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The Wildlife Lodges team have just spent 2 glorious weeks in sunny Sri Lanka in search of the endemic birds and many other forms of wildlife:

Our February trip to Sri Lanka produced ALL of the 33 endemic bird species plus superb views of Jungle Cat, Indian Elephant many butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles!


Chestnut-backed OwletOverview:

The fabulous island of Sri Lanka often referred to as the 'teardrop of India' makes a wonderful destination for wildlife watchers. Our two week tour took us to many of the best places to appreciate the country's wealth of wildlife and indeed we saw All of Sri Lankas endemic bird species whilst here. The hot weather makes a great winter getaway, and good quality hotels and lodges make for a very comfortable stay. The traffic is chaotic and if your a nervous passenger in a vehicle maybe bring a blindfold. Having travelled to India many times we had no problem with the driving and were very relaxed with our excellent driver. Food was a bit monotonous but delicious and the soda and lime suggested by the locals kept our stomachs in order. King Coconuts bought from the side of the road were a great treat and tasted great while only costing 50 rupees each. Away from the towns and city’s the wildlife areas were fantastic although several of these areas are now being over run with tourists and the ‘wilderness factor’ spoilt by too many people.

The fabulous island of Sri Lanka often referred to as the 'teardrop of India' makes a wonderful destination for wildlife watchers. Our two week tour took us to many of the best places to appreciaWaterfall in Sri Lankate the country's wealth of wildlife and indeed we saw All of Sri Lankas endemic bird species whilst here. The hot weather makes a great winter getaway, and good quality hotels and lodges make for a very comfortable stay. The traffic is chaotic and if your a nervous passenger in a vehicle maybe bring a blindfold. Having travelled to India many times we had no problem with the driving and were very relaxed with our excellent driver. Food was a bit monotonous but delicious and the soda and lime suggested by the locals kept our stomachs in order. King Coconuts bought from the side of the road were a great treat and tasted great while only costing 50 rupees each. Away from the towns and city’s the wildlife areas were fantastic although several of these areas are now being over run with tourists and the ‘wilderness factor’ spoilt by too many people.

We visited 5 main areas ranging between 3 to 5 hours travelling time between each and all except Newera Eliya were hot and sunny.

1. Kitulgala

Approximately 3 hours drive from Colombo airport this was our first destination where we spent 3 days with a target list of 17 of Sri Lankas endemic birds.  Kitulgala is in the wet zone and sits beside the Kelani River surrounded by rainforest, which gets two monsoons each year. It is one of the wettest places in the country, and comes alive in the first three months of the year, especially in February and March the driest months when most nature watchers visit. Made famous for the film  'The Bridge on the River Kwai'  which was filmed here, the river has now become popular with white water rafters. We stayed for three days and each day Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lankaventured either over the rickety suspension bridge or the canoe ferry to visit the rainforest on the other side. We had a target list of 17 endemic birds for this area and indeed we found them all, although some were not so easy. Amongst these special birds were Chestnut-backed Owlet, Spot-winged Thrush, Orange Minivet, Sri Lanka Drongo, both Sri Lanka Green Pigeon and Green Imperial Pigeon as well as Crested sxerpent Eagle, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Orange-billed Babblers, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and both Sri Lanka and Southern Hill Mynas. The area also produced Indian Giant Squirrel and a variety of butterflies such as Jezebel, Common Rose, Tailed Jay and White Four-ring. Several excellent reptiles included Common Green Forest Lizard, Indian Kangaroo Lizard and Common Garden Lizard with some nice dragonflies such as Indigo Dropwing, Spine-tufted Skimmer, Asian Pintail, Sri Lanka Orange-faced Sprite and Marsh Skimmer.

2. Sinharaja

Moving on it was a 4 -5 hour drive to Sri Lankas premier wildlife endemic hotspot, Sinharaja Forest reserve where we stayed close by inSerindib Scops-Owl, Sri Lanka the fabulous Blue Magpie Lodge. This world heritage site encompasses some 6,092 h of primary rainforest where more than 60% of all species of wildlife are endemic. We concentrated on finding as many of these as possible and while here for 3 days we made two bumpy 45 journeys up to the rainforest reserve. Once here a wide mostly flat track worked its way 1 – 2 km to a research station which was about as far as most people ever go. The key to finding the specialities and endemic birds is to locate a mixed feeding flock, and during our visit we only managed to find one. This small flock did however hold Red-faced Malkoha, Asy-headed Laughingthrushes, Crimson-backed Flameback, Malabar Trogon, and beside the research station some fine Sri Lanka Blue Magpies. Other good birds we found included the really difficult Sri Lanka Thrush, which showed very well, and a Sri Lanka Frogmouth sat motionless on its daytime roost. A smart looking Green Pit Viper was seen and amongst the butterflies were Blue Mormon, Southern
Birdwing and Ceylon Tree Nymph. Lower down near our accommodation we found several Green-billed Coucals and got super looks at Sri Lanka Spurfowl and plenty of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys. A real highlight was seeing the recently discovered Serendib Scops-owl on a day roost. Beside the lodge a huge 8ft Water Monitor was seen and down by the river we found a superb dragonfly called a green’s Gem. With Tawny-bellied Babblers, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots and even the rarely seen Slaty-legged Crake plus all sorts of other wildlife this was a naturalists paradise.

3. Udawalawe National ParkIndian Elephants

Our next destination was about a 4 - 5 hour journey to Udawalawe National Park where we stayed about 15 minutes from the entrance. This park covers about 120 sq miles and was set up to preserve the wild animals that were displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir. As is so typical of many wildlife parks nowadays there seems to be no control over the amount of visitors that can enter each day and as such the wild animals are under great pressure with too many jeeps turning up at any and every sighting. This aside we had a great afternoon in the park seeing some of the 250 Indian Elephants that make this their home and even a Jungle Cat. Amongst the many birds we saw were Sirkeer and Blue-faced Malkohas, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, both Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Crested hawk-Eagle, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Blyth’s and Paddyfield Pipits and several species of prinia. Just outside the park amongst the dry scrub and a wetland area we found the endemic Sri Lanka Woodshrike, as well as Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Larks, Jerdon’s Bushlark and White-bellied Sea Eagle. Our hotel set beside the reservoir held a nice pair of Indian Scops-owls in the car park while the lake produced Spot-billed Pelicans, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns as well as an Indian Duskhawker dragonfly.

4. Newera-Eliya

Indian Pitta, Victoria ParkMoving on towards the cool climate of Newera-Eliya we first made a stop at the Surrey Estate a 4 acre private forest reserve that holds a good variety of birds and wildlife. Our brief visit targeted two species namely the difficult Sri Lanka Woodpigeon and a pair of roosting Brown Wood Owls both of which we got super views of. Moving on another 20km we arrived at the decidedly chilly Newera-Eliya. We spent two days here in search of our last 4 endemic birds. A short visit to a nearby clear stream and waterfall got us fantastic looks of the often very difficult Sri Lanka Whistling-Thrush, while walks in the close forests produced good views of Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babblers, and Sri Lanka White-Eye . A trip up to the decidedly cold Horton Plains completed our full set of endemic birds which included the skulking Sri Lanka Bush Warbler and Dull-blue Flycatcher, while nearby a Sambar deer and some Hill Swallows showed well. A real highlight of this area was a visit to Victoria Park where we got great looks at Pied Thrushes, Indian Pitta, Kashmir Flycatcher and a whole lot more.

5. Marissa

Our last and final area was the south coast town of Marissa a hotspot for Whale watching. Although a recent tourism phenomenon it is now big business and there are simply too many boats that are unregulated going out and chasing whales. Despite what all the companies say, that they are whale friendly and do not chase whales we witnessed the very opposite with 22 boats all in pursuit of one Bryde’s Whale. With respSpinner Dolphins, Marissaect to our boat run by ‘Blue Water Cruise’ who when asked to retreat from the persuit as we had all had super close views of this fabulous whale, it seemed others did not and some boats followed the whale for hours on end. So if you get to go to Marissa I would only recommend ‘Blue Water Cruise’ and definitely stay away from the cheap tourist packed boats that have no rules or respect for these magnificent creatures. Aside the Bryde’s Whale we had great looks at an Orca and dolphins including many Spinners plus Bottle-nosed and Striped. Seabirds that were present included Crested, Bridled, Sooty and Roseate Terns amongst the more interested.  Several ponds and a small river near Marissa made a nice change with Black Bittern, Grey-headed Swamphen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana and a great variety of dragonflies including Foggy-winged Twister, Painted Waxtail and Variegated Flutterer.

All in all a fantastic country with a wealth of very interesting wildlife on offer.  

 
Spine-tufted SkimmerJungle Cat

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wildlife:

During our 2 weeks we saw over 200 species of birds including all 34 Sri Lankan endemics, 30 butterflies, 28 dragonflies, 18 mammals and 14 reptiles. A pretty impressive list and such a great range of interesting creatures. 

Mammals:

 Water Buffalo  Giant SquirrelSambar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Birds:

Scimitar BabblerYellow-fronted Barbet   Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Yellow-eared BulbulDull-blue FlycatcherSri Lanka White-eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Reptiles:

Common Green Forest LizardGreen Pit ViperWater Monitor

  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Butterflies:

Common TigerBlue MormonWhite Four-ring 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Dragonflies:

Green's GemShining Gossamerwing

 Variegated Flutterer