Sri Lanka Jan 2018 : Sinharaja Forest Reserve

We began our wonderful 11-day adventure in Sri Lanka with an overnight stay in an ocean-side hotel a short distance from the Colombo Airport. Our time there was brief, but we enjoyed observing fishermen launch their boats at sunrise, and seeing Whiskered Terns dive and swirl over the waves.

From there, we worked our way southeast to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a designated Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to significant species diversity and high number of endemic plants and fauna birds. En-route, we ticked our first endemic, Sri Lanka Swallow.

Exploring the lush lowland rainforest over several days, we found 23 of the country’s 33 endemics, many named with the words ‘Sri Lanka.’ We were fortunate to enjoy excellent views of nearly all, including some of the more elusive species – White-faced Starling, Black-capped Bulbul, Brown-capped Babbler, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, and Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler.

The secretive Sri Lanka Spurfowl was formerly one of the most difficult to see, until local guides discovered a neighbor’s backyard where the birds visited regularly. We enjoyed warm hospitality and excellent views of the target, along with Slaty-legged Crake and Indian Pitta.

Owls are always special, especially after hiking through rugged terrain to see them! We tracked down a pair of Chestnut-backed Owlets near a rushing stream, and carefully trekked up a steep, slippery, boulder-filled ravine to admire a Serendib Scops Owl (newly described in 2004), roosting deep in a bamboo stand. Sri Lanka Frogmouth (not an endemic) were as stunning as anticipated, seen well on two separate sightings. Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush was the only endemic we did not see, though we heard its distinctive song on several occasions. Happily, our days were sunny and bright, except one brief afternoon rainstorm at the top of Sinharaja Forest, where we waited under comfortable shelter.

Non-avian fauna was well represented with Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys and 4 squirrel species, including the remarkably large Giant Squirrel! Reptiles showed well – Spectacled Cobra, Lyre-head Lizard, Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard and the brilliantly coloured Green Garden Lizards.

Butterflies included Sri Lankan Tree-Nymph, Birdwing, Common Palmfly and Gladeye Bushbrown, along with Black-tipped Flashwing and Indigo Dropwing dragonflies.

all photos © adrian binns



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