Thursday 4 April 2024

Sri Lanka with Bird's Wildlife & Nature - Day 5: 20th March 2024

We were up very early and after an almost nocturnal breakfast with the pre-dawn chorus, we bundled into a Jeep and set off up the road before turning off onto what could loosely be called a track that took us all the way up to the biological research station and proper entrance to the Sinharaja reserve.

It was bone jarring but before too long we arrived a small homestead where we crept through a tea plantation to a screen that overlooked a cleared area where corn had been put down.  A pair of SL Jungle Fowl were just down in front and a beautifully plumaged Sri Lanka Spurfowl (endemic #20) trepidatiously approached before being seen off by their more gaudy relatives.

Sri Lanka Spurfowl (endemic #20)

Essence of Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl 

While lurking at the screen both Asian Brown Flycatcher and our first Green Warbler fed in the canopy above us and Emerald Doves were waiting their turn to visit.  Three species of stripy Squirrels were seen with Palm, Dusky and Layard’s.

Layard’s Squirrel

A little Leechy friend

Upwards again to the research centre where we were greeted by several Purple Faced Leaf Monkeys lounged in the trees but I was almost instantly distracted by the amazing Nepenthes Pitcher Plants climbing and dangling from every tree.  My little one back home now lives a happy live with Enid in Wymondham but seeing them in the wild was a real botanical treat.

Purple Faced Leaf Monkey

Purple Faced Leaf Monkey

Nepenthes Pitcher Plants 

We lingered here for a while as our local guide was trying to check out the local Frogmouths.  There was plenty to see though and the fruit on the bird table was being squabbled over by a SL Grey Hornbill and a family of SL Blue Magpies.  The views of both species were outstanding and I particularly loved the thick red eyelashes on the Magpies.

SL Grey Hornbill

SL Grey Hornbill

SL Blue Magpie

SL Blue Magpies

The trees above held silky looking Velvet-fronted Nuthatches with beady pale eyes. Orange Minivets, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes and Yellow-fronted Barbets while higher still Asian Swiftlets and Needletails dashed and a scarce immature Jerdon’s Baza circled.

immature Jerdon’s Baza

Time came for us to enter the actual park and we bumped back down the track a couple of hundred metres where a Spot Winged Thrush hopped along the path.  Our local guide stayed with us for the rest of the day and between him and Saman we had a truly fantastic walk.  

Spot Winged Thrush

It was incredibly hot and humid and the leech socks were getting uncomfortable but were necessary.  Green Billed Coucal called alongside the path and Brown Breasted Flycatchers lurked in the shadows but our attention was focused with finding roving flocks in the high canopy.  It was tough and respite at the first ‘bandstand’ was required to regroup and rehydrate. 

The small clear pool here had a Tikiri Keelback Snake waiting for frogs while Black-lined Barbs, Stonesuckers and gaudy Combtails could clearly be seen.  Big fat Catfish drifted through and a Hard-shell Terrapin plopped off and out of view.

Tikiri Keelback




Black-lined Barb

And if that was not enough we were surrounded but the most astonishing Butterfly display any of us had ever seen.  Almost every SL big species was present with Crimson and Common Roses, both Mormons, Birdwings and the super slow flying chequerboard Ceylon Tree Nymphs.  

Aberrant Oak Blue - electric purple inside!

Black Angle

Ceylon Tree Nymph

Ceylon Tree Nymph



Common Rose

Glad Eye Bush Brown

Great Crow

Red Spot Duke

A male Hump-nosed Lizard clung to a trunk and baby SL Kangaroo Lizards were seen on path side leaves.  

Hump-nosed Lizard

young SL Kangaroo Lizards 

A big Skink - id to be sorted!

A sign from our guide and we walked twenty yards back the way we had come.  He had found the Sri Lanka Frogmouths.  A bit of off piste damp jungling was required but one by one we all got to see these two snuggled up on their chosen roost branch.  I am still not quite sure how anyone could have found these birds without spooking them.  It was a very special encounter.

Sri Lanka Frogmouths - they look like Jim Henson puppets

Back onwards and upwards through more new Butterflies and even some Dragons too before at last we found a noisy party of foraging birds high above.  

Ant sized Mantis

Ant sized Mantis

A huge Robberfly

Large Parasitic Wasp


Tiger Beetle

Orb Weaver

Prunosed Bloodtail

female Red-striped Threadtail

Spine Tufted Skimmer

Spine Tufted Skimmer

Ricaniid sp Plant hopper - I was sure this was a moth at the time!

What followed was that typical frantic time when everything appears at once and everyone does their very best to get onto as much as possible.  It can be very frustrating but also incredibly exciting as yet another new bird pops into view.  The main difference over my New World experience was that there were no small birds and everything was at least Starling sized and most were much bigger!  This should have made it easier but…

By the end we had seen at least four of the striking Red-faced Malkoha (endemic #21) with their super long tails, chunky, punk crested Sri Lankan Drongos (endemic #22), a male Malabar Trogon, White-faced Starlings (endemic #23), SL Mynas, Orange Billed and Sri Lanka Scimitar Babblers (endemic #24) and Black-capped, Square-tailed, Yellow-browed and Red-vented Bulbuls!  It was exhausting and neck breaking but brilliant.

Down at ground level white eyed Dark Fronted Babblers foraged and avoided the troop of Toque Macaques that came down to investigate what we were doing.

Toque Macaques

We made it for lunch at the next ‘bandstand’ where a party of immaculately dressed school girls descended from the steep track alongside us and even they were wearing leggings under their whites, tucked surely into their socks!  Leech do not just go for tourists!

Steve and Gloria opted to linger at the shelter and the rest of us trekked on for a way and made it to another research station where several more stunning Butterflies were seen coming down for minerals.  


Five-barred Swordtail

Our guides disappeared off to try and try and locate Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush and soon returned to say that they had found Crimson Backed Woodpeckers (endemic #25)Some furtive creeping and with some patience we all got excellent views of this big red as it investigated a sap run on a tall tree.  

Crimson Backed Woodpecker (endemic #25)

Crimson Backed Woodpecker (endemic #25)

Black-naped Monarch and Spot Winged Thrush were seen along with another couple of Brown-breasted Flycatchers as we looped our way back to the trail but there was no sign of the elusive Thrush we were after.

A huge Wasp nest

A different giant Millipede - pied legs!

Pitcher Plant

Not sure yet...

Pitcher Plant

Schumacheria alnifolia

Not sure if these are a different Nepenthes. Both have spined ribs

Back on the trail we stopped at the first ‘bandstand’ again for a drink in the shade and a Sri Lankan Scaly Thrush (endemic #26) was promptly heard singing (well, whistling) and some co-ordinated tracking started with us getting brief flight views of this White’s sized beast but with stealth we ended up watching two of these monster billed birds throwing huge leaves around the forest floor like they were tissue paper.  They appeared darker and to me, shorter tailed that White’s with a seemingly bigger and heavier bill.  Any view of this species is seemingly a bonus so to see them like this was testament to the skill of our guides.

Sri Lankan Scaly Thrush (endemic #26)

Pushing through jungle after the Thrushes can result in leeching! 
Just remember that although potentially messy, they are harmless.

Another Babbler flock was discovered further down the track and with them we found a stunning white male Indian Paradise Flycatcher.  His tail was ludicrous and trailed behind him like pennant on a kite.  What a bird!   Another male Malabar Trogon loomed down on us from above as we made our way finally back to the reserve gates and our bumpy ride back down to the hotel far below. Quite a day.

Malabar Trogon 

A visitor on my bed

Snake Gourd for dinner

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