Tuesday 2 April 2024

Sri Lanka with Bird's Wildlife & Nature - Day 3: 18th March 2024

We were up and out before the two Peacocks left their roost and were dropped off upriver by Asela in Kithulgala so that we could cross the pedestrian bridge to the other side.  Let’s just say it would not have passed an H&S inspection in the UK.  It bounced, creaked, had some very large gaps between the often loose metal plates but we all made it across in the end, passing numerous very, polite, immaculately dressed school children going the other way. 

We were surrounded by bird sound with both the Barbets warming up nicely and Square-tailed and Yellow-browed Bulbuls moving around in noisy groups while Yellow-billed Babblers poked around a small school playground much to the annoyance of a male Oriental Magpie Robin.

A Fish Tail Palm was attracting the Bulbuls too along with SL Green Pigeons, Green Imperial Pigeons and the SL Hanging Parrots although they just disappeared upon landing.  SL Red-backed Woodpeckers came down low to feed and seem to be a very confiding species and above us we found two Golden Fronted Leafbirds and Black Hooded Orioles feeding in the canopy in shades of yellow, black and green.

Black Hooded Oriole

Green Billed Coucal (endemic #11) was one of our targets here but there are shy for a big bird and we had to be patient but before too long two counter singing males gave us the chance to watch one clambering through the herbage and inflating his throat to boom.  His larger cousin was also seen here and while waiting a Dark-breasted Flycatcher put on a show at eye level looking like a larger more richly coloured Brown Flycatcher.

Green Billed Coucal (endemic #11)

Green Billed Coucal 

Dark-breasted Flycatcher 

Dark-breasted Flycatcher 

Dark-breasted Flycatcher 

Dark-breasted Flycatcher 

A SL Hanging Parrot eventually gave itself up and a Hawk Cuckoo was singing off in the distance.  We climbed the track a bit further seeing several smart SL Swallows at close range and a huge red-legged Millipede perambulated down the track. I had never seen one of these monster species before.  Emerald and Spotted Doves whizzed ahead of us and a Bar Winged Flycatcher-Shrike moved through before the track took us up slope once again.  The view across the valley was excellent and we could see Little Cormorants and Egrets following the river while huge SL Birdwing butterflies glided across the canopy.


We were taken to a nest hole for Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (endemic #12) and one soon arrived with a bill full of large Cicadas for its eager young. It did not linger long so we opted to wait for another visit during which time three male Purple Rumped Sunbirds put on a fine show with a Tailorbird for vaguely musical accompaniment.   It was a good vantage point to show the crew the differences between the Palm Swifts and Swiftlets but we were soon interrupted by the return of the Hornbill which proceeded to stuff a whole banana down the gullet of one its chicks!

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (endemic #12)

Purple Rumped Sunbird

Ambling back down hill added crowing Jungle Fowl and our first Black-naped Monarchs and Common Ioras along with a few Butterflies and Blue Percher Dragons.  The Coucals were still calling and a couple of Chestnut Headed Bee-eaters were hunting from the canopy edge while a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher put on a show singing from the path side. 

Black-naped Monarch

Common Ioras

Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher

Black Angle

Chestnut Bob - great name

Cerulean Blue - so many Blues that rarely stop

Sri Lanka Birdwing - Steve Cullum

White Four Ring

Blue Percher

Very large Honey Bee sp in flower of the tree below that I can't find the name of!

A distant Toque Macaque

Mimosa pudica

Back at the bridge we were greeted by a lady from the hut there with freshly made hoppas with little bananas on the side.  They were still hot and made a welcome pre-breakfast snack.  We all agreed that we would have eaten them every morning!

The bridge was no less bouncy after the school run and before too long we were back for breakfast #2 during which the Crested Serpent Eagles put on a fine show and a male Indian Peafowl strutted around the gardens.

Indian Peafowl

Crested Serpent Eagles

Displaying Red Vented Bulbuls

Our post-repast walk was also local and in fact we walked down the steps from the hotel to the river and were rowed across to the Makandawa Rainforest park on the other side.  It was very hot and the air was full of active big Butterflies with both Mormons, Birdwings and Roses along with countless Blues and some Skippers. 

Blue Mormon

Chestnut Streaked Sailor

Common Leopard

Common Mormons

Grass Demon

A gang of Orange Billed Babblers (endemic #13) were found around the first corner – like beefed up version of their yellow billed cousins and with equally scary almost white eyes.  They are also equally communicative with each other and are incapable of moving through the foliage quietly. We stopped for water by a pool where Indigo Dropwings were patrolling and found three little fish species with Asoka and Black-lined Barbs and Stonesuckers.  All these small native fish are at threat due to introduced Tilapia and Gourami.

Orange Billed Babblers (endemic #13)

A very large Paper (?) Wasp sp

Indigo Dropwing

Indigo Dropwing

Syntomoides moth sp

A Chestnut Backed Owlet was calling and singing - two very different sounds – from upslope and Yellow-fronted Barbets seemed un-phased by the heat and were still going strong, invisible in the tree tops above.  I also tried to id the flowers we saw but most appear to be non-native.

Allamanda schotti 

Cat's Whiskers - Orthosiphon aristatus

Chrysothemis pulchella

Crape-Jasmine - Tabernaemontana divaricata

Pentas lanceolata

Pseuderanthemum grandiflorum

Selaginella willdenowii

These fab Tiger Beetles flew ahead of us along the whole path

A steady and slightly rocky path brought us across several streams were Sri Lanka Shining Gossamerwings danced alongside Great Eggfly and pointy frogs hopped amongst the rocks.  The sound from the various Cicadas was deafening at times and there were spent exuviae were clinging to almost any vertical surface.

Not sure what this is but possibly a Mantis eggcase

Cicada exuvia

An impressive Raft-type Spider

Sri Lanka Shining Gossamerwing - the inside of the forewing is iridescent green

Saman had told us of the 1% chance of finding Serendip Scops Owl (endemic #14) here and told us to wait at a shelter over looking a forest clearing while he scouted ahead.  He returned twenty minutes later and asked if we would like to see the Owl! Two local villagers (and as it turned out supreme Owl finders) were with him and helped escort the crew up slope through thick jungle on a non existent path until we reached a river gully where, after a final climb down over some boulders, we were all able to see this incredibly rare and elusive species sat up underneath a tangled overhang.  How lucky and privileged were we?  The local guys had started their search for us at 4am...

Serendip Scops Owl (endemic #14)

We silently spent twenty minutes with the bird and then clambered back out and down through the trees to the shelter passing a Brown Capped Babbler (endemic #15) that came off her nest on the way.  We recouped and watched the Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Barbets and Orioles around the clearing which was alive with Butterflies including Grey Pansies that look peach coloured and Lesser Albatrosses that strangely enough do not have 3m wingspans.  I can only imagine how many Leeches were in there!

Bagworm just for Antony!

Brown Capped Babbler nest - we did not linger

Frog #1

Frog #2 help required on Amphibians

Great Eggfly

Small Palm Bob

Tamil Yeoman

Tamil Yeoman

The walk back was largely down hill with memories of the Serendip Scops still blazing away.  Our villager guides casually pointed out a female Malabar Trogon sitting quietly in typical fashion and we saw several gleaming Green Forest Lizards, two Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizards including a male with a shiny head and a female Hump-nosed Lizard clinging to a trunk pretending that to be part of it.

Malabar Trogon

Green Forest Lizard - Coletes coletes

Green Forest Lizard

Green Forest Lizard

Green Forest Lizard

Hump Nosed Lizard - Lryiocephalus scutatus

Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard - Otocryptis wiegmanni 

Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard - Otocryptis wiegmanni 

Blue Mormon

Cusama limbata or very similar

Back at the river it was a little cooler and a couple more Odonata were found along with what is still my favourite bird – a Grey Wagtail teetering on the rocks but looked a little incongruous when a Stork Billed Kingfisher flew behind it.

Frog #3

Green's Gem

Sri Lanka Orange Faced Sprite - rubbish but really mobile!

We were paddled back across with the locals enjoying the water once again and while waiting for the others a stunning Common Bluebottle came down to collect minerals from around where we stood.

Common Bluebottle

Forget-me-not Blue on a Sweaty Blue Eyes

Lunch as usual was interrupted by birds with Stork-billed Kingfishers playing chase while Blue-tailed and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters splash bathed in the river.  The ‘complete selection’ of raptors once again entertained us.

Common Cerulean

The tiny Common Hedge Blue - Actyolepis puspa

A beautiful chrysalis

SL House Geckoo

The hills above Mahabage were where we spent the early evening, slightly above the lowest cloud.  It was a little cooler amongst the tea plantations and the birds reflected the change in habitat.  Indian Robins were feeding fledged young on the road and SL Hanging Parrots at last gave themselves up and even did some quality dangling. They were far smarter than I imagined.

SL Hanging Parrot

SL Hanging Parrot

Indian Robin

Indian Robin - when they fly, hidden white scapulars appear

Even the Yellow-fronted Barbets decided to stop playing hard to get and gave blinding views while a Hoopoe in the valley below reminded them that it could also ‘poop poop’ with the best of them.  An Asian Brown Flycatcher hawked from the wires – dinkier than I imagined and Saman said that this species rarely feeds below that level while Brown Breasted is mostly a low level feeder.  This was another species that I really wanted to encounter.

Yellow-fronted Barbet

Yellow-fronted Barbet

Asian Brown Flycatcher

A small Hindu temple

Tree Ants starting a new nest

An immature Changeable Hawk Eagle decked out in shades of cream, played hide and seek in the solitary trees but eventually showed well before being seen off by the Crested Serpent Eagles and while looking at them I found several Crested Tree-Swifts with their amazingly long wings and tail streamers.  At times they felt very Pratincole-like.  Needletails scythed through the clouds above.

Changeable Hawk Eagle

Crested Serpent Eagle

Crested Tree-Swift

SL Swallows sat on the wires with bills full of feathers bound for the nest and a male Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike was singing up slope and was picked out amongst the flowers. Three endemic Legge’s Flowerpeckers (endemic #16) appeared in the tree next to us to give us our final new bird of the day before we wended our way back down to the hotel as dusk fell.

SL Swallow

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