Thursday, 28 July 2011

Absolute Birding in January, 2011

In January 2011, I guided Jan Henriksson and Britt Marie Skoglund from Sweden on a 16-day Absolute Birding tour. We saw a total of 255 species of birds, including all endemics and other usual suspects. Jan has done a brief report in Swedish, and just so your Swedish is not up to scratch, you can get it translated using Google Translate.

Jan was the keener birder and photographer of the two, while Britt tagged along giving moral support, and at times, dazzling us with her sharp spotting skills.

Jan works in a prison in Sweden. He told me that it was a stressful job, having to deal with bad guys on a regular basis. And birds and photography were his "releases" from all that. He was a demure person, and often chose to enjoy birds silently. Britt on the other hand, was quite expressive, and was the official go-between on most matters. Oh, and Jan was a huge fan of Two and a Half Men; he said he had all the 8 Seasons of it in DVD with Swedish subtitles!

Some pictures from our trip:

Indian Roller

Our vehicle came to an abrupt halt after seeing this on a roadsides post at Udawalawe. We used our vehicle as a hide to get close to it and shoot this at point blank range.

Red-wattled Lapwing

For this, we used a safari jeep as a hide at Bundala National Park, where we had beautiful morning light.

Yellow-eared Bulbul

This stayed frozen at Nuwara Eliya in a cool morning. It was too lazy to fly despite us approaching it close. In 2000, I went for a job interview of a nature tour company, and one of the questions thrown at me was to name the Latin name of Yellow-eared Bulbul! I rattled off Pycnonotus penicillatus, and if I remember right, murmuring a dah, after that.

I was selected.

This is the bird that appears on the new Rs. 5,000 currency note, so it is by no means a cheap bird.

Sri Lanka Frogmouth

Beej once commented here, "The Frogmouths always wear a precious expression—bedraggled and slovenly but infinitely adorable."

We found this adorable pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouth at the Sinharaja rain forest. When found in day roosts, this bird is almost always found in low-light; I shot this bumping up the ISO to a crazy high—of 4000. There was a nest of another individual quite high up.

Painted Stork

We had a mustering of Painted Storks foraging close together at Bundala National Park, which I find a peaceful place for bird photography (compared to the melee that is Yala N.P.) I photographed this one when it strayed from the rest.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

This one too obliged at the superb Bundala National Park. A very small population of this species is found in my village in the lush valleys of the Kelani River.

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

This one appeared as if was dressed to go to war, sporting what looked like an iron helmet. I like to freeze birds in such poses, when they appear to look straight at me. This one was real a hyperactive little fellow, rarely staying still for long. We photographed it at Hakgala.

Little Indian Nightjar

It was trying to pass as a rock. Here's a close crop  of it looking all sleepy.

We found this at the Udawalawe National Park, very close to a track.

 Dull-blue Flycatcher

Patience pays off when it comes to dealing with the endemic Dull-blue Flycatcher. This is the bird that appears in the new Rs.50 currency note—a rather cheap denomination for such a pretty bird, if you ask me. Especially considering that it is already insulted scientifically as a sordid bird in Eumiyas sordida. 


Stuart Price said...

That frogmouth pic is great, it should be on the cover of a magazine.

Amila Suwa said...

Glad you think so, Stu. Gracias!

Preveen said...

You should do a post on the birds on the new currency notes. Should be interesting :)

GG said...

Awww.....sooo adorable! specially the puffed up yellow-eared Bulbul. When my bro was really small he used to call the common sparrow 'papadam' b'cos they would 'puff up' after a dip in the bird-bath.

The frogmouths on the other hand remind me of 'the muppet show'.


Phil Slade said...

Congrats on the new job Amila, you will obviously be good at your job judging by the success of this latest trip and the number of species you totted up. Great pictures too.

Amila Suwa said...

It's funny, I was think of doing a post like that! Then I thought I should expand it to include the butterflies in the new currency notes too. And then I realized that I am yet to photograph some of them and the whole thing got pushed aside! I think I should get birds done first. Thanks! :)

Thank you!
The Yellow-eared Bulbul was sure puffed up like your brother's papadam bird. :)

Glad you think so of the frogmouths! Yes, they are quite comical in their looks.

Thanks! I quit that job in 2004 to be independent. :)

Hope you're bullish about the England-India Test series. I think the No.1 Test ranking is within your grabs.

Kirigalpoththa said...

Frogmouths are classic in which ever the pose.

I know the value of hyphen in dull-blue flycatcher, Thanks to you.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater is a striking bird, very colorful.

BTW do we have local names for all these birds? For e.g. Frogmouths

Amila Suwa said...

K, most of the vernacular names that I know for these birds sound a tad formal, and are not in wide use:

1. Dum-bonna
2. Rath-karamal Kirala (For majority this would be just a Kirala.)
3. Peeththa-kan Kondaya
4. Madimoona or Gembi-kata Bassa (Note: "Bassa" is a misnomer, as this not an owl.)
5. Lathuwakiya (For majority, this would be just a Koka.)
6. Pingu-his Bingu-haraya
7. Hisa-alu Masimaara
8. Podu Bimbassa (Indiyaanu Kuda Bimbassa may be more appropriate.)
9. Anduru-nil Masimaara

Anonymous said...

Man these birds are tickling my feet! And again have to thank you for them frog mouths! and I will second Stu, they should be on the 'Nature' cover,

Amila Suwa said...

Hey, Magerata.
Thanks as always! We were lucky to have found the frogmouths at eye-level. Glad you think it is "Nature" cover material!

Kirigalpoththa said...

Thanks for all the local names mate! Very helpful.

Amila Suwa said...

No problem!

flowergirl said...

This cheered me up. My trip to the Valley of Flowers got cancelled fue to the horrendous weather conditions - landslides and rain and floods.


The grey-headed canary flycatcher made me smile.

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