Thursday, 11 February 2016

Sri Lanka more than just the Birds!

The fantastic island of Sri Lanka holds far more than the birds I've been showing over the last few posts. Great reptiles, butterflies, mammals and of particular interest to me the dragonflies, especially as I am running a speciality dragonfly tour to Sri Lanka in November through Zoothera Birding,
Just look at these which are a few of the 26 species we recorded.
Green's Gem a real nice one near Sinharaja
One of the best Damselflies we saw this is a Painted Waxtail
Variegated Flutterers were rather common along one river near Marissa
A male Oriental Green-wing near our lodge in Sinharaja
We saw quite a few Yellow Waxtails
Spine-tufted Skimmers were seen a few times
This is a male Shining Gossamerwing
Asian Pintail was also seen in a few areas
This Indian Duskhawker was first found inside our hotel!
Very nice looking Orange-winged Groundling
Oriental Scarlet found near the coast
We saw lots of Pied Parasols including this male
This is a male Sombre Lieutenant!
Green Skimmers were fairly common
In the small watery ditches you can find these Dawn Bluetails
Spine-legged Redbolt male
So as you can see plenty of really nice Dragonflies.

Sri Lanka Whale Watching with Zoothera

So as a short couple of days extension to our already very successful main tour seeing ALL the endemic birds, several of us continued on to Marissa on the coast. Our glorious beachside hotel offered fabulous views over the Indian Ocean, and during the next two days we embarked on 2 full morning trips out in search of Whales and Dolphins.
These Spinner Dolphins put on a great show and we enjoyed at least four separate sightings of these species with the above group containing at least 20 individuals.
This mother and baby were in the same group as above.
Whale sightings had been scarce over the last four days so expectations were not that great, but our first morning did find a fabulous Orca (Killer Whale) which showed off perfectly.
The next day we were lucky enough to encounter a Bryde's Whale. This whale was named after the Norwegian whaler Bryde's but is pronounced 'broodess'. We had great views of this whale before leaving and heading further out to sea.
We also saw 3 Striped Dolphins porpoising under the bow of our boat and a couple of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Amongst the birds were mostly flocks of Whiskered Terns with a few Crested Terns, Roseate Terns and some Bridled and Sooty Terns.
Whale watching has become very popular over recent years from Marissa and in fact to the point that I would now consider it invasive as we counted no less than 22 boats in pursuit of the Bryde's Whale with many of these I believe following it for several hours. This to be honest is unacceptable especially as one of the largest of the boast was a government owned boat who should have been regulating this to prevent unnecessary disturbance. A lot of the boats were jam packed with tourist out to see a whale and most of these no no better. The problem is that most boat companies say they are whale friendly and do not chase the whales. Yet every boat I saw was in hot persuit of any whale in sight. It is important to know that you should try not to use the touristy whale watching trips which are of course a little cheaper but to try and use a responsible company. The company we use is Blue water Cruise  the boat was large and could easily hold 50 - 60 people but on each trip there was only our small group of 6 plus 4 others so plenty of room. The crew when asked to retreat from watching the Bryde's Whale complied and we set off on our own in search of other species. Try to use companies that really do not chase whales!!!!
Theses fishing boats were fun to watch crashing over the waves!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Newrea Eliya and Horton Plains

Driving up to Newera Eliya the temperature changed from decidedly hot to cool and even chilly. We first stopped at the Surrey Estate to try for the often tricky endemic Sri Lanka Woodpigeon. We eventually found one and got great scope views.

Also in this same patch of forest we got fantastic views of a pair of Brown Wood Owls as well as the tiny Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. 
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
From here we continued up to Newera Eliya. Here we visited Victoria park on several occasions where we found our target Pied Thrushes, Indian Pitta, Dull-blue Flycatcher and a female Kashmir Flycatcher.
Indian Pitta
Male Pied Thrush
Female Pied Thrush
Dull-blue Flycatcher
A little further away on Horton Plains where it was pretty cold in the early morning we had superb views of the endemic Sri Lanka Bush-warbler
Sri Lanka Bush-warbler
We managed to see the very difficult Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush very well, but unfortunately the area was too dark for a decent photo. Several other birds did show well and we got superb views of both Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler and Dark-fronted Babblers.
Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler
Dark-fronted Babbler
Other birds in the area included the smart endemic Yellow-eared Bulbul
And the tiny Sri Lanka White-eye
Aside from the birds we did get some very nice looks at Sambar
From here we returned to Colombo and the end of our tour which saw ALL the Sri Lankan endemic bird species

Monday, 8 February 2016

Udawalawe National park

Moving on to Udawalawe we started off by looking at a nice Indian Scops-Owl in the hotel garden.
Our afternoon safari produced a wealth of goodies including very close looks at both Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Green Bee-eater.
A pair of huge Malabar Pied Hornbills showed well perched in a dead tree.
We got very close views of several Orange-breasted Green Pigeons
And amongst the mammals we saw were Indian Elephants, Water Buffalo and a fabulous Jungle Cat.
Oh I nearly forgot the Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel in the hotel grounds
Next we move on to the highlands

Friday, 5 February 2016

Zoothera in Sinharaja

So we moved on to Sinharaja for about 3 days and just about saw everything we had wished for. The newly discovered Serendib Scops-Owl did not disappoint and was even sat right out in the open in a patch of bamboo.
Serendib Scops-Owl
Another was found as we made our way back down to the lodge from the rainforest and indeed was another endemic. The Chestnut-backed Owlet.
I like spotting owls from moving vehicles so this was a nice find.
Not quite an owl we struggled to find a roosting Sri Lanka Frogmouth but eventually one was found fast asleep half hidden in the forest.
Up at the research station in the rainforest we were treated to great views of the endemic Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
Amongst the mixed flocks of birds there were always Ashy-headed Laughingthrushes
Here is our record shot of Slaty-legged Crake a bird few people get to see in Sri Lanka.