Trip Report

A Special Holiday in Sri Lanka
(January 2008)

by John Bruty

On the 10th January 2008, Katie and I set off on our much anticipated holiday to Sri Lanka which was to include a brief visit to India for Louise's wedding.

When we left Heathrow it was pouring with rain, cold and dark. Twelve hours later we emerged from the aeroplane to a temperature of 30°.

We stayed at Ranweli Holiday Village ( north of Colombo. It describes itself as a bird friendly eco village with a heavy emphasis on nature and bird watching.

On our first morning the very first bird I saw was a Blue Tailed Bee Eater, in fact there were six of them sitting on the rocks within about twenty yards of our house. They also liked to sit on the volleyball net.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (click images to enlarge)

Ranweli offers a guided bird watching trip by boat and this was our first excursion. Drifting down the old Dutch canal, we saw a total of forty-two species of birds including four species of Kingfisher, Common, Pied, Whitefronted and Stork Billed.

Common Kingfisher Pied Kingfisher White-fronted Kingfisher

L-R: Common, Pied and White-fronted Kingfishers.

Egrets, Herons and all sorts of small and large birds followed in rapid succession. The highlights were a Paradise Fly Catcher, the Kingfishers, a Black Bittern and Yellow Bittern. I also managed a lucky shot of a Brahminy Kite The holiday continued with me taking every opportunity of a walk with my spotting scope and camera. The highlights of my wanderings were a Rose-ringed Parakeet, a Brown-headed Barbet, a Yellow-billed Babler and a Magpie Robin.

Yellow Bittern Brahminy Kite Rose-ringed Parakeet Brown-headed Barbet Yellow-billed Babbler Magpie Robin

L-R: Yellow Bittern, Brahminy Kite, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Brown-headed Barbet, Yellow-billed Babbler, Magpie Robin.

The major treat for me came towards the end of the holiday when I went on a trip to Annaivilundawa which is a Ramsar Wetland. I was accompanied by two very knowledgeable guides, Sagara and Aruna. I was really spoilt because they carried and set up my scope and pointed out birds that I would not have seen without their expert eye. To say that there were thousands of Egrets (Cattle, Little and Great) would be an understatement.

The area of wetlands extends over many acres and is a haven for a very diverse variety of birds.

Sagara and Aruna Cattle Egret Cattle Egrets

L-R: Sagara and Aruna, Cattle Egrets

On this trip I saw Indian Rollers, Little Green Bee-eaters a Cuckoo Shrike, Pheasant-tailed Jacana and got really close to a Crested Serpent Eagle.

On our beach was a very friendly Whimbrel who appeared about the same time each day and just stood and looked at the sea.

Indian Rollers Little Green Bee Eaters Cuckoo Shrike Pheasant-tailed Jacana Crested Serpent Eagle Whimbrel

L-R: Indian Rollers, Little Green Bee-eaters, Cuckoo Shrike, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Crested Serpent Eagle, Whimbrel.

I briefly made the acquaintance of Malcolm Rymer ( a well known bird photographer who was making a film of the birds of Sri Lanka. He told me that he travels the world making films of birds. Was I envious? What do you think?!

Other birds that I was able to photograph were:

Spotted Dove Black-headed Oriole Red-vented Bulbuls Striated Heron Indian Pond Heron Little Cormorant Red-wattled Lapwing Common Mynah Bird Open-billed Stork

L-R: Spotted Dove, Black-headed Oriole, Red-vented Bulbuls, Striated Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Little Cormorant, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Mynah Bird, Open-billed Stork.

In all I recorded a total of seventy-three different species. My thanks go to the staff of Ranweli, particularly to Mahinda and my friends and knowledgeable guides Aruna and Sagara.