Sri Lanka - 18th December 2003 – 2nd January 2004

Published by Nick Moran (nickmoran76 AT yahoo.co.uk)

Participants: Nick and Becca Moran

Comments

I delayed submitting this trip report in the hope of finding the time to properly sort out the various mammals we saw. Unfortunately I didn’t find the time! For that reason I have deleted the mammal section. I hope the report will still be of use.

Birding the beautiful and ornithologically rich island of Sri Lanka is already well covered in numerous trip reports available on the Internet. The aims of this report are:

a) To provide (relatively!) current information on endemics/scarcer species
b) To highlight other useful Sri Lanka trip reports and update the information in those reports where necessary
c) To give an annotated species list for our trip

There are five sections to this report:

1) The ‘getting around’ issue
2) Resources
i. Helpful trip reports
ii. Field guides
iii. Contact information
3) Our itinerary
4) Annotated species list
5) Big dips

Throughout the report, the following abbreviations are used:
NP = National Park
SL = Sri Lanka

1. The ‘getting around’ issue

The road network SL is fairly extensive, though poorly maintained in places. The roads are narrow, winding and busy and you’ll have to stop for birds, too! 40-45km/h is the best average you can hope for.

Your 5 options are:
i. public transport
ii. self-drive
iii. driver and van
iv. driver-birdguide and van
v. specialised birdguide, driver and van

i. Public transport – only for the rugged birder with patience, and more importantly, time! Since the privatisation of the railways that service has deteriorated (a familiar story to Brits…) but buses seem to go everywhere, eventually, and are very economical. We took a 4½ hour, 160km ‘luxury’ (air-con) bus journey from Mirissa to Colombo for 130 rupees ($1.3 US). For the NPs you’ll be OK – ask to be dropped at the gate, where you’ll need to organise a jeep safari. However, as is always the case with birding, some sites are just awkward to get to – I doubt any SL bus driver would understand if you said “drop me at the SL Woodpigeon site”…

ii. Self-drive – we usually opt for this but car-hire (and more specifically, foreigners driving hire-cars) in SL seems quite rare. Perhaps the roads, the other road users (a frightening selection of demon bus drivers, wobbly cyclists, careless cows, dozy dogs and rat snakes with death wishes) and/or the paucity of road signs are to blame. I’ve driven in a lot of places including Uganda and central Bangkok but I wouldn’t fancy driving in SL.

iii. Driver and van – not a bad option as its not much more expensive (and far less stressful) than option ii. However, unless you’re familiar with birds of the Indian sub-continent, including calls, have very accurate site details and a good tape, you’ll struggle to find many more than half of the endemics and other specialties. We met a British couple who were birding with a non-birding van driver. In four hours that morning they’d had a fortunate encounter with a Brown Fish Owl and a brief view of a Spot-winged Thrush whilst we’d seen Green-billed Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Spot-winged Thrush, SL Spurfowl and SL Magpie in the same area of forest.

iv. Driver-birdguide and van – a popular option as your driver will have a good knowledge of the key sites, will be prepared for all those early starts/late finishes and should have a tape (check before you leave). This was the option we had hoped to take. We met a couple with Sunil, the widely-recommended driver-birdguide from A. Baurs (see Section 2). He knew the key sites and species, and had a tape.

v. Specialised birdguide, driver and van – we were offered the services of Upali Ekanayake, one of SLs 2 most experienced birders and guides, through A. Baurs (all their driver-birdguides were busy). Although the extra expense was initially off-putting, we were soon very grateful to have chosen this option. Upali is extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of SLs bird-life, not to mention most other areas of SLs wildlife, history and customs. I have some experience of birding in Asia and I found Upali particularly helpful on bird calls, species distribution and ‘background information’, all of which were flawed in the field-guide we used. He is also great company, an important factor as you spend a lot of time with your guide! Upali is one of only a handful of people who know where to look for the Serendib Scops Owl, and that is likely to remain the case for some time, whilst further research into this recently-discovered species is conducted.

Upali can be booked through A. Baurs tours (see Contact Information). Both you and he will get a better deal if you contact him directly. He can organise an ‘open’ tour (with flexibility to spend more time at certain sites if birds are missed), reasonably-priced accommodation and driver/vehicle hire, for which you will not have to pay commission. He currently charges $50 US per day for guiding any group size – this is extremely good value for the service you will receive and an absolute bargain for groups of 4 or more.

Note: Nearly all birding tours go to the same sites. Disturbance is becoming a serious issue, which is a key reason for keeping the information flow about the Serendib Scops Owl to a minimum until more is known about the species’ status and distribution. Upali suspects that disturbance has already accounted for the loss of the Brown Wood Owl day-roost at the Surray Tea Estate and may be threatening ‘the site’ for the SL Whistling Thrush, amongst others.

Please help conserve Sri Lanka’s fantastic wildlife by restricting the use of tape-luring (ask you guide to limit taping to a couple of plays), by walking rather than driving the last few hundred metres to key sites and by remaining quiet and discreet, even when that spurfowl has just dashed across the path in front of you!

2. Resources

i. Helpful trip reports

There are plenty of reports on Sri Lanka out there on the Internet. Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Lester Perera, Jeevan William, Deepal Warakagoda and Nirma de Silva Wijeyeratne have written a good introductory article that makes the perfect starting place for your research:
http://www.orientalbirdclub.org/publications/features/sinharaj.html

Try these other two excellent sites for trip reports:
/Trip%20Reports/trindexasia.html
http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/sri-lanka/index.htm

I found Eduard Sangster’s report (8/2-23/2/03) very useful (it was the only one I actually took with me) because he has summarised the main sites (including ones that he didn’t visit) and included brief details of the taxonomic status of many of the potential ‘splits’:
http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/sri-lanka/sri10/feb-03.htm

Graeme and Moria Wallace’s report is typically thorough and very helpful:
/mb/trips/sri-lanka-gmw.html

ii. Field guides

We used A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka by John Harrison, illustrated by Tim Worfolk. It is an excellent book with generally accurate plates and as Sri Lanka is not on a migration route, you are unlikely to see any species that are not included. Two problems I found were the calls (always extremely hard to express in writing) and the maps, which are very misleading in some cases. Upali agrees! Don’t make the mistake I did to begin with – make sure you read the maps in conjunction with the ‘status’ section on each species!

We met a couple who had been advised to take Helm Identification Guides: Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp. Whilst its an excellent book, the couple we met felt that it was ‘duff gen’ to suggest this one instead of the Harrison book as it is heavier and full of birds never seen in Sri Lanka, which is confusing for first-timers to the subcontinent.

We didn’t take a mammal or reptile guide. Plenty of other people have so you can get ideas from their reports.

iii. Contact information

Upali Ekanayake
E-mail: ubeka @ sltnet.lk

A. Baur & Co. Ltd
5 Upper Chatham Street
PO Box 11
Colombo 1
Tel: 0094-1-3220551-6 / 0094-1-448822
Fax: 0094-1-448493
E-mail: tourism @ baurs.com
Website: www.baurs.com

I also contacted Jetwing Eco Holidays www.jetwingeco.com who were extremely helpful and a little cheaper (they only lost out because they couldn’t match Upali…)

Nick Moran
British School – Al Khubairat
PO Box 4001
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
E-mail: nickmoran76 @ yahoo.co.uk

3. Our Itinerary

The sites we visited are nicely summarised in Eduard Sangster’s trip report so I will simply present a list of places visited, in chronological order.

Without exception, early morning and late afternoon/evening are the best times for birding in SL; having said that, Tandula (the exceptional volunteer ranger who accompanied us in Sinharaja) found me 2 Scaly Thrushes at 1pm and we found a Caspian Plover at Kalametiya on the stroke of noon! We did all the long drives between about 10am and 3pm – a good chance to take in some of the great scenery, catch up on bird notes or sleep!

Night: Airport Garden Hotel, Negombo

Day 1 (18/12/03)
Tank north of Gatewala
Giritale tank
Polonnaruwa

Night: Hotel Sigiriya

Day 2 (19/12/03)
Sigiriya
Pothana tank, near Sigiriya

Night: Hotel Suisse, Kandy

Day 3 (20/12/03)
Udawattakele, Kandy
Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya

Night: The Rock, Nuwara Eliya

Day 4 (21/12/03)
Horton Plains
Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya
Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya
Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya
Galway’s Sanctuary, Nuwara Eliya

Night: The Rock, Nuwara Eliya

Day 5 (22/12/03)
Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya
Surray Tea Estate, near Nuwara Eliya
Hakgala Botanic Gardens, near Nuwara Eliya
Kitulgala

Night: Kitulgala Rest House

Day 6 (23/12/03)
Kitulgala

Night: Kitulgala Rest House


Day 7 (24/12/03)
Kitulgala
Sinharaja

Night: Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja

Day 8 (25/12/03)
Sinharaja

Day 9 (26/12/03)
Sinharaja (1/2 an hour around Blue Magpie Lodge)
Nelum tank near Embilipitiya
Uda Walawe NP boundary
Chandrika Wera, Embilipitiya

Night: Hotel Centauria, Embilipitiya

Day 10 (27/12/03)
Uda Walawe NP
Bannega Muwa tank, Tissamaharama
Wirawila Wera sanctuary, Tissamaharama
Debarawewa tank, Tissamaharama

Night: Priyanka hotel, Tissamaharama

Day 11 (28/12/03)
Yala NP
Bundala NP boundary

Night: Priyanka hotel, Tissamaharama

Day 12 (29/12/03)
Bundala NP
Kalametiya sanctuary

Night (and remaining 3 days of holiday): The Lagoon Rest, Mirissa

4. Annotated bird species list

• Dates are only given for sightings of:
1) very scarce residents/endemics
2) scarce winter visitors
3) birds outside their normal range

• Habitats are only described where they were unusual for a species or helpful for locating a species.

• Specific locations are not given because we were guided and therefore did not find our own way to sites.

• The distributions given are based entirely on our observations – the list should be read in conjunction with our itinerary.

• All names follow the nomenclature used in A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka (Harrison/Worfolk), except Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena

1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
- a few sightings at various lowland tanks

2. Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis
- present in small numbers on most larger tanks, plus Yala, Uda Walawe and Bundala NPs

3. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
- scarce in southern lowlands e.g., Nelum Tank near Embilipitiya

4. Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
- common in lowlands of dry zone

5. Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
- very common in lowlands of dry zone

6. Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster
- small numbers seen in lowlands of southern dry zone

7. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
- common in dry zone

8. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
- common in dry zone

9. Great Egret Casmerodius albus
- fairly common in dry zone

10. Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia
- common in dry zone

11. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
- common throughout

12. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
- very common throughout

13. Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
- very common throughout

14. Striated Heron Butorides striatus
- 3 birds: 1, Kitulgala; 1, Bundala; 1, Mirissa

15. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
- fairly common in southern dry zone

16. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
- fairly common in southern dry zone, especially Tissa tanks

17. Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis
- 5 birds: 1, Debarawewa tank; 2, Bundala NP; 2, tank in front of Bundala Department of Wildlife Conservation Quarters at Kirinda end of Bundala village

18. Painted Stork Mycteria leucocphala
- small numbers in dry zone

19. Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
- small numbers in dry zone

20. Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
- 4 birds: 1, Giritale Tank near Sigiriya; 3, Yala NP

21. Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus
- fantastic views of 1 male, Yala NP, 28/12/03

22. Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus
- 1, Giritale Tank near Sigiriya, 18/12/03

23. Black-necked Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus
- fairly common in dry zone

24. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
- fairly common in dry zone

25. Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica
- common in dry zone

26. Cotton Pygmy-goose Netttapus coromandelianus
- 4 birds: 2, tank north of Garewala; 2, Tissa tanks

27. Northern Pintail Anas acuta
- 1 male, tank near Yala NP; c.20 between Bundala and Kalametiya; c.400, Kalametiya

28. Gargeny Anas querquedula
- large numbers (flocks of 500+) at many southern dry zone localities

29. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
- 3 birds: 2, Bundala NP; 1, Kalametiya

30. Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
- fairly common, especially in hill country

31. Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
- fairly common in open country of hills and lowlands

32. Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
- common throughout

33. White-bellied Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
- 1-2 birds seen at Pothana tank near Sigiriya, Kandy, Mirissa, Yala and Uda Walawe NPs

34. Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus
- 1, Pothana tank; 2, Uda Walawe NP; 1, Bundala NP

35. Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
- fairly common throughout

36. Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
- 1 male, Uda Walawe NP

37. Shikra Accipiter badius
- 1, Kitulgala

38. Besra Accipiter virgatus
- 2 birds: 1, Horton Plains; 1 heard, Galway’s sanctuary, Nuwara Eliya

39. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
- 4 birds: 2, Horton Plains; 1, Uda Walawe NP; 1, Bundala NP

40. Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis
- amazing views of 1 adult successfully hunting then consuming a Yellow-billed Babbler, Sinharaja

41. Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
- 1 adult pale morph, Pothana tank near Sigiriya

42. Rufous-bellied Eagle Hieraaetus kienerii
- 1 adult, Kitulgala

43. Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus
- fairly common in wooded country throughout

44. Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis
- 1, Sinharaja

45. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
- 2, Horton Plains

46. Shaheen Falco perigrinus peregrinator
- 2, Sigiriya

47. Sri Lanka Spurfowl Galloperdix bicalcarata
- stunning views of a calling male, Kitulgala. 3 more heard, Kitulgala; heard, Sinharaja

48. Sri Lanka Junglefowl Gallus lafayettii
- seen in various forest areas. Best locations were Sinharaja (2 birds) and Yala NP (8 birds)

49. Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus
- common and conspicuous in southern dry zone, especially Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs

50. Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator leggei
- a few sightings in Uda Walawe NP and a pair in Bundala NP, all from jeep safaris

51. White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
- common throughout, especially lowlands

52. Watercock Gallicrex cinerea
- 3 birds: 2, Debarawewa tank; 1, another Tissa tank

53. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
- 1, Debarawera tank

54. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
- common in dry zone

55. Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus
- common in dry zone

56. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
- common in dry zone

57. Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus
- 5 birds: 1, Chandrika Wera near Embilipitiya; 1, Wirawila Wera; 3, Bundala NP

58. Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris
- small numbers in southern dryzone, most common Bundala NP

59. Small Pratincole Glareola lactea
- 3, Bundala NP

60. Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus
- quite common in NPs and surrounding areas of southern dry zone

61. Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
- common throughout dry zone

62. Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
- small numbers Yala NP; numerous Bundala NP, especially on salterns near the sea

63. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
- small numbers in southern dry zone NPs

64. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
- small numbers in Uda Walawe, Yala and Bundala NPs and Kalametiya

65. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus seebohmi
- numerous in southern dry zone NPs. 1 rufous-crowned bird may have been race alexandrinus

66. Mongolian Plover Charadrius mongolus
- very numerous in southern dry zone

67. Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
- 1 non-breeding bird, Kalametiya 29/12/03 (Upali’s 4th Sri Lankan record!)

68. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
- 3, tank near Yala NP; numerous Bundala NP

69. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
- 2, Bundala NP

70. Common Redshank Tringa totanus
- fairly common in southern dry zone

71. Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
- very common in southern dry zone

72. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
- small numbers throughout southern dry zone

73. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
- small numbers in southern dry zone

74. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
- small numbers in southern dry zone

75. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
- common throughout dry zone

76. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
- small numbers in southern dry zone

77. Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
- 3, Elephant Nook, Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya; small numbers Bundala NP

78. Little Stint Calidris minuta
- very numerous in southern dry zone

79. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
- numerous in southern dry zone

80. Ruff Philomachus pugnax
- 2 birds: 1, Bundala NP; 1, Kalametiya (both 29/12/03)

81. Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
- small numbers near coast at Bundala NP

82. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
- common throughout dry zone

83. White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
- 1, Debarawera tank; c.25, Yala NP; numerous Bundala NP

84. Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
- fairly common in southern dry zone

85. Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
- small numbers in southern dry zone, especially Bundala NP

86. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
- 1, tank near Yala NP

87. Saunder’s Tern Sterna saundersi
- fairly common in southern dry zone. The only small terns seen well enough to ID were this species

88. Great Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii velox
- c.40, Bundala salterns

89. Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
- c.30, Bundala NP and salterns

90. Sri Lanka Woodpigeon Columba torringtoni
- 2 and others heard calling, Surray Tea Estate, Nuwara Eliya

91. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis ceylonensis
- very common throughout

92. Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica robinsoni
- fairly common in more wooded areas, especially Kitulgala

93. Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicincta leggei
- small numbers in Uda Walawe and Yala NPs

94. Pompadour Green Pigeon Treron pompadora pompadora
- common around Kitulgala and Sinharaja

95. Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea
- small numbers throughout

96. Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot Loriculus beryllinus
- common in all wooded areas of hill country. Easily heard and seen in flight, hard to ‘scope!

97. Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria
- a few sightings of single fly-overs in wooded hill country, e.g., Udawattakele, Kandy

98. Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
- very common (and noisy!) throughout

99. Plum-headed Parakeet Psittacula cyanocephala
- small numbers in Uda Walawe NP

100. Layard’s Parakeet Psittacula calthropae
- several small flocks: Udawattakele, Kitulgala, Sinharaja

101. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus
- 1 with a flock, Sinharaja

102. Common Hawk Cuckoo Cuculus varius ciceliae
- 1 ‘fly-by’, Bundala (presumably the resident race)

103. Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterius
- 1 (and others heard), Polonnaruwa

104. Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
- regularly seen in dry zone

105. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
- 1 near Uda Walawe

106. Blue-faced Malkoha Rhopodytes viridirostris
- 4 birds: 1, Sigiriya; 3, Uda Walawe NP

107. Sirkeer Malkoha Taccocua leschenaultii
- 5, Uda Walawe

108. Red-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus
- 2+2 with flocks (possibly the same birds), Sinharaja 25/12/03!

109. Green-billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus
- 3 birds: excellent views of 1, Kitulgala; 1 of a calling pair seen, Sinharaja

110. Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
- common throughout

111. Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena
- 2 at day-roost near Bundala

112. Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
- 1, Uda Walawe

113. Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanonotum
- 4-5 birds: 3-4 including a very obliging pair, Kitulgala; 1, Sinharaja. Heard fairly often in both places

114. Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata
- 2, Kitulgala

115. Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
- 1 male, Kitulgala. Others heard Kitulgala and Sinharaja

116. Jerdon’s Nightjar Caprimulgus atripennis
- 1 seen fairly well on road to Bundala, others calling

117. Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus eidos
- 3+, 1 seen very well on the road to Bundala

118. Indian Swiflet Aerodramus unicolor
- very common throughout

119. Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
- c.20 birds: 16-18, Kitulgala (Upali’s largest flock); 2-3, Sinharaja

120. Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis
- small numbers at various locations

121. Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
- 2-3, Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya; a few at Uda Walawe NP

122. Little Swift Apus affinis
- most numerous at Polonnaruwa, small numbers elsewhere

123. Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis
- fairly common in dry zone, especially the southern dry zone NPs

124. Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus
- 1 seen, 2+ others heard, Sinharaja

125. Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
- quite common in southern dry zone

126. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
- quite common throughout

127. Stork-billed Kingfisher Halcyon capensis
- 4 birds: 1, Pothana tank near Sigiriya; 2, Udawattakele, Kandy; 1, Debarawera tank

128. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
- very common throughout

129. Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis ceylonicus
- common throughout dry zone

130. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
- common throughout dry zone

131. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti
- small numbers in dry zone, Sigiriya and Bundala NP

132. Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
- common in dry zone

133. Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
- 1, Yala NP

134. Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill Tockus gingalensis
- small numbers, Kitulgala and Sinharaja

135. Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus
- 12+, Uda Walawe NP

136. Brown-headed Barbet Megalaima zeylanica
- fairly common throughout

137. Yellow-fronted Barbet Megalaima flavifrons
- fairly common throughout

138. Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima rubricapilla rubricapilla
- small numbers throughout

139. Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
- small numbers throughout

140. Brown-capped Woodpecker Picoides moluccensis gymnophthalmus
- 2, Pothana tank, Sigiriya

141. Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus wellsi
- fairly common, nearly always associating with mixed species flocks

142. Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense psarodes
- fairly common

143. Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus stricklandi
- singles in various well-wooded areas e.g., Udawattakele, Kandy; Sinharaja

144. White-naped Woodpecker Chrysocolaptes festivus tantus
- 2, Debarawera tank

145. Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura
- 3 birds: 1, Hotel Sigiriya grounds; 2, Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya. Frequently heard, especially in Polonnaruwa/Sigiriya area

Jerdon’s Bushlark
- 2 birds, Polonnaruwa

146. Rufous-winged Lark Mirafra assamica
- fairly common in lowlands of dry zone

147. Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
- small numbers in southern dry zone

148. Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix grisea
- common in southern dry zone, especially the NPs

149. Pale Martin Riparia diluta
- c.20 of this recent split, Bundala, 29/12/03

150. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
- very common throughout

151. Hill Swallow Hirundo tahitica domicola
- small numbers at various locations in hill country e.g., Glenloch Tea Factory; Horton Plains

152. Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica hyperythra & nipalensis
- endemic race hyperythra in small numbers throughout, nipalensis only recorded at Uda Walawe NP, where it was quite numerous
153. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
- quite common in all wooded habitats e.g., Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya; Uda Walawe NP

154. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi & bema??
- fairly common in dry zone

155. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
- fairly common throughout

156. Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus
- common in dry zone

157. Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii
- 2 seen well, Uda Walawe NP. Others heard making their ‘sneezy’ call when flushed by the jeep

158. Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus
- 4 birds: 2, Pothana tank; 2, Sinharaja

159. Flame Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
- small numbers seen in various locations

160. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus leggei
- a few in various locations e.g., Sigiriya; Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya

161. Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis pondicerianus affinis
- 2 birds: 1, near Sigiriya; 1, Yala NP

162. Black-headed Yellow Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus melanicterus
- small numbers seen in various wooded locations

163. Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer cafer
- very common throughout

164. Yellow-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus penicillatus
- farily common, especially in hill country e.g., Nuwara Eliya area

165. White-browed Bulbul Pycnonotus luteolus insulae
- 2 of these inconspicuous and fairly shy bulbuls seen: Polonnaruwa; Bundala

166. Yellow-browed Bulbul Hypsipetes indicus
- fairly common in most wooded areas

167. Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus humii
- common throughout

168. Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
- singles in various locations e.g., Sigiriya; Kitulgala

169. Jerdon’s Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
- 1, Sigiriya

170. Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
- a few seen in Kitulgala and Sinharaja

171. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
- race cristatus fairly common throughout, 1 lucionensis (Philippine Shrike), Surray Tea Estate, Nuwara Eliya

172. Indian Blue Robin Erithacus brunneus
- small numbers in hill country around Nuwara Eliya; 1 female, Sigiriya

173. Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis
- fairly common in hill country and southern dry zone

174. White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus leggi
- a few seen, especially Sigiriya

175. Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata atrata
- common in hill country

176. Black-backed Robin Saxicoloides fulicata leucoptera
- common in lowlands of dry zone

177. Pied Thrush Zoothera wardii
- 5+ birds: 3+ males, 1 female, Victoria Park; 1 male, Bomuruella

178. Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina
- 2 (chased by an Indian Pitta!), Hotel Sigiriya grounds

179. Spot-winged Thrush Zoothera spiloptera
- 4 birds: 2, Kitulgala; 2, Sinharaja

180. Scaly Thrush Zoothera dauma imbricata
- amazing views of 2 birds near Sinharaja Research station, thanks to Tandula, our volunteer guide

181. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula kinnisii
- 3 birds: 2, Horton Plains; 1, opposite Hakgala Botanic Gardens

182. Brown-capped Babbler Pellorneum fuscocapillum
- small numbers in wooded areas e.g., Sigiriya, Udawattakele, Sinharaja

183. Indian Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii melanurus
- 3 birds: 2, Horton Plains; 1, Sinharaja

184. Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra phillipsi
- 3+ birds: 1, Pothana tank; 2+, Uda Walawe NP

185. Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps
- fairly common in wooded areas throughout

186. Yellow-eyed Babbler Chrysomma sinense nasale
- 3 birds: 1, Uda Walawe NP; 2, tank in front of Bundala Department of Wildlife Conservation Quarters at Kirinda end of Bundala village

187. Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens
- fairly common in well-wooded areas, e.g., Kitulgala, Sinharaja

188. Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis taprobanus
- very common throughout

189. Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons
- 3-5 birds seen in a flock at Sinharaja, another flock heard there

190. Sri Lanka Bush-warbler Bradypterus palliseri
- 2, Horton Plains

191. Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum
- common throughout

192. Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus meridionalis
- 1 seen, another calling, tank in front of Bundala Department of Wildlife Conservation Quarters at Kirinda end of Bundala village

193. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
- farily common throughout

194. Grey-breasted Prinia Prinia hodgsonii leggei
- 1, Uda Walawe NP

195. Jungle Prinia Prinia sylvatica valida
- 2, Uda Walawe NP

196. Plain Prinia Prinia subflava insularis
- fairly common throughout

197. Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius sutorius
- quite common in hill country e.g., Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya

198. Bright-green Warbler Phylloscopus nitidus
- common throughout

199. Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris
- common throughout

200. Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
- common throughout

201. Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui
- fairly common throughout. Nearly always seen feeding lower down than previous species

202. Dull-blue Flycatcher Eumyias sordida
- 1 (finally!), Hakgala Botanic Gardens

203. Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra
- 2 spirit-raising males 24 hours after the SL Whistling Thrush dip, Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya 22/12/03

204. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Niltava tickelliae jerdoni
- fairly common in wooded areas e.g., Sigiriya, Sinharaja

205. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
- common in wooded areas throughout

206. Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea ceylonensis
- a few birds, Kitulgala, Sinharaja

207. Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
- small numbers seen throughout, both white and chestnut males Note: Upali informed me that adult males of the white race only attain the white plumage after 4 years, so it may not be possible to separate

208. White-browed Fantail Rhipidura aureola
- 2, Yala NP

209. Great Tit Parus major
- seen at a few locations but surprisingly scarce

210. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
- 4 birds: 1, Horton Plains; 3, Bomuruella, Nuwara Eliya

211. Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile zeylonicum
- 1 bird, Kitulgala

212. White-throated Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens
- only seen at Sinharaja, where 4-6 birds were seen

213. Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos ceylonense
- very common throughout

214. Purple-rumped Sunbird Nectarina zeylonica zeylonica
- very common throughout

215. Long-billed Sunbird Nectarina lotenia lotenia
- quite common in hill country e.g., Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya

216. Purple Sunbird Nectarina minima
- 1 male seen well in Uda Walawe NP. Probably much more common

217. Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosa
- 2, Udawattakele, Kandy and a few fleeting Zosterops presumably of this species in dry zone lowlands

218. Sri Lanka White-eye Zosterops ceylonensis
- fairly common in hill country, e.g., Horton Plains; Victoria Park, Nuwara Eliya

219. White-throated Silverbill Lonchura malabarica
- 1, Bundala NP

220. White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
- common throughout

221. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
- common throughout

222. Black-throated Munia (Hill Munia) Lonchura kelaarti kelaarti
- 2, Horton Plains. Upali also saw 1 at Sinharaja

223. Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca
- common in dry zone, especially the NPs

224. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
- common throughout

225. Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
- 1 at a nest in Uda Walawe NP and many more unattended nests

226. White-faced Starling Sturnus senex
- 5 birds in Sinharaja included 2 with a mixed flock and 2 obliging ‘preeners’ in the early morning

227. Brahminy Starling Sturnus pagodarum
- 2 of these subtly marked starlings, Yala NP

228. Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus
- 1000+, Bundala NP

229. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis melanosturnus
- very common throughout

230. Sri Lanka Myna Gracula ptilogenys
- 5-7 at Sinharaja frustrated us before finally giving distant ‘scope views

231. Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
- 3 birds: 1, Udawattakele, Kandy; 2, Kitulgala

232. Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus ceylonensis
- common in wooded areas

233. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus minor
- 1 first winter bird, Bundala NP, 29/12/03 was a potential first for the reserve

234. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus longicaudatus
- 2 birds: 1, Sigiriya (outside the species’ normal range) 19/12/03; 1, Uda Walawe or Yala NP

235. White-bellied Drongo Dicrurus caerulescens
- common throughout

236. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
- only Crested Drongo D. p. lophorhinus seen, Kitulgala and Sinharaja

237. Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
- small numbers throughout

238. Sri Lanka Magpie Urocissa ornata
- 9+ birds: 2 of these stunners appeared as the calls of a SL Spurfowl were still ringing in our ears in Kitulagala and at least 7 were seen in Sinharaja, especially near the Research centre (where they take kitchen scraps)

239. House Crow Corvus splendens
- very common everywhere

240. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhyncos
- very common throughout

5. Big Dips
It seems almost churlish to include this section after such a fantastic trip and impressive 12-day total but there’s no way round it…

Serendib Scops Owl – I hadn’t even dared dream of this until Upali mentioned that he’d been able to show a Sunbird group this species. Our first evening at the same spot drew a blank but Upali was his usual calm and collected self, which normally means he’s very confident that the species you’re after will oblige there or somewhere else! Dusk on our second and final night in the area was just 15 minutes away when the heavens opened – I couldn’t have heard an Indian Peafowl on my head, let alone a quietly-spoken Scops Owl…

Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush – I think it was the 4.30am start that made this so unbearable, or possibly getting the van stuck on the way to the ‘emergency’ site, after failing at the ‘Have you seen the leopard yet?’ spot. Our second morning in Nuwara Eliya was needed to ‘mop up’ Kashmir and Dull-blue Flycatchers, so we never got a second chance. Others have needed 3 tries to see this difficult species.

On the positive side, these two provide just the excuses I need to go back to this wonderful country, perhaps to explore some of the less-birded south-east, west and north.