Saturday, January 3, 2009

Grey-necked Bunting – The first record from Sri Lanka

During a bird survey session at Kalpitiya Peninsula, FOGSL research team recorded a Grey necked Bunting (Emberiza buchanani). This is the first record of the species in the island.

We were surveying coastal grassland at Nirmalapura, Daluwa area of Puttlum District on 16th December 2008. One of us (CDK) noticed an unknown species at around 0700 in the morning. Reddish beak and legs caught our attention. The bird was not shy and therefore we could observe it very closely for around 2 hours.

Based on the shape of its bill and other features, we decided that the bird could be a bunting (DS has previous experience on buntings). We photographed the bird by digiscoping. All the features were noted and later examined with the help of a field guide available to us (Grimmet 1998- Field guide to the birds of Indian Subcontinent).

The bird was observed again at mid day and evening. We could photograph it extensively at mid day. It was feeding busily on grass seeds all the time. During our observation period, bird didn’t accompany any other bird species in the area and remained solitary. Common Mynas, Spotted Doves, Richard’s Pipits, House sparrows, Rock Pigeons and Blue tailed Bee-eaters were frequently feeding on the grassland.

Later we sent few photographs to Dr. Girish Jathar, well-known ornithologist in India. He confirmed the identity of the bird by examining the photographs.

Buntings were recorded only once in Sri Lanka. Two bunting species namely Black headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) and Red headed Bunting (Emberiza bruniceps)were recorded at Udawalawe National Park in year 2005. Hence, this is the third record of a bunting species in Sri Lanka.

Reported by

C. D. Kaluthota, Dammithra Samarasinghe, Hasith de Silva and Dilshan de Silva

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Sand Martin and a White–cheeked Tern: Two vagrant species captured at Bundala National Park

During a bird ringing session carried out at the Bundala National park, a Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) and a White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa) were captured. Bird ringing session which was planned to capture birds at the middle of the migratory period was held at the Bundala National Park from 9th to 14th December 2008. This ringing session was conducted as a part of the National Bird Ringing Programme (NBRP) which is a collaboration programme of Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

Ringing session was conducted at the Bundala Salterns adjacent to the Bundala Lagoon that located within the National Park. During the netting operations in the morning of 12th December, a Sand Martin was captured on a net established to capture waders and terns. Large flock of Barn swallows was flying in the area from early morning but none was captured. It was not difficult to identify the species as a Sand Martin by its morphological characteristics. It’s prominent brown breast band, partial white collar that not going across the nape and sandy brown upperparts were helpful to distinguish it from the other similar species Pale Martin. Sand Martin is considered as a vagrant to Sri Lanka.

Large flock of around 5000 terns was roosting at the salterns during the period of ringing operations. This flock contained few species while the majority was Common Terns, crested terns and little terns. On the night of 13th December, we found a bird which was different from the other terns we captured so far, on a one of our mist nets. It was kept in a cardboard box until next day morning for the processing. Based on the morphological characters and the measurements, we decided it as a White-cheeked Tern. However, since it is considered as a vagrant and there was only one previous record from Sri Lanka we needed further confirmation on the identity. Fortunately, well-known ornithologist and Principle investigator of the NBRP, Prof. Sarath Kotagama and Mr. Rex De Silva who recorded the species from Sri Lanka (the first record), were at Bundala with the team of FOGSL members having a workshop on Waders. We arranged to examine the specimen by themselves to get further confirmation. After studying the bird and referring some books we had at the field, we all concluded that the species is the White-cheeked Tern. This is the second record of the species from Sri Lanka. FOGSL members who participated in the workshop on waders at Bundala also got the opportunity to observe the bird and photograph it.

Birds were ringed, photographed and released later. Both of these records are first specimen records of the species in Sri Lanka.

C.D. Kaluthota, Rahula Perera, Kasun Dayananda, Sameera Ariyarathna, Hasith De Silva and Dilshan De Silva of FOGSL and five officers from the DWC participated in the ringing session.

Reported by C.D. Kaluthota.