. We eat off traditional earthenware plates, so identification of the ingredients is difficult.

The work that Sujeeva and his team are doing is very admirable. The ultimate project aim is to develop a model with joint participation of local communities for the sustainable management of eco-cultural resources. The programme at Sigiriya is a case study for the development of a strategy for local community participation in eco-cultural resource management in Sri Lanka . It provides opportunities to develop skills and serves to raise awareness and self-motivation in providing protective measures and non-destructive sustainable use of local resources. The project also has set up some nature-based non-destructive enterprises. To succeed, these alternatives must encourage the local villagers to change from their traditional slash and burn farming methods to a permanent agricultural base, and at the same time develop sustainable, eco-friendly sources of income from the tourism in the area.

Day 3 Wednesday 16 November 2005

In the morning, the Indian Pitta is promised at breakfast. It is served lightly curried, and reminds me of quail. Apparently that was last nights chicken, sorry. The Pitta doesn't disappoint, hopping around only two feet away as if we aren't even there. With a similar display of tameness from the Little Striped Squirrel, AKA Palm Squirrel and the Paradise Flycatcher, Black-fronted Babbler and the White-browed Wagtail, I feel we could well be in for an exciting day of birds.

But first we climb the Sigiriya Palace Rock Fortress. On the way there, it seems to be quiet on the road. Jaya tells me it is the day after the full moon, and many Sri Lankans take this day off as a holiday as well, especially if it is a weekday. Built on top of a rather large granite mountain, the palace was constructed as a fort in the 5th Century AD. In order, there is an outer moat, an earth embankment, an inner moat, and another embankment. Inside this is a large area of lawns and ponds, then the climb begins. On the way up, under an overhang are some interesting paintings depicting dancing semi-naked concubines (he had 500). There is also a mirror wall on the outside of the path along the rock face. The mirror finish is created using various types of materials, including egg white: this finish is still visible today - of even greater interest are the writings etched into the wall in ancient Sinhalese. They are comments made by visitors to the Palace all those years ago, for example, ''they laughed at my clothes". The first graffiti?

The summit is reached by walking between the paws and also originally through the mouth of a rather large lion. The palace buildings are now gone. All that remain are foundations. Quite a magnificent spectacle, and not to be missed. To top it all off, we have great views of the endemic and extremely rare race of the Peregrine Falcon known as the Shaheen Falcon. As this is the best location in Sri Lanka to observe this stunning rather small rufous-chested form, it is a form of enforced culture for twitchers!

We return to the CES for lunch and a siesta, which I take in the hammock in the shade of two magnificent Bong-Bong trees. In the afternoon, we bird with Sujeeva around the back of the rock. We are able to add some new birds, including the recently split endemics, the Black-Headed Bulbul and the Crimson-fronted Barbet. Back to the lodge for dinner (Fish bone curry) and retirement.

Day 4 Thursday 17th November 2005

Breakfast of milk rice (coconut-flavoured) with fresh pineapple is delicious. Too bad we had toast today. Yesterday's breakfast was the aforementioned milk rice, as described. A morning birdwalk around the CES and the surrounding nature reserve with Sujeeva reveals the endemic Brown-headed Babbler along with a great view of the Peacock! A very plain starling-like bird alights on a tree where some White-vented Drongoes and Black-headed Orioles are already perched. A mystery bird for the two locals, I think it may be a Rosy Starling. Consulting the book, it seems that a juvenile Rosy Starling is the only bird it can be. This has not been seen here before by Sujeeva in the four years he has been at Sigiriya. A little further on, a party of four Rosy Starlings flies in, and with two adults, identification is confirmed. I make another interesting observation of some pug-marks in some soft mud along the path. I suggest it must be from a small leopard, a Fishing Cat is apparently the creator. Back to the centre, and it is pack up and head off towards Kandy time.

On the way there, it seems very quiet on the roads. Jaya tells me that because of the presidential elections, it is a holiday. Firecrackers are going off sporadically. This is because they are not banned. It is also because of the election. Fortunately it is not gunfire. All talk is on the election. There are 13 candidates, of whom only two have any chance of winning. One is the current Prime Minister whose government consists of a coalition of Communists and Conservatives, the other the nominated member of the major opposition party. In the past, when the party of the newly-elected president is not in power, he has sacked the government, and does not have to give any reason. The President is also immune from prosecution for life, so it is a pretty good gig, assassination attempts excluded. There may be interesting times ahead. The counting starts at midnight .

After one too many hot curries and more likely a slightly dodgy fish bone one, I can't wait to sit alone. I pass on lunch, as a rest at the Spica Holiday House is the tonic. The house is on a hill overlooking Kandy . The large balcony outside my room is an extremely pleasant place to recuperate, and catch up on some reading and recording. The name 'Spica' is Latin; it means 'Ear of Corn'. It is a bright and hot blue star more than 260 light years from the earth. It is also a Sirius Class Combat Stores Ship in the US Navy. Still with a gut ache, it is off to the Kandy Botanical Gardens, all 440 acres of them. The highlight here is a Common Cuckoo, which obligingly allows itself to be scoped from close range, and the key identification marks observed. This is the first one that Jaya has seen, and he is internally excited. On the other side of the path, a migrant Sykes Warbler obligingly hops around a low open bush. The location here is supposed to be good for the Alexandrine Parakeet, and the local race of the Indian Hill Myna, a possible future split. We wait, and sure enough they turn up, but not before the heavy humidity causes a large palm frond to fall 20 meters to the ground just next to another party. Five minutes later, a large tree branch does the same thing. By this stage I can barely walk, as I am in pain from the gut, and exhausted by the humidity, which in retrospect, probably wasn't all that oppressive. Just before we exit the Gardens, an endemic Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot allows a good enough view to identify it - we have seen several flying over and heard many more.

Back at the residence a shower is refreshing, so it is downstairs for a tentative dinner and to meet the hosts. Tillek is a retired Navy Commander who is taking in guests to assist in the maintenance of his standard of living. Chitra is an excellent cook and her grilled chicken is delicious, and just the type of food that I needed. I intend to ask them how they came to name their home 'Spica', but I don't, and you could say that both well-known usages could have had some influence. I am feeling a lot better for the food, and retire for the night. The discussion over dinner was political, which was not surprising. Tillek has some strong views, not surprising given his background, and the political persuasion of the likely new President. Corruption in Sri Lankan Government is accepted as fact. Time for sleep.

Day 5 Friday 18th November

Park. Election Result. Rest. Dance. Temple . Dinner.

I was up reasonably early for we were on a walk around the Udawattakele forest. Seems very quiet on the roads. Jaya tells me that because of the presidential elections yesterday, many people are taking the day off to make a long weekend. The Udawattakele Forest borders on Kandy itself and was a reserve for the King and his family to frolic in. Lots of lovely big trees for the birds. Lots of signs advising of what is unacceptable behaviour dot the driveway. Activities that are frowned upon include canoodling, and the very thought of it. There is a ban on plastic bags, as these must be thrown down the hillside behind the ticket office, just behind the large rubbish bin. You are also encouraged to throw any empty drink containers here as well so that they may eventually be washed down the lovely wooded stream, and into Kandy Lake .

As this is the first official birding in the wet zone, I am expecting to see a number of new birds, and there is no disappointment. One of the endemics, a new bird, is proving difficult, but after many calls, I eventually view the Yellow fronted Barbet. Sightings of the Black-naped Monarch and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher are made almost straight away. Black Bulbul and a Brown Fish Owl are new for me and the Imperial Green Pigeon is eventually scoped on top of the ridge outside a Buddhist retreat. Here we also have views of Layard's Parakeet. On the way back to the car park we see a Bambi-sized red deer with a cute white undertail, the Muntjac, or Barking Deer. It is much smaller than its bark would lead you to believe. A barrage of firecrackers follows this sighting. Is this a spontaneous celebration of a magnificent observation or the likely of an election announcement?

Then it is back to the accommodation for lunch, where we learn that The Prime Minster is now the president. The population of the Tamil North was instructed by their leaders not to vote, so as to avoid giving any legitimacy to either party. Interestingly, had they voted, the election would very probably gone the other way! An afternoon rest is taken on the great balcony, reading, writing, and doing nothing. It is a beautiful sunny afternoon, and very peaceful. I take in the view, watching the clouds of smoke from firecrackers gently spiral into the sky, framing the Alexandrine Parakeets scattering due to the noise. Here I stay until the evening programme.

First we are going to see some traditional Sinhalese dancing at 6:30PM . Unfortunately the venue is closed due to the election. On the way to finding another one we take in the view to Kandy over the lake. The second one we try is closed as well. Apparently there are no taxis working so the dancers cannot get to work. I am getting desperate now. There are only three venues in town. The third place we try must have figured the problem out. They have chartered buses to collect and return the dancers. I miss the first three dances, and being the only joint in town tonight, they are jam-packed and I am sitting at the rear. The dancing is very energetic, and it is quite enjoyable. The peacock dance, the drum orchestra and the warrior stuff will remain my favourite traditional Sinhalese dances for weeks to come. Next is the Temple of the Tooth Relic. This tooth was souvenired from the ashes of the Buddha and taken some time later to Sri Lanka for safekeeping. After many moves, it is now stored inside the gold dome, inside some other containers, Russian doll Style. The small room in which it is kept has a small window which is only opened for viewing for fifteen minutes at @ 7pm each day. And I was there to see it. The way out of the temple grounds is a good five-minute walk from the temple, and is closed. Apparently the guard was tired after his 12-hour shift, so packed up. For those tourists without a guide, a good knowledge of The Theory of Mazes, or Buddhist Temple Ground Design would have ensured only a fifteen-minute deviation. Many guideless tourists were forming focus groups, and some had formed human pyramids in an attempt to escape. Dinner back at Spica was once again delicious.

Day 6 Saturday 19th November 2005

Today we drive to Nuwara Eliya (pronounced Nuwara Eliya)

Speaking of Kandy , it is at an elevation of 1,800 feet. Nuwara Eliya is at 6,000 feet, so we have a bit of climbing to do. It seems very quiet on the roads. Jaya tells me that since it is an unofficial long weekend, no business will bother to open. All the public servants have been very busy with the election and we won't see them until Monday either.

Pretty soon we are ascending through the cultivation which soon becomes tea plantations. The mid-level tea is not as good as the upper-level tea, but better than the low-level tea. So remember that when you are buying your next cuppa. Jaya stops at a bridge over a waterfall because he sees a bird. Then are actually heaps of them. There are beautiful large remnant trees and other luxuriant vegetation in the ravine. Our other advantage is that we are on a very steep slope and above many of the birds. These include Small Minivet, Grey- headed Canary Flycatcher, the endemic Dull (Dusky) Blue Flycatcher, and one of my favourites, and I hope it is one of yours too, the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Excellent close-up views of the Brown-Breasted Flycatcher make identification of its pale lower mandible a cinch. Reluctantly, we move on. The sound of the waterfall, the fresh smell of mountain mist, and the smorgasbord of birds overwhelm the senses, which is rather fortunate, as the alternative reality is roadside rubbish, constant honking by the diesel-spewing cars and trucks, all accompanied by enveloping dust.

The next stop is the Markwood Tea Centre. We walk through the front door and are immediately surrounded by some stunning local ladies. I thought that Jaya had heard about the Miss World auditions, and was catching up with some old friends. Apparently, they are the factory tour guides waiting for customers. The tour was very informative, and I remember everything that my hostess tells me about the process of tea making. After a delicious cup of factory fresh tea it is on to Nuwara Eliya. This is a little bit of colonial England, with a golf course, a club requiring gentlemen wear a jacket and tie (and no ladies in the bar please), a racecourse, and some old resorts with whitewash and exposed beams. It is drizzly, and decidedly cool. We have Indian for lunch - curry what else! Just out of town is the Alpine Hotel, in parts 80 years old, and I am directed to the library, where I am offered a cuppa, and go through the check-in procedure in a comfortable armchair. There is a welcoming fire burning in the library grate, which has been a tradition since 1925, when a fire in the library burnt down the original hotel built in 1865. The new hotel was designed with the addition of a fireplace in the library. The front rooms are the original hotel, but out the back it is all new. As I step into my room and admire the view, it starts bucketing down.

It is still raining as we leave at 3pm to drive to the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Endemic highland cloud forest birds are the targets and I soon spot the Black- throated Munia. Next, Jaya manages, with some imspired hooting, to extract a Sri Lankan Wood Pigeon from the dense forest onto a bare branch. I spot the endemic Ceylon White-Eye, and in the same tree, a Kashmir Flycatcher. This beautiful little bird is almost impossible to see in Kashmir (so I am told) but is obligingly easy to spot in the highlands of Sri Lanka . Now we move onto Jaya's special spot for Arrenga (Sri Lankan Whistling Thrush).

We park on a bend at a roadside vegetable seller's stall, clamber down a slippery path about 20 metres from the road to where the footpath down to the village crosses the stream, and we are there. Apparently the Arrenga, without fail, at around 6:30PM pops out to sit on a rock above the little waterfall, upon which we look. It starts to rain. Then it gets heavier. Then it gets really heavy. As we are standing still in the rain, there is movement! Just at the right spot, something hops out onto a branch above the rock and just as quickly hops back out of sight. It comes out again. It has a very long thin tail, hanging nine inches below the branch. It also has two furry ears. A giant RAT! Bugger! Wait On. What is this hopping almost at our feet? It is the endemic Sri Lankan Bush Warbler, really hard to spot, and a real bonus, particularly if we get the Arrenga. Then, hopping along the path, a pair of Blackbirds! In Sri Lanka , this is a rare highland bird, and was once considered a separate species. And not a certain tick. But there is no sign of Arrenga. Then flying into the thick bush directly above over our heads, a larger bird. It is the Arrenga. All this has happened in the space of about five minutes. We spend the next thirty minutes happily standing in the heavy rain, but that was the final curtain call. So it is back to the Alpine Hotel for the first massacre of food in the name of European cuisine. After the second, I decide to go curry when the choice is there.

Day 7 Sunday 20th November 2005

Today we are visiting the Horton Plains at an altitude of 7,000+ feet. It is very quiet on the road. Jaya tells me that as it is Sunday morning and only 6 :00AM , it is hardly surprising. I reckon it is because of the unofficial long weekend. The road out of Nuwara Eliya passes through a beautiful patchwork of terraced vegetable gardens, and further on through a large dairy farm and then by a milk factory. This is very rich land, and anything grows. Higher we go, past Sri Lanka 's highest railway station at Pattipola and then we start a serious ascent, zigzagging up to the plateau through stunted alpine forests. We enter the park itself at 2300 metres and shortly thereafter, the imposing park entrance appears, with archway, stone guardhouse, wooden walkway to the stone ticket box, and quite over the top.

We pays our money and we goes in. Not surprisingly it is neither hot nor humid. It is only about 7 degrees, and we are well rugged up. First stop is the Arrenga pool, which is publicly the only reliable place to find the Arrenga. Fortunately due to Jayaweera's special spot, we only have one endemic left to find in the highlands, and that is the Yellow-eared Barbet. It turns out to be the most easily seen bird here. Amazingly, we dip on Arrenga, as well as the Bush Warbler and Blackbird, so I am grateful we saw them yesterday evening. We then drive across the treeless plains, which are the result of human cultivation from as early as 8,000 BC and more recently potato farming in the 1900s. We spot Common Buzzard, Pied Bushchat and a rarely seen Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler. At the visitor's Centre I spy the Hill Swallow, a subspecies of our Welcome Swallow. Eschewing the 8 Km return walk to World's End, I pay a quick visit to the Visitor Centre, another imposing recent stone structure. It is a shame they couldn't have spent a little more here, and a little less on the park entrance, as there is no power, and impossible to see most of the displays. We continue down past some Sambar Deer to another road winding down the escarpment. It is a long way down, and today we are going all the way to sea level.

A scenic descent includes the Rawana Waterfall, where the first seriously crafty tourist con for the trip is discovered. Man approaches to sell me a post-card or two. "No thank you" I reply, and go and take the photo. When I return to the car the trap is set. It goes something like this: The man holds out a handful of low-grade quartz / amethyst. He chooses a rock and says ''My gift for you"

''No thank you"

''Why not sir? It is a gift"

''There is no such thing as a free lunch"

"What country? England ?"

''No, Australia "

"My daughter collects coins from overseas for her school. Do you have any Australian Dollars?"

''No"

Pulling a coin from his shirt pocket, he says '' Is this Australian Dollar?"

I look at the coin, and of course it is. What a Coincidence! ''Yes, it is"

''What do you think it is worth?"

''I don't know", and getting into the Van. "Goodbye!"

So where is the problem, and why would I be thinking unkind thoughts about this lovely man? I find out that if take the rock to look at he will demand money for it. If I value the dollar at a higher figure than the exchange rate he will insist I change the money.

By the way, the Rawana Waterfall is nice.

We continue our descent and we eventually reach the dry zone and stop for lunch at the Lakeside Restaurant, which is well known for its beautiful outlook and delicious curries. This is fortunate for business, as it is down a goat track about a kilometre from the main road, and the sign is obscured. ' Main Road ' is used here to signify a road that appears to be going from Somewhere to Somewhere. Maximum speed in town is 40Kmh and in the countryside it is 70Kmh. Good luck if you can maintain this speed without hitting dogs, people, cyclists, potholes, etc, none of which will move out of the way without a large toot on the horn. The benefit of course is that you are travelling slowly enough to see lots of birds, such as the Rufous-bellied Eagle circling over the road after lunch. It is now on to Tissamahara, where we first stop to scope the birds around the shores of two large open tanks. Highlights are a Stone Curlew, and the Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark. We check in to the Chandrika Hotel, and I relax (sleep) for the afternoon.

At about 6:00PM I decide I had better check out the garden for birds, and discover a migrant Orange-Headed Thrush, which is a rare sighting, and Jaya is very excited when I tell him. During the Northern Hemisphere winter, Sri Lanka 's bird population swells with migrants from the cold North, hence November to March is the birdwatchers' season in Sri Lanka . As the garden is small, I go for a short walk along the main road, and then down a side road for an evening stroll. I meet lots of children who come out of their houses to watch me and practice their English. Several ask me "You come to my house?" As it is dinnertime, and they are quite thin, I politely decline, and head back to the Chandrika Hotel for Chicken and Chips. And off to bed again.

Day 8 Monday 21st November

It is very early to rise today, as we are off to Yala National Park on Safari and need to leave at 5:30AM to get to the entrance by 6:00AM for the birds. We are picked up from the hotel in an open jeep. At the entrance to the park, we must also pick up a ranger, who knows all the birds, as does the driver. We quickly start racking up new birds for the trip. Woolly-Necked Stork, Small Pratincole, Orange-Breasted Pigeon, Hoopoe, Blue-faced Malkoha are amongst the nicer birdies. Elephants and leopards are possible sightings. But we are looking for birds. So we observe spotted deer, wild buffalo, wild piggies and a rare sighting of a sloth bear running across the road. As we left so early, and the hotel restaurant is not open, they provide a ''breakfast packet" which consists of 2 cheese sandwiches, 2 hard-boiled eggs, 2 sausages, an apple, an orange, a banana and two slices of pineapple, plus a bottle of water, and a hot cup of tea in the restaurant before we leave. We stop to eat this at around 9:15AM , by the beach and sitting on the foundations of a bungalow washed away by the tsunami almost a year ago. The second wave came though this open beach area at a height of about twenty feet. Where sand dunes existed, the water did not get past at all. Whenever we see the sea, usually at the outlet of a stream, the damage is apparent, although this is in part due to the incursion of seawater. All the large trees survived, but some people didn't. The wild animals, with their senses alert moved to higher ground before the tsunami struck, and there were no animal casualties. It is actually rather moving to sit here and difficult to imagine what it must have been like to have been here without any warning, and without the benefit of hindsight.

There are heaps of waterbirds (and water) in the park, and good sightings of waders such as Ringed Plover, Redshank, and Kentish Plover are made. All good things must end, and like the animals and birds, we must go home to rest. On the way back, I spot what appears to be a good restaurant. We return there for lunch. They specialise in seafood, Jaya tells me, and I have a really delicious Marinara Pizza, which would be good fare back home at my favourite Wood-fired Pizza Restaurant, The House of Salad. After siesta, we head out for some birdwatching around the tanks at Tissa. Highlight is a Black Bittern giving surprisingly good views. It is very pleasant as we wander around with birds to be viewed, and vignettes of village life to be observed. Jayaweera has a reliable Brown Fish Owl site, and our efforts to look for the roosting bird attract a horde of interested young boys. They proceed to fan out looking for the roosting owl. No joy. It seems that some monkeys had come through that day, and probably disturbed the bird. I am instead kept entertained by the boy troop who teach me some Sinhalese and I line up the evening star, (Venus?) in my scope for them, and find it is in partial eclipse.

We give up on this spot, and try to spotlight the owl from the car whilst driving precariously along the tank wall. It is only one lane wide, and with a Crocodile infested lake on one side, and a twenty-foot drop down to the Paddy fields below, it interesting when there is oncoming traffic. We dip on the fish owl, but I spot an owl in a rain tree above the main road back into Tissa. It is a Barn Owl and another bird flies in as soon as I have the spotlight and the binoculars trained on it. They then proceed to mate. Twice. It is a rare bird in Sri Lanka , so this is an important observation. Back to the Hotel Chandrika for dinner, this time curry - special order.

Day 9 Tuesday 22nd November 2005

This morning's Safari is in Bundala National Park . As we are moving on today, we drive to the park entrance, where we meet our driver and our ranger. The ranger in particular knows his stuff. And all are keen to learn from my understanding of bird parts in English. There is no decent comprehensive Sinhalese bird book. Waterbirds are the speciality of Bundala and I add Saunder's Tern to my all time list, as well as Brown-headed Gull, Red-necked Phalarope and Purple Sunbird. Plenty of other birds are added to the trip list, including the Greater Flamingo. On the drive up to Udawalawa, Jaya pulls off onto a lane, and parks outside a little house. In a tree in the front yard is the roosting spot for a Collared Scops Owl! It is a really beautiful little bird, and it would have been pretty cool if it was there. One member of one of the ranger's family lives here, and told him about the owl, and he told some of the birding guides about the spot, and hence we are here. It was there, and it was pretty cool. The tree is actually over the fence in a neighbour's front yard, and I don't know if they share in the little gratuity that keeps the world spinning.

There are about twelve birding guides in Sri Lanka, and my two both came to birding somewhat later in life than I. Jaya was working as a tour guide for Baur's, and requested to learn about the birds. He was assigned a chap by the name of Deepal, who is probably the most famous contemporary birder in the country, best described as the Mike Carter of Sri Lanka . He drove the van for Deepal on his first birding trip, and at each stop, he asked if he could tag along, only to be told no in a number of different ways. "You will frighten the birds", being the most oft used one. He decided to teach himself!

In the afternoon we reach the Selara River Ecolodge. It is only three months old and my bungalow is almost hidden away down a path above the Udawalawa River . It is in rustic boutique style. The main features are the earth and rock walls, and the waterfall shower with black tiles. Delicious curry is served for dinner, followed by Buffalo Milk Curd and Treacle for dessert. The Curd is sold in roadside stalls in an earthenware dish; the treacle is made from the nectar of the flower of the Kithul palm tree. The nectar goes through a process of seeding with a toddy saved from the previous batch, which adds the good bacteria, fermentation, heating up to almost boiling, burning off the alcohol and finally cooling, bottling and pouring over the curd. After that effort, a terrible taste, and worse aftertaste seem to be almost unfair.

Fortunately, it is delicious, similar to maple syrup in colour, and taste. Goodnight from me!

Day 10 Wednesday 23rd November 2005

Another safari, but first, the best breakfast. Fresh, well-cooked toast, and ripe tropical fruits with watermelon juice. We get picked up again by Land Rover and it is off to Udawalawe National Park , famous for its elephants. It is open savannah, typically elephant-impacted vegetation with many trees being stripped and dying. The bird trip list is now up to 193 and we speculate whether we will crack the double ton in the park. But first for an elephant. That was easy. There are 500 of them, and one is waiting 300 metres down the road. We quickly see Sirkeer Malkoha, White- throated Silverbill, Lesser Adjutant, Richards Pipit, Green Sandpiper, and then great views of the Plum-headed Parakeet, but we get stuck on 199!

Back to the Ecolodge for our cases, and some lunch, and we are off again. I stop at an ATM to get some cash. But it doesn't work, so l must cash some traveller's cheques. The process takes 30 minutes, which gives me plenty of time to observe the workings of this small bank. There is much foot traffic up and down the stairs. I learn that the pawning department of the bank is on the first floor. There were six people involved in cashing the cheques, and I think that my five US$20 Amex cheques were counted at least five times each by each of them. Anyway, I got my money. Jaya picks up a jeep driver from Sinharaja and on the drive up, he calls out to stop the car, and there are two Ashy Woodswallows on top of a tall tree. Bird number 200!

It is possible to drive most of the way to Martins Place , but after the park headquarters it is way too rough. So we hire a jeep with driver, who takes us the final few kilometres, mostly in first gear. There are some other, more luxurious places to stay but they have one major disadvantage - they have to start each day at the bottom of the road, and wait for the park office to open at 7:30 to buy their daily entry ticket. Martin's Place is right at the actual park entrance, and we arrange for the compulsory park guide to buy our tickets on his way up, and we are allowed to go on in. He catches us up later - neat, huh! We get to Martin's Place quite late, and so I just sit out on the balcony, admiring the view. Notably there are some Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys outside the balcony in a large rainforest tree, prophetically eating leaves. They are well rugged up for the rain that is falling, with their very thick grey fur, which contrasts with white ears and a white tail. Presumably they also have a purple face, but this is not visible in the gloom. They are also known as bear monkeys. In terms of looking like bears, they are extremely monkey-like, so I presume the name comes from their total lack of clothing.

Jaya has purchased some Arrack, which is made from coconuts and matured in barrels. It is very smooth when drunk with a dash or two of soda, and soon we are. Martin's balcony is very peaceful, and the conversation flows nicely. Martin is a bit of a legend. He certainly knows the ecology of the Sinharaja Biosphere like the back of his hand, and has discovered a new species of palm, which is named after him. Presumably something like Palmus martinus, but I don't ask. Dinner is curry and nice. There is an English fellow here, who had an epic journey to get to Martin's Place. There have been big floods around Colombo , and the road to Sinharaja was blocked. They left their vehicle on the other side of the river, and took a jerry-built raft across the flooded river, and then hired a Tuk-Tuk for the remainder of the trip, carrying only their essentials - binoculars, telescope, leech socks and some cash. Very smelly boys by the time they leave. Fortunately we were in the dry zone at that time, and missed the rainfall, which also caused major flooding in Colombo .

Day 11 Thursday 24th November

An eerily early start for our first walk in the Sinharaja Rainforest, but not before a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of toast with butter and marmalade, Omelette (plain), fresh fruit and tea. While waiting for this, I hear a bird calling. It is the Grey Hornbill, and an endemic. A good start to the day. The trick to finding the endemic specialities of Sinharaja is to find oneself a feeding flock. This flock can consist of up to fifteen species, feeding as a single group, moving excitedly through the forest searching for food. Before we enter the forest, we have already found the Sri Lankan Crested Drongo and a Lesser Yellownape - a type of woodpecker. There is a gentle track from the gate through to the Research Station, as opposed to the steep hike up from the admin office below. Standing just inside the gate, we hear a Chestnut-backed Owlet calling, but as tape playback is prohibited in the reserve, we cannot entice it to come any closer. Could this be a bad omen? We also hear the endemic Sri Lankan Spurfowl, but it is a fair distance away. Across the clearing and the stream below us, a flock appears to be forming, with the aforementioned drongoes standing sentinel and a group of Orange-billed Babblers feeding below. These two species are the traditional harbingers of the flock, so we wait for some time for the flock to eventuate, but it doesn't.

We do manage to scope six endemic White-faced Starlings in a dead tree on the other side of the valley. We also see two endemic Ceylon Mynas fly over. And then an absolute highlight. A Malabar Trogon flies onto a low branch 20 metres away. I have time to scope it and it is absolutely beautiful. I think I am right in saying that ones first Trogon remains a treasured memory. Time to start walking. We walk a long way, seeing little, certainly there are no feeding flocks. Then we chance on a pair of the endemic White-throated Flowerpecker. They obligingly pose for photographs but eventually we have to leave them and search for more new birds, after all we are on a mission. A little further on we finally get some of that bird flock action. Moving noisily above our heads are harbingers, and also Indian Scimitar- billed Babblers. I first head them calling at Horton Plains, but they weren't within view from the road. Now they are above my head, moving about quickly, but I can't manage to get my binoculars on them because of the thick foliage, the sun behind them, and the height of the trees. Luckily I have brought my slingshot, and manage, with some well-aimed shots, to knock down the leaves that are obstructing my view, and there it is, the Indian Scimitar- billed Babbler. It is an incredibly boring bird and I don't like it at all. The alternative view, and one to which I now subscribe, is that it has certain redeeming features, such as its cute little yellow down-curved bill, and its piercing eyes, which give it an inquisitive somewhat cheeky demeanour. But it is not an endemic, although it may be split.

The quest continues. The Research Station is supposed to be a good spot for flocks. It sits in a natural amphitheatre and allows good viewing as it is cleared of trees. One of the researchers kindly makes us a cuppa and while drinking this I spot a raptor. Baza I cry and so it came to be. A Jerdon's Baza, a good sighting and looking very much in control of its life as it surveys its domain. The walk back does not add any new birds, nonetheless it was pleasant. Lunch at Martins is a curry and afterwards I have a nap.

We set out at 3:30PM for our afternoon walk. And just then it starts raining, and moments later, bucketing down. When it rains here, it does so without warning. In fact, if it is overcast, and you think to yourself "I think the rain will hold off", it is certain to start raining almost immediately. We reach the entry checkpoint hut and take cover there, as does another group of three. It is Dave from Cornwall with his birding guide and park ranger. They had just gone out up the track and backtracked to shelter, but not before they found a pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths roosting under a tree fern at waist height. We had probably walked past them that morning. The rain stops, and we move off to see the Frogmouths, only half the size of our Tawny. They assume we can't see them, and allow us to get very close. As we finally move up the hill, a flock forms behind. This one includes a new bird for the list - the endemic Red-faced Malkoha and quite a beautiful bird. Now only six endemics to go, although I don't realistically expect to see them all. We push on, seeing more of the same. Jaya says that the Research Station is good for the endemic Sri Lanka Magpie at around 5:00PM, so we pick up the pace, and as if on cue, one appears at the edge of the clearing there, giving me a great view. Then for good measure, his friend appears, so I contentedly gaze at its beauty through my scope until the cry goes up "A flock is coming". Ashy-headed Laughing Thrushes can be heard, but not sighted. A Giant Squirrel is following the flock. They are a regular part of the flock, and usually in the vanguard.

The flock moves away from the clearing and I miss the Laughing Thrushes. They think it is pretty funny, but apparently, they are easily amused, hence their common name. Our guide says, "Do you want to go for it?" "Hell Yes!" We set off through the jungle to find the flock. He scurries along and I stay close behind. Four more Magpies fly past as we find a beautiful stream and come out in the middle of the flock. He spots the thrush, and back up the stream bank we climb, and finally get to see the bird. In the gloom of the forest, it is difficult to discern much detail, but the Ashy-headed laughing Thrush, with its distinctive brown plumage (and ashy head) can only be described as somewhat dull, but a real laugh after a few Arracks. This chase is at an end, so we head back towards Martins Place , but not before we spot an endemic Spot-winged Thrush on the path in the gloom. We manage to get nice and close. That is that, and it is back to Martin's Place. Arrack with crunchy fish and pappadums chips for snacks. Dinner is curry. Later in the evening, we try owling, but it is too wet, and nothing turns up. Must be a real problem for Rainforest owls?

Day 12 Friday 25th November 2005

The Ceylon Grey Hornbill turns up in the same tree at the same time, and even more special, a Spot-Winged Thrush makes itself at home right outside my front door. After breakfast, another walk in Sinharaja. We hear a green-billed Coucal calling back down the track from whence we came, and the guide asks me, "Do you want to go for it?" "Hell yes!" Unfortunately, it does not call again. Nor does it show itself, even after a personal and heartfelt exhortation. Obviously I don't impersonate a Green-billed Coucal in heat too well. We travel the same path and see more of the same. New for the trip is the endemic race of the Greater Flameback, a large woodpecker, which flies over us. We later hear it drumming to attract some food. We have lunch at Martin's before we leave and head off to Kithulgula. It is raining when we arrive, and doesn't actually let up until some time during the night.

The accommodation is called Rafter's Retreat, and the treehouses are set in the rain forest along the Kelani River , site of the filming of Bridge over the River Kwai. My treehouse could be described as rustic; it is open on the riverside so mosquito nets are a must. To get to the bathroom, you must raise a trapdoor and climb down a ladder. This room is also open, and the throne certainly has a great view. Only after half a bottle of Arrack do I realise what problems climbing a rickety ladder in the rain and descending though a trap door may entail. I decide on the balcony for all nocturnal micturition.

Day 13 Saturday 26th November

Awake to a beautiful sunny day. And descend to my open view facility. I enjoy the view, and once again take a waterfall shower. When I photograph the treehouse from the restaurant I notice that the top half of the showeree is visible. Fortunately for the diners, they were not at the table with the view, and were not put off their food. After breakfast we head off into the Kelani forest Reserve. First we have to cross the river and the only way across is to be paddled across in a dugout canoe stabilised by an outrigger. It is too narrow to stand in and face the direction you are travelling, and similarly awkward to sit on both edges. So I stand sideways, and pretend I have excellent balance. Which of course is true. The raison d'être for the canoe is the village across the river. It seems to be a pretty good business, always a queue and I notice that the adage "don't pay the canoe man until he gets you to the other side" holds true.

The pretty village is very peaceful, with houses scattered amid the gardens and coconut trees. It has electricity and TV aerials and no vehicle pollution, or vehicles - almost idyllic! We climb though the village and into the forest. It is very thick secondary forest, and very quiet on the bird front as well. We walk a couple of Ks and come out into another clearing, a smaller village growing tea. The forest would have been rather peaceful except for the constant stream of villagers going back and forth along the path, mainly to pick up fresh (white) bread it would seem. Unfortunately, almost no birds and nothing new. Well not for me anyway, Jaya manages to spot a Forest Wagtail. When we canoe back, a stall has opened up selling requisites for both tourists and locals. One of the local delicacies is juggery, a toffee like sweet, made from the nectar of Kithul Palm. Jaya buys two puck-sized hemispheres, which were set in coconut shells. I can't wait to try this, as he has been searching for some all trip. Rather than hang here, and tempted by the prospect of a pool, I decide to move on, so it is back to Rafters to pick up our gear. Off to the last destination, Ranweli Eco Resort on the coast North of Colombo. To get to the resort, there is a punt across the river. After checking in, I farewell Jaya, as he is picking up another bird tour in a day, and understandably wants to go home for a little. It is only after he catches the punt back to the carpark and drives off, do I realise that he had no intention of sharing the juggery, bugger he! Jaya was a good company, and the trip does not seem as if I am travelling alone, but with a buddy.

Jith will meet me here to complete the tour. The first act of consequence I perform is to check out the pool. Later I meet up with Prasanjith for some bonding with social lubricant (beer). Dinner is a BBQ, which is cooked inside the dining room because of rain which has passed by the time we sit down. Such little faith in the climate! The smoke certainly hasn't gone though, and I am fairly eelish after not too long. The bedrooms are air-conditioned, but I request a mosquito net for a more comfortable sleep with windows open. Sadly, this is the first day with no additions to the bird list, and Kithulgula was the last chance for the coucal, the owlet and the Sri Lankan Spurfowl, all heard, but not seen, at Sinharaja. Happily, this is not something I am obsessive about.

Day 14 Sunday 27th November 2005

An early morning boat ride upstream from the hotel should yield a Yellow Bittern I am told. It does! The boat guy knows his birds and where to find them. I mention this to Jith, who takes it as a personal slight I think, as he explains to me that the boat guy does this trip every day and knows where to look. Of course, I was simply making an observation, but decide to stick making bird observations. Back to the Bittern. The boat guy finds it standing at the waterline in a small reed bed, but I can't see it until the pointy end of the boat almost touches it. Then it flies up higher into the reeds for a better look at us. Conservation of natural resources is not high on the agenda when food and shelter are a daily struggle. Sadly, this is reflected in the state of the river and its banks. The rubbish seems to favour the scavenging Water Monitor, the size of a small Komodo Dragon, and much larger than a Goanna. We pass through a flood mitigation barrier, which looks much older than the tsunami. Apparently some years ago, a large amount of sand was taken near the mouth of the river. The resulting tidal breaches inundated the paddyfields with salt water. Expensive Sand!

We have an activity planned for after the siesta. The Murali Murilitheran Marshes are the destination, but I have been worded up that the planned destination has been bisected by the new Colombo to Bandaranaike International Airport Freeway, and the visitors centre appropriated as part of this process. Allegedly, at the last minute, a diversion was made around this building so that it could survive demolition, and become the residence of an influential government crony. I decide that the Anaivilundana Wetlands would be more interesting, being the second RAMSAR site declared in Sri Lanka after Bundala. The Wetlands are only 48 kilometres North of the resort, and should be more excellent than the Marshes. It is agreed that there will not be much extra, if anything at the Marshes over and above that which I have already experienced (Presumably apart from Freeway construction). It is agreed that we will go instead. The rest of the afternoon is siesta, followed by siesta, by the pool. The Wetland expedition will be an early morning departure tomorrow. I find the resort's book exchange, and swap some of Les Norton's adventures for some Tom Sharpe and that bloke who wrote the Ladies Detective from Botswana 's other stories. About time more Aussie Culture was dispensed in Sri Lanka , and I am sure that Les will be appreciated.

Pre-dinner drinks in the bar are on Jith, and Arrack is the deal. Must get some of this juice to take home, it is a good mixer! As I drink to his health, he brings out two gifts, and I am overwhelmed to receive a framed sheet of Sri Lankan Bird Stamps, and a CD he and two scientists compiled on the Sounds of the Sinharaja Rainforest. Totally unexpected, and I was genuinely moved. The mosquitoes had started to bite, so I moved back to my room and applied the spray, and packed the gifts in the 2 square metres of bubble wrap with which I had filled my suitcase. Dinner, then I decide to send an email to the family to tell them that I am all right, then bed.

Day 15 Monday 28th November 2005

Departure at 6:00AM for the wetlands. These go back to the 12 th Century, and are a series of large irrigation tanks of different levels, which have become a haven for waterbirds. After a trial to find our way in, we proceed, after a short walk, to a larger rain tree, and have a breakfast packed even more amply than the last one. Croissants, with Butter and Strawberry Jam Sir? Our driver, not a guide, is running around spotting birds. As we settle down to eat, he comes up excitedly pointing into the large Rain Tree under which we have encamped, where he has spotted a Woodpecker. It is a female White-naped Woodpecker, a rarely sighted bird, and a good omen. It is also quite a magnificent medium-sized bird, with a plumage of Black, Yellow and White. In the same tree, he also spots a larger bird looking down on us, which upon closer scoped examination, appears to be a Besra, a large Goshawk-like Raptor, and new for the trip. It then flies, and we get to see its back. It does turn out to be a Besra. The Rain Trees, if I haven't already mentioned, are like extremely large acacias, and have a broad drip line. They were planted along roads and other places by the British for their shade. This is something to be grateful for, as they add a lot of character, and shade, to the landscape. We walk along the walls of the tanks, which are wide enough to drive down, and our driver faithfully follows us at a distance, and brings our supplies of water and leftover breakfast.

I spot a cuckoo-like drongo, or is it a drongo-like cuckoo? It is in fact the Drongo Cuckoo, a new bird for me, and a bird I had always wanted to see, and yell at. With a name like that, it doesn't have much of a chance to lead a normal life, and consequently makes itself difficult to see. We walk on, getting excellent views of all manner of aquatic vegetation, and some large insects. There are birds as well, quite possible thousands of Lesser Whistling ducks. We can only see about 100 of them, the rest are hiding in the aquatic vegetation, along with Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Purple Coots, and Little Grebes. As I may have mentioned, there were severe floods the previous week and these had filled up the tanks, leaving little habitat at that time for the waders, which were undoubtedly holing up somewhere out of sight. Further along, there are about 10 trees in the middle of the tank, which contain a colony of nesting birds, predominantly Open-billed Storks, but also Great Cormorants and Grey Herons.

The road further on is a bit muddy for the van, so it doubles back to meet us at the highway. We slog on through the mud. Fortunately, the mud, which has the consistency of cement, finishes after a while. The bricks in Sri Lanka are made from mud and sun, so it is dangerous to stand still too long in this mud, as you may become a foundation. After the mud, the road goes under the water, so we wade through the crocodile infested swamp, holding our shoes for about a kilometre. At the highway, we borrow a bucket and some soap from a local identity, and remove the sticky substances from our shoes and feet. Back at the Resort, it is time for a swim, a plate of Tiger Prawns, a read, a swim, and a walk along the beach for a final chance to add some more birds to the list. They are the Common Tern and a Sanderling.

As I am simmering by the pool, a barman hand delivers me an invitation As a new guest, I am invited for welcome drinks with the management that evening in the garden at 7:00PM . It seems that the whole occupancy has actually been invited, and the Arrack Cocktails are slipping down nicely.

RECIPE: Ice, Large Slug of Arrack, Traditional Ginger Beer, and a green Olive on a stick.

There are also nibblies. I drink and nibble, have a chat with the manager, and then a slideshow begins. The first half is about the hotel itself, in particular the eco-components of its existence. Ranweli has won numerous awards, and this is a result of closely following the principles of eco-accommodation practice and accreditation. The second half was video and photos of the Boxing Day Tsunami less than a year ago. Ranweli, being half way up the west coast of Sri Lanka , missed the brunt of the waves, but the footage was quite terrifying, and the damage extensive. Fortunately there was no loss of life. Dinner to follow, and then pack up and head for the Airport.

Day 16 Tuesday 29th November 2005

Waiting for the plane to depart at 1:45AM is how I start my last day in Sri Lanka . I am very excited to spot a beautiful Oxford Green with Beige Leather BMW 520i on display, which is the prize in the Airport Raffle. This is the first BMW I have seen in Sri Lanka , even though technically speaking, I am no longer in Sri Lanka , as I have passed through customs. After the flying bit, I pick up my car from valet, and am home within an hour of landing. I am mobbed in the doorway by two leeches, who seem pretty pleased to see me. I can't get through the door for at least five minutes. Must go away for longer next time, I will get an even warmer welcome!

The End

The list of birds observed in the trip. A total of 223 species!

Common Name
Scientific Name
Little Grebe [sp] Tachybaptus ruficollis
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
Great Cormorant [sp] Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Darter [sp] Anhinga melanogaster
Grey Heron [sp] Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron [sp] Ardea purpurea
Great Egret [sp] Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret [sp] Egretta intermedia
Little Egret [sp] Egretta garzetta
Indian Pond-heron Ardeola grayii
Cattle Egret [sp] Bubulcus ibis
Striated Heron [sp] Butorides striata
Black-crowned Night Heron [sp] Nycticorax nycticorax
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus
Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] Platalea leucorodia
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica
Cotton Pygmy-goose [sp] Nettapus coromandelianus
Jerdon's Baza [sp] Aviceda jerdoni
Black-shouldered Kite [sp] Elanus caeruleus
Brahminy Kite [sp] Haliastur indus
White-bellied Sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
Grey-headed Fish-eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus
Crested Serpent-eagle [sp] Spilornis cheela
Shikra [sp] Accipiter badius
Besra [sp] Accipiter virgatus
Common Buzzard [sp] Buteo buteo
Black Eagle [sp] Ictinaetus malayensis
Rufous-bellied Eagle [sp] Aquila kienerii
Changeable Hawk-eagle [sp] Spizaetus cirrhatus
Common Kestrel [sp] Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falcon [sp] Falco peregrinus
Blue-breasted Quail [sp] Coturnix chinensis
Ceylon Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
Barred Buttonquail [sp] Turnix suscitator
White-breasted Waterhen [sp] Amaurornis phoenicurus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen [sp] Gallinula chloropus
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Sri Lanka Stilt Himantopus himantopus ceylonensis
Stone-curlew [sp] Burhinus oedicnemus
Great Thick-knee Burhinus recurvirostris
Red-wattled Lapwing [sp] Vanellus indicus
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus
Lesser Sand Plover [sp] Charadrius mongolus
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago gallinago
Eurasian Curlew [sp] Numenius arquata
Common Redshank [sp] Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank [sp] Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
Gull-billed Tern [sp] Sterna nilotica
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Lesser Crested Tern [sp] Sterna bengalensis
Common Tern [sp] Sterna hirundo
Little Tern [sp] Sterna albifrons
Saunders' Tern Sterna saundersi
Whiskered Tern [sp] Chlidonias hybrida
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Rock Dove [sp] Columba livia
Ceylon Wood-pigeon Columba torringtoni
Spotted Dove [sp] Streptopelia chinensis
Emerald Dove [sp] Chalcophaps indica
Orange-breasted Pigeon [sp] Treron bicincta
Pompadour Green-pigeon [sp] Treron pompadora
Green Imperial-pigeon [sp] Ducula aenea
Alexandrine Parakeet [sp] Psittacula eupatria
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] Psittacula krameri
Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
Layard's Parakeet Psittacula calthropae
Ceylon Hanging-parrot Loriculus beryllinus
Jacobin Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus jacobinus
Indian Cuckoo [sp] Cuculus micropterus
Common Cuckoo [sp] Cuculus canorus
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus
Asian Drongo-cuckoo [sp] Surniculus lugubris
Asian Koel [sp] Eudynamys scolopacea
Sirkeer Malkoha [sp] Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii
Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus
Greater Coucal [sp] Centropus sinensis
Indian Scops-owl [sp] Otus bakkamoena
Brown Fish-owl [sp] Ketupa zeylonensis
Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor
Brown-backed Needletail [sp] Hirundapus giganteus
Asian Palm-swift [sp] Cypsiurus balasiensis
Little Swift [sp] Apus affinis
Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata
Malabar Trogon [sp] Harpactes fasciatus
Common Kingfisher [sp] Alcedo atthis
Stork-billed Kingfisher [sp] Pelargopsis capensis
White-throated Kingfisher [sp] Halcyon smyrnensis
Pied Kingfisher [sp] Ceryle rudis
Green Bee-eater [sp] Merops orientalis
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater [sp] Merops leschenaulti
Indian Roller [sp] Coracias benghalensis
Ceylon Grey Hornbill Ocyceros gingalensis
Malabar Pied-hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
Brown-headed Barbet [sp] Megalaima zeylanica
Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons
Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla malabarica
Coppersmith Barbet [sp] Megalaima haemacephala
Lesser Yellownape [sp] Picus chlorolophus
Black-rumped Flameback [sp] Dinopium benghalense
White-naped Woodpecker [sp] Chrysocolaptes festivus
Greater Flameback [sp] Chrysocolaptes lucidus
Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
Jerdon's Bushlark Mirafra affinis
Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix grisea
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
Hill Swallow Hirundo tahitica domicola
Ceylon Swallow Cecropis daurica hyperythra
Grey Wagtail [sp] Motacilla cinerea
Oriental Pipit [sp] Anthus rufulus
Richard's Pipit [sp] Anthus richardi
Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike [sp] Coracina melanoptera
Small Minivet [sp] Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
Scarlet Minivet [sp] Pericrocotus flammeus
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike [sp] Hemipus picatus
Black-crested Bulbul [sp] Pycnonotus melanicterus
Red-vented Bulbul [sp] Pycnonotus cafer
Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus
White-browed Bulbul [sp] Pycnonotus luteolus
Yellow-browed Bulbul [sp] Iole indica
Black Bulbul [sp] Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Blue-winged Leafbird [sp] Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Golden-fronted Leafbird [sp] Chloropsis aurifrons
Common Iora [sp] Aegithina tiphia
Ceylon Whistling-thrush Myophonus blighi
Orange-headed Thrush [sp] Zoothera citrina
Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera
Scaly Thrush [sp] Zoothera dauma
Common Blackbird [sp] Turdus merula
Zitting Cisticola [sp] Cisticola juncidis
Grey-breasted Prinia [sp] Prinia hodgsonii
Ashy Prinia [sp] Prinia socialis
Plain Prinia [sp] Prinia inornata
Ceylon Bush-warbler Bradypterus palliseri
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler [sp] Locustella certhiola
Clamorous Reed-warbler [sp] Acrocephalus stentoreus
Sykes' Warbler Hippolais rama
Common Tailorbird [sp] Orthotomus sutorius
Green Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus
Large-billed Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] Sylvia curruca
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui
Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra
Dull-blue Flycatcher Eumyias sordida
Tickell's Blue-flycatcher [sp] Cyornis tickelliae
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher [sp] Culicicapa ceylonensis
Oriental Magpie-robin [sp] Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama [sp] Copsychus malabaricus
Indian Robin [sp] Saxicoloides fulicata
Pied Bushchat [sp] Saxicola caprata
White-browed Fantail [sp] Rhipidura aureola
Black-naped Monarch [sp] Hypothymis azurea
Asian Paradise-flycatcher [sp] Terpsiphone paradisi
Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons
Brown-capped Babbler [sp] Pellorneum fuscocapillum
Indian Scimitar-babbler [sp] Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
Dark-fronted Babbler [sp] Rhopocichla atriceps
Yellow-eyed Babbler [sp] Chrysomma sinense
Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens
Yellow-billed Babbler [sp] Turdoides affinis
Great Tit [sp] Parus major
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch [sp] Sitta frontalis
Purple-rumped Sunbird [sp] Leptocoma zeylonica
Purple Sunbird [sp] Cinnyris asiaticus
Long-billed Sunbird [sp] Cinnyris lotenius
Thick-billed Flowerpecker [sp] Dicaeum agile
White-throated Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens
Pale-billed Flowerpecker [sp] Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
Ceylon White-eye Zosterops ceylonensis
Black-hooded Oriole [sp] Oriolus xanthornus
Brown Shrike [sp] Lanius cristatus
Common Woodshrike [sp] Tephrodornis pondicerianus
Black Drongo [sp] Dicrurus macrocercus
White-bellied Drongo [sp] Dicrurus caerulescens
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo [sp] Dicrurus paradiseus
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
Ceylon Magpie Urocissa ornata
House Crow [sp] Corvus splendens
Large-billed Crow [sp] Corvus macrorhynchos
Southern Hill Myna Gracula indica
Ceylon Myna Gracula ptilogenys
Common Myna [sp] Acridotheres tristis
White-faced Starling Sturnia albofrontata
Rosy Starling Pastor roseus
House Sparrow [sp] Passer domesticus
White-throated Munia Euodice malabarica
White-rumped Munia [sp] Lonchura striata
Black-throated Munia [sp] Lonchura kelaarti
Nutmeg Mannikin [sp] Lonchura punctulata
Black-headed Munia [sp] Lonchura malacca
Author/s of the report: 
Mark Taylor

Country:

Group size: 
1
Members of the group (clients): 
Mark Taylor
Tour Guide: 
Prasanjith Caldera