Sri Lanka Custom Tour Trip Report, January 2017

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 5 – 16 JANUARY 2017

 By Andy Walker

This custom tour commenced on the 5th of January 2017 in Colombo and terminated back there on the 16th of January 2017. The tour covered a circuit of southwestern Sri Lanka and visited the following major birdwatching areas: Kitulgala, Sinharaja. Udawalawe, Bundala, Nuwara Eliya, and Kandy with several stop-offs at other sites as we were traveling.

Sri Lanka is a continental island and had been connected to India for much of its geological past through episodes of lower sea level. Despite these land-bridge connections, faunal exchange between the rainforests found in Southern India and Sri Lanka has been minimal. This lack of exchange of species is probably due to the inability of rainforest organisms to disperse though the interceding areas of dry lowlands. These dry lowlands are still dry today and receive only one major rainy season, whereas Sri Lanka’s ‘wet zone’ experiences two annual monsoons. This long insularity of Sri Lankan biota in a moist tropical environment has led to the emergence of a bewildering variety of endemic biodiversity. This is why southwestern Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of southern India are jointly regarded as one of the globe’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is the westernmost representative of Indo-Malayan flora, and its abundant birdlife also shows many such affinities.

A total of 243 bird species was recorded during this tour, among them 33 of the 34 currently recognized (IOC 6.4) endemics with excellent views and photographs of Serendib Scops Owl, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, and Sri Lanka Thrush, as well as a range of exciting migrants such as Pied Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, and Indian Pitta.

 

Sri Lanka 2017: Custom Tour Report

 

Day 1, 5th January 2017: Arrival into Katunayake and transfer to Negombo

Bill arrived late afternoon and transferred across to the hotel on the coast just in time to watch the sun set and see a stream of thousands of House Crows flying over to their roost site.

Day 2, 6th January 2017: Negombo to Kitulgala

An early start saw us leaving our hotel before the sun was up. We met up with Lester, our excellent local guide for the tour, and made our way to our first and most important stop of the day – breakfast! Plenty of common roadside birds were seen along the way, such as Brahminy Kite, Great Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Common Myna, and Red-vented Bulbul. A family group of White-breasted Waterhen, several Indian Pond Herons, and an inquisitive House Crow provided some entertainment while we ate breakfast.

We continued our journey for another couple of hours until we arrived at the small village of Kitulgala. We checked into our riverside hotel, with stunning views of the river and adjacent rainforest, and had a walk around the garden, adding lots of new and exciting species, including our first endemics: Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Swallow, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, and Yellow-fronted Barbet. Other non-endemic but equally exciting species (it was our first day’s birding!) included Black Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Asian Palm Swift, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Yellow-billed Babbler, White-bellied Drongo (the white-vented ‘leucopygialis’ subspecies), Jerdon’s Leafbird, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Sykes’s Warbler, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Loten’s Sunbird, and Grey Wagtail. It was actually difficult to know where to look!

After the first of many tasty and somewhat spicy meals we took an afternoon walk in some nearby rainforest. It didn’t take too long to locate our prime target in the area, the relatively recently discovered (2001), Endangered (BirdLife), restricted range, and rare endemic Serendib Scops Owl. We watched a pair of birds as they roosted in a thick tangle of vegetation over a small stream. It was a real privilege to see these gorgeous birds so well! During our time in the forest we also had two more new endemics, Spot-winged Thrush and Crimson-backed Flameback, along with Dark-fronted Babbler, Indian Blue Robin, Malabar Trogon, Black-naped Monarch, and Brown-breasted Flycatcher. Non-birding highlights included common green forest lizard and purple-faced langur.

Day 3, 7th January 2017: Kitulgala

A pre-breakfast walk around the gardens near our hotel provided many exciting birds. Green Imperial Pigeons were noticeable as they flew across the valley and later seen well perched, as were Common Emerald Dove and the endemic Sri Lanka Green Pigeon. A pair of Lesser Yellownape and the endemic Red-backed Flameback showed nicely in coconut palm trees. Green Warbler and Indian Paradise Flycatcher showed well, briefly, before vanishing. Brown-breasted Flycatcher and Asian Brown Flycatcher were in view just after each other, allowing a great comparison of these two similar species, but we got distracted by a low flyover of Crested Honey Buzzard.

Parrots were very much in evidence, with Alexandrine Parakeet, the endemic Layard’s Parakeet, and Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot all seen well.

The endemic Chestnut-backed Owlet taunted us for a while in dense vegetation before it was eventually found, and good views were had. It was, however, flushed by a huge, rare Legge’s Hawk-Eagle that briefly landed right above our heads!

Back walking around the grounds of our hotel and the neighboring property after breakfast we found yet more birds: Golden-fronted Leafbird, Forest Wagtail, Orange Minivet, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Lesser Yellownape, Red-backed Flameback, Black-hooded Oriole, another (more cooperative) Chestnut-backed Owlet, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, and Crested Serpent Eagle. A great morning!

During the afternoon we took a walk along a stream among a tea plantation and a scrubby area. Here we found a stunning Indian Pitta that showed very well. Indian Paradise Flycatcher with full tail streamers provided some interest and elegance, as did Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Common Emerald Dove, Southern Hill Myna, Common Iora, Oriental White-eye, Orange-billed Babbler, and a rather smart male endemic Sri Lanka Junglefowl. Overhead Crested Treeswift, Indian Swiftlet, Little Swift, Asian Palm Swift, Barn Swallow, and Sri Lanka Swallow were all evident. We enjoyed watching Square-tailed, Red-vented, and Yellow-browed Bulbuls bathing in the stream and heard Slaty-legged Crake that would just not come out into view – but nice to hear nevertheless!

Day 4, 8th January 2017: Kitulgala to Sinharaja Forest Reserve

After breakfast, during which we soaked up a final view of the gorgeous river and rainforest vista and enjoyed seeing Common Kingfisher, we commenced our journey to our accommodation near the rainforest of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We made a couple of roadside stops along the way, seeing Black Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Asian Openbill, White-throated Kingfisher, Ashy Woodswallow, and Brown Shrike.

We arrived at our accommodation around noon and were soon sampling some very fine food. While eating lunch we noted a rather showy, sunbathing garden lizard as Green Imperial Pigeon, Layard’s Parakeet, and Yellow-browed Bulbul moved around the restaurant.

During the afternoon we took a rather bumpy jeep ride up the hill behind our accommodation, and here we found a range of new and exciting species. Our first bird in this area was the endemic Sri Lanka Spurfowl, closely followed by Large-billed Leaf Warbler and Brown-breasted Flycatcher. After a gain in altitude we found several Brown Shrikes and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters busily foraging within small tea plantations.

It didn’t take long to find a bird wave (mixed-species foraging flock) once we entered the rainforest, with the secretive and rather difficult-to-see endemic Red-faced Malkoha eventually giving itself up and allowing good views. A vociferous group of endemic Sri Lanka Scimitar Babblers showed much more easily, as did the endemic Sri Lanka Drongo. Here we also found Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Green Warbler, Orange-billed Babbler, and Black-naped Monarch.

Although its name might suggest it is an endemic, the Sri Lanka Frogmouth is not actually an endemic, it also occurs in the Western Ghats in southern India. We didn’t let this dampen our spirits on seeing a pair of these small frogmouths roosting low down in some vines. It was great to see the open mouth of this species, as one of the birds yawned for us!

A quiet, seeping call alerted us to the presence of the endemic Sri Lanka Thrush, which unfortunately hadn’t read the script and didn’t show itself, but while waiting for the thrush we got good looks at a family group of the beautiful endemic Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, and the endemic Sri Lanka Blue Magpie was vocal. As we ambled back to our waiting jeep and the bumpy track to our accommodation we found two new endemics: two or three Brown-capped Babblers in the undergrowth and several Sri Lanka Hill Mynas preparing to go to roost. Non-birding interest was provided by ruddy mongoose, common striped squirrel, and dusky-striped squirrel.

Day 5, 9th January 2017: Sinharaja area

We took a riverine drive along another bumpy jeep track first thing, armed with our cameras and packed breakfast. On arrival at our forested destination we were quickly enjoying views of Sri Lanka Green Pigeon. Soon afterwards we were watching a pair of Sri Lanka Junglefowl and Spot-winged Thrush, and then one of the star attractions walked into view – a pair of Sri Lanka Spurfowl. We’d seen all of these endemic birds before, but it was nice to see them again so well and at close range. The endemic Green-billed Coucal called once, and a short while later it flew into view, and for the next ten minutes this often-secretive species showed very well indeed. The songs of Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown-capped Babbler, Yellow-billed Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Yellow-fronted Barbet, and Square-tailed Bulbul rang out. Other species noted here included Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Common Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Southern Hill Myna, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.

A couple of roadside stops nearby provided Greater Coucal (subspecies parrotii, ‘Southern Coucal’), Scaly-breasted Munia, White-rumped Munia, Crested Serpent Eagle, a pair of displaying Shikra, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, and Black-hooded Oriole.

We explored the small grounds of our hotel and found a good number of species such as Legge’s Flowerpecker, White-browed Fantail, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, and Green Warbler. It was then time for another wonderful lunch and a siesta.

After our lunchtime break we enjoyed a cup of Sri Lankan tea, sat on the balcony of the hotel, and watched Oriental White-eye, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Black-hooded Oriole, Crested Treeswift, Brown-backed Needletail, and Orange-billed Babblers foraging. We then headed out around the hotel grounds and the adjacent countryside. Here we saw a skulking Slaty-legged Crake in a damp area and an elegant, white-phased Indian Paradise Flycatcher sporting over-one-foot-long, ribbon-like tail streamers. A spectacular beacon in the dark undergrowth! Along an open area palm trees held a gorgeous male Plum-headed Parakeet and Layard’s Parakeet, with Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot seemingly everywhere. White-browed Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, and Black-capped Bulbul all joined the much more common Square-tailed Bulbul and Red-vented Bulbul. A pair of Red-backed Flameback put in a brief appearance, and a pair of endemic Crimson-fronted Barbet and a Yellow-fronted Barbet allowed prolonged views.

As we reached our hotel a cracking Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle gave a rather nice flyby in front of the moon and a Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler and Oriental Magpie-Robin serenaded us to end a great day’s birding.

Day 6, 10th January 2017: Sinharaja Forest Reserve

An early start saw us greeted by a Chestnut-backed Owlet, and then we were heading up the bumpy jeep track to walk a trail in the rainforest, just making brief stops along the way for a perched Changeable Hawk-Eagle (endemic subspecies, ceylanensis,Crested Hawk-Eagle’) and Brown Shrike. As we approached our destination one of our targets gave themselves away by their distinctive call. It took a short game of chase to get good views, but eventually they came and we enjoyed some good looks at a family group of Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. We walked around a small clearing, and activity was high with Green Imperial Pigeon and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon perched in many treetops. Sri Lanka Drongo, Square-tailed Bulbul, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Legge’s Flowerpecker, and Yellow-fronted Barbet were all in evidence.

We walked along a forested trail, finding a rather elusive and uncooperative female Malabar Trogon but then enjoyed some showy Brown-capped Babblers and Dark-fronted Babblers as a Spot-winged Thrush serenaded us. Noisy flocks of White-faced Starling and Sri Lanka Hill Myna were noted flying over. We found a ‘bird wave’ that contained several Ashy-headed Laughingthrushes, Orange-billed Babbler, Orange Minivet, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Green Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, and Sri Lanka Drongo, but the highlight here was a stunning male Malabar Trogon that showed well as it fed.

We headed off the hill back to our accommodation for lunch and a siesta; on the way down, however, a nice lady told us about Sri Lanka Frogmouth roosting in her garden, so we made a brief stop to look at this great bird and bettered our previous views of this species.

A relaxed afternoon walk near our accommodation gave us better views of Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and further looks at Sri Lanka Drongo, Spot-winged Thrush, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Crimson-backed Flameback, Forest Wagtail, and numerous Common Emerald Doves. However, a real highlight of the afternoon was close views of a sleeping Sri Lankan green pitviper and Layard’s palm squirrel.

Day 7, 11th January 2017: Sinharaja to Udawalawe National Park

After a leisurely breakfast, watching Sri Lanka Hill Myna and Legge’s Flowerpecker, we made the beautifully scenic, windy drive to the much drier Udawalawe. A couple of stops were made along the way, once for a Changeable Hawk-Eagle sitting on a nest near the road and another for a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle sitting in a palm tree close to the road.

Once in Udawalawe we checked out a cleverly camouflaged Indian Scops Owl that showed very well as it sat in its tree hole. We then took a brief walk in some scrub near the reservoir, where we saw a few new waterbirds, but the bush birds were our main target, and we enjoyed great views of Black-hooded Oriole, Green Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Richard’s Pipit, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, White Wagtail, Western Yellow Wagtail, and Grey-breasted Prinia. A pair of vocal White-bellied Sea Eagles were noted displaying overhead. We also saw a couple of Asian elephants along the reservoir’s edge.

It was pretty hot by now, so we checked into our new hotel and enjoyed a very nice lunch before a short break ahead of an afternoon game drive in Udawalawe National Park.

Our afternoon drive around the national park was incredible. We saw so many Asian elephants we lost count! There were plenty of other animals too, like Indian hare, wild water buffalo, chital (spotted deer), Indian grey mongoose, toque macaque, and southern grey langur. The most prevalent birds were bee-eaters, with Green Bee-eater and Blue-tailed Bee-eater showing well at very close range. Overwintering Grey-bellied Cuckoo and Lesser Cuckoo joined resident Jacobin Cuckoo. Rosy Starlings were numerous with thousands of birds seen. Small birds were abundant: Jerdon’s Bush Lark, Blyth’s Pipit, Western Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Ashy Prinia, Jungle Prinia, Plain Prinia, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Brown Shrike, and Indian Robin. Color was provided by Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Alexandrine Parakeet, Plum-headed Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Indian Roller, Coppersmith Barbet, and the aforementioned bee-eaters. Many of the above gave excellent photographic opportunities. But the real colorful highlight here was the simply breathtaking male Indian Peafowl, more commonly called ‘peacocks’. Some of these birds were exhibiting some of the longest and most-pristine tails possible. Beautiful birds; their haunting calls were ringing out frequently.

A stop at the reservoir gave us a wide range of waterbirds. Highlights here included Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican, and Painted Stork. A couple of Barred Buttonquail were also recorded here. Several White-bellied Sea Eagles, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, and Brahminy Kites were also present.

We finished off a great day by listening to a ‘dusk chorus’ of at least five Indian Pittas busily calling, then finding Indian Nightjar and Jerdon’s Nightjar near our hotel, with Black-crowned Night Heron and Indian flying foxes overhead.

Day 8, 12th January 2017: Udawalawe to Bundala National Park

We took an early breakfast and went to our nightjar site from the previous day. Here during the early morning the place was literally buzzing. We got our main target pretty quickly, a vocal Marshall’s Iora, soon followed by Black-headed Cuckooshrike, the endemic Sri Lanka Woodshrike, and Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, with a couple of Red-rumped Swallows overhead among hundreds of Barn Swallows. On moving into some slightly more open areas we found a flock of over one hundred Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Larks, with a sprinkling of Jerdon’s Bush Lark, Oriental Skylark, Blyth’s Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, and Western Yellow Wagtail. A small flock of Yellow-wattled Lapwing were very inconspicuous, hiding within some low scrub, as opposed to their close relative, Red-wattled Lapwing, which was very conspicuous and vociferous. A real early highlight of the day was watching a displaying male Indian Peafowl (‘peacock’) with his tail all splayed out as he turned around trying to impress a female (‘peahen’) and/or maintain his dominance over other males.

We headed southwest towards Bundala, our next base, making a couple of stops at some wetland sites on the way. As these were our first visits to such sites the new birds came thick and fast, with highlights including Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Lesser Whistling Duck, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Painted Stork, Oriental Darter, Black-headed Ibis, many herons and egrets, Great Stone-curlew, lots of other shorebirds (e.g. Lesser Sand Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Green, Common, Marsh, and Wood Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, and Little Stint), Little, Gull-billed, White-winged, and Whiskered Terns, and stunning Pheasant-tailed Jacanas. Kingfishers were also evident, with several Common Kingfishers, Pied Kingfisher, and White-throated Kingfisher all showing well. Passerines highlights here included nesting Streaked Weaver and Baya Weaver, along with foraging Tricolored Munia.

The late morning saw us take a brief drive along the edge of Bundala National Park, where we found a mugger (crocodile) as well as many of the species listed above, with the addition of Watercock, Grey-headed Swamphen, and Glossy Ibis and better views of Great Stone-curlew.

After an enjoyable lunch and a short break we jumped into a jeep for a trip through Bundala National Park, an important Ramsar site. Here we birded through some dry scrub, flooded wetland areas, and salt pans. We got better views of many of the waterbirds and passerines already mentioned above (and seen in Udawalawe the previous day) but also saw plenty of new and exciting birds such as Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Striated Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Spot-billed Pelican, Indian Cormorant, Indian Stone-curlew, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Brown-headed Gull, Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Eurasian Collared Dove, Eurasian Hoopoe, and Clamorous Reed Warbler.

A real highlight was a small patch of reedbed, where we saw Greater Painted-snipe, Ruddy-breasted Crake, and Slaty-breasted Rail all within one square meter of mud! As if this wasn’t excitement enough, another surprise came in the form of a stunning male Purple Sunbird that flew around our jeep for quite a while. It even flew into it looking for insects, landing on the end of Andy’s camera and hanging there for a short while!

It was a long but highly memorable day that finished with a glorious sunset, an impressive full moon rise, great meals, and a day list of almost 140 species.

Day 9, 13th January 2017: Bundala to Nuwara Eliya

Some pre-breakfast birding near a palm stand produced the hoped-for White-naped Woodpecker and Jungle Owlet and also gave our best views of Brown-headed Barbet and Zitting Cisticola. As we drove back to our hotel we were lucky enough to witness a feeding frenzy on a lake, as circa five hundred Little Cormorants, eighty-five Spot-billed Pelicans, and numerous assorted terns pushed a school of fish toward the lake edge, where around a hundred mixed herons and egrets waited for the food to come to them – highlight here was a close Black Bittern.

After breakfast we commenced our long and windy uphill journey to Nuwara Eliya. We just made one birding stop along the way, where we found a beautiful roosting Brown Wood Owl. Also in this small patch of woodland we saw the endemic Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon and Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Cinereous Tit, Black-naped Monarch, and Large-billed Leaf Warbler.

We took a rather late lunch and then headed out and about to several areas around Nuwara Eliya. Our first stop produced the breathtaking male Pied Thrush, along with a female/first-winter bird. Here we also had a very brief and uncooperative female/first-winter Kashmir Flycatcher that did not hang around for ‘tickable’ views, but we did get half a dozen Forest Wagtails that showed well.

Our second late-afternoon stop proved rather productive with a stunning male Kashmir Flycatcher and three new and equally impressive endemics: Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka White-eye, and Dull-blue Flycatcher. An interesting Phylloscopus warbler here turned out to be a Greenish Warbler when it started calling.

Our final stop of the day was for the super-secretive endemic Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. We need not have worried, as no sooner had we arrived at the spot that we were watching a male bird down at a few feet. A short while later we were joined by a female too. A real privilege to see this bird so well, and so easily! While here we also had the endemic Sri Lanka Bush Warbler and the migratory Indian Blue Robin, which completed a great day’s birding!

Day 10, 14th January 2017: Horton Plains National Park and surrounds

The earliest start of the tour saw us leaving our hotel at 5 a.m. for an uphill drive to some highland birding sites in Horton Plains National Park. We spent most of our time around 2,200 meters. Our first site at dawn was the salubrious location of the park toilets, where we quickly saw Indian Blackbird (a potential future split as ‘Sri Lanka Blackbird’), a stunning male Indian Blue Robin, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, and again heard Sri Lanka Thrush – but again it did not show; this was getting frustrating! As we moved along through the forest we picked up several Sri Lanka White-eyes, bettering our views from the previous day, as we did with Dull-blue Flycatcher and Yellow-eared Bulbul, these three species being very common at this elevation. Here we also had Large-billed Leaf Warbler, another Greenish Warbler, Green Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, and another couple of Indian Blackbirds.

Then we headed onto the plains, a rather unique habitat in Sri Lanka, and we soon found Hill Swallow, numerous Pied Bush Chats, Zitting Cisticola, Paddyfield Pipit, Indian Jungle Crow, Cinereous Tit, and Common Kestrel.

As we drove down the mountain and back to our hotel for lunch and a rest, a few stops gave some very impressive landscape views, and we picked up a few bits and pieces, but nothing unexpected, although we did get our best looks to date of Ashy Prinia and another female-type Kashmir Flycatcher.

A relaxed afternoon was in store after our early start, so we headed back up the mountain in search of one or two target birds. It felt a bit cooler by now, certainly compared to the previous afternoon, and activity was low, although a couple of Sri Lanka Bush Warblers, Sri Lanka White-eyes, and Yellow-eared Bulbuls were found. Our attention was drawn to a begging call, and we located a family group of the restricted-range, near-endemic, fairly rare, and localized Black-throated Munia. We then set our sights on one final attempt to see Sri Lanka Thrush. After around an hour or more of scanning and waiting and listening for the give-away call (that by now we’d become very familiar with) a bird dropped into view briefly, before alighting on a fallen tree trunk showing fantastically, but again briefly. Eventually the bird dropped down to some water and drank/foraged along the water’s edge, allowing for prolonged views of this spectacular bird – one of the hardest of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds to see. We were ecstatic, especially after not seeing it earlier in the day or during our time at Sinharaja, despite hearing it there too. We decided the day could not get any better, so we headed back to the hotel to relax some more. Our work here was done!

Day 11, 15th January 2017: Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

We had a later start this morning, making our descent from the high hills back down to the mid hills. We were woken by the sound of Sri Lanka Junglefowl (again), and after breakfast commenced our journey, making a stop to take a tour of a tea factory, where we heard Common Hawk-Cuckoo and saw plenty of Pied Bush Chats and several rather pretty Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters. We then continued our journey to our hotel near Kandy, where we enjoyed yet another wonderful Sri Lankan meal.

We took a relaxed late-afternoon walk around and near the grounds of our countryside hotel, where we found a few interesting birds such as Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Indian Pitta, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Black-hooded Oriole, Oriental White-eye, Small Minivet, White-bellied Drongo (the white-bellied ‘insularis’ subspecies), and Crimson-fronted Barbet. We also practiced our phone-scoping technique on some rather cooperative Alexandrine Parakeets that were having a pre-roost gathering in some beautiful late-afternoon light.

As night fell a couple of Common Hawk-Cuckoos started singing, but by this time it was too late to chase after them. One for tomorrow!

Day 12, 16th January 2017: Kandy to Katunayake, where the tour concluded

On our final morning of the tour we were awoken before it was light by the dawn chorus of Common Hawk-Cuckoos. As soon as it was light enough to see we found a couple of birds that showed well near our rooms.

We took a pre-breakfast walk around our well-wooded hotel grounds, and a few flowering and fruiting trees held Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Southern Hill Myna, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Brown-headed Barbet, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Alexandrine Parakeet, Orange Minivet, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, and Indian Jungle Crow. Indian Pitta and Brown-breasted Flycatcher were foraging on the forest floor, but the real highlight of the morning was the insanely colorful Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher that gave prolonged views.

We spent the remainder of the morning relaxing around the hotel and packing our bags, ready to head down to Katunayake for our respective departures back home. As we waited for lunch a mixed flock of swifts flew overhead, including our first Alpine Swifts of the tour and our final new bird of the trip, species number 243. Little Swift and Indian Swiftlet made up the majority of the swift flock but a few Asian Palm Swifts were also noted. At least two Ashy Woodswallows were also in attendance.

After another filling lunch we made our way to Katunayake, where the tour concluded. We said fond farewells to our excellent local guide and new friend Lester, who had worked so hard to find us all the above species, as well as being great fun to be around and learn from. Without Lester’s knowledge and expertise this tour would not have been the great success it was. We also said goodbye to our driver Christy, who navigated us safely all around the Sri Lankan road network and even found us a few good birds! Thank you to you both!

 

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.