Ray Brown with Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist chauffeur guide Niran
I’m in Sri Lanka at present, sitting by a pool, relaxing after climbing the 5th century Sigiriya Rock fortress, which was ok because it was raining and all the birds were hiding. We spent the last two days at Wilpattu national park where the roads are so bad you have difficulty staying in the truck seat. Nevertheless, we got some good wildlife and were looked after royally by Indi and his crew at Leopard Trails camp site. Plenty of fresh leopard tracks but no fresh leopards…and the backside of a sloth bear. Wilpattu is quite enclosed by jungle so viewing is somewhat limited but there are more good days ahead for birds and mammals, and this country is rich in both.
Sigiriya and our next stop, Hunas Falls had some interesting bird life and a chance to see the magnificent white bellied sea eagle for the second time this trip. Hunas also gave me some interesting common kingfisher shots. The same kingfisher as we find in the UK, this one landed on a railing right in front of me and waited just long enough for me to grab a shot. Thinking he wouldn’t return, I was really pleased when a couple of minutes later he flew in, gave me his left, right and front profiles and then went fishing further up the lake. Then he brought his fish for me to see…a very friendly kingfisher.
We’re now in the mountains at Nuwara Eliya and it’s comparatively freezing! A 6.30 start tomorrow and a 9k walk. Let’s see what it brings.
Well, it brought a beautiful day and our walk through HortonPlains NP to World’s End gave us a few Sri Lankan endemic birds – yellow eared bulbul, Sri Lankan white eye, dull blue flycatcher and bush warbler. The bush warbler proved particularly problematic and I have yet to get a pic. Bird watchers can mark it up as it is fairly easily seen but trying to get a photo is like platting fog as it is always in the bush and doesn’t stand still for a second. Terribly frustrating!
Here, a plug for our driver/wildlife guide, Niran. It’s fairly normal when touring Sri Lanka to have a driver but Niran is a licensed wildlife guide with excellent local knowledge and great spotting skills. And here he is…
Niran Coonghe in Yala NP
Off to Yala NP tomorrow and another chance for a fresh leopard.
Well, the fresh leopard did not materialise but a very sleepy one did. The photograph is uninspiring and won’t make it to these pages as he was lying asleep under a bush and you can just make out his spots. However, there were loads of great birds to see, including the crested or changeable hawk eagle, the paradise flycatcher, one of my favourite waders, the thicknee, and a few mammals, such as the ruddy mongoose, black backed jackal, a sloth bear and an elephant who was so shy he hid behind a tree! The best photo of the day might just go to a caterpillar, a common Indian crow butterfly and a plain tiger butterfly, all gathering on the same small plant.
The next visit was to Bundala NP which is a little visited small park but, nevertheless, gave some pretty good sightings, including black winged kite, 4 yellow bitterns, black bittern, grey-headed fish eagle and Jacobin cuckoo.
Today, in Udawawale, there were quite a few crested hawk eagles and the nest of a white bellied fish eagle. On our second trip into the park we found a hawk eagle with a kill and its mate trying unsuccessfully to muscle in on it. Niran found us a collared Scops owl and an elephant being fed by locals at the road side, next to a sign saying, ‘DO NOT FEED THIS ELEPHANT’.
Just a word about the wildlife photography on this trip. A few of my images were taken on foot but most were taken from a jeep. I cannot emphasise enough the difficulty and, often, frustration this brings because there are so many obstacles in the way of a good shot, particularly on a moving target. Couple that with a grey sky, shooting into the sun, getting the jeep driver to stop where you have at least half a chance of seeing the subject, and the downright awkwardness of some wildlife, and you can see why I’m over the moon if I get a nice sharp image and very frustrated the rest of the time. Sorry, Mrs Brown…
Then, on to the rainforest at Sinharaja where photography was difficult because of the light and birds in the dense forest, but the odd butterfly, damselfly and green garden lizard were worth the trip. So far, I’ve managed to photograph a third of the 33 endemic birds if Sri Lanka, but we’ve seen all but three.
We’re now near Mirissa in the Imagine Villa hotel which is nothing short of excellent but where the blue whales we expected to see did not materialise. Others have had better fortune but since we have pretty good photos of blue whales already, (search for ‘blue whales’ on the site), we’re going to put up our feet on a lounger and drop into the pool from time to time.
One more day before we jet back to the UK. Let’s see what Niran finds us…
Check out the site in around 2 weeks for the pics.