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Monday, 30 November 2015

Nov 7th - 8th Travel to Deniyaya and Sinharaja

White-bellied Drongo
I said goodbye to the Hotel River Front at 10am for the journey to Eco Villa-Sinharaja which is in Deniyaya on the south side of the Sinharaja reserve. A trip of 5 hours. I've never been on a dual carriageway with "Beware of the Elephant" signs before!
The hotel had on a few more surprises before it let me go with great views of Flap-shelled Turtle and House Toad.
House Toad

The scenery on the way was very dramatic in places with roads becoming very narrow or washed away by heavy rain. This led to some "very close" encounters with other traffic.
This car hit the rear wheel of my taxi with its front driver side corner. A few scratches to the taxi but the car was a write off. Broken ball joints, broken suspension, ruptured radiator, ruptured brake pipes and the right wing was now on the left! I never felt a thing.

There was always the threat of thunderstorms.

In the highlands, Tea plantations and Estates stretch for miles and encroach on the remaining rain forest.
Picking Tea
Water Monitor, Sinharaja
After a few hours we found the Eco Villa Sinharaja in Deniyaya. A friendly, well placed lodge with an amazing owner & guide. I was quickly ensconced in my room looking at the local wildlife. 
 Oriental Magpie Robin

 Cinereous Tit, a recent split from Great Tit.
 Asian Koel, female
View from my room at Eco Villa. Not a place you will starve. Viewable in the photograph are bananas, papaya, pineapple, chillies, curry leaves and Mandarin orange.
Morning of the 8th was the start of trip into the lower Sinharaja which included an hours walk before we got there. It was nearly 90% humidity in the forest and it took its toll as I took ill almost 2 hours from the nearest excuse for a road. It was a scary time and I owe my thanks to the various people of several nationalities who helped me.
Here are some of the photographs taken before that afternoon.
 Asian Brown Flycatcher
Wild Pineapple
 Crested Serpent Eagle
 Eastern Cattle Egret
 White-rumped Munia
Indian Pond Heron
Bandala, the Eco Villa owner and guide, was amazing in the forest. He would stop the group and say he was just looking for something...which he invariably found.

Green Pit Viper
Common Skink

Kangaroo Lizards

Sri Lanka's largest lizard (monitors not included). The endemic Hump-nosed Lizard.

Green Vine Snake on yours truly.
One of the most amazing animals was the Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel
It was quite difficult to see birds due to the high number of people present but we did manage some beauties.
 Brown-breasted Flycatcher

Yellow-browed Bulbul
Black-naped Monarch

 Malabar Trogon
Purple-rumped Sunbird

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sri Lanka 5 & 6 Nov. Lunugamvehera and Yala National Parks


Leopard - Yala
I was initially going to take a rest day on the 5th but my guide wanted to go birding. Ah, it's a hard life. ;-)
We decided to head inland a little toward Lunuganvehera National park. It is far less restrictive than Yala or Bundala. We drove along riverside tracks and stopped when we wanted. The first stop was at dawn at Pannegamuwa Lake to see the herons and ibis leaving their roost.
Dawn at Pannegamuwa. The haziness at the bottom pf the photograph is due to thousands of birds leaving their roost.
Black-headed Ibis leaving its roost
A stroll around the side of the lake gave great views of Golden-fronted Leafbird, Black-Hooded Oriole, Ashy Woodswallow, Great Coucal and Paradise Flycatcher amongst others.
Red-vented Bulbul with unknown insect / model airplane!
Purple Heron
Pheasant-tailed Jacana (non-breeding)
Little Cormorant
Ashy Woodswallow
Ashy Woodswallow
The very impressive Stork-billed Kingfisher
In nearby fields were a mixed flock of birds that included Black-headed, Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munia as well as both Streaked and Baya Weavers.

Mixed Munia & Weavers
Further on Our next Stop produced next endemic - Sri Lanka Green Pigeon and also Sirkheer Malkoha, Peafowl, Shikra, Indian Thick-knee and Indian Silverbill.
Indian Silverbill
Indian Thick-knee
Purple Swamphen
Sri Lanka Green Pigeon
Grey-bellied Cuckoo
Typical birdwatching areas at Lunugamvehera
The next stopped gave different birds such as Indian Robin, White-browed Fantail, 6 Indian Pitta, Asian Paradise Flycatchers, a pair of elusive Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers, Large Cuckooshrike and Sri Lanka Woodshrike.
Male & Female Asian paradise Flycatchers
Common Iora
Great Coucal
Green Forest Lizard
Indian Shag
White-browed Bulbul
Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl
White-bellied Drongo
Indian Pitta
A quick stop on the way back to the hotel produced a fine Brown Fish Owl in its daytime roost.
Brown Fish Owl
The rest of the day was spent at the hotel watching the local trees. Lots of White-breasted Kingfishers also Indian Scops Owl, Small and Scarlet Minivets, Indian Swiftlet, Jerdon's Leafbird and others.
Brown-headed Barbet
Female Asian Koel

Black-hooded Oriole
Male Small Minivet
Male Jerdon's Leafbird
Female Jerdon's Leafbird
Spotted Dove
Indian Swiftlet
Day 6 Lazy Morning + Yala pm
When I came to Tissa I said that I would not go on the Yala safari due to the very high number of tourist jeeps and the noise and stupidity that come with such crowds. However, it was plain that if I wanted to see some special birds then I would have to visit Yala, so plans were made for a half day even though no one had seen a leopard for over a week.
I knew it was going to be a good afternoon while we were watching a large flock of waders outside the park entrance. Broad-billed Sandpiper, Grey & Pacific Golden Plover, Greater & Lesser Sandplovers and lots of Little Stints and in the middle was a similar sized bird with weird looking yellow / green legs...looking like a miniturised Wood Sandpiper was a Long-toed Stint. Definately NOT expected.
Further on were my first Indian Roller and handsome Sri Lankan Swallows. Both Macaque and Langurs lined the road.
Into the park we picked up our guide / tracker and went to look for one of Sri Lankas rarest birds. Other things popped up such as Sambar deer, Elephant, Black-tipped mangoose, Barred Buttonquail, Grey-breasted Fish Eagle and the lovely ceylonensis Hoopoe.
Black-tipped Mangoose
Yala (minus jeeps)
Hoopoe, (ceylonensis)
Oriental Skylark
Juvenile Crested Hawk-eagle
Adult Crested Hawk-eagle
Indian Roller
Spotted Deer, Chital or Leopard Food
Further on we stopped at a lagoon to search for my target birds. Looking over the dunes to the ocean I could see a massive bird flying along the beach, Easily 2 meters from wingtip to wingtip it was a Frigatebird. The pattern of white on the head, breast and axilliaries suggested that this was a young Greater Frigatebird. Another one for the "Not Expected list".
The same stops produced an excellant array of new birds. Asian Openbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Pintail Snipe, Alpine Swift, Jerdon's Bushlark and Blyths Pipit. Indian Pitta and Orange-breasted Green Pigeon also showed themselves.
 3 White-bellied Sea-eagles fighting for a roosting spot.
Asian Openbill
Painted Stork
Sri Lanka Swallow
 Indian Pitta
 Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
Brahminy Starling
Malabar Pied Hornbill
I was told that in all of Sri Lanka only 7 (seven) Black-necked Storks remain. I was very lucky to see two of them. An adult and a juvenile.
 Adult Black-necked Stork

Juvenile Black-necked Stork
Well! It can't get any better than that. Wrong. On the way out of the park the tracker spied a flipping Leopard less than 20 meters away.  I managed one or two photographs before the mass of jeeps descended upon us. The first Leopard for 10 days.
Once out the park gates it was getting dark. Perfect for seeing both Indian and Jerdon's Nightjars in the road.
Last full day in Tissa today. Off to Sinharaja tomorrow...and it's going to be AWESOME.