Sri Lanka, Day 8, 17 December 2019 - Journey to Sinharaja, Udawalewe Reservoir and Rock View Motel area, Sinharaja

We left Tissamaharama after breakfast this morning and slowly made our way west towards Sinharaja, our final destination.

Our route included several stops, the main one being at Udawalewe Reservoir. Here we explored the wetland from the road and also the scrub on the opposite side of the road. It was good to add Black-headed Cuckooshrike to the trip list here plus a showy juv Oriental Magpie Robin, Jerdon's Bushlarks, Paddtfield Pipits, 1 Marshall's Iora, Grey-breasted Prinia, Plain Prinia and Zitting Cisticolas.
The wetland held c6 Spot-billed Pelicans, Little Cormorants, Indian Cormorants, Oriental Darter, loads of Painted Storks and Lesser Whistling Ducks, a single Common Kingfisher, 3 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and then at the far end a small group of c6 Ashy-crowned Sparrow-larks and 3 Yellow Wagtails including a nice male 'feldegg'.
Overhead we had several Brahminy Kites, Oriental Honey Buzzard and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

When into hilly 'tea country' we made a stop and found a nesting pair of Plum-headed Parakeets and a Black-hooded Oriole while the same area held c3 Black Eagles. Other birds seen on the journey included Crested Serpent Eagle, Asian Openbill, 2 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, White-browed Bulbul and White-rumped Munias. Asian Elephant and Grey Mongoose were also seen, the latter completing our set of the 4 Sri Lankan mongooses.

Oriental Magpie Robin

Brahminy Kite (juv)

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Plum-headed Parakeet

Asian Elephant

 Grey Mongoose

Arriving at the superbly situated Rock View Motel we checked in, had some lunch and prompty ticked Sri Lanka Hill Myna out of the window! A pair of Purple-rumped Sunbirds were found nesting in a flowering bush right opposite the hotel doorway and a white Asian Paradise Flycatcher showed briefly.

The mid-late afternoon birding session was close by where we were met by another of Hetti's local contacts (indeed, the same guy was also our jeep driver for the next 2 days). He took us first to a small area of woodland by the road where a mega Chestnut-backed Owlet perched at eye level looking at us. We also had a pair of Tawny-bellied Babblers there before another roadside site close by had us getting intimate with a pair of roosting Sri Lanka Frogmouths with a Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler just opposite. We then spent a little time around the grounds and garden of one of the local farmers where, just by standing still and scanning we scooped with Legge's Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Hill Mynas, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, Sri Lanka Green Pigeons. Green Imperial Pigeons, 2 Layard's Parakeets, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots, Yellow-fronted Barbet, 3 Orange Minivets, Black-capped Bulbul, 3 Black Bulbuls and 3 Golden-fronted Leafbirds. We had 4 emdemics in one tree at one point!  Around the house was a showy Emerald Dove while we had tea kindly made by the house owners wife!

Chestnut-backed Owlet

Sri Lanka Frogmouths

Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler

Legge's Flowerpecker

Sri Lanka Crested Drongos

Sri Lanka Green Pigeon

Emerald Dove

4 endemics in 1 tree!

Sri Lanka Crested Drongo

     l to r - Indunil, Yours truly, Hetti, Graham & AbdulRahman


Sri Lanka, Day 7. 16 December 2019 - Yala NP

A full days jeep safari in the Yala NP and a day we'd all been looking forward to. What could possibly go wrong?! I make no apologies that this post is a bit heavy on photos - some of the views were so close from the shelter of our jeep.

We were picked up early from the Grand Yala in the jeep and were at the entrance gate to the park just before dawn. A bonus Rusty-spotted Cat already in the bag as one had crossed the road in front of us on the approach. The day consisted of a morning and afternoon (11 hours in total) spent in the jeep with a 2 hours 'enforced' break at a picnic spot by the beach where we were treated to an al-fresco curry lunch with a bonus fly-over Black-necked Stork and our only Thick-billed Flowerpecker of the trip.

At the risk of this just being just a list of species seen on our drives we clocked up Orange-breasted Green Pigeons early on plus Jerdon's Bushlarks and surprisingly a few waders (I'd not really expected therev to be much water) - Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Marsh Sandpipers, 4 Yellow-wattled Lapwings, numerous Red-wattled Lapwings, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilts were all seen. A few Brown Shrikes perched up and a very pale headed 'Philippine' Brown Shrike flew across the track. During the course of the day all 3 bee-eaters (Chestnut-headed, Blue-tailed and Little Green) all gave amazing point blank views. Gull-billed Terns, Whiskered Terns and our first Little Terns were seen but no gulls were apparant. A couple of Blue-faced Malkohas and a Grey-bellied Cuckoo typically didn't pose for the camera but a Jacobin Cuckoo and a single Indian Roller did. Other goodies included Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Sri Lanka Swallows collecting mud on the track, c20 Indian Robins, Indian Pitta, Coppersmith Barbet, Brown-headed Barbet, a stunning pair of Brahminy Starlings, Baya Weavers, Streaked Weavers, Paddyfield Pipits, c3 Brown-throated Needletails, c12 Crested Treeswifts, 1 Hoopoe and a pair of Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers that caused soem panic as we all tried to get onto them! Herons and egrets were everywhere with big colonies of Asian Openbills plus Asian Woolyneck and Intermediate Egrets amongst the more common species. Tricoloured Munia was another tick for me amongst the much more numerous Scaly-breasted Munias. Raptors included a point blank Crested Hawk Eagle and a couple of distinctive Black Eagles.

Mammals were represented by loads of Spotted Deer, Ruddy Mongoose, c6 Asian Elephants, Grey Langurs and no shortage of Wild Pigs. Despite much searching however our main target eluded us. That is until 30 minutes before park closing time at 18.00 when news filtered through of a Leopard sat in a tree a few km away - cue a crazy twitch! The drive there and subsequent wait in a line of jeeps was like a scene from wacky races. But all was well as we got some great views of this majestic beast in its tree and even did a 2nd pass because AbdulRahman hadn't got a photo on the 1st pass. This time some road rage was in order from our mad driver as the rangers who had been organising things had all left! Then it was a mental dash back to get back to the gate by 18.00 which we failed to do. Luckily we weren't the only ones so our driver got away with it!

Things hadn't finished there because beside the road outside the park gave us some great views of c8 Indian Nightjars some perched on telegraph wires. What a day!           

Lesser Whistling Duck

Kentish Plover

Sri Lanka Junglefowl

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon 

Brown Shrike

Jerdon's Bushlark

Little Ringed Plover

Little Green Bee-eater

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon

Red-wattled Lapwing

 Yellow-wattled Lapwing

Painted Stork

Black-headed Ibis & Indian Pond Heron

Crested Hawk Eagle

Indian Pitta

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon

Black Eagle

Tricoloured Munia

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Sri Lanka Swallow

Indian Peafowl

Baya Weaver

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Malabar Pied Hornbills

Purple-rumped Sunbird

Brown-headed Barbet

Brahminy Starling

Common Sandpiper

Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark

Asian Woolyneck

Eurasian Spoonbill

Indian Roller

Jacobin Cuckoo

Streaked Weaver

Little Green Bee-eaters

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Marsh Sandpiper

Black-winged Stilt

Asian Openbill

Yellow-fronted Woodpecker

Scaly-breasted Munias

Green Imperial Pigeons

Spotted Deer

Ruddy Mongoose

Grey Langur

Wild Pig

Asian Elephants

Common Forest Lizard

Spotted Deer

Grey Langurs