INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
Some preparation can make a lot of difference in a small accessible island like Sri Lanka. A good deal of information is available both on the internet as well as from traditional bookshops.
For information on any recent trip reports, the internet flyway in the Oriental Bird Club’s web page (http://www.orientalbirdclub.org) is a good place to start a search. Email discussion forums like UK BirdNet and the NatHistory South India are also good places from which to solicit information. Details on signing up for these free e-mail discussion groups are on the OBC web site.
For pre-trip reading and use in the field A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Sri Lanka published by the Oriental Bird Club . Sri Lankan National Parks & Reserves and a number of photographic guides to butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, etc are available as free. A pocket photographic guide such as this is adequate for most birds that a visitor on a short trip, or a resident with a casual interest is likely to see. Keen birdwatchers should consider a fully fledged field guide although these are heavier and more expensive. The best is A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka.
Keen birdwatchers should consider familiarising themselves with the calls and songs of Sri Lankan birds. Wildsounds (www.wildsounds. co.uk) stocks Sri Lankan sound recordings. A comprehensive compilation on four tapes and also a CD has been issued by wildlife sound recordist . These are the benchmark sound recordings.
The Wildlife & Artist Group includes well known Sri Lankan artists such as Jayantha Jinasena, Kulasiri Ranawira, Lester Perera, Prasanna Weerakkody, Shantha Jayawera, Vasantha Perera and Vishy Dhramasiriwardana. They will be setting up a website in due course. Well known Sri Lankan artists overseas include Gamini Ratnavira. The work of Lester Perera, arguably the best known resident Sri Lankan wildlife artist, can be seen on the ‘Art Gallery’ section of www. birdandwildlifeteam.com.
A number of overseas birding companies operate tours to Sri Lanka. These may not always be convenient for a family with young children or for those for whom birding may not be the only priority. A number of local tour companies will organise a package involving bird-watching, culture and even chilling out on the beach, all tailored to individual request. Some of the better known companies, most of whom are in Colombo.
When to go
The period November to April is best for visiting birders. February and March are the best months: there are two reasons for this. Firstly you will avoid the monsoons. Secondly the migrants are still present. Indian Pitta and Pied Ground-thrush, the two favorites amongst birders, are still around. Waders will also be moulting into breeding plumage offering the opportunity to study this difficult group in different plumages. August and September are two other relatively dry months in which migrants also occur.
The best birding sites
If you are after the endemics then visit a lowland rain forest like Kitulgala or Sinharaja. 31 of the 33 endemics have been recorded in Sinharaja, but only 27 have been seen in the areas usually visited by birders from the Kudawa/Veddagala route. Montane species like Yellow-eared Bulbul are seen only on its eastern borders which are not usually visited by birdwatchers. Therefore, to see montane birds, it is necessary to also visit a site such as Hakgala or Horton Plains. Endemics such as Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Whistling-thrush and Sri Lanka Bush-warbler occur here. These two sites are also good places for endemics like Ceylon Woodpigeon which may be seen in lower elevations during seasonal movements. If you only have time to visit two places, Sinharaja and Horton Plains are the top choices for c. The north central plains are replete with ancient reservoirs. These are known locally as tanks or ‘wewas’. These are a haven for wildlife in the same way as gravel pits are in Europe. For more details obtain a copy of the Pica Traveller Sri Lanka which has extensive details of sites for the casual as well as the specialist birdwatcher.
Sourced from published literature