• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Sri Lanka November 2023 (1 Viewer)

I think I had the same Stork-billed Kingfisher as you on the river below the Kitulgala Rest House. The ferryman did me a favour after I had a brief view of it perched then flying out of sight: he took some Asian tourists on a tour of the river and flushed it back into view.

Sounds like you had a really great trip!


Thoroughly enjoyed reading your report. What were the costs?
Thanks Rob

Cost for the guiding, hotels, breakfast and dinner was £750pp for twin £930pp for single. We had to buy lunch and beers and I think we spend about £70 each on those.

Flights were £774 each from Gatwick via Dubai.
Day 2 Sunday 19-11-23

Sometime during the night the rain stopped and after a very comfortable sleep we were up early and back to the Camp to make up for lost time. The early start meant it was initially quiet and gloomy in the poor light. It was difficult to see much detail on our first new endemic of the day, a group of Orange-billed Babblers. Three pigeons were added to the trip list as the light began to improve, Spotted Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon and Asian Emerald Dove. The former two species were common despite us missing them on day 1. The Asian Emerald Dove, a lifer for me, was only seen once again on the trip.

Next up were two new Babblers. The Dark-fronted Babbler, an attractive but very active bird and a very confiding endemic Brown-capped Babbler, which gave prolonged views as it belted out its song. Whilst watching the Babblers we saw our first Indian Palm Squirrels, a species we were going to see a lot of as the week progressed. Our next new bird was a Brown-breasted Flycatcher, feeding from overhead wires and surrounding trees. This dapper little Flycatcher was encountered most days.

Then after much searching and listening, Thili picked up our main target bird - a Chestnut-backed Owlet. This characterful little endemic owl was going to be hard to get away from Kitulgala so it was an important bird to see in our quest for “the 34”. Although high in a tree we enjoyed good views of this diurnal owl. It has a slightly comical look due to its big round eyes surrounded by concentric rings of barred feathers, which make it look simultaneously surprised and annoyed.

With the owlet in the bag we headed back to the garden where we had sheltered from the rain the previous day. A Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was a colourful addition to our list but was shortly overshadowed by a stunning Indian Pitta. This bird is a winter visitor to Sri Lanka and easier to see here than when breeding.

The Spot-winged Thrush we saw yesterday put in another appearance. Showing much better than previously, at one time coming so close that my camera couldn’t focus on it. I was not expecting this elegant species to be so confiding.

Two more of this species and another Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher were found along a little stream that ran beside the garden but it was when we followed the stream down to where it met the river that we found a real prize. A stunning, if badly named, Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher was hunting in the creek, its colours jewel like in the low light of the jungle. Its completely incorrect name comes from the split of Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher into several species. This was one of the best birds of the trip.

Heading back to the van Thili picked up a most unexpected bird - a Banded Bay Cuckoo in a tree. This tree turned out to hold a feeding flock of many species and we soon saw our first Orange Minivets, a Green Warbler, a Common Iora, an endemic Yellow-fronted Barbet and had our first decent views of Pale-billed Flowerpecker and Purple-rumped Sunbird, two of the commonest birds we encountered in Sri Lanka.

Pleased with a good morning’s birding we headed back to the rest house for breakfast. As we got out the van we spotted two raptors soaring in the rapidly warming air, a pair of Crested Honey-buzzards. These were then joined by a larger bird, a juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle and then an even bigger one - a Black Eagle. Three raptor lifers in ten minutes a great end to our first proper birding session.

With rain forecast in the afternoon and mindful of the previous day’s washout Thilina suggested we head straight out after breakfast despite it being a hot and potentially quiet time. (I always think flexing the programme in response to the weather is a sign of a good guide). Whilst waiting to get on the van we spotted a male Asian Koel in the Rest House garden as well as another Green Warbler and the ubiquitous trio of Common Myna, Yellow-billed Babbler and Red-vented Bulbul.

Thilina took us to the bridge over the river. A bridge I was familiar with from my honeymoon when Kitulgala had been a quick lunch stop on the way to the coast. Back then I had thought the area looked birdy and now I knew my thoughts had been right. Crossing the bridge we started birding on the South side of the river.

Our first target was another endemic and along with the Owlet was a bird Thilina was keen to see as it could be difficult elsewhere. The Green-billed Coucal is endangered by habitat loss and despite it’s size is difficult to see as it skulks in dense undergrowth. We were lucky however in coming across a pair that showed well despite the heat of the day. This was a big win in our quest for the 34, getting the 2 Kitulgala specialities.

We started a circular walk on the hillside above the river, stopping to enjoy a confiding White-throated Kingfisher at close quarters. In the skies a couple of Crested Serpent-Eagles soared and a mighty Black Eagle drifted past.

In a garden we saw our first woodpecker of the trip a Red-backed Flameback. Another endemic and a bird with a confusing array of names (Black-rumped Flameback/Lesser Flameback/Lesser Goldenback to name a few). The name struck me as strange as Flameback would indicate a red back anyway calling it a Red-backed Flameback is a bit like Mr and Mrs Roberts calling their son Bob……Anyway this was the most frequently encountered of Sri Lanka’s woodpeckers and another endemic towards the 34. The same garden also held another new tick in White-rumped Munia.

We next found a raptor in a tree right by the path - a Crested Honey-buzzard. We had great views of the perched bird. I’d love to see a European Honey-buzzard like this rather than flying a mile away! We descended towards the river, seeing our first Yellow-browed Bulbuls, a brief Yellow-fronted Barbet and a flyover white morph Indian Paradise Flycatcher which we were unable to relocate. A Black-headed Cuckooshrike fed actively in the trees and a Lesser Yellownape, a most attractive woodpecker also gave brief views.

Whilst this latter batch of species proved hard to photograph not so our next new bird. Several Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, were very co-operative as were a group of White-rumped Munias on a wire. Having negotiated the infamous bridge we headed back to the Rest House for an excellent buffet lunch.

Lunch was punctuated by another new endemic, two Sri Lanka Swallows over the river. We also saw Greater Coucal and Alexandrine Parakeets on an island in the river. At the front of the property we found a feeding station which was attracting the usual suspects of Yellow-billed Babblers and Red-vented Bulbuls however of most interest was a White-browed Fantail which was actively feeding as the rain started to fall. The falling rain, as feared, soon became a torrential downfall. The result was a total curtailment of birding activities as our chances of seeing anything were next to nil. We spent a relaxing afternoon in the hotel being serenaded by Sri Lanka’s answer to Simon and Garfunkel whose repertoire seemed to consist of Take Me Home, Country Roads and not a lot else.

Not the only one but that kingfisher photo is an absolute stunner

Users who are viewing this thread