Negombo has some good hotels and a lovely beach, but in our mind, is not Sri Lanka. It has adapted well to the tourist trade and offers a variety of eateries including a fish and chip shop! It is, however, only 20 minutes from the airport and so good for recuperating for a couple of days after the flight.
Birding was incidental to the overall holiday, but I did manage to get out most days for a wander. In Negombo there is a small vegetable garden opposite the hotel and I checked out the 2 ponds here along with the trees for local birds. Also, the sea offered views of tern species and a huge evening roost of house crows. About 200 crows pass the hotel, along the beach, per minute for 2 hours all heading for the local fish market, the largest in Sri Lanka
In the garden I started the list with common birds such as common mynah, Indian pond heron, red wattled lapwing, purple rumped sunbird, Indian cormorant and white breasted waterhen. A yellow bittern had been reported but was not seen on the 3 occasions I checked.
|Blue tailed bee eater|
|Common mynah having a wash in the swimming pool|
|Purple rumped sunbirds|
|Tawny coster butterfly|
Walking the well vegetated tracks around a small industrial complex gave up loads of bird photo opportunities with black hooded orioles, white breasted kingfishers, scaley breasted and white rumped munias, chestnut headed bee eaters, white browed and red vented bulbuls seen on a daily basis. Overhead, Brahminy kites and an occasional white bellied sea eagle.
|Juvenile Asian koel|
|female Asian koel|
|Chestnut headed bee eater through dense foliage|
|White browed bulbul|
|Gull billed tern|
|Red vented bulbul|
|Sri Lankan drongo|
On the water in front of us, a large crocodile whilst in the trees plenty of black monkeys. Green Imperial pigeons got on to the trip list as did the ubiquitous spotted dove.
Our evening was rocked when we took a phone call from the cattery where we had left our wonderful cat, Colin. He had escaped and disappeared. We were mortified and sadly, the rest of the holiday was not what we wanted. Constant worry and concern for the cat we adore. We rallied some fantastic friends who covered miles in all types of weather but to no avail. Traps were set that caught a variety of cats, but not Colin. As the days went by in a bit of a haze I certainly thought of coming home, but really this wouldn't have achieved anything that wasn't already being done. Wendy spent time trying to read and I would wander off to bird watch, but our minds were elsewhere! We were checking our phones constantly, racking up an impressive roaming data bill. With Sri Lanka being 5.5hours ahead we would be waking during the night to check for good news and then be tired and sleepy during the day.
On the Wednesday we had booked to go to Mirissa to whale watch and, hopefully note a few seabirds. An early start found us with 23 other folk on a boat that headed out to the horizon at 6.30a.m. The weather became increasingly poor, with the boat being tossed all over the place. Folk were calling to head back, crying and feeling sick but on we ploughed, into even worse conditions. Eventually the captain took a vote and the majority opted for a return after 2 hours of being bounced around.We would have not had good views of any whales of dolphins, never mind birds as the passenger deck was surrounded in plastic sheeting in a poor attempt to keep us dry from the waves that were now breaking over the top of the boat. We returned in pouring rain, with the only consolation being we got a full refund of our 15,000 rupees, about £70.00
Our minibus returned us to the hotel and I wandered off for another walk in grey but warm conditions. Chestnut headed bee eaters and purple rumped sunbirds a plenty, along with white browed bulbuls, a brown headed barbet and more of what had already been seen. However, a clamorous reed warbler was a new Sri Lankan bird for me and a Plain prinia was a new trip lister.
|Clamorous reed warbler|
|Partially submerged crocodile|
|Fruit bat colony|
|Little egret on the beach|
|Oriental magpie robin|
|Another chestnut headed bee eater through vegetation|
|Stork billed kingfisher|
I spent Saturday trying to photograph the greater crested terns from the beach. A few shots here.
|Just emerging, fishless|
|Green Imperial pigeon|
|Purple rumped sunbird, female|
|Looking east from The Fortress lawn|
|Beach west of The Fortress|
After a week at The Fortress and some great times at Siri's restaurant (email:email@example.com) where we drank wine and arrak with him on our last night, we were heading back to Negombo for 2 nights and a transfer to the airport at 4.00am on Monday 6th.
We had time to thank Dimuthu who had been our tuk tuk driver for the week If anyone is travelling to the south coast of the isalnd I can highly recommend Ranasingha Ranawalage Dimuthu Tours. Check the Facebook Page. Also, do use Kotawana Fisherman Seafood Restaurant, run by Siri. It is on the main road, 400 yards east of The Fortress at the top of the lane to the station. Great curry at a superb price. Very friendly, too.
Back in Negombo I headed back to the garden but still no yellow bittern. The following morning I had a 6.30 start to visit Mutharajwela Marshes, with the resident naturalist at the Jetwing Hotels in Negombo, Hermantha.
A superb boat trip along canals and onto the lagoon. Birds a plenty, with a common kingfisher being a new bird for my Sri Lankan list. The 2 hour trip was one of constant birdwatching, in great light. More stunning white breasted and stork billed kingfishers, white bellied sea eagle, brahminy kites, terns, purple herons, brown headed barbets, a water monitor lizard, darter, and plain prinia were all noted. A trip I strongly recommend. This was my 2nd visit with Hermantha, good to see him too.
|African monarch butterfly|
|Brahminy kite, juvenile|
|Brown headed barbet|
|Female Common kingfisher (not common in Sri Lanka, though)|
|Crimson rose butterfly|
|Darter, a strange hunting technique, swimming mostly submerged|
|Great white egret|
|Distant grey heron|
|Rose ringed parakett|
|Rose ringed parakeet that has lost a lot of feathers, probably due to a mite.|
|Stork billed kingfisher|
|White bellied sea eagle nest|
|White bellied sea eagle returning with a fish|
|White breasted kingfisher|
|White breasted kingfisher|
Our flight home seemed much faster than the outward flight and we were in the car by 4.00pm. Due to a broken down vehicle on the M25 we stayed on A roads that were also congested. Took over 2 hours to get home, a quick change and out to look for Colin. We spent an hour or so searching and calling, saw a cat that could have been him before returning home and getting to bed some 24 hours after getting up. I was up early the next morning for a walk along lanes to try and find places he would be hiding. 2 areas seemed Colin territory and, fingers crossed, we might trap him at one of these. We have received reports of him near a local pub but now can eliminate that area from our inquiries as we trapped 2 cats that, from a distance may be thought to be ours. However, doing a leaflet drop at every house today a lady said she had seen Colin in her garden, so she is putting out food and we hope he feeds and gains her trust over the next week or so. We miss him very much.
Finally, a big thank you to Simon Gemmell at Designer Travel for putting our trip together. As before, Simon made great suggestions and everything went smoothly. www.designertravel.co uk for website and firstname.lastname@example.org for contact. It anyone is thinking of Sri Lanka as a holiday destination, or for birding/butterfly trip do contact both me for advice (I've visited 4 times in 3 years) and Simon for help with your travel plans.
Overall, 64 species were noted, not bad for a non birding holiday.