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Visit to Sri Lanka in January 2020 - some advice please

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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 06:47   #1
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Visit to Sri Lanka in January 2020 - some advice please

I'm going to Colombo on a work trip in mid-January and would like to spend a couple of days birding afterwards.

I would really appreciate any advice on where might be good to go. I've never been birding in this part of the world before and would prefer to see a wide variety of species rather than searching out specific rarities

thanks ever so much -- also is the 2012 Helm Field guide the recommended book?

An alternate idea which I'd be open to is a stop over in United Arab Emirates if that is considered a worthwhile alternative

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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 06:53   #2
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I can't help specifically as I've never been (it's on "the list")
However, there's a Sri Lanka sub-folder in another part of this site.
I've used Spanish and New Zealand sub-folders for similar questions
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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 09:49   #3
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I visited Sri Lanka a few tears back. I'll have a nosey at my notes and see if there is anywhere I can suggest. Presumably you won't be able to go too far from Colombo?
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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 12:36   #4
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Hi @Foxy

Thanks for that offer - most appreciated. I don't mind travelling a bit and would definitely be keen to get out into the country side. I suppose what I don't want is to have two spare days and find I would need 3 to get somewhere really interesting and find 2 doesn't give me enough time. but I've not booked the flights yet so currently flexible.
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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 10:02   #5
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Hi there. I'm in the throes of planning my own trip to SL in November/December though it's a much longer trip. Happy to connect back with you after my return before your departure. I'd say that every extra day you can afford will make a big difference (3 better than 2 and 4 better than 3). For 2 days - and if you're prepared to travel a little bit - I think your choices could be between Kitulgala and Sinharaja. Though the latter is considered better overall it's a bit longer to get to from Colombo and the logistics a bit more tricky. I'm starting at Kitulgala and aiming to do that slowly/intensively and expect to see most of what is in Sinharaja as a result. If you're reconciled to not seeing everything then I'd say that would also be a good plan for you. Indeed if you spent 2 days there and had extra time you might be better spending that time in the "highlands" (Nuwara Ella/Horton Plains). Happy to share info/reactions as you continue your planning.
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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 13:08   #6
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i have visited Sri lanka, November 2009, to me a one who came for Jeddah it was a birding paradise. the whitethraoted kingfisher is in the hotel garden, as well as many other stunning birds like the magpie robin, and the tailor bird.
also the Plicans are perched on the street light, so is many herons.
common kingfisher
blue tailed bee-eaters
brown shrike
little cormorant
scaly breasted munia
some kind of woodpecker
Olive backed sunbird
and many more i did not make a record so i forgot.
but you can do good photography with 300 mm or 400 mm lens for Nikon/canon crop sensor cameras, preferably to be fast lenses as it will be mostly cloudy in Candy and Nuwara Eliya.

here is a great book

the Authur used some images form me for the Twany pipit, Desert lesser whitethraot and a third bird, so i know they are live there maybe as winter visitors.

about UAE, its a great idea to visit there in the winter time, they have very nice birding sites, you can contact Mike Barth, here in bird forum, or you can find him in face book, he arrange birding trips there and other places.
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 12:22   #7
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My suggestion is to hire a driver guide through Jetwing or one of the other agencies. Your real problem is how much choice you will have! They are helpful in planning based on what you want to see as well as the logistics around hotels and of course do the driving so there is no need to drive yourself, or more importantly - navigate! I also found it was surprisingly affordable.

Completely agree that you should go for as many days as you can squeeze in. If your evenings are free there is also the possibility for night birding near Colombo - Brown Wood Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl were my top targets.

You may also consider that Blue Whale is on offer from Mirissa, Spinner Dolphins north of Colombo, and Leopard, Asiatic Elephant, Sloth Bear and other mammals at Yala, Wilpattu and other reserves.

Nuwara Eliya/ Horton Plains has high endemics and is significantly cooler and has the migrants from India - Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush and the wonderful Bear Monkeys.

A link to my trip report is here. Please note that our hotel booking was based on the need for creature comforts of my non-birding wife, and plenty of budget ranges are available. We'd go back in a heartbeat.


Hong Kong: Glossy Ibis, Western Yellow Wagtail, Wood Warbler (475)
Greater China: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, European Golden Plover, Glossy Ibis (973)
Lifer: Many-Coloured Rush Tyrant, Diademed Sandpiper Plover
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 16:58   #8
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Thanks everyone -- really appreciated
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Old Monday 16th September 2019, 09:47   #9
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OK -- booked flights now -- I've got 5 days spare so I'll go through all the helpful advice above & work out an itinerary. Prob will start with a night train from Colombo....
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