SINHARAJA NATIONAL PARK
WEATHER: full on sunshine all day, temp mid 30’s
This was our big day, we were visiting the famous Sinharaja National Park, a huge tract of rainforest which has a bird list as long as your arm. Many of the endemic species can be found there and we intended to find as many as we could.
It was a superb morning for birding, cool at first then a gentle rise in temperature and light, we set out in the dark at 5:45am in the back of two very old jeeps. The track up to the National Park is bumpy to put it mildly, we were thrown about in the back of the jeeps and it was a relief to get out of them. We did not go straight to the Park we stopped half way up the track at a private dwelling where Saman our guide had a few ‘goodies’ to show us.
Sri Lanka Hill Myna - one of the first birds seen today
At the back of a newly built (half finished) house there was a screen with spy holes in it, we stood behind that for 45 minutes and waited for anything to come into a clearing in the forest that had obviously been littered with food. Just before we reached the screen we had good. ‘through the scope’ views of a Sri Lanka Hill Myna our first endemic of the day.
Bof camera shot of the Sri Lanka Frogmouth
After 30 minutes of no activity in front of the screen suddenly three Sri Lanka Junglefowl appeared, then a single Emereld Dove turned and a couple of Spotted Doves. A little the star bird arrived a male Sri Lanka Spurfowl. Wow, what a beauty and such a great view of this uncommon endemic species.Furthermore, as we got back to the vehicles in the driveway we were taken into some dense scrub where another hard to find endemic bird sat, fast asleep. It was a Sri Lanka Frogmouth, we couldn’t believe our luck, an amazing sighting.
So, before we had even got into the national park we had three of our target species in the bag. Our next stop was right next to the entrance to the park, a field study centre for students and schools. But just before we got there we all jumped out of the jeeps to look at two endemic White-faced Starlings, they were smashing.
Crested Serpent Eagle
The field study centre had a large clearing around it and many bench-seating areas, that is where we ate our picnic breakfast. As it always the case we never had a moment’s peace during breakfast as birds appeared everywhere. We watched Golden-fronted Leafbird, Sri Lanka Drongo (endemic), Crimson Minivet, Legg’s Flowerpecker (endemic), Black Bulbul and Imperial Pigeon.
Before we left we were called to another clearing by Saman who had a Crested Serpent Eagle in the scope and whilst we were watching the Eagle something incredible happened, one of our most wanted target species appeared in the trees to our left. It was a Red-faced Malkoha!! Not only did it flit about in a tree with dense foliage as expected but it flew out and landed in a dead tree and showed perfectly well, we all had excellent views of it. Phew that was great.
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Another Sri Lanka Drongo appeared for a while and we saw another White-faced Starling before we departed to the park. Once in the park the sightings just kept on coming, before long we looking down at a stream and through gaps in the trees we could a Scaly Thrush or no called Sri Lanka Thrush, the sightings for everyone were not brilliant but most of us had good, short views. It was another exciting find and one bird we thought we had missed.
Further along the track we bumped into a mixed feeding flock of about 15 species, it was just like south American rainforest birding! We first saw an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, then a Malabar Trogon, followed by a number of Babblers. We saw Dark-fronted, Orange-billed, Yellow-billed and the Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush all in the same bush. A Lesser Yellownape Woodpecker dropped in as well as three more flycatchers, Black-naped Monarch, Asian Brown-Breasted and White-browed Fantail. A Red-faced Malkoha dashed through and we saw Sri Lanka Drongo.
Well after that we were done, all our target species were in the bag and it was only 10am! We then walked back to the main gate and were shown a Green Vine Snake and a Green garden Lizard before we took another trail that led us into open country with patches of dense scrub. There we tracked down a Green-billed Coucal, we knew it wasn’t going to sit out in the open but we all saw fleeting views of it and a couple of lengthy flight views.
Green Vine Snake
Green Garden Lizard
The butterflies were amazing today, both inside the forest and out in the open fields, we also saw a few dragonfly species and a Giant Squirrel, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and a couple of small lizards. All in all, it had been a fantastic morning.
the one and only Orchid found so far
Back at the hotel we ate a nice lunch at 12:30 and then we had until 4pm for a long siesta, some of us walked the hotel grounds for a while and added a nice number of new species to the day list.
a Sapphire Flutterer
We met at 4pm at reception and just as we met we had a new sighting for the trip, a Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, that was a pretty exciting find in the hotel grounds. Then a raptor was sighted over the hills and Saman identified it as a Black Eagle, during the next five minutes 3 more raptors appeared, Oriental Honey Buzzard, a magnificent Rufous-bellied Eagle and a Brahminy Kite.
For the next couple of hours we drove back up the hill towards the National Park but turned off a short way up to a private dwelling. We watched a from a garden a series of dead tees where a Chestnut-backed Owlet was in residence. But before we got to the garden we saw a Common Hawk Cuckoo, it was singing from a dead tree.
The garden was a superb birding location, you had views all the way down the valley and a good number of standing-dead trees. I can’t remember how species we saw there but it was high. Sri Lanka Hill Myna showed extremely well, as did Crimson-fronted and Yellow-fronted barbets. We also watched Jerdon’s Leafbird, Hanging parrot, Leyard’s Parakeet, Common Iora, Lesser Flame-backed Woodpecker and several more species.
Common Iora - female
The Chestnut-backed Owlet popped out to see us and before we left the area we watched Sri Lanka Swallow, Crested Treeswift, the latter perched, up in a tree not far away.
It was 6pm by the time we returned to the hotel, dinner was served at 7:30pm and we all went to bed straight after that.