Sri Lanka - Nov 4th Bundala National Park

Young Asian Elephant, Bundala NP

Sorry for the very long post below. It was an amazing day. Jim
November4th: Up early for my full day at Bundala National Park. Bundala was the first Sri Lanka wetland to be declared a Ramsar site (1991). In 2005, Bundala was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The lovely thing about Bundala is that there are few "safari" jeeps to get in the way. Nearby Yala National Park is very popular and jeep jams of up to a kilometer can occur if something interesting is found. Not my kind of day out.
Because of the abundance of dangerous animals, tourists are not allowed to leave the Jeep except in one or two designated areas and rightly so.

Around the entrance there were quite a few birds doing their early morning rounds. The telephone wires made perches for Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Indian Robins and Imperial Green Pigeon. Nearby bushes held Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Brown Shrike, Zitting Cisticola and also Purple, Purple-rumped and Loten's Sunbirds. Indian Pitta called from several places. Everyone stops here for their entry ticket and it's a great place to get to grips with the local  avifauna.

Ranger Offices & Ticket Office, Bundala
You don't see this at Cley, very often. Peafowl on the hide / office roof.
Imperial Green Pigeon
Zitting Cisticola
Brown Shrike of the nominate race cristatus
Male Brown Shrike of the Philippine race lucionensis

Green Bee-eater ceylonicus
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
After we collected our guide we proceeded along the many trails of Bundala N.P. stopping the jeep for the many birds such as Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Brahminy Kite and Crested Hawk-eagle. Some roads were impassable due to unseasonal heavy rain but this made more habitat for the wading birds.
At the wet areas there were a lot of waders, familiar birds such as Wood, Green & Common Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts and Redshank (eurhinus - Pamir Mts to Tibet). There were also a lot of birds not so familiar such as Little Cormorant, Marsh Sandpiper, Lesser Sandplover, Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Great & Indian Thick-knee and Pied Kingfishers. Not too many animals but lots of Mugger Crocodiles and various lizards.
 Peacock up a tree!
 Paddyfield Pipit
Four wader species plus the obligatory Mugger Croc.

Marsh Sandpiper
Lesser Sandplover
Great Thick-knee
 Pied Kingfisher
We made our way to the working Salt Pans. Huge numbers of waders and Terns were present here. The waders included Greater Sandplover, Kentish Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Great Knot, Terek Sandpiper, Little Stint and Little Pratincole.
The list of tern species goes like, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, Caspian Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Common Tern (tibetana), Roseate Tern (korustes), Little Tern, Saunder's Tern and Gull-billed Tern. Other species included Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Indian Pitta, Indian Shag, Oriental Turtle Dove (meena), Richard's Pipit and Oriental Skylark.

Small Pratincole
Greater Sandplover
Oriental Skylark
 Asian Elephant #1
 Great Crested Tern
 Saunder's Tern
Caspian Tern
Whiskered Terns
Estuarine Crocodile
We followed a few more tracks till lunch. A few animals such as Spotted Deer or Chital, Ruddy Mongoose, Land Monitor and Water Buffalo. New birds also showed themselves, Citrine Wagtail, three forms of Yellow Wagtail (beema, lutea and thunbergi ), Red-wattled Lapwing, Pintail Snipe, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, and Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, the national bird of Sri Lanka. For your own safety...don't call it a chicken!
 Jungle Prinia

 Great Thick-knee

 Land Monitors big & small
 Water Buffalo doing their favourite thing in the world.
Ruddy Mongoose
 Chital or Spotted Deer

Citrine Wagtail
 Red-wattled Lapwing
 Oriental Darter
 Pintail Snipe
Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl
LUNCH! (and a kip)
After a lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean we followed the trails back to the park entrance. More than a few surprises along the way.
A large salt pan gave up a selection of Spot-billed Pelican, Eurasian Spoonbill, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Egrets, Herons, Lesser Tree Duck and Asian Openbill Stork. A Common Hawk-cuckoo was a long way from its normal wintering site. Further on we came across the local Black-naped Hares, the very rare Star-shelled Tortoise, Golden Jackal and Boar. Some extra Asian Elephants also showed themselves.

Painted Stork
Indian Pond Heron
 Yellow-wattled Lapwing (juv)
Lesser Tree Duck
 Black-naped Hares
 Golden Jackal
 Star-shelled Tortoise
Brahminy Kite
Crested Treeswift
Oops! Time to go...double quick
On the way out of the park we came across another Elephant in a flooded part of the roadway. It was not at all pleased that we had disturbed it so we left for the exit. We parked at the exit and looked back down the road only to see the Elephant following us. I took a piece of video which stops dramatically when a shout was heard saying the Elephant was aggressive. I ran to the jeep and got inside the cab. Where was the driver? 200 yards down the road! The Elephant gave me a chilling, beady, stare through the drivers side window and then proceeded to trash the garden of the ranger station.
Oh Crap!
Elephant extracting some sort of revenge on the ticket office & ranger station. It pulled out all those plants  and a tree. It then followed the rangers around their building.
Finally we were able to make a dash for it. One more surprise appeared before we headed back to the hotel. A Yellow Bittern gave a fine display in nearby vegetation.

Yellow Bittern


  1. Hi Jim I've met you a few times here and there in Norfolk. Your holiday sounds fantastic I'm very envious. I was wondering if you went as a guided tour or just by yourself? How did you find getting around there?. Fabulous pictures and what a list of birds you've seen.

    Many thanks


    1. Hi Chris, thank you. I booked the first hotel and flight together on Experia. I booked other hotels separately. Less than half the price of an organized tour but the target birds are not staked out for you so you may have to work harder for them. Getting around is dead easy. Lots of public transport and lots of Jeep "safaris" available.


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