Summary: We squeezed in a birding trip to Sri Lanka just before Rishi started off with his new job and were completely blown away by the Sri Lankan hospitality and the very friendly people. As our trip coincided with the Sri Lankan New Year, we were invited on several occasions by villagers to their homes and treated to delicious local sweets and also got an opportunity to witness a couple of traditional wedding functions.
Birding was equally rewarding and we managed to see all the 34 Sri Lankan endemics in a span of 8 days.
Nandana Hewagamage: We had no time to plan this trip ourselves and left everything to Nandana to take care of. Nandana planned the itinerary, booked the best possible accommodations and proved to be an extremely knowledgeable bird guide. He also doubled up as a driver and executed the whole trip in a very systematic manner.
Nandana came equipped with a Swarovski Scope and a Leica binocular and also carried along a wide selection of bird and other wildlife books. His van was spacious, comfortable and even had Wi-Fi facility.
Phone/WhatsApp: +94 77 966 9367
Travel Dates: 16 April 2018 – 25 April 2018
November to March is the peak birding season in Sri Lanka when several of the winter migrants like the Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush and the Indian Pitta can be seen. However, our focus was only on the endemics and we had no trouble finding them in April. Weather was also fine and rain did not trouble us much.
Kithulgala: A famous white water rafting destination, this town is situated along the Kelani River and has a good rainforest cover around it. Our birding efforts were mostly focused around the following three areas:
i) Village (6°59’17.4″N 80°24’55.3″E) across the suspension bridge (6°59’28.5″N 80°25’08.2″E)
ii) Makandawa Rainforest (6°59’04.4″N 80°24’09.7″E): A short boat ride (6°59’42.0″N 80°24’22.5″E) and a 10 minute walk via the village leads to the Makandawa forest.
iii) Tea estate a little ahead from the Royal River Resort (7°00’49.5″N 80°26’05.7″E)
Nuwara Eliya: Nuwara Eliya is a popular hill station and the gateway to the Horton Plains National Park. The scenic drive from Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains is interspersed with meadows and tea gardens that gradually transform into Montane evergreen forests and grasslands as we get closer to Horton Plains.
Udawalawe: This is a dry forest area that serves as a buffer to the Udawalawe reservoir. Nandana choose to stay here for a night to ensure that we see the Sri Lanka Woodshrike.
Sinharaja Forest: An excellent patch of rainforest with the possibility to see almost all the forest endemics.
Plantation Hotel, Kithulgala: Spacious and clean rooms, albeit a bit worn out. Good food
Leisure Village, Nuwara Eliya: Cramped, damp and worn out rooms. Average food, but good staff
Safari Village Hotel, Udawalawe: Spacious and clean rooms, excellent food and helpful staff
Birds Paradise Hotel, Sinharaja: Spacious and clean rooms, excellent food and helpful staff
16 April 2018 (Delhi – Colombo)
Direct flight Delhi (1230 Hrs) – Colombo (1605 Hrs), smooth and quick immigration, overnight at Hotel Empyrean.
17 April 2018 (Colombo – Kithulgala)
Nandana picked us up from the hotel at 0730 Hrs and we proceeded to Kithulgala reaching by 1100 Hrs.
Birding around the Police Station (6°59’42.0″N 80°24’38.2″E): Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Orange-billed Babbler and the Spot-winged Thrush.
Village across the suspension bridge: Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Green-billed Coucal, Red-backed Flameback, Black-capped Bulbul, Brown-capped Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Lesser Yellownape, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, White-bellied Drongo, Black-naped Monarch, White-browed Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Yellow-billed Babbler, Lesser Hill Myna, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Loten’s Sunbird and White-rumped Munia.
18 April 2018 ( Kithulgala)
Makandawa Forest: Sri Lanka Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Swallow, Black-capped Bulbul, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, nesting Yellow-fronted Barbet and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Malabar Trogon, Dark-fronted Babbler, Sri Lanka Frogmouth and a well camouflaged Serendib Scops Owl pair.
Others: Angled Pierrot, Black-Tipped Flashwing, Shining Gossamerwing, Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard, Sri Lankan Giant Millipede
19 April 2018 (Kithulgala – Nuwara Eliya)
Tea estate a little ahead from the Royal River Resort: Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Red-backed Flameback, Black-capped Bulbul, Sri Lanka Hill Myna
Nuwara Eliya: Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Oriental White-eye, Sri Lanka White-eye, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and Jerdon’s Leafbird
Others: White Fourring
20 April 2018 (Nuwara Eliya)
Pattipola Railway station area: Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon
Horton Plains: Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (just before the park entrance), Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush (approximately 2 km before the park entrance), Indian Blackbird and Dull-blue Flycatcher
Others: Montane Purple-faced Langur, Black-lipped Lizard
21 April 2018 (Nuwara Eliya – Surrey – Udawalawe)
Pattipola Railway station area: Hill Swallow, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, White-rumped Munia, Black-throated Munia
Surrey Bird Sanctuary (6°53’57.2″N 80°54’02.5″E): Sri Lanka Junglefowl and Crimson-backed Goldenback
Udawalawe: Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Brown-headed Barbet, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Common Iora, Marshall’s Iora, Orange Minivet and Tawny-bellied Babbler