Friday, 3 March 2017

Sri Lanka 14.2.2017

I went on a Birdfinders trip to Sri Lanka in the latter half of February. Sri Lanka has an impressive list of endemics, 34 species under the IOC listing. We managed to see all 34 endemics amongst a personal trip total of 250 species. In all I got about 85 lifers which was quite impressive considering I've previously visited Goa, India which has a similar avifauna. A very enjoyable trip. Sri Lanka didn't seem as maniac, chaotic or crowded compared to India. It was nice to see that the country on the whole was mostly litter free however the state of a lot of the streams and rivers left a bit to be desired. Our group consisted 14 participants, nearly all from England but one from France and another from Romania. I think it goes without saying that there were probably too many on the trip even though four of the participants weren't particularly "birdy" and generally chilled out back at the hotel or visited local towns and attractions while the rest were out birding. These trips always require a fair deal of compromise from everyone for a trip to run properly. While even most members were complete strangers to each other, everyone got on went with each other by and large however there was one incidence when two members came extremely close to exchanging blows with one another!
Our guide Chaminda Dilruk was excellent. A very sharp, knowledgeable and extremely patient guide. One particular trip member was particularly slow at getting onto birds and I was amazed to see that Chammy managed to get him onto every single endemic by the end of the trip, some achievement! Due to the large group size communication could be a little difficult at times. Thankfully I only missed six species that were seen by others during the trip so I think I fared very well compared to other trips that I've done.

My flight from London Gatwick was early on Monday morning so I decided to head over to London a day early on Sunday. I hired out a car for Sunday and headed up to Great Barford, Bedfordshire for an overwintering Little Bunting which was still a lifer for me. The M25 was largely free from traffic and I made it up in decent time. I've virtually done no birding on the "mainland" UK. The twitching scene in the UK is rather different compared to Ireland. In Ireland practically everyone knows everyone. I found most of the birders at the Little Bunting site to be rather standoffish and there was very little communication between anyone on site. Thankfully the bird had be seen earlier in the day and I managed to pick out the bird relatively quickly amongst a mixed finch/bunting flock. Most of the other birders on site really struggled to get onto the bird despite me giving repeated directions and most never did see the bird.

I got very little sleep on the Colombo flight (via Dubai) and we arrived at 0405hrs. After a three hour drive to our hotel in Kithulgala it was straight into the birding and the heat! Certainly our toughest day of the trip but the birding was excellent. By the end of the day we already had seen twelve of the endemics - Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot, Layard's Parakeet, Serendib Scops Owl, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka Swallow, Black-capped Bulbul, Spot-winged Thrush, Orange-billed Babbler and Sri Lanka Myna. The Owl was probably the highlight of the trip. No birds had been seen here for the last fortnight so we were very fortunate that one had been found roosting very recently.

Asiatic Openbill 
Sri Lanka Swallow - endemic.

Common Green Forest Lizard

Jerdon's Leafbird

Square-tailed Bulbul

Serendib Scops Owl - endemic.

Serendib Scops Owl - endemic.
Dark-fronted Babbler

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Yellow-browed Bulbul

Yellow-billed Babbler

Spot-winged Thrush - endemic.

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