Sunday 14 April 2024

Sri Lanka with Bird's Wildlife & Nature - Day 13 : 28th March 2024

I was up early and opened my patios doors with a cup of tea to see a huge Grey Spotted Eagle Owl glide low over the grass and up into the second tree down.  Excellent.  I quickly dressed and crept down hoping to find it for the rest of the crew once they emerged but it must have switched trees almost immediately I could not find it.  The hotel grounds were full of birds though before breakfast including Asian Koels, Orange Breasted Green Pigeons, Dark-fronted and Tawny bellied Babblers, Large and Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrikes and gaudy Common Ioras.

Sunrise over the early climbers on Lion Rock

A female Loten's Sunbird

Common Iora - too orangey for Crows

Common Iora

Common Iora - just for me...

...and my dog.

tailless Tawny bellied Babbler

Yellow-billed Babbler

Yellow-billed Babbler - often the commonest birds are the most entertaining

We soon headed off to the Sigiriya World Heritage Site complex. We had no intention of scaling the mighty Lion Rock which looked frankly terrifying (over a 1000 steps and already a zillion tourists and school parties) but had a very enjoyable wildlife filled tour of the lower levels combining fascinating history with Indian Robins, SL Grey Hornbills, Kingfishers, Asian Green Bee-eaters, Sri Lanka Wood-shrikes, all four Barbets, SL Wood-Shrikes, Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers, our first Jerdon's Leafbirds and the endemic 'Shahin' Peregrines.

Our guide's pictograph of the construction of Sigiriya's winter palace (left side on top of the rock) and summer palace and water gardens (everything else) plus reservoirs (bog circles) and seasonal monsoon directions (arrows)! 

If I was paying attention, this was all constructed around 477ad.  We were in wattle and daub huts stuck in the Dark Ages

Root cracked

Each spot for the lower bricks was chiselled out of the bedrock to keep it level

The crocodile moat - there was one further out as wide and filled with 5m of mud

Still working (in the wet) natural fountains 

Little Cormorant amongst the Pink Lotus

Kingfisher - such good views


Indian Robin - when they fly those white scapulars flare out

Indian Robin

Indian Robin

Asian Green Bee-eater

White Lotus

Little Cormorant

male Loten's Sunbird - the yellow underwing coverts sometimes pop out 

Eastern Cattle Egret - definitely bigger billed

Asian Woolly-necked Stork



Shahin - along way up the rock but striking plumage underneath. Currently now lumped back with Peregrine

Sri Lanka Wood-Shrike

The were many Dragonflies including some real stunners, many active Land Monitors and two Snakes with a pencil thing Green Vine Snake and a frog hunting Sri Lanka Ridgeback. A young Common Garden Lizard was sharing a wall with a tiny adult Bronze Green Little Skink and yet another Frog was paddling around. The deep pond also held possibly two species of Freshwater Crabs and a very large Water Measurer.  

Rapacious Flangetail

Orange-winged Groundling

Elephant Emperor - green eyes - the heat made pics tricky

White-tipped Demon

Rapacious Flangetail

Sociable Glider

Pied Parasol

Yellow Waxtail

Land Monitor

Land Monitor

Common Garden Lizard 

Bronze Green Little Skink

Green Vine Snake

Green Vine Snake

Sri Lanka Keelback

Sri Lanka Keelback

Water Measurer and Small unidentified Frog

Freshwater Crab #1

Freshwater Crab #2

Frog sp...

A shimmering green Banded Peacock was the best of the Butterflies and Tufted Grey Langurs were leisurely slumped around the ruins. 

Tufted Grey Langur

Tufted Grey Langur

Tufted Grey Langur

Tufted Grey Langur

Lunch beckoned and White-browed Fantails, Small Minivets, White-bellied Drongos and SL Wood-Shrikes were around the lodges as we waited.

grooming Palm Squirrel

Ring-necked Parakeets - hop on baby

Mega Buddha watching Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

Blue Percher

female Orange Breasted Green Pigeon

Common Crow

Yet another tiny - but lumpy - frog

must be a Groundhopper with wing case covers like that

Sri Lanka Wood-Shrike

White-browed Fantail

White-bellied Drongo

Off again for a late afternoon safari in the Eco Park. It was excellent but even more of a Jeep scrum than Yala but we kept stopping and letting the traffic subside and found all four Prinia and Barbet species, Tricoloured Munias and a brand new Sri Lankan bird for Saman with a fine male Blue Rock Thrush that flew in front of the trucks and then posed on some boulders. It was nice to give something back to our wonderful guide! A single Mugger Croc watched us from the only pond that we found.

Blue Rock Thrush

A very happy Saman


adult Changeable Hawk-eagle at the start of the trail

Oriental Honey-Buzzard

Brown Shrike 

Brown Shrike 

Brown Shrike - look at that tail - I suspect Philippines race 

A large beetle impaled by a Shrike

Jungle Prinia

Coppersmith Barbet

Plain Prinia

Black-hooded Oriole

and a juvenile Changeable Hawk-eagle at the end of the trail

Forty-one Asian Elephants were found along the way and included several small infants. They gave us some fantastically close encounters.  Jane was beaming.

With her tracking collar

The newest addition

I know there are a few pictures but you have to remember that I had not seen a wild Elephant before this trip

But the day was not over and at 9pm we headed out for a night drive  and spent the next few hours scanning the tracks, roads, paddies and forest edges for eye shine using red light.  The night was full of the sound of Cicadas and Frogs and with some good luck and patience we found eight Spotted Deer, two Black-naped Hares, three Mongoose and some night birds with two each of Oriental Scops and Brown Fish Owl heard, three Jungle Nightjars heard and probably six Jerdon's Nightjars one of which showed very well.  Indian Cuckoos were also still singing!

Mole Cricket at dinner

Jerdon's Nightjar

The star find was a stunning big male Fishing Cat which I picked up just off the road.  He watched us for a while and then sauntered into the bushes showing his stumpy tail where he then sat and had a wash. We got back at just after 1.30 in the morning bumped and dusty but thrilled.  Some brief sleep time beckoned but the large scrabbling creature in the roof space had other ideas.

Fishing Cat - Steve Cullum

Fishing Cat - Steve Cullum

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