Saturday, 6 July 2019

Return to Sri Lanka

Wednesday 26th June found me boarding the 21.30hrs overnight direct flight to Colombo, arriving 12.45hrs. Here, I met my driver, Navinda and we set off for the 4 hour drive north to Anuradapura where I was based at Lievi's Guest house for 3 nights. In total, home to guest house took just under 24 hours, so a cold beer and out for a meal. Chicken curry and rice for £3.00 before I found a hotel where I could enjoy a few more beers. Here, I was invited to have an evening meal on the following night before returning to my room for some much needed sleep.
Woke early next morning for a wander around  before heading off at midday to the Sacred City a few miles away. Absolutely stunning place, some 2500 years old. Also, came across a few lakes, or tanks as they are called locally and spent some time checking the birds: Black headed ibis, black winged stilt, Lesser whistling duck and many egrets and grey herons. Several Brahminy kite overhead, too. Highlight was a distant marsh sandpiper, too far for a heat haze effected photo but its needle like bill was visible. An unusual bird to see here in high summer, usually found further north at its breeding grounds.
Just a monkey crossing the road at The Scared City

2000 year old Stipa

Well, 2000 years old cut into the shape of a key

Purple swamphens

Black headed ibis

Common mynah

BasawakkulamaTank with Lankararoa stipa in the distance

Indian pond heron

Juvenile black winged stilt

white throated kingfisher

Gray langur monkey

Juvenile Brahminy kite

Indian pond heron in breeding plumage

Great egret
Friday and an early start to drive for over an hour to Wilpattu National Park, west of Anuradhapura. At this time of the year there are just resident birds present. Species numbers are boosted in winter with over 200 migrant species arriving throughout the country, so I was not expecting too many birds on this jeep safari around a very large reserve (over 500 square miles.)
However, upon arriving I got 2 new Sri Lankan birds for me in the car park: Sri Lankan woodshrike and Small minivet. Also, a Malabar hornbill was present before we climbed into the jeep and off for a 4 hour drive around. In reality we should have arrived here at 6.30am but after the long flight the thought of getting up at 4.30am was none too appealing.
Into the park and immediately, a pair of Ceylon (or red) jungle fowl giving me the chance to improve on the photo of the last one I saw, in Yala National Reserve back in 2014. Then, superb views of 2 Crested hawk eagles, a juvenile right next to the track. Great photo opportunity. Little green bee eaters were everywhere as we continued along very bumpy and dry tracks. Indian spotted deer, Barking deer (muntjac) and Sambur deer.
Sri Lankan woodshrike

Indian robin

Small minivet

Malabar hornbill

Male Ceylon jungle fowl

Female Ceylon jungle fowl

Crested hawk eagle juvenile

Crested hawk eagle just taking off

Little green bee eater

Sambur deer

Little green bee eater portrait
We continued, checking tanks and man made water holes but not too much. Red vented bulbuls whistled as we drove by and on the tanks: Lesser whistling duck, 100's of Painted storks, black headed ibis, egret species and spot billed pelicans. One solitary elephant was observed along with crested serpent eagles and more crested hawk eagles, this time adults. Then, another new bird for me and one that is a scarce resident; a Grey headed fish eagle. Again great views from the jeep
Grey headed fish eagle

Adult crested hawk eagle

Same bird

Black headed bulbul, another bird for my Sri Lanakan list!

Pea hen

Pea cock

Spot billed pelican

Overhead spot billed pelican

Ceylon Spotted deer

Painted stork

Red wattled lapwing

Black headed ibis

Great egret with prey

As yet, unidentified lizard sp


The only elephant of the day

White rumped shama
We moved on and I spotted a white throated kingfisher not too distant with what looked like a dragonfly or cricket species in tis beak. This was the following sequence:





We completed the tour and got back to the car park. A search for a previously heard but not seen woodpecker species was unsuccessful before our driver invited us back to his house for a mucj needed cup of tea before the trip back to Lievi's Guest House in the city. A brilliant bird watching session.
Skink

Crested serpent eagle

Paddyfield pipit

Wild pigs

Ceylon spotted deer

Sign in the car park showing the Sloth bear that is present in Wilpattu but not seen today.
The following morning Navinda drove us to Negombo, some 4 hours away through Puttalam and Chillaw. Here I met up with two of Sri Lankas leading naturalists: Anoma Alagiyawadu and Hemantha Gunathilaka at the Jetwing Blue where Hemantha is Naturalist in Residence. Great to see these two again, Anoma having coming all the way from Galle for an evening meal before heading back home later that night.
The following morning I was up early and headed off to check a small tank the otherside of the road. Pleased I did as a Black crowned night heron was another new Sri Lankan bird for me along with regular species such as Little cormorant, red wattled lapwing, Asian Koel etc. Lovely little habitat.
red wattled lapwing

Black crowned night heron

Asian Koel with a large fruit

Little cormorant

Same night heron.

Navinda then completed driving me by taking my down the Southern Expressway to Hikkaduwa where I had no trouble in finding a room before getting a lift with Anoma into Galle and a visit to Jetwing Lighthouse to see staff Wendy and I know from previous visits and also to plan my last few days.
Anoma oversees a learning centre, MidGarden and I hoped to pop in to see students at work. It was only last November that I was there, leading sessions for these students so really looking forward to seeing those from previous lessons along with new ones who have just started to come along to MindGarden.
On the Tuesday, following visiting the session, Anoma and I headed off to Koggala some 15 miles east of Galle where I have previously stayed and bird watched. Coincidentally, the tracks I followed back in 2017 were the very ones Anoma drives along to collect his wife Anusha from work at a Managerial College. Some regular Sri Lankan birds along this track before a quick visit to Kogalla Lake. By now it was heading up to 35C so we beat a hasty retreat to the splendid Fortress hotel for a cool beer and I also took the opportunity to catch up with Siri. He used to run a lovely little roadside fish restaurant, but no tourists in the area for a while have, sadly, put him out of business.
Lovely to be back in this area again before we returned to Galle. On the Thursday I had planned to take the afternoon train to Colombo for my final night, but a train strike meant Navinda was press ganged into service and drove me all the way. 
Just great to be back in Sri Lanka again and to visit several new places and also record a few new bird species. My species list for the country in just over 150 species now. Awinter trip North to Jaffna and a visit over to the east along with a visit to Sinharja National Reserve will push the list way past 200! I'll just have to go back again!!
Brown headed barbet

Spotted dove

female Loten's sunbird

Common mynah

Plain tiger butterfly

Purple heron

Little egret

Juvenile little egret

Red vented bulbul, one of the most common of Sri Lankan birds

Lesser whistling duck

Indian darter


White bellied drongo

Sailor butterfly

Brahminy kite

female Lesser flameback

Regular sight at the Jetwing Lighthouse hotel swimming pool

Monitor lizard

Purple rumped sunbird
Friday meant a taxi to the airport and a 10 hour flight home followed by over an hour on a National coach before Wendy met me at Stansted airport near 11pm, some 19 hours after I had left the hotel in Colombo. I slept well!

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This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. In 2016 I spent time at Portland Bird Obs and two trips to Aviero, Portugal. 2017 found me back in Sri Lanka in Feb/March, then July and back for New Year's Eve celebrations in December. Also returned to The Camargue in May for a 4 day trip. Few plans for 2018, but nothing yet booked apart from a trip to the IOW.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander