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WEATHER; bright sunshine all day, hot and humid.

It is getting to be a regular occurrence now, rising at 5am and getting on the bus 30 minutes later with our breakfast in a box. Today it was another jeep safari in a National Park and we were all looking forward to it. Unfortunately for this year the main entrance to Yala np is closed due to collapsed bridges after recent flooding, so we had to visit a smaller area of the park and enter by the Galga entrance.

Our chances of seeing the most sort after mammals were greatly reduced but the birdlife was better and there were far fewer other jeeps on the tracks. We had a few target species but in reality we were prepared to just accept whatever we bumped into.

A very showy Changeable Hawk- Eagle was nice to see which we found after just 300 meters into the park!

Changeable Hawk-Eagle

A Painted Stork

The usual Bee-eaters, Bulbuls, Doves and Pigeons were all listed before we hit the first of the reservoirs. A forest of dead trees stood Iin the reservoir, stretching as far as the eye could see, obviously caused when the reservoir was created. Birds were everywhere, we saw White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Whiskered Terns, Cormorants, Storks, Egrets and Herons.

White-bellied Sea-Eagles fighting over a fish

Lots of woodland birds also used the dead trees as perches and nesting sites, we the diminutive Brown-capped Woodpecker, Rose-ringed and Plum-headed Parakeets and Bee-eaters loved the area.

A sunken forest of dead trees

Below the huge embankment of the main dam we followed a track into a very sheltered area, it was alive with birds and butterflies. We found our first Barred Buttonquails on the track and saw Prinias, Sunbirds, Indian Robins and Munias.

It was a male Barred Buttonquail that crossed the track first and Tony canned it!!

A dense forested area nearby produced three new species for the list, first we saw a Forest Wagtail on the track then a Fork-tailed Drongo-cuckoo started singing from right above us, it was also displaying to a female sitting close by. The prized bird was the White-rumped Shama, what a beautiful, elegant bird and the song is so melodic, we enjoyed that one.

The White-rumped Shama - two pictures taken by Tony Moore. A beautiful bird with such a melodic song


Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, displaying right above us. Taken by Tony Moore

After a short where we could get down from the jeep we spent an hour or along a canal leading from the main dam. We searched for, and found, the Sri Lanka Woodshrike (endemic), however we only got fleeting views of it perched and in flight.

Sri Lanka Woodshrike - taken by Tony Moore, this was the last of the endemic species that we hoped too see

For the last hour we made our way slowly back to the entrance, listing may species, having great views of many. The trip was a complete success we added a dozen or so new species to our list and had sightings of many more.

Woolly-necked Stork - Tony Moore

Apart from many herds of Spotted Deer we did not see too many mammals, Water Buffalo, Elephant, Toque Macaques, our first Grey Languar Monkeys, a couple of Mongoose sightings and the odd Squirrel was all we got. Land Monitor was the only Reptile seen.

A road blockade of Spotted Deer

On the way out we bumped into an Indian Roller one of our target species, it showed really well. The Changeable Hawk Eagle was still in the same tree as when we arrived and we also had two sightings of Black-winged Kites just before we left.

Indian Roller - taken by Tony Moore

Lesser Adjutant Stork taken by Tony Moore

Indian Robin - always just looks totally black in the field until you get the sunlight on it. Taken by Tony Moore

We were back at the hotel at 12:30, lunch was taken at 1pm and we reconvened at 3pm for an afternoon birding session. We returned to the large reservoir (Tank) at Demberawawa for a more in-depth look..

Before we reached the ‘Tank’ we stopped along the roadside to scanned some mature trees for the beautifully marked White-naped Woodpecker. Lots of birds were flitting around in the trees, we had excellent views of the endemic Woodshrike (the bird that had given us the run-around this morning), we also a party of Small Minivets, a Jerdon’s leafbird, lots of Rose-ringed Parakeets and to our great delight we watched two or three Crested Treeswifts, what a smashing bird that one is. Ashy Woodswallows were also flying around above the trees.

Crested Treeswift - sitting ver high up above us when Tony took this shot

 The ‘tanks’ have large areas covered in lilies with small pockets of reeds, the open water is far out in the middle with smaller pools dotted around the edges whole area is covered with birdlife, I love it there. We started the walk along the raised embankment a small meadow below us eld quite a few birds including three species of Munia, we saw Tricoloured, Scaly-breasted and Black-headed. Also several common species such as Green & Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Common Myna, Cattle Egret and Indian Pond Heron.

One of the first birds we saw in the reeds was a Yellow Bittern, it disappeared quickly and flew off a little later and landed in full view a distance away. 

Yellow Bittern - a distance shot by Tony Moore

 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Purple Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Cormorant, Purple Heron and lots of egrets were also seen. Many Whiskered Terns were feeding over the open stretches of water and scanning the sky always produced a dozen or so species.

A small reedbed held a colony of Streaked Weavers and the trees above us provided food for many Barbets, Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Woodpeckers and they provided perches for White-throated and Common Kingfishers. We searched for the woodpecker once again but failed to find it. Then Dammi our guide made a phone call and we were quickly herded onto the bus for a short ride to a private garden.

Steaked Weaver taken by Tony Moore

On arrival in the garden, a women pointed up to a palm tree and there sat not one but two White-naped Woodpeckers! I couldn’t believe it, it took us five minutes to travel there and the woodpeckers had stayed around for us to see them!

White-naped Woodpecker - what a beauty, taken by Tony Moore

That concluded our birding day, another successful one, the Sri Lanka Woodshrike was our 32 Endemic species, we have missed just one, the Red-faced Malkoha, unfortunately we have no chance of seeing it before we leave.