Hiking nonstop from the hotel, the trek up to Shaheen Peak takes 40 minutes for people like us. That's to say with the odd birding stop or two. The first half of this hike winds through an uphill, narrow, and leechy trail. The second half of the hike falls through an open grassy terrain interspersed with the odd pioneer tree. The trail is good for most parts; some sections are slippery, so it is better to take the off trail grassy approach.
Mike and I weren't initially going to do it—not just for one bird, and because sometimes it proves elusive.
But, our plans took a swift change.
This was when I scoped a Shaheen from the hotel gardens while it was perched at the eerie precipice of the Shaheen Peak, a good kilometre or so away. A snap decision was made to extend our pre-breaklfast birding session to hike to the top of the Shaheen Peak to see this impressive raptor at close quarters while the family was still enjoying a lie-in.
Reaching the top, as expected, we were rewarded with absolute cracking views of our quarry when this handsome Shaheen was found perched on the Pines on the peak.
Shaheen Falco peregrinus peregrinator
And here's Mike perched on top of the Shaheen Peak.
The bird soon took wing on a foraging mission. Mike with his Canon 50D and 400 f5.6 L lens got a pretty good flight shot. I wasn't so lucky though. Let's say it was a good learning curve for me, as I found that tracking such a small (because of the distance) and fast subject with Spot Metering Mode wasn't easy. I'll know better next time, thanks to Mike.
Here's a cross section of the habitat of the Shaheen, where it had nested several times.
Here's a close up of the above picture.
The eerie view of the world below. Look how lilliputian the coconut trees look!
And the snaking road that leads to Elkaduwa and Ukuwela holds very good birds such as Chestnut-backed Owlet, Brown Fish Owl, and Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher.
At the top, I also found a bonus bird for Mike in the form of a male Kashmir Flycatcher—a Himalayan delight that winters in the highlands of Sri Lanka.
Mike's account of the first leg of the trip involving birding around the Hunas Falls Hotel can be seen here.
Have a great weekend all!