Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Mammals of India and Sri Lanka

A collection of mammal shots here from our January-February 2013 visit to India (Gujarat in the north-west and Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south-west) and Sri Lanka. This Leopard was seen in Sri Lanka's Yala National Park. It appears to be a female. We watched as she stalked across a clearing in Acacia woodland. Several Peafowl moved ahead of her as a couple of jackals followed. The leopard's tail twtiched as she eyed a party of Wild Pigs containing several small piglets. She rushed at the pigs, which dispersed in all directions, before disappearing into dense vegetation. We were unable to determine if she snatched a piglet in the mayhem.

Jungle Cat
The other feline seen on the trip was Jungle Cat. Two individuals were seen stalking the Banni Grasslands of the Greater Rann of Kutch.

We spotted a single Wolf on the edge of the Tundi Wetlands in the Little Rann of Kutch. The animal disappeared into scrub as we approached. Indian wolves are much smaller than their cousins further north.

Golden Jackal
Golden Jackal was seen in several places in Gujarat and Yala National Park. A stand-out sighting on the trip was a single Dhole, or Asian Wild Dog, roadside at Thattekkad in Kerala. The animal was very close when I spotted it and although I enjoyed a superb view through binoculars, it disappeared into scrub before the camera was out.

Indian Elephant
We saw our first wild Indian Elephants in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. A group of three - an adult female and her young calf (above) accompanied by a sub-adult female (not pictured, probably the female's older daughter). Many more elephants were heard rumbling, trumpeting or feeding at various places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and we had to be alert for them while out and about birding.

Indian Elephant
In Sri Lanka, we saw two adult males in Yala National Park. One was a big tusker, feeding close to the vehicle. Tuskers are scarce in Sri Lanka, accounting for just 5% of adult males.

Indian Wild Ass
Another nice ungulate was Indian Wild Ass. Seriously endangered, Little Rann of Kutch is the place for this animal. We saw quite a few during our jeep excursions to the reserve.

Niligir Tahr
A visit to Eravikulum National Park in Kerala is necessary to see the endangered Nilgiri Tahr, a species of wild goat. They are quite common in the highland grasslands above Munnar.

More numerous ungulates include Nilgai, the big Indian antelope. This one was near Mandvi, Gujarat.

Sambar deer were not uncommon in places. This one approached our vehicle in Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka.

Spotted Deer
Chittal or Spotted Deer were also common. These three in Yala National Park were decidedly nervous, stamping hooves as they stared into the undergrowth, where presumably a predator lurked.
Indian Muntjac
A single Indian Muntjac, or Barking Deer, was seen in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala.

Wild Pig
These Wild Pigs were in the Little Rann of Kutch; others were seen in Yala and Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu. Other nice ungulates included a group of Blackbuck in Little Rann. A pair of adult male Guar was seen very early one morning in Mudumalai; I had long wanted to see these huge Asian wild cattle.

Commmon Langur
Primates included the widespread Common or Grey Langur. These two were in the Chinnar reserve.

Toque Macaque
Toque Macaque is endemic to Sri Lanka and we saw plenty, including this one in Kandy.

Bonnet Macaque
Its cousin, the Bonnet Macaque, was equally common in the western Ghats. This one was near Hornbill Camp, Kerala.

Purple-faced Leaf-Monkey
Purple-faced Langur, or Leaf-Monkey, is found only in the wet forests of south-west Sri Lanka. We saw several at Sinharaja.

Grey Mongoose
Grey Mongoose was common in Gujarat, with this one seen near the village of Fulay.

Ruddy Mongoose
Ruddy Mongoose was often encountered in south-west India and Sri Lanka. This one fed on elephant turds in Yala. A single Brown Mongoose was seen at Horton Plains.

Malabar Giant-Squirrel
Malabar Giant-Squirrel was seen often in south-west India; this one was in the hills south of Ooty, Tamil Nadu. Its cousin, the Sri Lanka Giant-Squirrel, was also encountered.

Indian Giant Flying-Squirrel
A surprise find was an Indian Giant Flying-Squirrel during the day at Thattekkad. This species is rarely out and about after sunrise.

Five-striped Palm-Squirrel
Smaller fare include Five-striped Palm-Squirrel, common in Gujarat. This one was at the CEDO base in the Greater Rann of Kutch.

Three-striped Palm-Squirrel
Its cousin, the Three-striped Palm-Squirrel, was equally numerous in south-west India and Sri Lanka. These were in Kandy.

Indian Flying-Fox
Indian Flying-Fox was common in Sri Lanka. These were in Kandy.

Blue Whale
The icing on this substantial mammalian cake was Blue Whale. At least six were seen at 1500m off the cost of Merissa, southern Sri Lanka, during a boat trip.

Blue Whale

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wet South-West - Birding Sri Lanka Part 2

Serendip Scops-Owl
After leaving the dry woodlands of south-east Sri Lanka (see following post) we headed south-west for a couple of days relaxing around the ancient city of Galle. Then it was on to where the serious endemic-searching is undertaken - the wet forests of south-west Sri Lanka.
We booked into the Rock View Hotel, our base for searching the Sinharaja World Heritage Area. A local man hired by our driver-guide, Chandima Jayaweera, had tracked down a Serendip Scops-Owl at its daytime roost. Perched about 1m off the ground and extremely well-camouflaged, the bird allowed our close approach.

Ketil in action photographing a Serendip Scops-Owl
The bird was so close that one of our group, Ketil, could not use his wonderful cameras to capture its image, instead resorting to a mobile phone. The Serendip Scops-Owl is a recently discovered species with a total population of just 200-300 birds.

Sri Lanka Myna
After the owl encounter, we walked a forest trail in search of some endemics. We tracked down a calling Green-billed Coucal, one of the more difficult to see, in dense undergrowth. Small feeding flocks included Black-capped Bulbul, Sri Lanka Drogo and Sri Lanka Myna.

Southern Hill Myna
As well as the endemic myna, Southern Hill Mynas were seen here and elsewhere as we moved around Sri Lanka.

Square-tailed Bulbul
Also about were a few Square-tailed (Black) Bulbuls.

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
The next day early in the morning, we met up with the fellow who found the owl and dropped in at the Sinharaja reserve administration centre, where a Sri Lanka Grey Hornill was feeding on fruit left out for the birds and monkeys.

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie
He drove us in his jeep up a steep road to the main Sinharaja birding trail. On the way up we saw White-headed Starling, sometimes a hard bird to find. We stopped at another spot where we enjoyed superb close views of Sri Lanka Spurfowl, another of the trickier endemics. Walking the main trail to a research centre, the specialties came thick and fast. Among the star attractions was Sri Lanka Blue-Magpie.

Spot-winged Thrush
We added the elusive Sri Lanka Thrush, Spot-winged Thrush, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush and the impressive Red-faced Malkoha.

Brown-chested Flycatcher
Nice non-endemics in the forest included Brown-chested Flycatcher.

Sri Lanka Frogmouth
Later in the day, the same fellow who found the roosting owl tracked down a roosting Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

Crimson-backed Flameback
After we returned to our hotel, we found a pair of endemic Crimson-backed Flamebacks across the road from our rooms.

Crested Serpent-Eagle
The next day we transferred to Kithulgula and the nice Plantation Hotel, seeing Crested Serpent-Eagle on the way.

Chesnut-headed Bee-eater
Brown-headed Barbet

In the afternoon, we connected with another endemic, White-throated Flowerpecker. Other birds about included Brown-headed Barbet and Chesnut-headed Bee-eater.

Chesnut-backed Owlet
The next morning, we tracked down a calling pair of Chesnut-backed Owlets, the final remaining endemic on our list.

Black-backed Kingfisher
An unexpected bonus in this area of forest was a Black-backed Kingfisher.

Long-billed Sunbird
We had a few nights at the end of our trip relaxing in a hotel at Negombo. Among the birds here was this Long-billed Sunbird.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Highlands and Dry South-East - Birding Sri Lanka Part 1

Sri Lanka Green Pigeon
Our trip to Sri Lanka began with Glenn Scherf and myself teeming up with travelling companions Ketil and Bente Knudsen, of Norway, at Colombo Airport on February 6. We were met by Chandima Jayawerra, our driver-guide ( Chandima proved to be an excellent choice, offering very good service at a reasonable cost. We cleaned up all the endemics.
Our first morning saw us in the Botanic Gardens of Kandy, the country's second city - a fine introduction to Sri Lankan birds. Among those seen was a male Sri Lanka Green-Pigeon (above) attending a nest on which its mate was sitting.

Orange Minivet
We had several Orange Minivets, a recent split from Scarlet Minivet in the gardens.

Sri Lanka Small Barbet
We saw the first of quite a few Sri Lanka Small Barbets, a species encountered at various places on the island; this is a recent split from Malabar (Crimson-fronted) Barbet of southern India.

Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot
Also about the park were small numbers of Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrots, which we were to see repeatedly though not always well.

Yellow-fronted Barbet
We saw our first Yellow-fronted Barbet outside our Kandy hotel before moving on to the highlands town of Nawara Elia. It proved to be common throughout the island.

Kashmir Flycatcher
We visited Victoria Park, where a small number of rare Kashmir Flycatchers overwinter each year. We were able to track down a young male, and later in the day a Pied Thrush, another rare overwintering species that is at home in this noisy public park, at its evening roost.

Yellow-eared Bulbul
We encountered quite a few Sri Lanka White-eyes in the park along with another highlands endemic, Yellow-eared Bulbul.

Dull-blue Flycatcher
In a small forest patch outside Nawara Eliya, we saw our first Dull-blue Flycatcher, another highlands specialty, along with a furtive Sri Lanka Bush-Warbler in dense thickets.

Sri Lanka Wood-Pigeon
The next day we spent at Horton Plains National Park, a pleasant area of moist highland rainforest interspersed with open grasslands. It took us a good while to snatch brief views of a female Sri Lanka Whistling-Thrush at a traditional stake-out for this difficult endemic, but Sri Lanka Wood-Pigeon was more co-operative.

Sri Lanka Junglefowl
We saw a distant Mountain Hawk-Eagle, our first Tri-coloured (Black-throated) Munias and several Sri Lanka Junglefowl, which proved to be common in well-vegetated parts of the island.

White-browed Bulbul
The next day we visited a forest patch on the Surrey teal plantation while heading south from Nawara  Eliya. We encountered White-browed Bulbul, a species I had seen the previous week in India, along with Layard's Parakeet, an endemic we were to see occasionally but not commonly, and nice views of Crested Hawk-Eagle were enjoyed.

A skulking Brown-capped Babbler was tracked down in the thick undergrowth.

A Brown Wood-Owl was found at a traditional day-time roost, located by noisy mobbing flock which included a Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler.

Spot-billed Pelican
Moving on the town of Tissa in the relatively dry lowlands of south-east Sri Lanka, we checked some of the extensive wetlands in the area, seeing Spot-billed Pelican, the first of quite a few recorded over the following days.
Lesser Whistling-Duck, Great Thick-knee
Lesser Whistling-Duck, Great Thick-knee and Indian Thick-knee were among the waterbirds present.

Pheasnat-tailed Jacana
Along with Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

White-naped Woodpecker
 A pair of White-naped Woodpecker was found in their favoured coconut grove. We had our first sunset at Tissa on the roof of our hotel, the Peacock Reach, enjoying the spectacle of huge numbers of parrots and waterbirds flying to their roosting places past us at eye level.

Sri Lanka Wood-Shrike
We spent a full day exploring Yala National Park from the back of a jeep. In the Africa-like Acacia woodland here the specialties included Sri Lanka Wood-Shrike.

Jerdon's Bushlark
Jerdon's Bushlark was reasonably plentiful.

Malabar Pied-Hornbill
While a couple of Malabar Pied Hornbills were nice to watch.

Yellow-wattled Lapwing
Yellow-wattled Lapwing was another species easily approached in the jeep.