Thursday, 10 March 2011

Endemics Clean Up

Last month, I guided a 7-day Endemics Clean Up Tour with four super-hardcore Dutch birders: Erik Ernens, Robert Keizer, Eric Lam, and Marius Bolck. It was a mega success with us bagging 220 species of birds, including all 33 endemic birds. Our overnight locations were Nuwara Eliya, Udawalawe, Sinharaja and Kithulgala. After raking in montane specials on the first two days, I did a “big day” on day 3, by squeezing in a few patches around Tissa, which were not on the original itinerary. This was before reaching Udawalawe for overnight stay. This yielded 130 species in just one day—nearly 60% of the birds of the total trip list!

Of the endemics, only the Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush made us work hard.

Really hard.

This was particularly true for one of the visitorsthe 2-metre-tall Robert Keizer, whose towering height proved a real handicap, when everybody else saw this cryptic thrush, when it first materialised through the undergrowth! This “miss” resulted in a massive search operation to find this elusive bird for Robert, and very importantly, to bring him in sync with others. During this a pair responded to my high-pitched rendition by calling agonizingly close. However, the birds stubbornly dodged our detection, prolonging our misery. During this I had several fleeting glimpses of it, and every time I tried to get Robert on it, I think some bad spell prevented him from locking his eyes on this bird!

After many attempts, finally, a Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush obliged by perching on a dead stump about 10m away; Robert’s eyes were very much on ground level that time. And glowing as in this Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher that we found at Kithulgala.

I found the Serendib Scops Owl—the most sought-after endemic—on two locations. The last sighting was at a day-roost, which yielded absolutely jaw-dropping views like this.

Erik delivered some gifts sent to me by fellow countryman Max Berlijn whom I guided before his tour. These included a spankingly new copy of the Owls of the World by Claus Konig and Friedhelm Weick. Would you believe, the Serendib Scops Owl in it is described as an 'earless' scops owl!

Our other noteworthy specials were Pied Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, Slaty-legged Crake, Sykes’s Warbler, Indian Blue Robin, Indian Pitta, Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Sirkeer Malkoha, Marshall’s Iora, Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle, Rufous Woodpecker, Sri Lanka Frogmouth (three sightings including one of a brooding male), Temminck’s Stint, Jungle Owlet, Brown Wood Owl (a pair at a day roost), Brown Hawk Owl, and Shaheen.

Here are some of these in vivid detail. 

Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

We saw this female at a day roost at Sinharaja, where before this, we also had a brooding male in a nest. And I found another male at Kithulgala.

Sykes's Warbler

I am extremely pleased to have photographed this LBJ.

Here's another one of the same individual.

Pied Thrush

The best site to see this Himlayan delight in Sri Lanka, the Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya, is full of garbage.

A Tour Report has been promised by Eric and co., and I shall update this post when it is posted online.

In the meantime, Mike Pope whom I guided in last December has posted a report of the trips he did with me with his superb photographs. You can see it here.


Janith said...

Beautiful set of birds, Amila! :D I think I'm falling in love with the Scops Owl! ;)

Kirigalpoththa said...

Frogmouth is a unique bird!

Dee said...

WHY is there gargage everywhere you go!?!? damn lankans. the owls!!!

Amila Suwa said...

Thanks! Yeah, me too!

That's right!

I know! It's very embarassing.
Glad you loved the owls!

John Holmes said...

Great post, love the Serndib Owl shot.

I have an earlier edition of the Konig and Weick owl book - the references to Asian Owls such as Collared Scops and Oriental Scops in the book seem to have been lifted almost unaltered from Salim Ali's "Birds of India and Pakistan" !

flowergirl said...

That Owl is glaring at you, Amila! Like an irate star being followed by paparazzi!

That pied thrush is beautiful!

So, you mean you saw all 220 endemics of SL?! That is amazing!!

India-SA today...

Amila Suwa said...

Thank you, and very nice to hear from you! Very true what you wrote about the Asian owls!

I shall visit your blog soon.

Haha, to the paparazzi comment! Yes, the Pied Thrush is a beautiful bird. And, yesterday, I managed to photograph a male with no garbage in the background!

We have only 33 endemics, and we saw them all. 220 is the total trip list. Thank god we didn't have 220 endemics!

I'll be following the cricket closely. What a match will it be! I hope the SA will not choke this time!

Lady divine said...

love them.

very very nice... Dee has already mentioned about the dirty environment.

seriously men. why do ppl do this?


Amila Suwa said...

Gracias, LD!
The garbage matter is more serious at Nuwara Eliya, where wilderness areas are the preferred dumping grounds of the local Municipal Council.

Stuart Price said...

So you can take bird with garbage shots too! Every autumn the Red necked Stints hide in the flotsam and jetsam here......

Dhammika Heenpella said...

Very interesting mate - Dhammika Heenpella

Phil Slade said...

A great story with great birds Amila. Sounds like a trip to make.

Anonymous said...

The Frogmouths always wear a precious expression -- bedraggled and slovenly but infinitely adorable. By the way, we call them Sri Lankan Frogmouths here.

Amila Suwa said...

Yes, I am a garbage bird photographer. :D

Thanks, and see you soon at rugby!

Thanks you. Yes, it great for photography too.

'bedraggled and slovenly but infinitely adorable'

That's a master stoke! Almost as sublime as a backfoot punch of Sachin!

I use the OBC and Birdlife International standard of using the country name, when it used for bird names. Sri Lankan Frogmouth is not as terrible as Ceylon Frogmouth!

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