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WEATHER; clear sky to start, cloudy later, heavy rain at 4pm. Hot and humid all day.

It was our second very early start of the tour, we met at 4:45am for tea and coffee in the hotel restaurant before setting off for the short journey to ‘base camp’ near Sinharaja Village. We transferred to a well-seasoned Land Rover and set off up the mountain on one of the bumpiest tracks you are ever likely to travel along. It took 20 uncomfortable minutes to reach the visitor’s centre at Sinharaja rain forest, but it was well worth the effort getting there.

We spent 3 hours in and around the centre our main targets birds were Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Green-billed Coucal.

Sri Lanka (Crested) Drongo - one of the first birds we saw today

Emerald Dove at the feeding station

It was slow to start with but the feeding station gradually picked up and eventually the Blue Magpies turned up and gave us a show. Other species feeding here included Emerald Dove, Black Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul and Sri Lanka Junglefowl. We never saw a Spurfowl the whole time we were there.

the Group at the Visitor's centre looking at White-faced Starlings

Out in the car park we had views of the surrounding forest and the tree tops produced a multitude of species. Our first Scarlet Minivet, a male was nice but brief, we chased around a Green-billed Coucal which eventually showed itself, White-faced Starlings were also nice to see.

The Blue Magpie was a crowd pleaser - taken by Tony Moore

The Sri Lanka Crested Drongo was seen several times, as was Oriental White-eye, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Hill Myna and Asian Brown Flycatcher. We repeatedly returned to the feeding station just in case the Spurfowl decided to turn up, but it didn’t.

Lesser Yellow-nape Woodpecker - by Tony Moore

Just down the lane we found Brown-capped Babbler and Orange-billed Babbler, both endemic species. A small flock of Black-throated Munia was also a first for us. Both Sri Lanka Green Pigeon and Green Imperial Pigeon showed well in the trees whilst the Emerald Dove came down to the feeding station.

Brown-capped Babbler - by Tony Moore

Whilst all these sightings were being made we had fly-over species too: a small flock of Leyard’s Parakeets flew past, Indian Swiftlets circled above and Mynas were forever flying around. We ate our packed breakfast which was very nice and by 9:30am we were on our way along the second leg of the journey to the Forest Reserve entrance.

Forest birding is much slower than any other habitat and unless you bump into a mixed feeding flock it can quite frustrating. In Sinharaja we had distractions in the form of reptiles and Butterflies. We found two Brown-headed Vine Snakes and several Kangaroo Lizards before we found before our first bird turned up.

a great shot of the endemic Yellow-fronted Barbet by Tony Moore

A party of Dark-fronted Babblers were very hard to see but we all got on to them, and after another hour went by we found a flock of forest birds. The local guide was calling out all sorts of birds but most of us only got onto a few of them. The Crested Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, Greater Flameback Woodpecker (endemic) were all seen briefly, nothing showed really well except for the beautiful butterflies.

We found a partially constructed nest of the Black-naped Monarch, the male bird turned up to add nesting material. We eventually tracked down the endemic Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, a group of them moved around together and they often join bigger mixed flocks. An Asian Paradise Flycatcher was amongst them with Scimitar Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler and one or two common species.

The Monarch Flycatcher at its nest - Tony Moore

On the way back to the entrance we bumped into one or two ‘goodies’, first a Malabar Trogon, it called and it took sometime to track it down but we did. Then the local guide found a roosting Sri Lanka Frogmouth, that was hard to see and it took a while for all of us to get onto it.

Malabar Trogon above and Sri Lanka Frogmouth below both taken by Tony Moore

We got back to a nearby lodge around 2:30pm!! It was a late lunch but a very nice one. The lodge had a feeding station and we saw all kinds of species in the garden as well as the feeding table. The common species visiting the table were Black Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Emerald Dove, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Spotted Dove.

Yellow-browed Bulbul

It started to rain at 4pm just as we had planned to move on! It came down like stair-rods, very heavy bouts with lighter rain in between. We abandoned our walk and stayed with the feeders. We saw Dusky Three-striped Jungle Squirrels, Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys and a few more bird species. Our second Scarlet Minivet showed up briefly, we saw Black-headed Munias making a nest, A Grey Hornbill showed up and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes jumped about in the distant trees.

Dusky Three-striped Palm Squirrel

the endemic Spot-winged Thrush - by Tony Moore

At 5pm we decided to set off for our hotel, along the track we stopped twice to look at another endemic ‘thrush’ the Spot-winged Thrush, a nice looking bird. We were also shown another Sri Lanka Frogmouth deep in some giant pampas grass it is pictured above.

We got back to the hotel at 6:30pm. And met up for dinner an hour or so later, it had been a long day and everyone was tired, an early night was had by all.