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A Report from

A trip to the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka, 2nd – 16th April 2011,

Paul A. Brown

Both Ros’s Father Glynne Roberts (Army NCO chemist) and my Uncle John Ward (Fleet Air Arm) had been based in Ceylon during and after the Second World War respectively and now that the Tamil Tiger problems were over and damage caused by the Tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 had been repaired, it was about time that we visit Sri Lanka ourselves to see where our relatives had served. As always with our world trips, we look for cheap deals and we found a two week package through Mercury Direct to Hotel Serendib, Bentota on the south west coast, south of Colombo for £889 each, flights, full board and free Lion lager, Arrack & gin! (but not wine unless you wished to pay lots). Looking into the situation of the Hotels advertised by Mercury Direct, they were all in the west, wet area of Sri Lanka. I am always keen to find a good beach resort for Ros and some good local birding for myself, so a trip to the whole of Sri Lanka was not planned. None of the bird reports seem to cover birding areas only on the west coast apart from well known reserves and as the highest concentration of lifers consisted of endemic species to be found in the World Heritage Site at Sinharaja, I chose the hotel closest to this site, taking a gamble as to the birding suitability of the hotel and environs. As most birders visiting Sri Lanka do so with organised tours which tour wet, dry, lowland and highland sites across the Island, the cost is way above the limit which we set for our annual holiday of £1500 each to cover all expenditure. In retrospect the best place to stay would have been on the south coast at Hambantota as this is on the edge of wet and dry sectors, close to Bundala National Park and not far from Kalameteya, Uda Walawe, Yala and Sinharaja and other good sites but the expense of planning a non-package would have pushed the price above our means.

They drive on the left but standards of driving were scary and I would not have wanted to hire a car myself! Distances are not great in Sri Lanka but the roads are slow single carriageway and thus the travel times are great.  So we looked into bird guides who do short tours which are not part of organised trips. We came up with the freelance guide Amila Salgado as being one of very few such guides. I emailed Amila at (and his blog site is at and we set dates for a two day trip to Sinharaja, staying at the famous and iconic Martin’s Place close by the reserve’s North-Western entrance. I also sent him a list of wants which included all the dry area species and Amila sent a reaction as to how likely we were to see each species. So looking down the list there were “are you kidding me” or “how many do you wish to see” reaction remarks, well you never know Amila! Luckily for me, the new 2nd edition of John Harrison’s, A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka had just been published with updates on the newly split endemic species and at a much reduced price than the 1st edition. This is the only bird identification book required for the trip. As always, before I get involved with any bird guides, I like to get to grips with the common local birds, many of which I have already seen in Goa. Because of our trip to Goa, I did not expect too many new species for the life list especially as we were not planning to visit the dry south & east or the highlands proper.

View from the Hotel Serendib balcony
Bentota beach and rocks

Beware the hawkers waiting to pounce on any non-tanned tourists! “Helloo, how are you? where you come from? want a tuc tuc ride?, I show you good birds!?” etc etc. Grrrrr! Ros is annoyed with my diffident or possibly even rude treatment of these touters & hawkers and engages them in small talk, potted life story, etc; whereas I am keen to get on as time is short, so I am prone to ignoring their advances or reacting with sarcasm! One way to avoid such approaches is to hire bicycles which we always try to do, so that we can then escape the hordes! We also noted a singular lack of bars and few restaurants apart from inside the tourist hotels; the only concentration being south of Hotel Serendib along the railway line which were closed, maybe because it was the end of the season? The only way to sample the iconic and would classic Lion Stout was to buy bottles from the state registered off-licences.  

Diary of the Trip

Friday-Saturday 1st - 2nd April

We flew out of London Heathrow, Terminal Four at 10am on Friday 1st July on an Etihad Airbus A340-500 to Abu Dhabi where we changed to Airbus A320-200 to arrive at a very busy Colombo Katunayake International Airport at first light on the 2nd. First birds were the ubiquitous House Crows and Common Mynas. There, we were picked up by a taxi and were driven south through Colombo at break-neck speed, with the proviso that if there is anything coming the other way then one should overtake. From the speeding car, saw an Indian Pond Heron perched on overhead wires, White throated Kingfishers in urban settings, Cattle egrets, Little Cormorants, ring-necked parakeets, gull-billed tern and Asian Koels calling. The driver did the journey in two hours as he was keen to get home ready for the Cricket World cup final between India & Sri Lanka!

We then spent the day at the Hotel Serendib, snoozing in the sun to catch up on lost sleep. In the hotel gardens, we soon got to know the character of the first new species to the life list, Yellow-billed Babbler which is an in your face comic with their squeaky calls. The garden was also packed with chipmunk like palm squirrels which whistled all day long and dashed up and down and between the palm stems in spite of the sunbathers. Asian Palm Swifts flew overhead all day, Little Terns fished off the beach and an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle caused a stir amongst the many local House Crows. A short walk inland over the railway line produced a small suburban lake with Pond Herons, Red-wattled Lapwings, White-breasted Waterhens, Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds, and Pale-billed Flowerpeckers, each tree have a singing bird. The few Brits in the Hotel joined the staff to watch Sri Lanka lose the cricket final on a big screen.  

Sunday 3rd April

I got up at first light and walked south along the road past the railway station upkept by our hotel Serendib with Koels in the trees and Wiskered Terns along the beach but not much else. In fact during the two weeks very little moved along or off the beach, less than I have noticed anywhere in the world! So I then walked north along the sandbar of ‘paradise island’ where there are overgrown vacant plots with Greater Coucals calling, a single common sandpiper and a fishing Indian Cormorant plus a lot of biting mossies. At the Hotel breakfast, we were joined by the House Crows and the Yellow-billed Babblers who didn’t mind having their photo taken. We noted the local Land Monitor ambling across the garden between the sun-loungers. After the free lunch and being mad-dogs and Englishmen (well at least I am as Ros is Welsh) we walked out in the heat to look for boat trips up the Bentota Ganga and against the hassle of the many tuc-tuc and taxi drivers. We walked across the bridge over Bentota Ganga to the main and noisy street in Aluthgama. Always look for Silk Cotton Trees! There was one along the main street above the noise and fumes. A pigeon caught my eye as it dived into this tree with shoulders out and wings closed. It joined another and mating ensued. They were pale pink-grey in the body with green wings, my first Green Imperial Pigeons and my second lifer. We cut back through to the quiet side road along the Ganga with an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle over and more Pale-billed Flowerpeckers. We booked a boat trip at the Rainbow Boathouse by the south end of the bridge for the morrow morning. As we went for our evening gin & tonic (medicinal to ward off the malaria) I suddenly noticed a number of huge flying foxes flying into the beachside palms joined by a few much smaller undetermined bats. We had wondered why the coconut palms were roped together and had no nuts and were to find out later what the fruit bats were after. I noticed that there were very few insects coming to the lights which might reflect the lack of habitat diversity.

Looking for owls, Ros & Indica
Bentota Ganga

Monday 4th April

Up early again and walked over the railway to the suburban lake again with a noisy singing Plain Prinia. After breakfast went down to the Rainbow Boathouse and was taken out by Indica up the Bentota Ganga. After pointing out White-throated Kingfisher and Cattle Egret, my diffident lack of enthusiasm gave him the message that I knew what the obvious things were. Along the east bank soon were looking at a variety of sizes of black and blotchy water monitors lounging in the mangrove. A few Little Egrets were about, a single Grey Heron, the only one of the trip loped off and a Stork-billed Kingfisher looked down from the estuary-side trees. A number of Streaked Herons flew ahead of us along the mangrove. We finally caught up with a number of variably sized saltie crocs and were the first boat of the day so we wondered whether later boats would be so lucky? Indica showed us a couple of bright Green Tree Snakes and then asked whether I liked owls to which at the positive affirmative, he showed us a pair of roosting and huddled Collared Scops Owls in the mangrove which were totally hidden and needed local knowledge to find! Inica made a ‘daisy-chain’ out of a mauve water lily flower for Ros. On the west side noticed common kingfisher, a sluice-gate which looked a sign of good habitat and then Indica showed us a roosting Brown Fish Owl in a large tree! Then we entered into the mangrove proper under the Fruit bat roost and saw Black-headed Orioles. On arriving back to the bridge, we passed a large flock of Wiskered terns. Indica told us the story of the Toddy men who climb the palms to collect sap from the cut ends of the flower stems from pots tied to the wounds, which is what the Flying foxes are after, to make the local spirit Arrack. Indica was most envious of my copy of Harrison, 2011. The three hour trip cost us circa £12 each, which would have been cheaper with more people but was well worth it for the two owls that I had not expected to have seen on the trip. From the hotel watersports shack, we organised hire of a couple of bicycles for the morrow. Late afternoon from the balcony, I was scoping the tall garden pines and a fig tree, wondering why I had not seen much in them as they looked good candidates for bird trees, when I finally saw the first of many Brown-headed Barbet which here never gave their presence away by ‘Keronking and which visited each evening at the same time’. Also I noticed many House Crows flying North along the beach to presumably roost in the ‘Paradise’ Island at the end of the sand bar.

Tuesday 5th April

At dawn, took one of the bikes and cycled inland and soon had good views of the ugly Brown-headed Barbets singing all over the place and the first pair of quite a few of the red-backed endemic psarodes race of Black-rumped Flameback, with a black head and white stripes. Passed two ancient Buddhist temples and at the second one at Galapatha with a large lily-pond, had a number of twittering Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots overhead in the treetops. But there were rather too many people about who all seemed most interested in this strange off-course tourist who must need help, directions back to where they thought I wanted to be, food, tuc tuc or to give money away! So I dived off down the side of the temple and found a number of disused paddies with newly dug drainage channels, scattered trees and no people, Hurrah! I locked and hid the bike and sallied forth! My first Large-billed Crows, a lot of Black-headed Orioles and Ring-necked Parakeets, Scaly-breasted and very dark contrasty White-rumped Munias, a pair of Ashy Wood-swallows holding territory in the dead tree tops, a fine male Golden-fronted Leaf-bird, Yellowish Oriental White-eyes, two male Small Minivets, Stork-billed and Common Kingfishers and a couple of small green Pigeons with purple wings were the newly split Sri Lanka Green-pigeon. On coming away again bumped into two, ruddy Indian Brown Mongeese, one large and a smaller one with no black tail-tip and a pink patch of bald skin around the eye. A Purple Heron stood in the tree tops above the lily pond and there were more Green Imperial Pigeons. Cycling back past the many people, saw a single female house sparrow looking rather lonely. In the afternoon walked round the neighbouring Bentota Beach hotel grounds and a Black-headed Cuckooshrike and then on my own to the south end of the Paradise island spit with many House Crows along the shoreline pretending to be waders with only a single Whimbrel and in the trees of the prívate budhist island at the end were Red vented Bulbuls and a White-throated Kingfisher. I was thrown out of here by an irate kid even though the sign did not say ‘no entry’ and who wanted money so I wonder what else the rich vegetated island harboured? Later we cycled to Galapatha Temple but we were stung by more locals wanting money “I am such a poor widow” etc., so we didn’t stay. We saw many Flying Foxes flying in daylight over the mangrove roost on the way back.

The Bentota Ganga mangroves
Galapatha Temple, beyond to the left, there be birds

Wednesday 6th April

Up at 5.45 and met Amila Salgado at our Hotel and his driver who took us east through the dawn. Amila found a Changeable Hawk-eagle in a tree and I saw a perched Fan-tailed Warbler. Great White and Intermediate Egrets and a few very dark red-rumped Sri Lanka Swallows. By a bridge over a river gorge saw the first of many mohecan hair-styled Square-tailed Black Bulbuls and Emerald Dove. We stopped in the local town for a pot of excellent tea, Amila’s breakfast, and a supply of Lion Stout for cellebratory consumption at Martin’s Place. Finally we swopped the car for a beaten up old Jeep and drove to the Sinharaja Reserve entrance where there was a foot long millipede and studied the dragonflies at the pond there, they being the Small deep blue Indigo Dropwing Trithemis festiva, the vivid pink Dawn Dropwing Trithemis aurora and the red Spine-tufted Skipper Orthetrum chrysis. Then we started the rough river-bed like rocky climb with a trackside green, orange and white Forest lizard, a big grey Ruddy Mongoose with black tail-tip and a welcome stop half way up for the view and a Black-headed Cuckooshrike. The real reason for the stop was to closely view an amazing roosting pair of Sri Lankan Frogmouths (thanks to the local guide Ranji). After the bumpiest drive ever and what seemed an age, we arrived at Martin’s Place, met the legendary Martin Wijesinghe and settled into room one.

The jeep up to Martin’s Place
Martin’s Place

No window glass but mossie nets and a perfectly serviceable shower and loo!  I photoed a couple of Blue Bottle butterflies drinking at a puddle in the courtyard. A lovely lunch and drink on the balcony overlooking the rainforest. On our first walk with Ros, after putting on leech-garters, we walked up above Martin’s Place with a fine and colourful Legge’s Flowerpecker and a noisy pair of Sri Lankan Mynas with red bills and only one pair of nape wattles. Here, Amilas telescope-trypod combo was very impressive, it being a Swarovski ATM-80 HD with 25–50 zoomeye piece, resting on a Manfrotto 701HDV head atop a Velbon CF535 carbon fibre tripod. His camera setup was a Canon EOS1 D Mark 4 fitted with Canon 100–400 macro lens. Then we walked down past Martin’s and had great views of a shy Spot-winged Thrush by the path, closely followed by a Giant Squirrel and an amazing and dazzling Sri Lankan Blue Magpie, both close overhead. Low down was a Brown-breasted and a Tickell’s Flycatcher in close succession. Then we entered a pine plantation where there was a large flock of Legge’s Flowerpeckers with a few Orange Minivets. Then in a cleared area with a great view parked Ros with her book and a Giant Squirrel for company and walked into the rainforest where Amila instructed me to sit, stay still and quiet and after a few minutes, a male and two female Sri Lankan Spurfowl walked round us in a wide arc on what seemed an easily predicted path! Both myself and Amila was pleased with such an easy result! Back with Ros in the cleared area had scope views of Yellow-fronted Barbet, a pair of Layard’s Parakeets, a single Black-capped Bulbul (much like the ruby-throated Bulbul of Goa but without the ruby throat) and I found a Sri Lankan Crested Drongo. A Blyth’s Reed Warbler chuked close by. As we arrived back at Martin’s Place a pack of Ashy-headed Laughingthrushes noisily passed through and found a huge golden orb-web spider below the balcony. I then watched another Blue Magpie from the bedroom window. Whilst on the loo a cry of White-faced Starling had me finish and race outside to score on one of the rarest of endemics! Out again with Ros and Amila added a couple of Brown-capped Babblers to the list which looked at us from the forest floor by the path. From a rocky vantage point watched a valley with a single distant White-faced Starling on a Rattan Palm filament. In the last of the light I sat on Martin’s balcony and was rewarded by a fine flypast of Brown-backed Needletails. Sat with a couple from Singapore and their guide and talked about birding Frazers Hill in Malaysia. It was only then that a big blood patch in my groin proved that I had been got at by leeches, probably whilst kneeling for the spurfowl. So on careful inspection and with mild curiosity, I recovered the satiated, satisfied and fat little leech and sent it on it’s way. A small price to pay for Spurfowl! We watched the ‘horse-shoe’ bats flying very close above our heads to catch insects coming into the lights, and the many flashing fireflies out in the dark valley and listened to Frogmouths below and Chestnut-backed Owlet calling above. I had to rescue a firefly from the bedroom before retiring.  

Entrance to Sinharaja  
Entrance to Martin’s Place

Thursday 7th April

Out before first light but because my dull shirt was covered with blood I had to wear a white t-shirt which was not the best clothing for birding. Out up the path to find the Chestnut-backed Owlet which I had trouble latching onto even with a spotlight on initially a pair together but finally saw one by the glare of it’s retina. Amila had to be patient with my slowness to latch onto the targets as my eyesight was never good and is slowly deteriorating. He used a lazer light to indicate the general area of the bird in the canopy to great effect, being careful not to shine the light straight at the target! In retrospect he should have taken his amazing scope with us. Then a few quick whistles brought out a honey of a Sri Lankan Scimitar-babbler and very closely too! Less easy to bring in was a calling Green-billed Coucal but a careful coaxing call from Amila had it safely in the bag. I noticed a large Wood-pigeon which turned out to be one of at least four Sri Lankan Wood-pigeons that we saw; a surprise to Amila who thought that they would be very difficult in April. Could this be due to weather changes caused by this being a La Niňa year with early rains? High above in the canopy was a Red-faced Malkoha with a red face disc. A cock Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl came out of the jungle ahead of us and Amila ‘chooked’ it close for photos with a yellow centre to the red coxcomb and otherwise very chicken like plumage. We walked down to the Sinharaja centre to get a day permit with another Giant Squirrel bending the trees on the way and brought our Local volunteer guide Rathnasiri, up with us. We had a fried egg breakfast and I photod the moths not already eaten by the magpies out again (again without Ros) with the guide into the reserve. We saw distant Indian Swiftlets and good views of a Sri Lanka Crimson-backed Flameback with a long pale bill and a pale head with dark stripes. We heard a calling Crested Serpent Eagle and I saw it high overhead sitting at the top of a tree. Stopped at the Leopard Rock where both Amila and the guide used their mobile phones as this is the only place with a signal in the area. There was a rather tame Sri Lankan Keelback wáter snake in a trackside pond and we scoped another Yellow-fronted Barbet. Then we went looking for Serendib Scops Owl and was left alone to wait next to a boggy area. Here a hen jungle fowl joined me for a while as if to keep me company. A few leeches also joined me but didn’t get the chance to have a feed. Then the guide took me to another boggy area by the river and near the reserve centre for a fleeting view of a scaley thrush which promptly disappeared. At the research centre, saw the damage to the satélite dish caused by a marauding wild elephant, photod the orchids and watched the Glad-eye Bushbrowns flitting in the forest glade. Back by Leopard Rock, saw Torque Macaques in the trees and nearer Martin’s Place had a Black-naped Monarch and good close views of Sri Lankan Tree Nymph butterflies. Ros had not been invited to come on this morning’s foreys due to the possibility of garrulous outboursts and due to the bog wading and leech risk. Lunch at Martin’s with a view of a white long-tailed Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Blue Oakleaf and Blue Mormon butterflies.

Then, the return break-neck jeep journey back down the riverbed to the car. Not far away we stopped on the roadside to scope a Sri Lankan Small Barbet and White-browed Bulbul, White-browed fantail and House swifts. Much closer to Bentota at a roadside wetland were dozens of Lesser Whistling duck, Purple Herons, Grey-headed Swamphens and a female Black Bittern just after I had said that this looks promising for the latter species! Said farewell to Amila and driver after he had found me 25 of the endemic species which, in the time limit of 36 hours is a new record for him!

Amila and self, Martin’s balcony
one of the moths (a Lithociine Arctiid)

Friday 8th April

At dawn, scoped the sea from the balcony to watch for any movement of seabirds but nothing out of the ordinary was seen (such as possible bridled terns). A quiet day after the excitement of the last few days. Got our bikes again and cycled North to Beruwala but saw nothing in particular. We texted Amila after a count of the endemics and thought that we had broken his record! Ros phoned up Green Woods Guest house in Kandy to make a booking!

Saturday 9th April

At dawn found me at Galapatha paddies again with a Shikra overhead on the way and was startled by a fast moving huge Water Monitor at the lily pond. Walked all the way to the sluice gate we had seen from the boat last Monday. A family of Brahminy Kites were sitting in the dead trees and there were many Loten’s Sunbirds about. Along by the Ganga edge in the mangrove were many small crabs, more than one Blyth’s Reed Warbler and a fine White-browed Fantail, White-browed Bulbuls, a female Paradise flycatcher and two Pintail Snipe which pitched in with a yip call. Then I cycled to the coast and just behind Walawwa Resort found another small wetland with Swamphens, Whistling-duck and Greater Coucals. Later cycled with Ros to the Turtle hatchery and saw many hundreds of day old Green Turtles ready to be released that night and a few larger captive Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Green Turtles there for show. Two more Whimbrel were on the beach here and narrowly missed being trodden on by a large domestic elephant who’s regular track in the sand we had mistakenly decided to sit on (I wondered what those strange big pits in the sand were). Back at Bentota and after much haggling, we ordered cheap shirts from a local tailor and whilst we were there, Amila phoned to say that he was at Kithulgala watching a Serendib Scops Owl as he spoke with four Scots birders, who had started a 15-day tour with him He kindly said that I could join him for the day provided that I arrange my own taxi for the 4 hour drive there and 4 hours back. It was a no-do situation but it did seriously unsettle me. I tried the local and free Arrack that night.

Sunday 10th April

Returned to the Walawwa wetland for dawn and was rewarded with a fine male Black Bittern Fan-tailed Warblers and a grey crowned Brown Shrike of the lucionensis philippino race, more non skulking White-browed Bulbuls, Common Iora, Intermediate Egret and White-rumped Munia. On to Galapatha paddies and added another lucionensis Brown Shrike, good views of Black-naped flamebacks, another Plain Prinia and an unexpected and tiny Brown-capped Woodpecker. Yet another Brown shrike on the cycle ride back to the hotel. After lunch cycled North again to Beruwala and found the safely enclosed Ypsylon Hotel and had tea and Lion Lager opposite Barberyn Island and lighthouse and watched the Wiskered Terns.

Beira Lake, Colombo, big crane & Great Egret 
Ultimate Pelican habitat, Colombo

Monday 11th April

Up early to catch the train to Colombo from Bentota Station and took local advice that we get on a stopping train that started there as it would be empty unlike the packed but quicker express that was due. After a two hour trip, at Colombo we had time to kill so we walked round to Beira Lake to view the promised Spot-billed Pelicans, of which there were several scattered over the surface. On looking up there were many more circling in the rising thermals. Ate our packed breakfast there and watched yet more Whiskered Terns, Little and Great Egrets and Little & Indian Cormorants. Walking through the centre looked up to see more pelicans sat on the lamp standards!

The train journey to Kandy
view south to Bible Rock

Caught the Kandy train from Fort Station and sat 3rd class which was rather cosy! In the lowlands saw Open-billed and Woolly-necked storks and black-necked Ibis in the paddies and as we climbed into the hills added Blue-tailed beeater, Crested Treeswifts and a Shikra mobbing an Oriental Honey Buzzard. The journey was very vertiginous with great views southwards. After the three hour journey we took a tuc tuc to Green Woods Guest House and met the proprietor Mrs. Kusum Nanayakkara who’s daughter lives in Ruislip (her email being ). The room cost just £15 for bed & breakfast for the both both of us. We soon realised that we had chosen well with close views of Purple-rumped Sunbird, Oriental White-eye, a pair of Layard’s Parakeets and Square-tailed Black Bulbuls from the balcony. A five minute walk to the Lake and the Temple of the Tooth and a view of the heronry with a sulky immature Black-crowned Night-heron and two even sulkier immature Open-billed Storks were with the large numbers of Indian & Little Cormorants. In a tree by the Temple was a Grey Great Tit sounding quite like our British one but split by some. Later at dusk we sat on the balcony of The Pub and over G & T and Lion Lagers watched hundreds of Cattle Egrets commuting over and between the buildings to roost on the Lake. There were also many House Crows about which was to be expected but which is not marked on the map in the new Fieldguide!

View from Green Woods balcony
Kandy Temple of the Tooth, Kandy 

Tuesday 12th April

At first light, sat on the balcony and watched the figtree and the trees of the canopy of the Udawattakelle Sanctuary rainforest opposite. There was a huge swarm of huge bees in a tree opposite which apart from one that came into the dining area did not bother us. Soon discovered a stealthy Lesser Hill Myna in the fig tree with yellow bill and double head wattles and more flew over later. The same tree attacted another Sri Lankan Crimson-backed Flameback, another Grey Tit and an exceedingly noisy Tailor Bird which hurt the ear with it’s volume! Good views of another Sri Lanka Small Barbet in the canopy opposite and more day glow Orange Minivets and Common Iorae. A single Munia was brown backed and lacked a white rumped and thus became a Tricoloured or Black-headed Munia. In the garden above was yet another lucionensis Brown Shrike and a Crested Serpent Eagle flew overhead. We were joined on the balcony by a troupe of Torque Macaques which was a little intimidating but I ignored them and they left me alone, Ros having escaped to the dining room. After an excellent breakfast we walked down to the Lake where another gang of Macaques were begging food and caught a tuc tuc to the station and travelled second class this time for £1.10 each to Colombo which was more comfortable and roomy than 3rd. More Indian Swiflets and House Swifts were seen from the train. Back in Colombo Fort station had a bottle of Elephant House EGB ginger beer and watched the pelicans, Brahminy Kites and White–bellied Sea Eagles overhead and the gang of House Crows as a thunder storm approached and then deluged the station with a piece of the canopy blowing off! A very packed express train back to Aluthgama, with standing room only. The whole trip cost us £46 all in, which is much cheaper than the Holiday reps and the tuc tuc and taxi drivers’ quotes and very worthwhile!

Wednesday 13th April

On the rocks opposite the hotel, were ten Crested Terns and eight Lesser Sand Plovers. Stangely, we never saw any sand-plovers on the beach. Due to it being the Sri Lankan New Year, the water-sports shack was closed and so, after a number of enquiries we could not acquire the ‘all important’ bikes for the next few days and as I did not trust to use the few Tuc Tucs about, did not get back to the local birding sites but I didn’t think that I could add much to the trip list anyway!  A Shikra flashed through the garden and there was a single firefly along the edge of the beach at night.

Thursday 14th April

Today and no bike so we took the train to the old Portuguese and Dutch fort at Galle on the South West corner of Sri Lanka which juts out to sea and is close to the station and the international cricket stadium. Within the walls were open areas with some scrub which harboured Red-wattled Lapwings, yet another lucionensis Brown Shrike and Black-headed Orioles. The locals were enjoying the holiday by playing cricket, what else! There was an opportunistic feeding Land Monitor in Galle Station.

Friday 15th April

No bike! We had a single Sri Lankan Swallow over the hotel and a pair of Black-headed Orioles in the tall pines, were the only birds to report as seen from the sun-loungers as we had a final chance to top up the tans. At 10pm we drove back to Katunayake International Airport in an intense thunderstorm and the taxi driver was caught for speeding!

Saturday 16th April

So we retraced our steps to Abu Dhabi and from the airport terminal watched Spotted Doves, Common Mynas, Rock Pigeons, House Sparrows, Ring-necked Parakeets, two Crested Larks and four, then two sandgrouse with dark bellies and underwing = Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, which was my 40th lifer for the trip. We flew back to Heathrow in a streached Airbus A340-600.


We thank Amila Salgado for organising a great 36 hours at Sinharaja and providing 25 endemic species, which is a record for him in the time allowed! and for permission to use his photographs and for his patience with me (Can’t you see it! Its right in front of you!); Martin Wijesinghe, family and staff at Martin’s Place; Ranji and Rathnasiri, the local guides at Sinharaja; Mrs Kusum Nanayakkara at Green Woods for her hospitality and Mercury Direct for the package deal and the staff at Hotel Serendib, Bentota.

Amila Salgado, 146 A, Pahala Bomiriya,
Kaduwela, Sri Lanka
Mob: 0094-777-591155
Tel: 0094-11-2539633

Mrs Kusum Nanayakkara,
34/A Sangamitta Mawatha, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Tel: 0094-18-2232970

127 is a low trip species total but I was not expecting much more than that as we were not visiting the dry east, but I am pleased with the 39 lifers, some only recently split as island endemics. I am surprised that I could not find Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill, or that we did not see Lesser Yellownape (although Amila did hear one) or Alexandrine Parakeet and I might have come across a Yellow Bittern at the local wetland. All the White-eyes were obvious Orientals and not the local one as we were not high enough. Otherwise other Sri Lankan targets were not really possible in the wet zone. I would have particularly wanted to visit the wild elephants with the chance of seeing Leopard and a few dry sector birds at Uda Walawe, but this was at least a very expensive four hours drive away. Maybe next time?


Spot-billed Pelicans in Colombo
Whiskered Terns, Bentota Ganga

1.        Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Vulnerable. As predicted by Amila, my first were paddling on Beira Lake, Colombo, and then incongruously sitting on the lamp standards along the main roads in the town centre on 11.iv.2011 and seen from Colombo Fort railway station high overhead sailing the thermals on 12.iv.2011

2.        Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger. Flying over Colombo 2.iv.2011; Bentota Ganga, 3.iv.2011 and every day; Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and on each visit; by the lake in Kandy 11.iv.2011. The very common cormorant seen every day.

3.        Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis. Bentota Ganga, 3.iv.2011; Beira Lake, Colombo, 11.iv.2011; Many fishing and with nests in the trees by the lake in Kandy 11.iv.2011. Far more common here in Sri Lanka than in Goa!

4.        Little Egret Egretta garzetta. Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011; Beira Lake, Colombo, 11.iv.2011, by the lake in Kandy 11.iv.2011. Only small numbers seen.

5.        Great Egret Egretta alba. On route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011, Beira Lake, Colombo, 11.iv.2011, by the lake in Kandy 11.iv.2011.

6.        Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia. On route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011

7.        Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Just one seen over Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011.

8.        Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. Sitting high in a tree above Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 5.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 10.iv.2011. Fairly common.

9.        Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus. Colombo 2.iv.2011, on the beach at Hotel Serendib, Bentota 2.iv.2011 and every day; large flocks seen from the balcony of ‘The Pub’ flying between the buildings towards the Lake in Kandy to roost, 11.iv.2011. Very common and widespread even in urban areas.

10.    Indian Pond-heron Ardeola grayii. The first was incongruously sitting on a wire in Colombo 2.iv.2011; Bentota Lake 2.iv.2011; along Bentata beach most days. Very common and widespread even in urban areas.

11.    Striated Heron Butorides striata. A few along the banks of Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011.

12.    Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax. One sulky immature by the lake in Kandy, 11.iv.2011.

13.    Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis. Good views of one female on route to Bentota, 7.iv.2011 and a male at Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9.iv.2011.

14.    Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans. One in lowland paddies seen from the train to Kandy 11.iv.2011 & 2 very sulky immatures by the lake in Kandy 11.iv.2011.

15.    Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus. Only one in lowland paddies seen from the train from Kandy 12.iv.2011.

16.    Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus. Only one in lowland paddies seen from the train to Kandy 11.iv.2011.

17.    Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica. Many at a wetland on route to Bentota, 7.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9-10.iv.2011.

18.    Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus. One mobbed by a Shikra from the train to Kandy 11.iv.2011.

19.    Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and every day; a family group sat in trees at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011. One adult shared the Hotel Serendib, Bentota offshore rocks with the following species but not at the same time.

20.    White-bellied Sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster. Seen sitting on the rocks off Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and most days; 1 adult over Aluthgama 3.iv.2011; 1 adult over Colombo Fort Railway Station, 12.iv.2011.

21.    Crested Serpent-eagle Spilornis cheela. The small endemic race spilogaster one first heard and then I found it perched high overhead near Leopard Rock, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011; and one over Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011.

22.    Changeable Hawk-eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus endemic race ceylanensis. 2 locking talons over Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011; 1 sitting in a roadside tree on route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

23.    Shikra Accipiter badius. Near Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 9.iv.2011, mobbing an Oriental Honey Buzzard from the train to Kandy 11.iv.2011; Hotel Serendib, Bentota,

24.    Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata endemic species 1. Amila showed me a male and two females near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja in the afternoon of 6.iv.2011. Not very rare but extremely secretive and difficult to see so thankyou Amila!

Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl cock
and hen

25.    Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii/ Endemic species 2. A fine cockerel with yellow centred coxcomb was easy and ‘chooked’ close by Amila along the path near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011. Later whilst waiting to see if the Serendib Scops Owl was available, a hen came up to me in the thick jungle as if to keep me company!  They are very common and tame at Sinharaja. The coughing ‘wattlebird’ like call is very un-chicken like!

26.    White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus. Bentota Lake, 2.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota on each visit; Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9-10.iv.2011; very common and widespread species on any puddle.

27.    Grey-headed Swamphen Porphyrio poliocephalus. This species is a recent split from Purple Swamphen P. porphyrio. Many at a wetland on route to Bentota, 7.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9 &10.iv.2011.

28.    Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius atrifrons. A flock of eight on the rocks off Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 13.iv.2011 were the only ones seen.

29.    Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus, the endemic race lankae. Bentota Lake, 2.iv.2011; Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 5.iv.2011; a pair in the Fort at Galle 14.iv.2011. Common and widespread. A noisy individual flew over Hotel Serendib, Bentota regularly at night, “Did he do it, did he”. Very common and seen almost every day.

30.    Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura. Two flew in at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011.

31.    Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus. One on the beach near Paradise island, 5.iv.2011 and two at Aturuwella beach south of Bentota, 9.iv.2011.

32.    Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. Only one seen on the Bentota Ganga near Paradise island, 3.iv.2011

33.    Sanderling Calidris alba. A flock of c.20 was seen flying north off the beach at Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 8.iv.2011

34.    Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica. Seen over Colombo, 2.iv.2011; seen regularly off the beach at Hotel Serendib, Bentota,

35.    Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii. One sitting on rocks in Bentota Ganga, 8.iv.2011; 10 on the rocks off Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 13.iv.2011.

36.    Little Tern Sterna albifrons. Seen off the beach at Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and a few on most days. Presumably not Saunders Tern but too far away to tell!

37.    Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida. Always a bunch in the Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011 and daily, daily off the beach at Hotel Serendib, Bentota; many off Beruwala by Barberyn Island 10.iv.2011; a few at Beira Lake, Colombo, 11.iv.2011. The commonest tern throughout.

38.    Rock Pigeon Columba livia. Regular in built up areas and unlike our British specimens, with a full set of toes.

39.    Sri Lanka Woodpigeon Columba torringtoni, vulnerable endemic species 3. Very well seen at two sites near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011, involving at least four birds which were unusually late possibly due to the effect of El Nina? Thanks Amila!

40.    Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis. The endemic race ceylonensis Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota; Sinharaja etc Common throughout.

41.    Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica. Endemic robinsoni. 1 seen feeding in fig tree on route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

42.    Sri Lanka Green-pigeon Treron pompadora, endemic species 4. Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 5.iv.2011 and 9.iv.2011 and at Sinharaja.

43.    Green Imperial-pigeon Ducula aenea. A displaying pair in a silk cotton tree above the busy main street in Aluthgama, 3.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and 9.iv.2011, the common big woodpigeon, at Sinharaja.

44.    Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot Loriculus beryllinus, endemic species 5. Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 5.iv.2011; at Sinharaja 6.iv.2011. Relatively common in the wet south west. Active and focal zipping overhead at high speed.

45.    Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri. Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.201. common along the coast.

46.    Layard’s Parakeet Psittacula calthropae, endemic species 6. Near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, and large flocks going to roosts from the balcony 6.iv.2011; from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011. The common parakeet at Sinharaja and Kandy.

47.    Green-billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus, vulnerable endemic species 7. Near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011 this difficult to find species was called out by Amila’s call. Thanks Amila!

48.    Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis. Heard Bentota 3.iv.2011; seen at Walawwa wetland, Bentota 9.iv.2011; commonly heard throughout.

49.    Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus, vulnerable endemic species 8. Amila found one in thick foliage high up in the canopy near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011. Thanks Amila!

50.    Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus. Colombo 2.iv.2011, Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 3.iv.11; Very common, heard and seen throughout.

51.    Common Hawk-cuckoo Cuculus varius ciceliae. One brain-fever bird calling at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, at dawn 7.iv.2011.

52.    Collared Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena. Two birds roosting in the mangrove on the west bank of the Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011 shown to us by the boatman Indica.

Collared Scops Owl pair, Bentota Ganga 
Sri Lanka Frogmouth pair, Sinharaja -Photo by Amila Salgado

53.    Brown Fish-owl Bubo zeylonensis. One roosting in a riverside tree, Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011 was a surprise, shown to us by the boatman Indica.

54.    Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanonotum, near-threatened endemic species 9. One heard at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja on 6.iv.2011 and spotlighted by Amila nearby Martin’s Place, early morning on 7.iv.2011. Thanks Amila!

55.    Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger. I was shown a pair roosting near Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

56.    Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor. Over Sinharaja on 7.iv.2011.

57.    Asian Palm-Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis. Seen flying over Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and every day. Smaller numbers at widespread locations.

58.    Little Swift Apus affinis. Over Bentota Lake, 2.iv.2011; on route back to Bentota 7.iv.2011 and at Kandy 16.iv.2011. Quite common.

59.    Crested Treeswift Hemiprocne coronata. Perched views at Sinharaja 6.iv.2011.

60.    Brown Backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus. As predicted by Amila, A few seen jetting past the balcony at dusk at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011

61.    Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus fasciatus. A male was seen well near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, early morning 7.iv.2011.

62.    Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011, Small numbers at scattered locations.

63.    Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis. Singles seen at Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011, Sinharaja 7.iv.2011.

64.    White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis. First seen on urban wires in Colombo 2.iv.2011, Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, Hotel Serendib, Bentota, Galapatha paddies, Bentota etc. Very common throughout even in the middle of Colombo.

65.    Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus. A flock seen from the train to Kandy 11.iv.2011 with a brilliant orange throat noted on one of them.

66.    Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica. In the tall pines at Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 4.iv.2011 and each evening; Seen throughout at Sinharaja, in the middle of Colombo and Kandy. The repeated “Kerronk” call heard everywhere.

67.    Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons, endemic species 10. Near Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011, near Leopard Rock, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011, and around Bentota. Common and widespread with a more melodic “keronk or konk”.

68.    Sri Lanka Small Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla, endemic species 11. Scoped by Amila on route from Sinharaja 7.iv.2011; two calling on route to Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 9.iv.2011; one seen singing from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011. The Crimson-fronted Barbet’s call is similar in tone to Coppersmiths which we did not hear or see here, but irregularly sounded in bursts of four notes “pum-pum-pum-pum”.

69.    Brown-capped Woodpecker Picoides moluccensis gymnophthalmus. One at Galapatha paddies, Bentota 10.iv.2011.

70.    Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense. Red-backed, endemic psarodes. Bentota, 5.iv.2011, Hotel Serendib, Bentota, Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 10.iv.2011;   The common woodpecker, with dark short bill.

71.    Sri Lanka Crimson-backed Flameback Chrysocolaptes stricklandi, endemic species 12. Near Leopard Rock, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011 and one in the fig tree by the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011. Like the above but larger with a pale bill.

72.    Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. A flock on wires on route back to Bentota, 7.iv.2011 were the only ones seen.

73.    Sri Lanka Swallow Hirundo hyperythra, endemic species 13. First seen on wires on route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; 1 flew west over Galapatha paddies, Bentota,10.iv.2011; 1 flew north over Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 15.iv.2011. Very dark and large looking.

74.    Black-headed Cuckooshrike Coracina melanoptera. Single males in hotel grounds by paradise island, Bentota, 5.iv.2011; and on track up to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

75.    Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus. Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011, and at Sinharaja.

76.    Orange Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus. Near Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011. Regularly recorded at forested Wet Zone sites. This is now a different species from Scarlet Minivet P. speciosus of the northern India.

77.    Pied Flycatcher-shrike (Bar-winged F-S) Hemipus picatus, endemic leggei. Only encountered once fleetingly at Siharaja on 7.iv.2011.

78.    Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradise, endemic race ceylonensis. One stunning white banner-tailed male was seen from the balcony of Martin’s Place on 7.iv.2011 and a brown phase female at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011.

79.    Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea, endemic ceylonensis. One seen at Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011.

80.    White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola. One on route from Sinharaja 7.iv.2011 and one closely watched at Galapatha padies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011.

81.    Black-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus, endemic species 14. Another recent split. Only one seen in the cleared area near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011. Like the Ruby-throated Bulbul in Goa but without the ruby throat and unlike the Black-crested Bulbul, with which it was formerly lumped as it doesn’t have a creast! Thanks Amila!

82.    Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer, the endemic race haemorrhousus. Bentota, 2.iv.2011; Hotel Serendib, Bentota, Galapatha paddies, Bentota etc. The only crested bulbul and very common with the short “peek-a-boo” call.

83.    White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus, endemic race insulae. Seen on route back to Bentota on 7.iv.2011; at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9 & 10.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011 Common, noisy and far less sculky than described!

84.    Yellow-browed Bulbul Hypsipetes indica. Seen on track up to Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011 and not seen elsewhere.

85.    Square-tailed Black Bulbul Hypsipetes ganeesa, the endemic race humii, of this recent split from Himalayan Black Bulbul H. Leucocephalus. First seen in riverside trees on route to Sinharaja, and from the balcony at Martin’s Place 6.iv.2011; from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011. A large noisy and gregarious black bruiser of a bulbul with red bill and spiky punk hair do and attitude!  

86.    Common Iora Aegithina tiphia. On route back from Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011; from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011;

87.    Gold-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons. Good views at Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011; Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

88.    Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus. Grey-crowned lucionensis were seen at Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota 10.iv.2011 and in gardens in Bentota, 10.iv.2011; one seen in a garden above Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011; one in the Fort at Galle 14.iv.2011.

89.    Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush Zoothera imbricate, endemic species 15. The local volunteer guide found me one bird with great effort and which then promptly vanished as scripted, near the research station and the stream in Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011, thanks to the persistence of the volunteer local warden.

90.    Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera, near-threatened endemic species 16. Seen on the path near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, mid afternoon 6.iv.2011. easier to see than the previous species!

91.    Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui. One low in the trackside canopy near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

92.    Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Muscicapa tickelliae, endemic jerdoni, a potential split. One male near Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

93.    Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis. Hotel Serendib, Bentota, very common throughout.

94.    Indian Black Robin Saxicoloides fulicata. I only saw one near Colombo on the first morning’s break neck drive from the airport.

95.    Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons, vulnerable endemic species 17.  An active and noisy group came through at low level at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

Sri Lankan Spurfowl, Sinharaja 
Brown-capped Babbler, Sinharaja

Photos by Amila Salgado

96.    Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum fuscocapillum scortillum, endemic species 18. Amila found a couple of these quiet and unassuming ground dwellers near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011. Thanks Amila!

97.    Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus melanurus, endemic species 19. One whistled out near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 7.iv.2011. Thanks Amila!

98.    Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps. A couple fleetingly seen by the path at Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

99.    Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens, near-threatened endemic species 20.  A pack came through at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

Yellow-billed Babbler, Hotel Serendib, Bentota

100. Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis the endemic subspecies taprobanus. My first new bird of the trip on the first day at the Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and seen every day looking for food from the breakfast tables. Comical, hyperactive and tame, seen in groups of three to many, the song and calls were like a high pitched squeaky toy or ‘clanger’ like. Very common and widespread.

101. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis, endemic omalura. Singles were seen on route to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011  

102. Plain Prinia Prinia inornata, endemic insularis. One singing by Bentota Lake, 3.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 10.iv.2011; Very noisy!

103. Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius. One singing seen from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011. Very very noisy and I needed ear plugs!!!

104. Blyth’s Reed-warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum. Heard in a cleared area near Martin’s Place, 6.iv.2011; in mangrove at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 10.iv.2011.

105. Cinereous Tit Parus cinereus mahrattarum. One grey Great Tit seen in a tree at the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, 11.iv.2011 and one in the fig tree by the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011 A montane species in Sri Lanka, and a long overdue split.

106. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis. One was heard by Amila near Leopard Rock, Sinharaja.

107. Legge’s (White-throated) Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens, near-threatened endemic species 21. Found a few of this very different flowerpecker above Martin’s Place, and a larger flock in pines close by, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

108. Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos, endemic ceylonense. By Bentota Lake, each tree had a singing male 2.iv.2011; Galapatha paddies, Bentota Commonly seen flying over with the "zitting" call. The smallest and drabbest bird, and no thick-billed were positively identified

109. Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica. Bentota, 2.iv.2011, Hotel Serendib, Bentota; a male from the balcony at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011; a pair from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011. Very common.

110. Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiatica. A pair by Bentota Lake, 2.iv.2011, the least common of the three sunbird species.

111. Loten’s Sunbird Cinnyris lotenius. Bentota, 3.iv.2011; good views at Galapatha paddies, Bentota, 9.iv.2011 The sickle-billed sunbird was the commonest of the three resident species.

112. Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus. Galapatha Temple, Bentota, 5.iv.2011 and on each visit; from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011.  More yellow and much slimmer than the Sri Lanka endemic white eye which we did not see!

113. White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata. Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and a large mixed flock there on 9-10.iv.2011; Walawwa wetland, Bentota 10.iv.2011 The very black-and-white looking nominate race was seen at various Wet Zone locations.

114. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata. Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and a large mixed flock there on 9-10.iv.2011 Commoner than the last species, feeding on the grasses.

115. Black-headed (Tricoloured) Munia Lonchura malacca. One seen from the balcony at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011. Contrasty brown backed and without a white rump!

116. House Sparrow Passer domesticus. Seen only in small numbers in urban and suburban sites.

117. White-faced Starling Sturnus senex, vulnerable endemic species 22. One scoped above Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, and distantly ontop of a rattan palm spike, 6.iv.2011 and seen again on 7th.  One of the rarest and most threatened endemics.

118. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis. the dark endemic melanosternus. Seen at Katunayake International Airport 2.iv.2011; every day in the grounds at Hotel Serendib, Bentota; at Galapatha paddies, Bentota. Very common and widespread.

119. Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys/, near-threatened endemic species 23. A pair seen well above Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011 with orange bill and one pair of nape wattles. Thanks Amila!

120. Lesser Hill-myna Gracula indica. Recent split from the larger Common Hill-Myna G. religiosa. One seen feeding in the fig tree from the balcony and a number of fly-overs at Green Woods, Kandy, 12.iv.2011; with yellow bill and two pairs of wattles.

121. Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus, endemic race ceylonensis. Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011, Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and on each visit, a pair in the Fort at Galle 14.iv.2011; a pair in the tall pines at Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 15.iv.2011. Common and widespread.

122. White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens, endemic race leucopygialis. The common Drongo seen Bentota, 3.iv.2011 and every day; Galapatha paddies, Bentota, Sinharaja, Colombo, Kandy etc Widespread and common.

123. Sri Lanka Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorhinus, recently split from paradiseus, endemic species 24. I found one in a cleared area near Martin’s Place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011.

124. Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus. A pair holding territory in dead trees at Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 and on each visit.

125. Sri Lanka Blue Magpie Urocissa ornate, vulnerable endemic species 25. One near Martin’s Place and one from the balcony of Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011. Thanks Amila!

House Crow, Fort Station, Colombo
Common Myna, Hotel Serendib, Bentota

126. House Crow Corvus splendens. Katunayake International Airport 2.iv.2011, Hotel Serendib, Bentota every day looking for food from the breakfast tables, Very common on the coast, often being the only bird along the tide line and in Colombo and also in Kandy.

127. Indian Jungle Crow Corvus culminatus. Galapatha paddies, Bentota 5.iv.2011 Common and widespread. Part of the recent three-way division of Large-billed Crow C. Macrorhynchos.


1.       Western Giant Squirrel Ratufa macroura melanochra saw three near Martin’s Place Sinharaja, 6-7.iv.2011  Endemic to Sri Lanka and south India

2.       Sri Lanka Palm-squirrel Funambulus palmarum favonicus in the Wet Zone Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and every day; each palm tree at the hotel had at least one in residence with much fast and noisy interaction, with tails held vertical. They resemble chipmunks in appearance and behaviour, and have bird-like piping whistles. Common throughout.

Palm Squirrel, Hotel Serendib, Bentota
Torque Macaque, Green Woods, Kandy

3.       Indian Brown Mongoose Herpestes fuscus. 1 adult ruddy brown with pink face patch adult and an immature at Galapatha temple, Bentota 5.iv.2011.

4.       Sri Lanka Ruddy Mongoose Herpestes smithii zeylanicus A large grey mongoose with long black tail tip on track up to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011  Banks and Banks [8] seem to put a stress on the tail tip markings, so Ruddy has it on this basis,

Flying Fox, Hotel Serendib, Bentota
Giant woodspider (Nephila maculata), Martin’s Place, Tiny male in top right corner!

5.       Indian Flying Fox Pteropus giganteus giganteus. Many over Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 3.iv.2011 and every evening seen coming into the palms, attracted by the Arrach sap; roosting in mangroves on Bentota Ganga, 4.iv.2011; seen flying in afternoon daylight above this roost on 5.iv.2011. The only flying fox in Sri Lanka and often seen hanging dead and desiccated from power lines.

6.       Horse-shoe Bat Rhinolophus sp. Catching the moths coming into the balcony at Martin’s place, Sinharaja, 6.iv.11.

7.       Sri Lanka Tufted Grey Langur Semnopithecus priam thersites. Part of the recent division of the former Hanuman Langur Presbytes entellus. The deep ringing hollow calls heard at Sinharaja, 6-7.iv.2011.  .

8.       Toque Macaque Macaca sinica endemic aurifrons. Seen near Leopard Rock at Sinharaje, 7.iv.201; too close for comfort on the balcony with us at Green Woods and a troupe by the Lake, Kandy, 12.iv.2011.


1.       Sri Lanka Keelback Xenochrophis asperrimus. Endemic. One of these water snakes was happily curled up in a small path side pool at Sinharaja.

2.       Green Tree Snake Ahaetulla nasuta. Seen closely in the mangroves along Bentota Ganga from the boat, 4.iv.2011.

3.       Green Forest Lizard Calotes calotes. A striking green lizard with orange head and white cheek patches on the track up to Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011 and another on route back to Bentota on 7.iv.2011.

4.       Oriental Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor. Hotel Serendib, Bentota, young individuals  had a habit of curving their tails up.

5.       Sri Lankan Kangaroo Lizard Otocryptis wiegmanni. This endemic lizard was seen on the path near Leopard Rock, Sinharaja,7.iv.2011,

6.       Asian House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus. Very noisy! in Hotel Serendib, Bentota, 2.iv.2011 and in Green Woods, Kandy, 11.iv.2011.

7.       Land Monitor Varanus bengalensis bengalensis One was resident at Hotel Serendib, Bentota 3.iv.2011 and most days. One in the station at Galle, 14.iv.2011.

8.       Water Monitor Varanus monitor kabaragoya or salvator. Seen lounging in the mangroves along Bentota Ganga, from the boat 4.iv.2011; one very large one disturbed by the lilypond at Galapatha Temple, Bentota 9.iv.2011, 

Oriental garden Lizard, Hotel Serendib
Water Monitor, Bentota Ganga
Land monitor, Hotel Serendib, Bentota
Saltwater Crocodile, Bentota Ganga

9.       Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus small individuals seen early in the day on the edges of Bentota Ganga, from the boat 4.iv.2011


Corrugated water frog Lankanectus corrugatus, endemic to SL (monotypic genus). This was calling “wow wow” much of the day at Sinharaja.


Common Bluebottle, Martin’s Place, Sinharaja
A cicada, Sinharaja

Common Bluebottle Graphium sarpedon teredon. Two were drinking in the yard at Martin’s Place, Sinharaja 6.iv.2011

Red Helen Papilio helenus. Two single females at Sinharaja, 6.iv.2011

Sri Lanka Tree Nymph Idea iasonia. Common at Sinharaja 6.iv.2011

Sri Lanka Blue Oakleaf Kallima philarchus at Sinharaja 7.iv.2011

Blue Mormon Papilio polymnestor. at Sinharaja 7.iv.2011

Glad-eye Bushbrown Mycalesis patnia at Sinharaja 7.iv.2011

Bright-eye Bushbrown, Sinharaja
Sri Lanka Tree Nymph, Sinharaja

Photos by Amila Salgado

Dawn Dropwing Trithemis aurora,Sinharaja
Giant millipede Spirostreptus sp., Sinharaja

Photo by Amila Saldago. Nikon Coolpix 4500.

Odonata: Dragonflies

Indigo Dropwing Trithemis festiva. This deep blue and small dragonfly at the Sinharaja centre pond, 6.iv.11.

Dawn Dropwing Trithemis aurora. Bright pink and small at the Sinharaja centre pond, 6.iv.11.

Spine-tufted Skipper Orthetrum chrysis. Bright red at the Sinharaja centre pond, 6.iv.11.

Reference Books

Brett Atkinson, Stuart Butler, Ethan Gebler & Michael Kohn, 2009. Lonely Planet Sri Lanka, 11th Edition. 340pp.

Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp & Tim Inskipp, 2001. Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Helm, 384pp.

John Harrison, 2011. A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka, 2nd edition, Oxford, 208pp.

Gavin Thomas, 2004. The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka, 480pp.

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