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.
This was particularly true for one of the visitors—the 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.
I am extremely pleased to have photographed this LBJ.
Here's another one of the same individual.
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.
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