BIRDING LOCAL TRACKS IN KITHULGALA AND OUR HOTEL GROUNDS – A VISIT ACROSS THE RIVER AT PARAWALATHENNA.
WEATHER: hot and sunny with high humidity, 32C - cooler in the afternoon
Our great start to the tour continued this morning with a pre-breakfast birding session about 1 km from the hotel. We set out in the dark at 5:45am after a long and well needed sleep. As soon as we jumped off the bus we heard Asian Koel and a Common Hawk-Cuckoo, we saw neither well but at that point but we were encouraged and our enthusiasm strengthened.
A concrete track led us down hill towards the River, we heard our main target species calling, a Chestnut-backed Owlet. We never saw that species either at that stage, but do read on. The next piece of excitement came when Saman, pointed out the call of the Brown-capped Babbler, with a little patience we all got to see this endemic species well, a nice one in the bag.
a very common species - Oriental Magpie Robin
For the next hour we chased this almost mythical Owlet, it called from every direction and had us marching down tracks and back up lanes and still we never saw it. In the mean-time many species became active and as the light improved then more and more species went on the list. Both Green Imperial Pigeon and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon (E) went on the list as well as: Red-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Bulbul, White-bellied Kingfisher and the very common Red-vented Bulbul.
Yellow -browed Bulbul
Saman and Indu put a lot of work in and finally came up with a roosting Chestnut-backed Owlet (E ) what a stunning little owl, well appreciated by the group. Then a few more birds appeared, we saw a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Black Bulbul, we had several sightings of Tickell’s Flycatcher and we saw Asian Brown Flycatcher, Black-hooded Oriole, Oriental Honey Buzzard, White-bellied Drongo and several other species.
tthis morning's prize - the endemic Chestnut-backed Owlet
It was 9am by the time we got back to the hotel and even then we didn’t go straight into breakfast because a couple of Hanging parrots were at one of the feeding stations and both Alexandrine and Layard’s Parakeets were in one of the palm trees. We also saw Brown-headed Barbet, Oriental Magpie-Robin and Pale-billed Flowerpecker.
Hanging Parrot doing what hanging Parrots do!
We ate breakfast and it was just after 10am when we reemerged from the hotel for a walk around the hotel grounds. The gardens were still alive with birds we added several new species to the trip list including the Scarlet Minivet, Legg’s Flowerpecker, Common Iora, Oriental White-eye and one of the group found a Brown Shrike. We watched Stork-billed, Common and White-throated Kingfishers on the river, also Grey Wagtail (an introduced species), Little Cormorant and more Green Imperial Pigeons.
But it was the Hanging Parrots that stole the show, they came down to the feeders and performed extremely well, what a stunning looking bird.
At 11:30 we took our lunch break and spent sometime relaxing in our air-conditioned rooms or went out taking pictures of butterflies and birds. It was 3pm when set off for another area of forest about 5km upriver. We drove to a hanging footbridge, which wobbled and creaked somewhat when we walked across it, a little unnerving to say the least.
Lesser Flame-backed Woodpecker
We had a wonderful few hours in similar habitat as that of this morning but with many new species to add to our list. A gentle stroll along made up tracks found us in the midst of small tea and coffee plantations, a thriving cottage industry, with very pleasant people who gave you a genuine welcome smile and asked for nothing in return.
We collected some memorable sightings and enjoyed a lovely experience, we saw several brightly coloured butterflies with ridiculous names such as Common Mormon, and Common Birdwing (two of the largest butterflies of Sri Lanka), The Sailor, Common Leopard, Common Rose, Plain Cupid and so on.
one of Sri lanka's largest butterflies - Common Mormon
a Common Rose (the butterfly not the flower)
More endemic species went on the list as we sighted Spot-winged Thrush, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Sri Lankan Hill Myna, both Greater and Lesser Flame-backed Woodpeckers (these two are now endemics after recent splits with the Lesser now the 34th Endemic species of Sri Lanka),
A Sialor Butterfly
We also had much better views of Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and we chased around for brief sightings of Indian Pitta, what a stunning bird. We left the area around 6pm and drove back to the hotel.
Brown-capped Babbler from this morning
We ate another pleasant dinner of soup, curried chicken and curried fish followed by local yoghurt and honey, yummy!!