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In the past, our visits to Udawalawe national park were all taken in the afternoon, so this early morning visit was a first and a very good change of plan. The whole trip of 5 hours went by in a flash, we saw many, many species and sightings were made every few minutes. The whole reserve was alive with bird song and movement, we didn’t know which way to look for the best!

We had two separate jeeps with three or four in each jeep, this gave us plenty of room to manoeuvre to get better views of species when necessary. A couple of Cuckoos went onto the list in quick succession when we saw Grey-bellied and Pied Cuckoos, we saw the Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike in the same area.

A stunning male Common Iora was well received, also White-browed Bubul and the Tawny-bellied Babbler. Yellow-eyed Babbler followed soon after and Rosy Starlings were seen in many parts of the reserve in small groups.

Yellow-eyed Babbler - one of the first birds we saw on the trails in Udawalawe NP. Taken by Tony Moore

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, what a beauty! Captured here by Tony Moore

A few new raptors went onto the list, we left it late to find the Black-winged Kite and the Shikra, but both the Fish Eagles were seen regularly as well as the Oriental Honey Buzzard and the Crested Serpent Eagle.

Pied Cuckoo above and Grey-bellied below. Two cuckoos seen in close proximity to one another

one of the star birds - a Blue-faced Malkoha taken by Tony Moore

many Rose-coloured Starlings were seen all over the park. Taken by Tony Moore

During one brief stop were we were allowed to step down from the Jeep, scanning the area produced quite a few sighting over a lake. We saw egrets, storks, terns, Spot-billed Pelicans, Cormorants and our first Great Thick-knees, with their extraordinary large bills, went onto the list.

Spot-billed Pelican - by Tony Moore

Malabar Pied-Hornbill - taken by Tony Moore

This Golden Jackel posed for a picture after criss-crossing the track several times. Taken By Tony Moore

We must have listed 50 species by the time we headed back, but we had, so far, missed our main target species the Sirkeer Malkoha. A second sighting of the Blue-faced Malkoha was being enjoyed when all of a sudden the Sirkeer appeared in the next bush!! How lucky was that?

The Sirkeer Malkoha - our must-see species. Taken by Tony Moore

One of the two Black-winged Kites seen on our way out of the park. Taken by Tony Moore

We left the reserve around 11am and set off for Tissamaharama, our lunch was bought at a roadside bakery/café and was consumed as we travelled.

Before we checked-into our hotel we made a visit to the large ‘tank’ (British built reservoir) at Demberawawa (you try pronouncing that after a couple of beers!). A couple of local lads met us on the embankment and led to three sites where three different species of Owls were roosting.

It was an amazing hour, we first watched a pair of Brown Fish Owls, they were wide awake and one of them flew around, they are huge. On the other end of the scale our next sighting was the Brown Boobook Owl, that was tiny in comparison and roosted some 50ft off the ground in a tall tree. The third and final owl was the smallest of the lot, it was another Owlet, the Jungle Owlet. What a little cutey that one is.

Brown Fish Owl - Tony Moore

Brown Boobook by Tony Moore, it sat 40ft off the ground - I don't how Tony got such a great pciture?

The Jungle Owlet - was a little harder to track down and was seen in very bad light. Taken by Tony Moore

We returned to the embankment around the ‘Tank’ and listed many species, lots of water birds of course. Pheasant-tailed Jacana was spectacular in appearance, whilst the Purple Swamphen was brightly coloured but didn’t have same effect on the group. WE also saw lots of Herons including our first Purple Herons, also Whistling Ducks, Whiskered & White-winged Terns, Oriental Darter and a couple of raptors: Booted Eagle and Brahminy Kite.

A migrant Booted Eagle circled with a Brahminy Kite - taken by Tony Moore

We made it to our hotel around 6pm and enjoyed a nice buffet dinner at 8pm after we had called the ‘bird-log’. Our list is around 200 species with four days to go, we are on target for 230-250 species.