Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A week in Sri Lanka part 4

One last post covering the reamining Sri Lanka birdlife we saw, mostly near-passerines. Then I'll take a break, and later I'll post up the mammals, reptiles and invertebrates.

Malabar Pied Hornbill. What a bird! Huge, bizarre, spectacular. But sadly also rather shy and rare, and I only managed rubbish photos of the two that visited woodland near our hotel.

If Sri Lanka's birdlife could be said to be lacking in any way, it would be the seabirds that let the side down. There just aren't that many. From the coast we only saw Whiskered and Great Crested Terns, and from the boat trip we did on our last day (more about that later) we only added Bridled Tern, a lone Red-billed Tropicbird, and some of these - Flesh-footed Shearwater.

Gorgeous creature - the Indian Roller. We saw a few, including this one on day one in Negombo.
I saw this lone Little Green Bee-eater two days in a row on the same overhead wire, near farmland.

A real stunner, the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon. Seen in a wooded area near farmland.

The pretty Spotted Dove is very common in all kinds of habitats.

A distant circling 'raptor' turned out on closer inspection to be this - a Spot-billed Pelican.

A Coppersmith Barbet, showing off its 'beard' of bristles.

Another, less striking barbet, this one is Brown-headed. Both barbets were seen in farmland near Dambulla.

Not my finest hour photography-wise but I'm including this anyway because it shows (just about) one of the best birds of the trip - an Indian Pitta. Saw this just outside my hotel room at dawn, too dark for more than 1/4 sec shutter speed. If you want to see what an Indian Pitta is supposed to look like, there's a lovely photo of one here.

A week in Sri Lanka part 3

This post is for the passerines (apart from the swallows of part 2), of which there were lots, and lots.

A Black-headed Munia seen in the highlands. Very small, sturdy little finch. I also saw Scaly-breasted Munia.

House Crows. The commonest bird in towns, where they seem to fill the niches of pigeons and gulls (as well as crows). In more rural areas there were also Jungle Crows.

This is a Rufous-winged Bushlark. Only saw this one, on the roadside in a quiet farmland area.

White-browed Fantail. What a great bird, constantly bouncing around and showing off that tail. This one was in the garden at Sigiriya - we saw one other on a roadside near the rainforest.

Yellow-billed Babbler, seen near marshland. They go around in small flocks and seem very devoted to each other.

Indian Robin. A lively character, common around villages, very approachable.

 This is a Thick-billed Flowerpecker, very small bird, superficially finch-like. We also saw Pale-billed Flowerpecker.

These are my favourites - wish I'd seen more of them (and managed better photos). They're White-bellied Drongos.

This shy stunner, seen in the marshes, is a Golden-fronted Leafbird.

 Another babbler, but it's not closely related to the Yellow-billed. This one is Yellow-eyed Babbler.

White-browed Bulbul, a rather shy woodland bird.

This is a Jungle Prinia, seen in the hotel grounds and also out in the fields. Also saw Ashy Prinia. EDIT - no, it's not. The guide told us it was, but I had my doubts, and just checked. It's actually a Common Tailorbird.

The Common Myna is very common indeed, in both town and country, and is a great singer and mimic.

A hastily grabbed shot of the only Oriental White-eye that we saw.

The Purple-rumped Sunbird is one of the commonest small birds on the island, including in towns. This is a male, the female is less colourful but still a very pretty little thing.

Terrible photo of an Oriental Magpie Robin, singing at dusk in the hotel grounds.

This is a male Common Iora, with the female in the photo above. Seen in a semi-wooded rural area.

Another very common bird, the Red-vented Bulbul is a confiding, show-offy sort of character.

Also common but much less in-your-face is the dazzling Black-headed Oriole.

Finally, one for the UK twitchers - Blyth's Reed Warbler. Another marshland denizen.

A week in Sri Lanka part 2

This post is for photos of the birds of prey and the 'aerial' species.

This and the pic below show the local subspecies of Peregrine, also known as 'Shaheen'. There were a pair of these around Sigiriya, a great big rock that used to house an ancient palace.

A Crested Serpent-Eagle. These were quite common in both lowlands and uplands, very distinctive both in flight and perched.

This is a Black Eagle, quite a rarity so we were lucky to get even these rubbish views.

 Little Swift, quite a common bird and distinctive with its House Martin-like white rump.

Indian Swiftlet. This was the default swift, present at most of the sites we visited including in towns. A small, blunt-ended, murky brown swift.

A trio of Ceylon Swallows. They look like a red-bellied version of Red-rumped Swallow, and in fact have only recently been split as a separate species, endemic to Sri Lanka.

The only owl we saw was this one, a Brown Fish Owl by marshland.

Brahminy Kite, a really beautiful medium-sized bird of prey which was common in the lowland, marshy areas in particular.

I also saw White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Shikra.

A week in Sri Lanka - part 1

Blimey, where to start? I had the very good fortune to be invited on a short-notice work trip to Sri Lanka, and there followed a week of incredibly full-on wildlife-watching, taking in central wetland areas, rainforest in the south-west, and some fun on the southern coast. I have absurd quantities of photos so this will take several posts... I'll begin with some wetland birds.

Whiskered Tern, common both on the coast and inland. This one's in breeding plumage but many were in winter plumage.

White-breasted Kingfisher. The most common kingfisher, we saw them everywhere, often on overhead wires and roadside posts. Also saw one Common Kingfisher, and one Asian Dwarf Kingfisher, the latter sadly a window collision casualty.

Indian Pond Heron. This streaky, white-winged little heron was very common on all kinds of wetlands, especially paddyfields.

Purple Heron. Only saw a couple of these, and not at close range.

Purple Gallinule aka Purple Swamphen, or as it was introduced to me by our guide, 'Purple Coot'. We can agree at least that it is purple. Only saw this one, on marshland near Dambulla.

Red-wattled Lapwing. Quite common, prone to noisy flypasts. They sound like terns.

Black-headed Ibis. One of the scarcer long-legged wading birds on the paddies and marshes.

Little Egret. Quite numerous, more so than Great White but less so than Cattle.
Indian Cormorants. We saw plenty of these by open freshwater.

Cattle Egret, inspecting the cattle. Very common everywhere. A different subspecies to the ones in Europe, with brighter buff bits.

Not strictly speaking a wetlands bird but we did see all our Peacocks in fields around the marshland.

White-breasted Waterhen. Very Moorhen-like in its mannerisms, and very common. This one was on a roof at one of the hotels.