I got another telephone call from Sinharaja on 26 Jan., with the news that a pair of Bay Owls had been sighted, the day before. Due to limitations of digi-scoping, my previous captures of this top owl was a tad unsatisfactory; most of them were not in sharp focus. January, which usually is a busy month was looking very bad work wise this year with only 3 days of work with a single client for me after a couple of the big tours that I was expecting got cancelled because of Sri Lanka hitting the news headlines for wrong reasons. So basically, I had plenty of time to spare this January—arguably one the best months for birding in Sri Lanka. And this is very true for Sinharaja too because of the migrants joining the flocks to boost the quality and quantity of birding, most birds engaging in nesting, and overall dry weather—which means less leaches, though they bug me not. All these reasons amply justified a second visit to Sinharaja this month and after the first tuktuk trip; it was way too tempting not to try it again. So I had to call my trusty tuktuk companion, Sarath, once again.
Leaving late, I reached the site by 5.15 a.m. and Thandula guided me to a and was in a terrible angle for digi-scoping. Before even I could mount my camera, it began to rain heavily and I had to wait until it settles down before attempting even a record shot. Adding to my woes, the light also began to deteriorate. So after a few record shots I had to call it a day. In the period I was in Sinharaja the Sri Lanka Bay Owl remained in spots where it was difficult for me to digiscope, so I just got on with other birding. I found that my camera was not getting zoomed in properly—after getting exposed to rain on the previous day. So this trip was a disaster in terms of photography. In the period that I was in Sinharaja from 26-30 Jan, the following noteworthy sightings were made.
Chestnut-winged Crested Cuckoo—I saw one while it was moving low in the under storey level in a mixed species bird flock. I was seeing this scarce migrant after fifteen years! And too was at Sinharaja—in the southern end of it. I also sound recorded a cuckoo at dawn and dusk to be later identified as this species. This is usually silent during its stay in Sri Lanka. All except one local birder (Upali Ekanayake) that I consulted weren’t familiar with its call.
Sri Lanka Spurfowl—I had three sightings of which two were planned, and one was accidental! The planned sightings were when I waited in a spot where it had been sighted on the main track in late afternoon by a few reliable observers. If my camera had worked, I could have got a cracking shot of this ultra secretive endemic. I also got a sound recording of this and found a roosting site of it inside the reserve.
Green-billed Coucal—A observed this carrying nesting material indicating breeding activity.
Black-naped Monarch—A nest close to the main track. Both parents were attending to the nest, feeding the fledglings and removing waste matter.
Malabar Trogon – A pair was observed at a nest hole close to the Sri Lanka Bay Owl site. They were leaving the nest hole with several unidentifiable objects in the beak—indicating nesting activity may be in progress.
White-faced Starling (above)—I photographed this species in a bird flock below Martin’s.
Post script: no wonder this trip was a failure photographically speaking as I started it on a 26th!
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