Europe & Middle East
& Mailing Lists
Birding in Sri Lanka - Update
by Dave Sargeant
15-25 November 2004
We have recently returned from a short trip to Sri Lanka. In addition to the
plethora of trip reports on the web [e.g.,
Jon Hornbuckle's detailed
report], the following are a few notes and updates useful to potential
visiting birders. We did a "standard" itinerary using the services of
A. Baur & Co. Ltd. and their
driver/guide Abeydeera, who was excellent. In no particular order:
- November is not the best time to visit Sri Lanka. It was quite wet
on the eastern slopes and we consequently lost quite some time to
weather. It was especially wet around Bibile, with the lush vegetation
making it impossible to see Painted Francolin. Conversely, at Sinharaja
it was quite dry, with consequently little bird activity, including no
feeding flocks -- a consequence of which was that we dipped on the
Red-faced Malkoha. Winter migrants had not arrived in any numbers.
Kashmir Flycatcher had as yet not been reported from Victoria Park, and
only three Pied Thrushes had arrived and were very elusive. Later is
definitely better for these species.
- Some "clean-up" of "forest" type vegetation is happening in Victoria
Park which consequently has reduced the undergrowth and probably its
attraction for various specialities. This might be ongoing for some
- Entrance rules for Victoria Park might be changed. Previously you
could buy a ticket the previous day so that you could enter early (past
the park guard) the following morning. Officially it doesn't open till
08:00. However, we were not allowed to purchase advance tickets. The
best workaround would seem to be to enter the park in the late
afternoon, as you can exit after dark.
- As mentioned in a couple of recent trip reports the park entrance to
Horton Plains is being moved to before the Whistling Thrush pond. There
is a barrier across the road. This means that by early January 2005,
birders will need to pay to visit the site. Additionally it should be
noted that Baur & Co, and other company drivers make special
arrangements with the park guards to ensure that the barrier is left up
to allow early access. If you attempt to enter early morning on your own
you could well find the barrier down.
- The newly described Serendib Owl is now known from about five
localities, and I heard talk of an estimated 50 pairs having been
located. We visited two sites (one in Sinharaja, one in Kitagula) at
night where the bird has been found, but had no luck. The best site is
the one in Sinharaja park, but it's a grueling two hour drive from the
Sinharaja sites that most birders visit at the other side to the park.
It would seem that as this owl becomes better known it will become
gettable with more ease.
- One thing I found very surprisingly to not have been noted in any
trip reports, is that taping and tape playback is not allowed in
Sinharaja park. Whilst neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this, you
are advised to keep any taping equipment out of site so as not to
attract park guard attention.
- Based on earlier reports, the Blue Magpie Lodge appears to be under
new-management and upgraded a little. Warm showers were available in all
rooms via solar systems installed on the roofs. The place was clean and
the staff very friendly. We enjoyed our stay.
- It was disappointing to note that the parks of Yala, and
particularly Bundala, are becoming heavily invaded with the Mesquite
Prosopis juliflora/pallida sp. Our driver/guide was not aware of the
invasive nature and destruction of native species that this species
brings. It appears that nothing is being done to control or eradicate
it. Of the two parks, Yala is much the better for birding, so if short
of time give Bundala a miss.
David E. Sargeant
akalat [at] gmail.com