Thursday 24 January 2013

Endmics Clean-up with Ben and Ron under Five Days

In August, 2012 I guided a five-day abridged version of my Absolute Birding tour. It was with Ron and Ben Barkley, a farther son duo from the U.S.A. Ben is a student at the prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology and was keener birder of the two. Our focus was on the endemic birds of Sri Lanka and other resident species that come along the way.

We saw a whopping 152 species of birds, which was great considering the shorter duration of the trip outside the migratory season. Important, we wrapped up all 33 endemic birds in the last daylight hour of day four. That was a personal best for me. Our trip tally also included six of the fifteen resident night birds. 

White-tailed Iora

Before this trip, Ben was based in India working at a nature resort in Thekaddy area in Kerala, using his vacation for studying birds of India and in return helping the resort develop nature-tourism products for its clients. So he was fresh with a lot of field knowledge of dealing with similar birds to Sri Lanka. And his spotting skills backed by Ron’s enthusiasm greatly helped to rake in such a big tally of birds in real quick time.

One of the special non-endemic highlights was the White-tailed Iora (Marshall’s Iora), which was expertly photographed by Ben while birding on foot at a patch at Udawalawe. He sent me the shot above that he took of it. I am yet to get a decent shot of this newly rediscovered resident bird, despite opportunistically trying to do it while “working.”

Our other highlights include smashing views of an overhead Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle—a species that I have seen in my dreams too!

The bird flocks at Sinharaja were many. The Red-faced Malkoha treated us for great sightings low-down. Layard’s Parakeets were seen gleaning flowers of feeding of the endemic pioneer Schumacheria castaneifolia (Kakiri-wara). This frequency of sightings of Layard’s Parakeets joining the flock increases in the wet season (April to December) according to the flock researchers Prof. Kotagama and Dr. Eben Goodale.

 Ashy-headed Laughingthrush

The Ashy-headed Laughthrush looked to be busy nesting.

  Sri Lanka Frogmouth 

The female Sri Lanka Frogmouth above appeared to know me.

 Udawalwe National Park

Being at the height of the draught Udawalawe National Park was bone dry.

 Malabar Pied Hornbill

But that wasn't enough to stop Ben from spotting this fruiting tree decorated with Malabar Pied Hornbills. There were nearly 50 of them!


silent moments said...

Wow...looks like you have crashed a hornbill party !

Great work as always..

Sunita Mohan said...

Great pics, Amila. That Laughingthrush looks a most secretive bird (I wonder how it got its name).
And, wow! that tree seems to be sprouting hornbills! So many of them. Does one normally see so many in one place or would the fruiting season have something to do with it?

Kathie Brown said...

Gallissica, do you still blog? Are you still there in Sri Lanka? Do you remember me from Sycamore Canyon? I see my new blog, Kathie's Birds in your feed and I have just been wondering about you!

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