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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Splash Point & Lower Cuckmere 30/12/15

Started the day down Splash Point where there was a steady movement of birds passing. Great Black-backed Gulls were flooding through but weren't counted, though the following were seen between 
8.05-10.05: (all birds flying east, hardly any westerly movement noted)

Great Skua - 1
Gannet - 67
Brent Geese - 351
Auk sp. - 41
Guillemot - 9
Razorbill - 16
Red-throated Diver - 10
Teal - 6
Dunlin - 1
Kittiwake - 66

The above totals prove how bad Splash Point is for westerly movements of birds when compared to Beachy Head's totals, for example 515 Gannets west. Bring on the spring!!

The Gull flock down the Cuckmere was sufficiently larger than recent days and consisted of two Caspian Gulls, one of which was a first-winter and considered to be the same individual from Boxing Day. 

 probably the same 1w Caspian Gull that was present here on Boxing Day


this Caspo was picked out straight away and I managed to get quite close to it. When watching this bird I thought it was a first-winter, but after being told that it could be a second-winter and after circulating the images, it appears that this bird could well be a second winter, though I'm still undecided. Still learning.......

Monday, 28 December 2015

Splash Point, Cuckmere & Rodmell 28/12/15

With a gusty south easterly I gave Splash Point a go with the below totals flying east between 8.25-9.55am:

Velvet Scoter - 6 (2+4)
Red-throated Diver - 10
Common Scoter - 5
Brent Geese - 210
Gannet - 3
Great Crested Grebe - 8
Razorbill - 7
Guillemot - 6

The Cuckmere was quiet and with very few Gulls present I gave them a miss. This afternoon a walk down Rodmell Brooks produced only 3 Chiffchaffs of note around the compound. 

Brent Geese passing in good numbers this morning

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Lower Cuckmere + recent stuff 26/12/15

Still getting over a grim cold where I've been bed bound for a few days, I trudged down the Lower Cuckmere this morning for some Gull action. Was quite productive with two Caspian Gulls and an adult Yellow-Legged Gull in four hours. Not much else about however. 

On Monday afternoon at a wet and windy Arlington a first-winter Caspian Gull was in the roost though the conditions were awful and I only managed a few grainy pics. 

On Christmas Eve the Red-breasted Merganser and Greenshank were still in the Cuckmere. 

first-winter Caspian Gull in Lower Cuckmere. First spotted at some distance when the bird was asleep and facing away from me......proving what an obvious individual it was. 

this third-winter Caspian Gull found by Gordon Beck was a stunner though never stood at the right angle for a decent photo. Was found just in time as I was about to walk off having stared at the Gulls for nearly three hours!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sri Lanka - December 2015

Another very successful trip, this time to Sri Lanka with Ian Barnard, Adam Bowley & Dan & Mike Booker organised by myself, but this only really was the booking of the flights, arranging and keeping in correspondence with the guide, visas etc etc. 

Despite a short length of time, my total bird species list was 246, of which all endemic species were seen, which at current is 33 (not including Sri Lanka Bay Owl that no one sees unless going in the month of March when they are calling). A couple of endemic sub-species were all seen so maybe one day the endemic list will rise.

Chaminda was an excellent guide and in the jungle he was unstoppable. I couldn't have imagined doing this country on our own back, the jungles are huge and birds are very difficult to find, especially those nocturnal ones that we would never have seen. Out of the jungle was fine for us, but once again knowing the exact sites where particular species are would've taken up so much more of our time, so paying that little bit extra probably paid off. 

It wasn't just the birds however, we notched up a very healthy mammal/reptile list, with the highlight obviously being the female Leopard in Yala NP.

Please scroll down to further posts for daily species lists (noteworthy species only) and a whole set of photographs. 


my main target bird, an Owl that I've been wanting to see for years - the Serendib Scops Owl

Monday, 14 December 2015

Sri Lanka - Day 1 - 2/12/15

Colombo Airport to Kithulgala
Our Emirates flight was on time arriving into Colombo and getting through the airport was simple enough where after eventually collecting our bags and changing up the money, we met our guide (Chaminda Dilruk). It was only 9am but waiting outside was almost too much for us with the rediculously high humidity making us sweat buckets from head to toe. Anyway we were soon on our way to Kithulgala making several stops at some paddies along the way. The journey was very uncomfortable for the three hours it took with constant breaking, tooting of horns, sharp corners and the state of traffic one would expect in India. Mercifully we arrived in a somewhat beaten up state and birded a couple of sites around the village to late afternoon where a band of rain drew proceedings to a close. A good day with five endemics seen already. 

(Birds in capitals = endemics, birds highlighted = lifers)

House Crow - 50+
Cattle Egret - 50+
Great White Egret - 1
Intermediate Egret - 1
Indian Pond Heron - 30
Little Cormorant - 1
Ashy Woodswallow - 1
Asian Palm Swift - 2
White-bellied Drongo - 10
Shikra - 1
Blue-tailed Bee Eater - 5
SRI LANKA HANGING PARROT - 13
Purple-rumped Sunbird - 6
Loten's Sunbird - 3
Indian Swiftlet - ca. 300
Lesser Whistling Duck - 4
Brown-breasted Flycatcher - 2
Black-hooded Oriole - 2
Oriental Honey Buzzard - 3
Emerald Dove - 2
Indian Black Eagle - 4
SRI LANKA GREY HORNBILL - 1
YELLOW-FRONTED BARBET - 2
Green Imperial Pigeon - 10
Black-rumped Flameback - 3
ORANGE-BILLED BABBLER - 5
Yellow-billed Babbler - 12
Brown-backed Needletail - 3
SRI LANKA SWALLOW - 3

Sri Lanka Flying Fox - 2
Kangaroo Lizard
Toque Macaque


 Brown-breasted Flycatcher at Kithulgala - this species was the commonest Flycatcher of the trip
 Crested Serpent Eagle at Kithulgala
 Kangaroo Lizard - Otocryptis wiegmanni
 Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot at Kithulgala - our first endemic
 the view from our hotel pool

 the access 'bridge' to the jungle that felt very unstable

our first view of an Indian Pitta





Sri Lanka - Day 2 - 3/12/15

Kithulgala & Makandawa Jungle
An early start today to try and see the endemic Chestnut-backed Owlet, and although our first few attempts failed, eventually we got very nice views of one near Kithulgala. The day was then spent walking around the Makandawa Jungle (accessible by a small 'boat') where frustratingly the Serendib Scops Owl failed to show (maybe tomorrow), although a Frogmouth was some compensation. The order of the day were leech socks as hundreds were about with some creeping onto our shirts etc. By late afternoon, another walk around Kithulgala produced a couple more new birds. A really enjoyable day despite the no show of the Owl, with plenty other birds about as well as Frogs, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Snakes and Lizards to keep us occupied. 

Birds in capitals = endemics, birds highlighted = lifers. 

CHESTNUT-BACKED OWLET - 1
Crested Serpent Eagle - 2
Oriental Honey Buzzard - 8
Layard's Parakeet - 5
SPOT-WINGED THRUSH - 2
BROWN-CAPPED BABBLER - 1
Common Tailorbird - 4
White-breasted Waterhen - 2
SRI LANKA JUNGLEFOWL - 3
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher - 2
GREEN-BILLED COUCAL - 2
Indian Pitta - 1
Greater Coucal - 2
Pale-billed Flowerpecker - 1
Black-naped Monarch - 1
Large-billed Leaf Warbler - 1
Malabar Trogan - 2
Sri Lanka Frogmouth - 1 female
Golden-fronted Leafbird - 3
Sri Lanka Swallow - 6
Alexandrine Parakeet - 7
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot - 20
Dark-fronted Babbler - 14
Black-headed Cuckooshrike - 2
LEGGE'S FLOWERPECKER - 1
Oriental White-eye - 6
SRI LANKA GREEN PIGEON - 2
Black-rumped Flameback - 4
Brown-headed Barbet - 1
Yellow-fronted Barbet - 7
Yellow-browed Bulbul - 5
Red-vented Bulbul - 30
Black Bulbul - 20
Indian Black Eagle - 2
Besra - 1
Crested Treeswift - 3
Chestnut-headed Bee-Eater - 20

Hump-nosed Viper
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey
Green Garden Lizard
Kangaroo Lizard
Common Sink


 Hump-nosed Viper
 Yellow-fronted Barbet
 Indian Pitta
 Chestnut-backed Owlet
 Purple-rumped Sunbird
 Yellow-browed Bulbul
 Indian Pond Heron
 female Sri Lanka Frogmouth - an incredible spot by one of the guides with this bird being invisible to us when only two metres in front. Stunning bird.
 Sri Lanka Swallow
 White Four Wing
 Nigger Brown
 Common Sink - Mabuya carinata lankae

 a boat crossing today led us to a different area of the jungle


 not a look to be proud of. Blame the leeches!!
 Jungle walk




Sri Lanka - Day 3 - 4/12/15

Makandawa Jungle & Sinharaja
After failing on seeing the Serendib Scops Owl yesterday, our excellent guide got up extra early today and wandered into the 'jungle' to try and find one. It wasn't until 6am when he finally heard one, and no doubt spent a couple of hours trying to locate it. Somehow he did and after our breakfast and early birding around the hotel, we had lovely views of this very secretive and endemic Owl, which will know prove to be the main highlight of the trip. The majority of the day was then spent driving from Kithulgala to Sinharaja with very few stops, which was just as well as the minibus wouldn't start half way through the journey, but mechanical skills by the guide got things moving again. Once at Sinharaja we birded the tracks above the 'Blue Magpie Lodge' seeing a good range of species. It seems we were lucky with the Owl as other groups here had failed throughout, something we highlighted to the other groups as much as we could.

Birds in capitals = new endemics, highlighted birds = lifers

Stork-billed Kingfisher - 1
Common Kingfisher - 2
LAYARD'S PARAKEET - 10
Yellow-fronted Barbet - 4
Blyth's Reed Warbler - 1
Scarlet Minivet - 15
Lesser Yellownape - 1
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill - 14
Spot-winged Thrush - 1
SERENDIB SCOPS OWL - 1
Purple Heron - 1
Asian Openbill - 1
Black-throated Munia - 5
Crested Hawk Eagle - 1
Little Swift - 2
SRI LANKA HILL MYNA - 1
Sri Lanka Green Pigeon - 10
Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike - 2
SRI LANKA SMALL BARBET - 1
Plum-headed Parakeet - 5
Sri Lanka Swallow - 30
Blue-tailed Bee Eater - 6
White-browed Bulbul - 2
Pale-billed Flowerpecker - 1
Green-billed Coucal - 1
Brahimy Kite - 2

 Serendib Scops Owl - every trip has one bird that is either make or break...the Owl was that bird. Pressure now off slightly.
 Serendib on the list = happy birders
 on route to Sinharaja
 Sinharaja
no leech socks was a mistake!!



Sri Lanka - Day 4 - 5/12/15

Sinharaja World Heritage Reserve
A full days birding in the jungle today was very successful seeing all the crucial endemics of the area. Although things didn't start well with myself feeling under the weather for a few hours, and constant heavy rain for three hours during prime birding time, things soon picked up with several roving feeding flocks encountered at various stages, including one flock holding a trio of endemics. Leeches were a constant nuisance today as we often went off track in search of the Scaly Thrush. Later on we got word that a pair of roosting Serendib Scops Owls had been found in a very remote area of the jungle, that basically led to Ian losing his glasses, and me slipping over front first and sliding down the slope covering a fair percentage of my clothes in mud. Needless to say, the Owls couldn't be located, but thankfully we were very satisfied with yesterday's views. An enjoyable, but tough days birding in the jungle, with now only one more day left of wearing leech socks.......hoorah!! 

Capitals = new endemics, highlighted birds = lifers 

Crested Treeswift - 20
SRI LANKA CRESTED DRONGO - 12
Asian Paradise Flycatcher - 2 pale morph
Orange-billed Babbler - ca. 30
WHITE-FACED STARLING - 8
ASHY-HEADED LAUGHINGTHRUSH - 10
SRI LANKA SCIMITAR BABBLER - 6
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - 1
Brown-backed Needletail - 40
SRI LANKA BLUE MAGPIE - 3
Asian Brown Flycatcher - 1
SRI LANKA SCALY THRUSH - 3
Lesser Yellownape - 2
RED-FACED MALKOHA - 4
Black-capped Bulbul - 15
Malabar Trogan - 5
Black-naped Monarch - 1
Pale-billed Flowerpecker - 2

Toque Monkey - 8
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey - 5
Layard's Striped Squirrel - 1
Green Garden Lizard - 1
Kangaroo Lizard - 1
Sri Lanka Keel-back Snake - 1


 Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush - a very lucky encounter with the entire group and another group chasing the bird on another path, whilst I stayed put and waited for it to come back to me.
 Sri Lanka Crested Drongo
 Ashy-headed Laughingthrush - taken at a very high iso, in the pouring rain looking up into the canopy......nice
 Sri Lanka Keel Back
 Malabar Trogan
 Toque Macaque

 umbrella birding was the code for the morning. Our guide picked the pink umbrella, and we made sure he knew about it



the jungle at Sinharaja