We were given a few brief lectures at the Colombo University by Professor Sarath Kotagama as an introduction to the workshop. After leaving the Colombo University at about 10.00h we reached the camp site around 15.30h. Lunch was eaten at a roadside boutique.
The rest of the day was spent getting to know the trails and doing some birding in the grasslands and the forested areas. Birds like Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Spotted Dove, Malabar-pied Hornbill, Lorikeet, Coppersmith Barbet were observed. After dinner we were given a lecture by Chinthaka on counting methods.
The next morning we did transects of which the main objective was counting how many birds found in an area. Three 200m paths were marked and all the bird species and numbers were taken down.
After breakfast we set up mist nets in order to capture a few birds. Two Dark-fronted Babblers were captured, processed and released. Here we were taught how to handle the birds and how to fill the data sheets. The basic grip also called the ringers grip was taught and each of us had the opportunity to handle the birds. The evening was spent doing point counts. Here, five circles within a radius of 25m were marked and group members observed and noted down birds seen at a 360 degree angle from the centre of each circle. A graph was also drawn to show how many new bird species were seen in each circle.
At night we were given a very interesting lecture on animal behaviour. Here, four behaviour study methods were stressed upon, them being Ad libitum method, one-zero method, focal animal method and scan sampling method. Here two groups chose White-rumped Shama and the other two chose the White-browed Fantail and we were study on each of these birds the next day. After this we were shown a small presentation on bird ringing and tracking. It was amazing to see how technology has developed and how you can track a bird anywhere in the world using satellite transmitters.
On the third day nets were set up early morning once again. The nets were monitored every half an hour. Here an Oriental White-eye and three Tawny-bellied Babblers were captured and processed. The hungry netters were treated with vadai and tea by a kind-hearted lady who lived close by.
After arriving back at camp and having breakfast the groups had a small opportunity to take a deserved break which we made the most of.
By noon we were up and ready to track down Shamas and Fantails in order to do our behaviour study. This was a very rewarding experience as it wasn’t easy! At first we didn’t get a chance to observe the Shama for even five minutes but as it got used to us it settled down for extended periods and we were able to sit on the ground and study it for long periods. It was an amazing experience sharing space with this beautiful bird. Our group also managed to mark the territory of this particular Shama. This was done by crawling through the bushes and following the Shama at every possible moment.
By lunch time we were very tired and took a small break after lunch. By about 15.00h we were up once again to study the Shama. Here we were very lucky indeed as we saw two female Shamas attacking each other possibly over territory. As we crawled through the bushes following the Shama we found a new pathway leading to the grasslands we had explored on the first day. At one point the Shama was within touching distance of the group.
After everyone arrived at camp each of the group members described the bird chosen by them on the first day, to an eager audience. After this an ethogram was formed on the screen based on the behaviour we saw studying the Shama. Many groups stayed up well into the night in order to finish their group reports.
On the last morning we managed to put in about 45 minutes of birding in between the rush of writing group and individual reports. After breakfast we discussed the events which we did during this workshop and soon after it was time to pack our tents and bags to head back to Colombo.
It was hard to say goodbye to all the new friends we had got to know and meet during our trip to Belihul Oya. I would like to thank all the senior members at the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka for making this workshop possible in such a short space of time, as the workshop which was to be held at Buttala could not take place due to unavoidable circumstances.
All in all this was a great learning experience for me and I only hope to improve my skills in the future. I am looking forward to the many other workshops including the one at Sinharaja which I am sure will be another wonderful experience just like this.
Reported By: Asitha Samarawickrama
Photos and Bird list: Indrika Pradeepa
[Participants were asked to write reports on their experience, as an exercise. Asitha’s report was selected as the best trip report]
Participants: Asitha Samarawickrama, D.M.D.A. Bandara, Amila Sumanapala, Rasika P. Jayasinha, N. Amantha Jayoda, S. Sankaja Jayoda, Nihal B. Mawella, Varanga de Silva, Migara Maduranga, Asoka Jayasekara, H.D. Ruwan Prasad, Carl Fenando, Nishanthi Perera, Sanjeewa Udawatta, Shamila Perera, J.M.A. Shyamal, B.A.Y.B. Jayawardhana, Kasun Dayananda, Chinthaka Kaluthota, Indrika Pradeepa
Bird species recorded
Sri Lanka Spurfowl
Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot
Little Green Bee-eater
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
Malabar Pied Hornbill