Thursday, 13 March 2008
My recently concluded 15-day Absolute Birding tour from 31 Jan to 14 Feb., with 4 British birders, was a roaring success. We bagged a whopping 252 species of birds including all thirty-three endemics currently recognised. Additionally, we also bagged forty-two birds endemic to South Asia. And we bagged nine out of the fifteen resident night birds—of which seven were owls. Special birding highlight was seeing a pair of the newly rediscovered breeding resident, Marshall’s Iora at Lunugamwehera. We also had two sightings of Leopard at Yala National Park. Which included a prolonged sighting of a male resting on a rock.
The tour was organised by Peter Nickless from England who was joined by his birding buddies: Roger Dodds, Graham Mant, and Graham Jones. Just before my clients arrived, I visited this garden—just five minutes from the airport—on a scouting mission. During this, I stumbled upon a day roost of two Brown Hawk Owls at a dimly lit thicket. So when picked my four visitors, our first point of call was this day roost. Great start!
Resuming the tour after this great early start, I was determined not to spend too much time over wayside birds, as we would be seeing these often during the course of the tour. Even with such rigorous discipline, our journey to the first accommodation saw us raking in no less than six raptor species, which included Black Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle and the only Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle (a rare species in SL) of the trip.
Day-1 at the lush lowlands of Kithulgala got off to a flying start with a daily tally of fifty-six including ten of the thirty-three endemics to give a solid opening stand. Our endemic highlights were Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Swallow, Black-capped Bulbul and Orange-billed Babbler. Our day-2 brought us more goodies in the form of the South Asian endemic and regular migrant, Indian Pitta, the avian gem, Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher and more endemics: Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Brown-capped Babbler and Sri Lanka Crested Drongo.
Our day-3 at the endemic hotspot Sinharaja ‘world heritage’ rain forest produced a truly mouth-watering array of specials including endemics: Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Myna and the avian jewel; Serendib Scops Owl, which evaded bird watchers until 2001. With 2/3 of the endemics bagged at the end of our day-3, we were sitting at a very comfortable position to make a clean sweep of the endemics on this tour.
Our day-4 yielded four more ticks to our tally of endemics: Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka White-eye and White-faced Starling. A noteworthy highlight today was Malabar Trogon—endemic to South India and Sri Lanka. By the time we ended our day-4, we had bagged twenty-seven endemics! Our day-5 was essentially a back up day in Sinharaja to nab any elusive suspects. A pre-dawn raid saw us getting cracking views of the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, low down, before a noisy Chestnut-winged Crested Cuckoo took wing to limit our views to a flight silhouette, which was followed with our 3rd views of the Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush. Happy with our haul of the specials, a message was passed on to me declaring the rest of the day a holiday—starting as early as at 8.30 a.m.! The fact that it was the Sri Lanka’s Independence Day commemorating 60 years of independence from the colonial rule of the British didn’t have any reason whatsoever for this. The luxuries of the public holiday that ensued saw a sharp increase in the extras bill for some. We bagged a new trip bird in the form of a dark-morph Booted Eagle—while chilling at Martin's balcony with a few Lion beers as observational aids.
To read the full report with the systematic list click here.
To download a PDF version of the same with images (warning: 23 pages) click here.
To read the full report at Surfbirds.com click here
The above is my contribution to I And The Bird#72 Birding Carnival hosted by Ecobirder in Minnesota, USA.