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I absolutely love visiting Bundala national park it is my favourite place in Sri Lanka and that is because of the variety of waders you can find there! It consists of large areas of marshland with open pools, reedbeds, scrub, dry meadows, ditches, swamps and much larger lakes. The Salt pans adjacent to the park are the main attraction to waders, herons, egrets, spoonbills, storks and pelicans.

Paddyfield Pipit - a common sighting on grassy areas - picture by Tony Moore

We left the hotel at 5:30am with our breakfasts in a box, it took about 40 minutes to get to Bundala Park approach track where we transferred to our ‘safari jeeps’. The approach track bisects a huge marshland area where anything can turn up but unfortunately for us the whole area flooded in recent weeks and has degraded the marshland somewhat, nevertheless, we saw a huge amount of birds.

two pictures of Clamorous Warbler

The Clamorous Warbler belted out its song from various patches of reeds, the more musical Palla’s Grasshopper Warbler sang a lot more quiet, we saw both species, the latter did not sit out, so we only got fleeting glimpses.

Many waders filled the pool edges we quickly noted Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Red-wattled Lapwings and strange looking Great Thick-knee. Purple and Grey Herons joined all the white egrets with Eurasian Spoonbills, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked and Painted Storks, Black-headed Ibis, dozens of Purple Gallinule, White-fronted Waterhens and two species of Cormorants, Little and Indian. A flock of 55 Glossy Ibis flew over us.

Glossy Ibis taken by Tony Moore - count the dots there should be 55!

the odd looking Great Thick-knee - by Tony Moore

The sky was always full of birds ranging from Barn Swallows to Bee-eaters, Crows to Kites and Whistling Ducks to Pelicans.

Wood Sandpiper with a Marsh Sandpiper - taken by Tony Moore

We searched for the Black Bittern and found only Yellow Bittern which wasn’t a trip tick, but it showed much better than our last sighting of it. We did find a distant female Watercock. Further down the approach road we searched a dry area and found a flock of fifty-plus Oriental Pratincoles, in the same area we found Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Ashy-headed Sparrow-Larks, Paddyfield Pipit and dozens of Barn Swallows sat on the power lines.

Barn Swallows

Yellow-eyed Babbler, Purple Sunbird, Green Bee-eater, Tricoloured Munia and Forest Prinia were seen just before we arrived at the main park buildings (with toilets). We ate our picnic breakfast there, closely watched by Macaque Monkeys and observed from a distance by Grey Langur Monkeys.

Lesser Adjutant Stork - Tony Moore

The best bit for me was the tour of the salt pans it was non-stop birding with hundreds if not thousands of birds in each of the ‘pans’. The first one held a raft of feeding birds which stretched a ¼ mile and the concentration of the birds was incredible. Hundreds of Spot-billed Pelicans massed with Painted Storks, Grey Herons, Indian Cormorants, Spoonbills and Great Egrets.

Spot-billed Pelicans - taken by Tony Moore

mixed feeding flock

The next pan was full of waders, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, a few Ruff and a single Grey Plover. Other pans held incredible numbers of Little Stints, Lesser Sand-Plovers, Kentish Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers.

Asian Openbill - by Tony Moore

Tern roosts were dotted about the ‘pans’ with Caspian Tern being the most common but they were joined by Whiskered, Gull-billed and Little Terns. One tern roost held two Brown-headed Gulls and a Curlew. Along the track we scanned the embankments of the pans from our raised position high up in the jeep, we found a large flock of Pacific Golden Plovers with three or four pairs of Small Pratincoles.

Small Pratincole sitting on eggs in the middle of the track - taken by Tony Moore from the jeep

We found one pair of Small Pratincoles that had decided to nest right in the middle of the main track!!! Two eggs were in the nest, we had to disturb the bird to get passed and so did every vehicle that went that way.

On the journey back we found a single Whimbrel, a couple of Ruddy Turnstones and a detour led us along a track that was covered in Painted Storks, hundreds of them! We had to flush them to get by, they were very reluctant to move. One wader flock held incredible numbers of Little Stints, Lesser Sand-Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers, hundreds of each!

Grey Mongoose - picture by Tony Moore

Other sightings included Crocodiles, a large one lay on the track, non-one offered to climb down and ask it to move. We also saw Grey Mongoose, a family party by the roadside, some butterflies including a couple of new species for the list. Birds of prey included large numbers of Brahminy Kites, a perched Crested Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

Tony at work from the front of the jeep

a Painted Stork blockade - taken by Tony Moore

Indian Cormorants in breeding plumage - Tony Moore

Our sightings were of dozens of Eurasian Spoonbills roosting in a secluded pool with Open-bill Storks, Grey Herons, Great Egrets and lots of waders.

Yellow-eyed Babbler seen near the main buildings and taken by Tony Moore

Grey-headed Fish Eagle taken by Tony Moore

It was midday when we left Bundala, it had got very hot so our timing was very good. It took 45 minutes to get back to the hotel. The rest of the day was a pre-arranged rest period, which we all enjoyed. We met up for the log at 7:15 before taking dinner.