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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Sri Lanka - An update, 21st Feb - 6th March 2004,
Shaun Robson, Dorset, England
This brief report does not include full details of my trip but aims to give an update on birding Sri Lanka. Prior to our trip we read many reports on the web and in practice found some of the information to be out of date and misleading. I have not set out to duplicate information from other reports but I hope that what follows will enable others to find some of the wonderful birds that this fine country has to offer.
Like many others we asked Baurs to arrange our travel arrangements. Their details and services are posted on most trip reports so I won't duplicate them here. Whilst we did not employ a dedicated guide, our driver Chaminder ("Chamy") was a Driver/Guide. This proved very useful as he not only knew all of the sites but was an accomplished birder benefiting from a good knowledge of calls and excellent eyesight. We would certainly have no hesitation in recommending him.
Some reports suggest that this site was no longer any good for Green-billed Coucal. This is not the case. We had excellent views of 3 on the 22nd Feb. The birds were 2/3 of the way from the parking spot and the monastery. The Citizens Rest at Ingiriya is a good place to stay for this site. The rooms are basic but the food very good.
Baurs are now recommending the use of a new lodge in Sinharaja village. This is called Blue Magpie Lodge. I thought the price at 3000Rs per room was a little steep for what it was. Like Martins you take your own food. The cooking was very good. The dining area looks over a marsh and toward the forest allowing you to bird while you eat. The disadvantage of staying here is that it is a steep 3km walk to the research centre. However many endemics can be seen around the lodge and village. We were assigned a forest guide at the head quarters (compulsory) called Ranji. He was a good birder and had excellent knowledge of the forest. It may be worth asking for him?
At the river immediately outside the gate of the lodge is a log bridge. On the other side of this we had excellent looks at Sri Lanka Frogmouth before first light. We saw both Spot-winged Thrush and Brown-capped Babbler just before the park headquarters below the road towards the river. Chestnut-backed Owlet was heard on the slope behind the head quarters and Green-billed Coucal was seen here. There is a path which zigzags up the hill behind the buildings which allows access to this area. We also heard Sri Lanka Spurfowl here and Ranji said that it was good a place to see them. Layards Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot and Hill Myna were all seen around the lodge.
We stayed at Vikum Lodge. Recommended. Not least because it has a regular Indian Pitta wintering in the small garden. Whilst this species is frequently encountered throughout the trip it is always nice watch or photograph one while relaxing with a cup of tea! Collared Scops Owl also appeared in the garden at dusk one evening.
I think some reports over play the difficulty of seeing Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. There are many indications in reports that if you don't see it in the half-light then you won't see it at all. May be we were lucky, but we had stunning views shortly after 7:00am in full daylight. Speaking to other birders on the trip this did not seem too unusual. So don't give up too early! The best spot is at the far end of the Arrenga pond near the "Have you seen a Leopard today" sign. In 40 minutes birding around the pond we also had Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Dull Blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo and Large-billed Leaf Warbler.
We walked to Worlds End and saw Hill Swallows and had further sightings of most of the above.
On our return to trip to Nuwara Eliya we stopped at Pattinpola railway station. By the main platform we saw 25+ Hill Munia.
A good area for Jerdon's Nightjar. We managed to tape lure several at dusk in a clearing on the edge of the forest giving good views both in flight and perched. At 8:45 pm one was calling in the garden of the Hotel Sigiriya. Saw Malabar Pied Hornbill in the garden of the Sigiriya Village hotel and Orange-headed Ground Thrush near the lily-covered lake below the rock fort.
I hope this brief information is of some use. If you would like any more information please feel free to email me.
Shaun Robson, Dorset, March 2004