During these two coordinated birding raids, we were able to rake in twenty-seven endemic birds, out of the thirty-three currently recognised; plus a tally of over hundred other species of birds. Our hits and misses, thrills and spills, and other juicy details are in a trip report done by Brian.
In the meantime, here are a few highlights from my perspective.
Top birding highlight: A brooding male Sri Lanka Frogmouth in a nest, with a chick bursting out of its rim. In this species, the male attends to looking after the young during the daytime—when the female chills in a cool hideaway not too far.
Top garden bird: An Indian Pitta that I found in my backyard when the Eadys dropped by at my place.
Top spotting: A vocal Chestnut-backed Owlet, about 35m high up in a canopy giant.
Top forest bird: Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush.
I lured it by mimicking its high-pitched contact call, which I have sort of mastered now. This rendition is inaudible for the senior citizens, as is the call of the bird.
Top behavioural observation: An attempted courtship feeding by a pair Sri Lanka Grey Hornbills. This was what happened. No, first, a quick preamble on Hornbill breeding strategy. In hornbills (African Ground Hornbills excepted), the female imprisons herself inside a tree cavity to lay eggs, and to raise chicks, during which period the male delivers food to her and chicks.
Most females undergo moult during this imprisonment: when she sheds her flight feathers, and grows them newly. Those feathers she loses in turn provide a soft bedding for the young.
The nesthole is broken by the female when the young are ready to fledge. In some species, the female frees herself out, to join the male in feeding the young, as their nutritional needs increase. The chicks in such cases are smart enough to seal the cavity from inside, until they are ready to meet the challenges of the outside world.
Coming back to courtship feeding, it is an important pair-bonding strategy used by the male bird to show his 'quality'—as a genuine breadwinner. For all the sacrifices she has to make in the evolutionary business of give and take, the female does not want to get stuck inside a dingy tree hole with poor facilities, and find that her partner is unable to deliver. For all what we know, she may not even have flight feathers by the time she realises this.
On this occasion, as the male offered a tiny fruit of Bombu Symplocos cochinchinensis, held delicately between his powerful mandibles, the female gave the cold shoulder, and took wing. I sensed her saying, "If you want me, you gotta do more than that."
And probably murmuring to herself, "What a cheapskate!", as she left him looking desponded like this:
I concede that it wasn’t a huge reward.