Mixed species feeding flocks of birds are one of the major highlights of the Sinharaja National Heritage Wilderness Area (SNHWA) as they provide sound to otherwise silent forest and also because most of the birds that one desires to see are found in them. So far 59 bird species (out of 144 found in SNHWA), including 19 endemics have been recorded to form flocks. The two most frequent species observed in these flocks are the Orange-billed Babbler and the Greater-crested Drongo.
Each year FOGSL organizes a field workshop for its members at SNHWA with the objective of providing an opportunity to understand the function and structure of mixed species feeding flocks. This year’s workshop was held from 10-12th September 2010.
We left the University of Colombo on the 9th around seven at night and reached Kudawa at 11.15pm. Thankfully Martin was waiting with his pickup for the luggage, and few of us also managed to get a lift to his lodge where we were stationed for the next three days. Wake up call on the 10th was at 5.30 am and by then the colourful Sri Lanka Magpies were already making noises from nearby trees. We took an early morning short walk to stretch our legs and after a good breakfast entered the protective zone of the forest for serious bird watching. Thirty three bird species were recorded during that day and several bird flock formations were also observed. Species such as Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka White-faced Starling, Black-naped Monarch, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Malabar Trogon together with the Orange-billed Babbler and the Great Crested Drongo were some of the common species observed in association with these flocks. The highlight of the day was observing a Besra that was perched on a tree stalk. After dinner Martin gave a talk on the history of Sinharaja. He was born in a nearby village and in 1958 moved to his present home, which borders the forest and since then has been involved in activities going within the forest. He spoke about the Government’s selective logging initiatives in the early 1970s and thereafter how the forest became a strictly protected in the late 1980s. Further he mentioned about his observations on the receding water levels of the surrounding streams during the past few decades.
Next day we had a very close encounter with two Sri Lanka Magpies, who came and perched on the wooden beams of the dining hall of the lodge. During our morning walk, the adventurous and young at heart decided to climb Mulawella while the rest opted to go in search for day roosting sites of owls. The scenery form the top of Mulawella was worth the strenuous climb, while on the journey various amphibians, lizards, butterflies and fish were observed. We encountered a large bird flock on the way down. Back on the road, we had an interesting observation where a Spot-winged thrush was attacking a Sri Lanka Magpie. The owl searches were very lucky and had close sighting of the Serendib Scops-Owl and the Chestnut-backed Owlet, both endemic to Sri Lanka. Later, we listen to an interesting lecturer given by Prof. Kotagama on Bird Flocks of Sinharaja as well as the milestone happening towards conserving the forest.
At the very start of day three, a Grey Hornbill was observed near to the lodge and during our walk to the research station several bird flocks were encountered, and tagging behind one flock were two giant squirrels. On our way back, we had a rare opportunity of seeing an Oak Leaf butterfly that repeatedly closed and opened its wings to show us its splendor. After the lunch we returned to Colombo with lots of good memories of birds and other animals as well as shared laughter!
Sinharaja is Sri Lanka’s last large viable area of the virgin primary tropical rainforest which used to cover most of the island in the long gone past. 64% of its trees are endemic and many of them are rare. The reserve is also home to 23% of Sri Lanka’s endemic animals, including 85% of the country’s endemic birds and over 50% of its endemic mammals, reptiles and butterflies.
Mr. Dinu Ranasinha, Mr. Tharindu Gunaratne, Mr. Asitha Samarawickrama, Ms. Sulakmi Weragama, Ms. Lakshini Bambaradeniya, Mr. Rohan Kaththiriarachchi, Ms. Komila Stanislaus, Mr. Shivarumar Selvaraj, Ms. Devika Gunawardena, Mr. Nilantha Megasuriya, Mr. P.D.R.C. Karunanayake, Mr. Sethiya N. Perera, Mr. Helaranga P. Perera, Mr. K.K.D.L. Ruvinka, Mr. G.D. Illeperuma, Mr. S.K.K. Suraweera, Mr. Ranathunga Chathuranga, Ms. Amaley Munasinghe, Ms. Nishanthi Perera, Mr. D.S. Perera, Mr. Saman Abesingha, Ms. Sindy de Silva, Mr. Amila Salgado, Mr. Kusum Fernando, Mr. Indrika Pradeepa, Mr. Ravindra , Prof. S.W. Kotagama
Bird list: Indrika Pradeepa
Photos and Report: Nishanthi Perera
Sri Lanka Spurfowl (h)
Sri Lanka Junglefowl
Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot
Sri Lanka Emerald-collared Parakeet
Sri Lanka Red-faced Malkoha
Sri Lanka Green-billed Coucal (h)
Sri Lanka Serendib Scops-owl
Sri Lanka Chestnut-backed Owlet
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
Sri Lanka Yellow-fronted Barbet
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Sri Lanka Magpie
Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler
Sri Lanka Orange-billed Babbler
Sri Lanka Ashy-headed Laughingthrush
Sri Lanka White-eye
Sri Lanka Myna
Sri Lanka White-faced Starling
Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush
Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush
Sri Lanka White-throated Flowerpecker