Max came to me for an eight-day birding tour through Pieter van der Luit of Inezia Tours—one of the winners of a blog quiz done by me.
Of the numerous birders that I have guided over the years, Max was special in that he was my first hardcore Holarctic Lister: a passionate birder who likes to see birds found in the Holarctic region, and proceeds to travel the world for that objective while meticulously maintaining a list of such birds seen.
According to Max, one of the reasons for narrowing down his birding focus to Holarctic region was because the Holarctic birds are more likely to turn up as vagrants in his country, the Netherlands. And to slice the world into a more “manageable chunk” for birding.
Although Sri Lanka does not fall within the Holarctic region, some birds found in this region could be seen in here. Therefore, the purpose of Max's visit to Sri Lanka was to see those Holarctic birds, still missing in his list. These, informed to me before the commencement of the tour, included six species: Slaty-legged Crake, Brown Fish Owl, Small Pratincole, Great Thick-knee, Pied Thrush, and Kashmir Flycatcher.
I showed them all.
The Slaty-legged Crake, as expected, proved tough using up a lot of our time budget at the Sinharaja rain forest, which is where I chose to look for it. After four hours of tracking, Max was rewarded with a preening individual in a thicket for a good five minutes!
Five additional Holarctic species, which were not on Max's original target list was bagged, taking the total Holarctict ticks on this tour to 11. These were Indian Blue Robin, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Black Bittern, Jacobin Cuckoo, Grey-bellied Cuckoo and Besra. All of these obliged without much drama.
With all that Max's total Holarctic Life List now stands at 1741 species of birds. He is currently the No.2 in the Holarctic Life List page as per Surfbirds.com.
I am more used to guiding birders whose main focus is to see 33 or so endemics. This tour was different in that Max did not want to see the endemics; he considered them as “non-migrating rubbish!”
However, in a bid to transform Max into a world birder, I secretly was determined to show him all our 33 endemics! With a Green-billed Coucal shown at Kithulgala on the day 7, I achieved just that. This was done while not compromising on any of Max's Holarctic wants. And he quite liked some of those "non-migrating rubbish," especailly the Serendib Scops Owl, which was showed at Sinharaja and Kithulgala—the latter at a daytime roost. In the end, we managed to rake in 230 species of birds during this 8-day tour, which was a pretty neat tally for such a short tour.
Some of the noteworthy “other” birds included (sites in the order of visited) Legge’s Hawk Eagle, Brown-throated Needletail, and Plum-headed Parakeet at Sinharaja; White Wagtail ( local rarity), Pallid Harrier, and Little Indian Nightjar (at a day roost) at Udawalawe; Chestnut-winged Crested Cuckoo, Sirkeer Malkoha, Eurasian Oystercatcher (a southern SL rarity), and Temminck’s Stint at Bundala National Park; Watercock at Tissa; Marshall’s Iora, Jungle Owlet, Rufous Woodpecker, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, and Large Cuckooshirke at Tanamalwila; Sykes' Warbler at Nuwara Eliya (An LBJ that got Max really interested!); and Lesser Yellownape at Kithulgala.
Max was a very sharp birder, and very pleasant person to go birding with. So we got on quite well—so much so that I even introduced to him the Modern Family! We watched it on my laptop during our non-birding breaks! His favourite star of the cast was Gloria, allegedly because of her unique accent. :)
Some of our trip pictures are below.
Here's Max observing some Small Pratincoles at Bundala.
A Jacobin Cuckoo at Bundala National Park.