Soon after returning from the bird photography tour with Felix Ng and co., last February, I guided a 3-day trip to Sinharaja ‘world heritage’ rain forest. It was with Dave and Paddie Taylor from Southport, UK. They were keen naturalists; thus, we never ran out of things to appreciate.
Our birding was extremely successful—we bagged twenty-two out of the thirty-three endemic birds currently recognised (according to Birds of South Asia by Dr. Pamela Rasmussen). These included the Serendib Scops Owl at a day roost. Discovered in 2001, it is one of the two endangered endemics found Sri Lanka, and was a great find given the short duration of the trip. To use a birding slang, it really was a crippler. We also found a roadside nest of a Sri Lanka Frogmouth with a brooding male in it. It was different to what was seen in late January.
The fruiting Symplocos cochinchinensis (Bombu in Sinhala), found in forest edges with secondary growth, were drawing a lot of birds, as I found in late January. These included the endemic Yellow-fronted Barbet (shown above), and the Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon—a “bonus bird” for Sinharaja—as it is essentially a highland endemic.
The tree it is on is the endemic pioneer, Dillenia triquetra (Diyapara in Sinhala).
Our top mammal for the trip was a Grey Red Slender Loris that I spotted. This nocturnal primate is endemic and uncommon; we were quite lucky to find it near our accommodation. Apart from this, we also came across a lone Sambar, several Giants Squirrels, and plenty of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys.
We saw a good array of 'large-format' butterflies: Sri Lanka Birdwing, Red Helan, Blue Mormon, Sri Lanka Tree Nymph, and Clipper—all which provided soothing distractions while birding.
I spotted a Green Pit Viper, which was the top reptilian highlight. It is often found perfectly merged to the low vegetation close to streams and moist patches. During daytime, it is quite sluggish, preferring to stay still in a chosen spot, relying on its protective resemblance to avoid detection.
Some of you may remember that I have a special liking for boots. Well, it is mainly because my line of work takes me to places where snakes are frequently found. During the last winter birding season, my favourite pair of wellington boots got worn out like the last molar of an old elephant. So I found myself back in the market. And last week, I bought myself a new pair of wellies from the Malwatte Road. If you want to got shopping for a good pair of wellies, that's the place to go! I paid Rs. 900 for mine. More than the great bargain, it was way better than what was available at the bigger stores. The ones sold in the latter are either too short, making wading through small streams challenging; or have harder back quarters, making walking, a nightmare. I think they may be good for mowing lawns and such gardening stuff. But for people like us, who use them on rugged terrain, those gardening types just wouldn't do.