I joined 16 members of the FOGSL (Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka) on a trip to Arankele forest, north of Kurunegala. This intermediate zone evergreen forest is dotted all over with monuments of a forest monastery dating back to 6th century A.D.A long stone-paved path—part of the old monastery—provides the main access to the interiror of the forest. This is ideal for naturalists. A community of forest dwelling monks still reside in this temple ith the the cave shelters nestled deep in the jungle providing them the ideal retreats for meditation. We crashed in the more modern part of the temple for two days, roughing out in the alms-giving hall.
Our birding highlights over the two days included Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike nest on a dead tree containing a fledged juvenile, Sri Lanka Swallow, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Black-capped Bulbul, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Crested Treeswift, White-rumped Shama (many sightings), Crested Hawk Eagle, nests of Alexandrine Parakeet containing juveniles. Jerdon’s Leafbird, and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.
When we were out birding, a pair of canine companions accompanying us (much to my dislike) swiftly ran into the forest and caught something that was on the forest floor. I got my binoculars on it to see that it was an Alexandrine Parakeet—probably fallen to the forest's floor from their a nest hole 25-30 metres above. By the time a participant intervened to save it, the parakeet has already lost its head to the dogs.
A non-birding highlight to me came in the form of a Sri Lanka Coral Snake Calliophis melanurus sinhaleyus, which I observed at dusk.
Another mild non-birding highlight for me was getting Kishan and Kusum, two of the regular participants on FOGSL bird watching trips, hooked on Scrabble! It was fun as all our breaks between birding walks were utilized to full effect to play some very relaxed Scrabble.
They rudely challenged one of my words: "yellowing." To keep the tranquillity of the forest, I had to take it back, and lose my turn, as the dispute raged, threatening to put the off the meditating monks.
Later on, I bought a book titled Collins Scrabble Tournament and Club World List and it confirmed 'yellowing' as a real word. Had I been allowed to play that word, I could have widened my victory gap no less than 70 points!
On the way back, we paused a bit in the Athugala (Elephant Rock) in Kurunegala. There is a good intermediate patch of (tall) forest here and we saw Brown-capped Babbler, Shaheen (Peregrine Falcon) and an immature Common Hawk Cuckoo here.