Wednesday, 5 December 2007

A Lifer For The Fat Birder

I went birding with Bo Beolens, the Fat birder on 22 October, 2007. By the time I met him, he and his wife Maggie had completed a birding trip arranged through a competitor. He has done a trip report of his full tour. Picking Bo up from his hotel close to the airport, I took him out to the newly established Horagolla National Park, which comprises of a secondary patch of lowland rain forest covering little over 13 hectares for half a day's birding. This fragmented forest doesn’t hold any special birds that you cannot find in the regular sites visited. But, the presence of a few endemics such as Spot-winged Thrush, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Myna, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and its proximity to Colombo airport (appox. 45 minutes) make it a decent back up site.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher aka. Layard's Flycatcher.

We had unfortunately picked the worse day in the whole week to travel because the day turned out to be an unusually rainy. This was because of a depression  in the bay of Bengal, we learnt later. So we couldn't get much birding done. But, it gave us a good opportunity to know each other well. 

We had some trouble in finding the turn-off due to poor signage with the heavy rain not helping it either. When we did reach the little ticket office, the rain was not showing any sign of letting up. Expecting such conditions, I had strategically packed some important accessories that usually go with my birding gear for longer tours—my Travel Scrabble!

Being a weekday with no other visitors, we had the entire visitor area to ourselves to play literally, an absorbing game—what with the open sides of our seating area and all.

I ended up inflicting Bo’s first scrabble defeat (home or away!), thrashing him with a resounding 372-258 score line! My highest individual score was 61 for TWITTING, scoring all 7. In the little respite we had from the rain during our stay, we did venture into the forest briefly, and I had the pleasure of finding a lifer for Bo in the form of the migrant, Brown-breasted Flycatcher aka. Layard's Flycatcher.

Bo was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his book Whose Bird? Men and women commemorated in the common names of birds, which was co-authored by Michael Watkins. I greatly enjoyed reading the bits relevent to Sri Lankan birds in this.

Bo later wrote to me to inform that in Layard's Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui, the species name species name: muttui had been named after Muttu—the Tamil cook of Layard's who had collected this bird.

Edgar Leopold Layard spent 22 years in Sri Lanka during the mid 19th century adding an astonishing 136 species of birds to the island's inventory. It stood at 182 bird species at the time he began collecting.

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