Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sri Lanka 4-16 Oct 2011

As with our previous trip to Sri Lanka, we arrived at Colombo airport at about 2 am and were met by Upali our guide from Starron Tours
Our group consisted of Bee, Gerard and ourselves who made the trip last year plus Janet, on her 1st visit. Upali had guided the four of us previously in August last year. As always Upali was full of energy and without much delay he had our group of five, plus luggages, loaded into our bus, helped by our driver Ranjan.
Then we were on our way to Habarana, our first stopover. During the 4-hour ride we all tried to grab a nap. We arrived at The Other Corner in time for breakfast. We were welcomed by the “brothers” who we had met during our stay last year. the food and service was, as usual, excellent. Sunrise is early at 5:45am and sunset before 6pm
For the next 4 days we birded around the area, taking in some of the tanks. One morning at breakfast a rare Blue-breasted Quail was spotted  but too quick a visit for photos except for “quick-draw” Bee who had some good shots.  There was a visit to Sigiriya Rock Citadel, where the fitter members, Gerard & Bee, climbed to the summit while we explored the vicinity. Highlight was a Crested Serpent Eagle 10 metres away perched on a low tree, and an even closer Coucal.
Crested Serpent Eagle
  Southern Coucal
Our next stop was Kandy, where we stayed at the Tree of Life for 2 nights and visited Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Udawattakele Forest Reserve and an evening visit for a cultural show. The weather was very dry and some migratory birds we had hoped to see seemed to be absent. One morning we did experience a bird wave that included some Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, minivets and other species.
It was then on to Nuwara Eliya, staying at Galway’s Forest Lodge for 2 nights. We birded around the Galway’s Forest National Park in the afternoon, followed by a pre-dawn trip to Horton Plain with a picnic breakfast. On arrival at Horton we saw the Indian Black Robin. Last year’s visit to Horton had been a short one due to mist and rain. We were glad we had the opportunity to enjoy the place. The weather could not have been better this time.
Indian black RobinSri Lankan White-eye
Yellow-eared BulbulGrey Tit
The afternoon was spent at Bomuru Ella Forest Reserve and a couple of evening waiting for a Thrush. 
Next morning was off to Embilipitiya and a jeep safari in Uda Walawe National Park.  We had visited Uda Walawe last so were prepared for a dusty bouncy ride. The water levels were very low but we saw many migratory birds including the Caspian Tern. It was an overnight at the Centauria Tourist Hotel where an Indian Scops Owl was roosting in one of the trees in the garden.Scops OwlIndian RollerAfter breakfast on to Tissamaharama and Hibiscus Garden Hotel, and another jeep safari, this time in Yala National Park, where catching a glimpse of a mother leopard crossing the track carrying a small wild piglet, and later, very good views of the juvenile leopard waiting patiently for its meal to arrive, with several jeep-loads of tourists, including ourselves, clicking away.Young Leopard Next morning as we had been lucky enough to have had excellent views of the Yala leopards, we decided on a jeep safari in Bundala National Park, a much less dusty and smoother ride. A Hoopoe was seen more than once skimming along in front of the jeep.
A couple of nights at Hibiscus and next day a long drive to the south through Galle where the devastation of the December 26, 2004 tsunami could still be seen in some abandoned houses which some owners could not afford to repair. There was a memorial to the lives lost when the train derailed and a mural of the incident was put up. Upali explained that Galle had its origin in the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) the Portuguese had first seen on landing.
Our last evening was spent at the Hotel Tamarind in Katunayake near Colombo.
The following day the birding, in the hotel garden, went on right to the last minute and at lunchtime it was time for a quick drive to the airport and farewells to our guide and mentor, Upali and our excellent driver Ranjan, who was always in good spirits throughout the 13 days with us. Ranjan had been a radio officer at sea so has visited many countries including a couple of trips to Singapore many years ago.
Another excellent trip and we thank everyone for making it so. Ayubowan.