South India & Sri Lanka 10 Feb. - 2 March 2010
Birding trip report  -  John van der Woude  -
Photos of birding sites Sri Lanka.    See also report.

View from below the hotel at Kitulgala, the moist tropical lowland site of this trip. The Bridge on the River Kwai has been filmed here.

Serendib Scop Owl was discovered in 2001 only, and described in 2004. This was the most important endemic to get here, and thanks to our guide Sunil we got it on the first day already. So great was the excitement that, in order to get a bit tremble-free shot, I had to rest the camera on Nollie's shoulder.

Brown-capped Babbler was as inquisitive as it looks.

The half-open habitat a bit upstream of Kitulgala was good for Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon and Layard's Parakeet.

When having the late breakfast of our second day, we had cleaned up all the endemics of this Kitulgala area already, thanks to our guide Sunil of course.

Crimson-backed Flameback (Goldenback) is one of Sri Lanka's 33 endemics.

Nice and clean shops like this were not uncommon in small towns in Sri Lanka.

Monitor Lizard

Moist tropical hill forest was the habitat of our next birding site, the Sinharadja forest reserve.

At the entrance of the reserve, a wide open space gives a good chance of seeing the rare endemic White-faced Starling. We had it here, and later also further on along the track.

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie is the star bird of the Sinharadja reserve, and the lodge below the reserve bears its name.

Further on along the track in the Sinharadja reserve, we had several more endemics, like Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler, Sri Lanka Thrush and Red-faced Malkoha.

Also along the track was this Green garden lizard Calotes calotes. Note the long tail going around all the way to the lower right-hand corner of the photo.

Snake waiting for the right moment to catch a small fish.

The Sinharadja reserve is rather high above the lodge, so in order to be in time at the reserve we were brought uphill by this car on a very rough track, instead of going on foot.

Disused (?) tea plantation just below the Sinharadja reserve. A good spot to see some ground-dwelling bird species.

Valley between the forested hills. Good for several common species which may be missed if you only visit the real reserves.

Another roadside stop for a coffee and snack. Sunil in the foreground. The comfortable van was ours.

The lake near Tissa, in the southeastern lowlands where the climate is much drier than in the hills we came from. A short walk along the border of this lake not only produced nice birds like Stork-billed Kingfisher (see below) and Black Bittern, but also the only endemic species of this region, Sri Lanka Woodshrike.

Yala national park is a great safari area, where we spotted Leopard. Malabar Pied-Hornbill was seen gathering for a roost.

Sirkeer Malkoha in Yala NP.

View from the memorial site of the tsunami. Forty-seven people lost their live in the park then.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater in Yala NP.

Although leaving the car is not permitted in this park, birds can often be seen well from the car, like in national parks in East Africa.

A 'tusker' in Yala NP. Only few elephants in this region get tusks, so observing one is special.

Roadside pond in Yala NP, with Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis and Indian Pond-Heron.

River inside Yala NP. Nice for a lunch break.

Great Thick-knee in Yala NP.

Elephants roam around in Yala NP, surely a reason to stay in the car.

Indian Pond-Heron. Eventually the whole frog went inside.

Bundala NP has some salt pans. Apart from the stilts, there were many Marsh Sandpipers, and a Small Pratincole.

Bundala NP. Here we had Grey-headed Fish-Eagle.

This Crested Serpent-Eagle was totally absorbed in finding its prey and seemed not to notice our car passing at only a few meters distance.

Ruddy Shelduck, a vagrant here, with Marsh Sandpiper. The duck had been here for a few weeks now.

An evening stroll from our hotel at Tissa brought us in this peaceful village, where we had close views of Yellow-billed Babbler, a common species:

Good-bye to the photogenic Tissa region of Yala and Bundala.

The famous (for birders) Victoria park in Nuwara Eliya, a high-altitude town South of Kandy. Kashmir Flycatcher and Pied Thrush are the great specialties here, in their very restricted wintering area. For both we needed more than just a short visit, but we got them indeed.

Horton Plains national park is another reason for a stay at Nuwara Eliya. Sri Lanka Whistling-Thrush, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Wood-Pigeon and Sri Lanka Bush-Warbler.

On the Horton Plains we got good views of Dull-blue Flycatcher.

View of the more open parts (less birdy though) of Horton Plains.

Like in India, cricket is played at many villages. Black-throated Munia was closeby, the only place we saw it. This is during the drive back from Horton Plains.

One of the absolute highlights of the Sri Lanka trip was Pied Thrush, in a small gully in Victoria park of Nuwara Eliya, where it overwinters.

The Blue Field tea factory halfway between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy definitely deserves a short visit. The private excursion lasts only 20 minutes or so, and after that a visit to the shop is to be recommended, in order to bring home some packets of their excellent tea.

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. This is probably the cultural highlight of Sri Lanka, and Sunil knew a good spot for a quick view from above. The Tooth (Buddha's) is kept in a shrine under the golden roof.

See also report (introduction, maps, species list)