Wednesday 31 March 2010

Absolute Birding

Serendib Scops Owl in a daytime roost
I guided a 14-day Absolute Birding trip with three birders from Scotland from 30 November–13 December, 2009. My clients were Val Wilson, who was the main organiser, and her birding buddies, Pauline Blair and David Clugston—all sharp birders. They were strictly focussed on watching birds and carried no cameras with the aim of photographing them. This gave them more opportunities to actually look for new birds, which boosted our trip list. Our final tally stood at 246 species seen including all thirty-three endemics currently recognised.

The endemic Serendib Scops Owl above, seen at a daytime roost at Sinharaja rain forest, was voted unanimously as the bird of the trip. There was no drama with other tough endemics: Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush and Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, and all of them afforded great views.

I got two lifers during this trip in the form of Isabelline Wheater at Yala and Hume’s Whitethroat at Bundala - both on the same day.

We had four Brown Wood Owls on this trip: one at Sinharaja at dusk, and three at a daytime roost at Surrey Estate, Welimada. The Sri Lanka Frogmouth below was seen at a daytime roost at Sinharaja, quite close to the track.

Our top mammalian highlight was this Leopard, seen resting in a tree at the Yala National Park. After finding it like that, we waited until it got up to move on; and I got this record shot then.

Coming back to birds, we had a pair of White-naped Woodpeckers and rare migrants: White Wagtail and Citrine Wagtail at Udawalawe National Park. A Watercock gave good views at Pannegamuwa tank. A lone Eurasian Wigeon mixed with a party of Lesser Whistling-ducks was picked up by Dave at Deberawewa tank at Tissa. This bird is a rare visitor to southern Sri Lanka, and was the first time it has been reported during my southern birding tours. Dave also did extremely well to pick a distant Pomarine Scua and Brown Booby while sea-watching off Negombo on the last day. A nesting pair of Hill Munias was observed at Hakgala Botanical Gardens, where we also had brilliant views of the sought-after Himalayan special, Kashmir Flycatcher.

Several dragonflies were also seen on this trip. This Foggy-winged Twister obliged long enough to afford a photo opportunity at Tanamalwila (pronounced in Sinhala as Thanamalwila).

Foggy-winged Twister
The Indian Peafowls were quite busy courting and we had plenty of displaying males, like this raunchy one, at Yala.

Indian Peafowl
This Curlew Sandpiper in summer plumage clearly stood out among its cousins in their paler grey winter drab plumages.

Curlew Sandpiper


Lady divine said...

gorgeous! magnificent pictures.. as always! :)

Love the leopard one

Kirigalpoththa said...

Definitly the top photo is the bird of the trip. But i like the second picture just for the expression of the bird :D

dev wijewardane said...

Great shots. love the colour on the peacock. did you use the 100-400mm?

Me-shak said...

Your photos never fail to amaze me. Excellent stuff!

Sunita Mohan said...

Amila, The Scoops Owl looks so disgruntled! He obviously doesn't appreciate being peeked at when he should be sleeping.
Love the peacock!

Amila Salgado said...

Hi LD,
That Leopard was a good non-birding distraction for us. Thanks!

Hi K,
That owl is a top rarity in Sri Lanka - discovered in 2001.

Hi Dev,
Thank you! Yes, I used that lens for all of these shots.

Hi Me-shak,
Nice to hear from you. Thank you for your compliment!

Hi Sunita,
This owl was showing an alert posture with ear-tufts raised trying to disguise its profile as a dead leaf or a broken branch.

Dee said...

oh WOW. I LOVE OWLS!! I'd love to keep one! :) :)

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Dee,
Thank you!
I know you enough to say that your mom will not tolerate an owl in your house. Happy to be corrected.

Jason Bugay Reyes said...

Excellent !

Dee said...

A - I think so too. :(

Oh and btw, I see this pair of black birds at work every morning. Their tales are arched. Difficult to describe, but nice glossy black feathers too. Dad says it might be a Black Drongo (Kalu Kauda)...I'll try to take a picture of them next time.

Janith said...

Amazing photos Amila! :D I love the first one, looks like a wise old fellow! ;)

Amila Salgado said...

Thank you Horukuru!

Glad to have got that right D :)
There are 4 (or 5) species of Kaudas in SL, all which are pretty much black. This make the often-used sinhala name, 'Kalu Kauda' vague and inadequate if you want to refer to a particular species. Confounding this is the fact that there is a particular species of Kauda named Black Drongo, which in SL is found in the North.

I can try to ID your bird if you can send a picture. I have a sneeking suspicion that the bird in question may be Indian Robin.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Chavie,
Yes, it is a wise old fellow to have avoided showing itself to humans until 2001, when it was discovered.

flowergirl said...

Yes, I've often thought that carrying a camera around seems to remove my focus on enjoying the "live" moment....

Amila Salgado said...

Hi flowergirl,
I am convinced that cameras cause 'attention blindness' in birders. When engagging in photography you stay focussed on a narrow field of view, and this causes you to miss so many other things around. I think if you are interested in seeing more species of birds on a bird walk, it'd be better to leave your camera behind.

Redzlan said...

Love that Serendib Scops Owl.

Birder and Bird Photographer are two different species. ;)
Never mind seeing a few species, but I can recall back with pictures for everlasting memories.

Amila Salgado said...

Hi Tabib,
And there are those borderline cases with a foot in both camps...

I like living in the moment, and relishing the live experience more.

As a guide it helps me to find more birds for my clients when I am focussed on just there is that aspect to it too.

Stuart Price said...

Like I said on flickr I really like the Curlew Sandpiper shot.........

Phil Slade said...

Curlew Sand - stunning. Nothing more to say.

Amila Salgado said...

Thank you gentlemen!
Nice to hear from you two.

GG said...

Wow!!!!! amazing!
Your photos are like a breath of fresh air! Specially when you are in the middle of a stack of instruments and need something to cool off your mind! Thanks!
I specially liked the second one, seems like he's looking right at you!

Amila Salgado said...

Thanks a lot Sasani!
Firstly, I am sorry for the delayed response to your comment. It is wonderful to hear those compliments!

I found a roosting Frogmouth in the same roost again recently. It was well hidden, and I didn't attempt to photograph it.

Good luck with your PhD work!

Amila Kanchana said...

I've always wondered, how close can you get to a leopard without provoking it, generally speaking?

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