Birdwatching in Sri Lanka
Birding trip reports

OUT AMONGST THE BIRDS, IN SRI LANKA

An Ayu in the Wild Naturalist’s thoughts on bird watching – 12-15 Dec, 2017 in Udawalawe National Park, the Wetlands of Tissamaharama and Yala National Park

Asian Brown Flycatcher

I was on the lookout for our endemics. But, who would ever think an Asian Brown Flycatcher flitting around catching insects among rubber trees at a quarter to noon would get the cameras out?!

12 DECEMBER 2017 – Udawalawe National Park

It was their first time in Sri Lanka.

The road from Negombo to Udawalawe was a great introduction to the island with the cities, suburbs and rural villages all lined with lush green made lusher by the recent rains that lashed Sri Lanka. Rural women tapping rubber trees to extract latex was intriguing for these guests from the built up commercial hub of Singapore. It made them very excited for the island adventures that lay ahead.

The ETD for the safari at Udawalawe National Park was at 2.30 pm.

Just after we entered through the gates, the contact call of a Yellow-eyed Babbler alerted us and the short whistling notes that we first heard was the sign that it was not a Prinia.

Close by was a dead tree and on it, an uncommon breeding resident Black-winged Kite devouring a mouse, while its partner looked longingly at the meal of small prey.  Kites hover and Eagles don’t and my guests spent the next hour hoping to spot an Eagle to compare this unique behaviour of Raptors.

Black-winged Kite

Elephants never fail to excite guests. Today was no exception with a herd of around 6 feeding, leisurely. Even the solitary males were unperturbed. It was a great opportunity to explain how to identify between males and females by their body structure.

Elephants at Udawlawe National Park

The sun was casting a fabulous glow on the beautiful Udawalawe National Park and the sunbathing Buffaloes were loving it! Overhead, a flock of Rosy Starlings flew under clear skies and perched silently on a ‘Maila’ tree (Bauhinia racemosa) enjoying this warm weather open country they visit on their long winter migration season.


Sunbathing Buffalos

Comparing the footprints of Jackals and Jungle cats inside the Park was the perfect end to an evening that set the tone for three days of bird watching in Udawalawe and Yala – a lovely experience with this family from Singapore.

 

13 DECEMBER 2017 – Yala National Park

The morning’s visit to the Elephant transit home was rewarding, seeing the baby elephants being fed and fighting for more!

The guests were excited for their first visit to the famed Yala NP but couldn’t resist photographing the nomadic Sri Lankan gypsies setting up their mobile camp by a river and fortune telling around town.

Sri Lankan gypsies camping

The ‘Bat-Tree’ near the impressive Tissa Lake was another photo worthy moment.

Fruit Bats on “the bat tree”

On our way to Yala we stumbled upon the elusive Collared Scops Owl. What a terrific start to the day! Our Ayu in the Wild Logo, commonly known as the Indian Scops Owl, sleepily gazing from the hollow of a ‘Burutha’ (Chloroxyon swietenia) tree, probably after its days fill.

Collared Scops Owl

Sharp at 2.30 pm we entered the Yala NP. Have you ever heard the sound of clattering mandibles of a flock of Painted Storks fishing? Our guests said they’ve never heard such a racket, as they observed the communal feeding of these pink feather-backed Storks side by side with a flock of Eurasian Spoonbills.

Eurasian Spoonbills and Painted Storks fishing together

A Malabar Pied Hornbill’s presence was betrayed by the loud, shrill cackling call – the females could be identified by the white ring around the eyes.

Malabar Pied Hornbill

A Black-naped Hare may not be the exciting sight, a hare giving birth to its litter was a definite tick on my checklist. Wishing her well, we left the park as the sun bowed out for the day.

Hare giving birth to a litter of two

 

14 DECEMBER 2017 – Wetlands of Tissamaharama and Yala National Park

I love these wetland bird watching walks.

A female Purple-rumped Sunbird looked ready to lay its eggs in a nest hanging from an ‘Andara’ (Dichrostachys cinerea) tree. A few minutes later, a distressed call from the male confirmed this.

Purple-rumped Sunbird in its nest

A flock of Oriental White-eyes were seen feeding on nectar but unfortunately took flight as I rustled some leaves. An alarm call of a palm squirrel distracted me and revealed a Shikra probing over for its lunch.

Oriental White eye

Shikra

On our second safari inside Yala, the sound of a gentle whistling took us to see not one but two pairs of Lesser Whistling-ducks swimming around a water hole.

A noble doe scaring off a Crested Hawk-eagle to save a frog was quite the spectacle for our guests!

Crested Hawk – Eagle

We decide to be detectives for the day and followed the newly etched cone shaped bird prints on the sand of the beautiful Common Hoopoe and eventually the track led us to one of my favourite birds.

Common Hoopoe

The evening was exciting. A false alarm by an overzealous Deer about an imaginary lurking predator set off an entire herd of Spotted Deer on a frenzied dash. A few water holes away about 15 full grown buffalos emerged from the muddy waters paying absolutely no heed to the submerged crocodile who eyed them and wisely, moved on to something its own size.

Will keep you posted when I’m next out amongst the Birds.

Senior Naturalist –  Ayu in the Wild

 

 


FAQs about Bird Watching tours with Ayu in the Wild

  • Are the Naturalists experienced?
    • Both our main bird watching Guides have traversed the length and breadth of the island and are experienced in field and scientific research.
  • Can we speak with the Guides before booking a tour?
    • Yes, we could arrange it at a convenient time for our Guides and for you – as they are mostly on the field and not in office.
  • Is it a private tour or a group?
    • Almost all of our bird watching tours are private tours but we can organise a small group tour too. Our ratio is 1 bird watching leader to a maximum of 6-8 pax.
  • What’s included into the tour cost?
    • An English speaking experienced Naturalist to lead the tour
    • Accommodation and meals as noted on an itinerary
    • Entrance tickets to National Parks
    • Cost of safari jeeps
    • Private luxury vehicle with an English speaking Chauffeur
    • A comprehensive bird check list for each guest. 
  • On the Road
    • You will be in a comfortable luxury Vehicle (Van/Car/SUV) and your English speaking chauffeur and your Guide will coordinate everything for you
  • Food
    • All accommodation can cater to varying food allergies or special requirements (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free). You don’t need to eat curries at every meal!
  • Insects, Malaria and Vaccinations
    • Sri Lanka is malaria free. We do recommend that you consult your usual GP or Travel Clinic for up to date information on vaccinations required. Use a repellent containing 20%-30% DEET to prevent mosquito bites. Citronella Oil is a great natural remedy for preventing mosquito bites but ensure you are not allergic to it.
  • Beyond birding
    • Well the Rough Guides has described us as a tour operator that can get you under the skin of the island. With our wide network of local contacts and curated authentic local interactions, we call them our ‘immersive luxury’ experiences.

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