Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bird Watching Sri lanka 2016 - Nuwara Eliya (part 1)

On the morning of the  28th Feb we left Sweet Cinnamon for Nuwara Elyia using a minibus (Best Tours Sri Lanka) arranged by the hotel. This is a journey of ~80 km (2.5 hrs) and cost Rs6500 (~ £33). During this trip our driver suggested several places we could stop and sight see. These were a Tea Factory (Glenloch) where you are shown what part of the plant goes into what grade of tea, how it is processed and even see some of the factory equipment working - it was Sunday so only a token amount of the kit was in operation. I would imagine it's very noisy when all the kit is working. These tours are free with the factory relying on tips (for the guides) and selling their products to fund it.
We also stopped at Ramboda falls for lunch (Ramboda Falls Hotel) and to view the falls from the hotel - which enjoys the best views of the falls.

These two stops whilst delaying our journey by a couple of hours worked our really well because visiting these falls and a tea factory somewhere had been planned outings whilst we were in Nuwara so stopping during the transfer freed up a day and allowed us to visit Hakgala Botanical gardens (more on that later).
We arrived at Nuwara mid afternoon then spent the afternoon in the very small gardens of the Glendower Hotel where we had a couple of beers, watched a common tailor bird constructing it's nest in a rose bush and ticked off another endemic in the form of a Sri Lanka white-eye - which was actually very common around Nuwara.

Bird watching in the gardens of the Glendower - tough going!

Common tailorbird

Sri Lanka white-eye

The Glendower is a throwback to the colonial times with all the feel of an English gentleman's club - heavy leather chairs and wooden panelled bar with lines of whiskies on the shelves. The rooms are a little tired but at £40 per room for B&B it is extremely good value, a fun place to stay and the staff were wonderful. Most importantly it's only 200 yards from Victoria Park - one of the main reasons bird watches go to Nuwara.

The main quarry at Victoria Park are pied thrush plus Kashmir, dull blue and grey headed canary flycatchers as well as the already mentioned Sri lanka white-eye. India Pitta are also regular visitors.
I went to Vic park on 3 mornings concentrating my efforts along side the stream (left after entering the park on it's south side).
I spotted the first of the targets, an Indian Pitta, whilst I was waiting for the park to open on the first morning (7.00 am; entrance fee Rs300) but once I went in the thing had disappeared.
Down by the stream I immediately spotted a dull blue flycatcher...brilliant.
This bird was actually seen every day within 10-15 yards of where I first spotted it though getting decent images was really problematic. The bird did sit still but always in the shade and most of the time in dense folliage though persistence paid off and a few reasonable images were obtained over the course of our stay.

Pied thrush was ticked off on our second (and then on every subsequent) visit, where 2, possibly 3 (all males) were seen along the steam banks and another on the opposite side of the gardens. On occasions these were also seen in some of the trees. These birds loved the deep shade so getting decent shots was a problem and one I didn't really manage to solve.

After the disappointment of the disappearing India pitta on our first visit they were seen on just about every visit - sometimes at very close quarters.

A Kashmir flycatcher was reported to be in the park but I never found it and nor did most of the other birders looking for it.

Other birds in the park were  forest wagtail, Sri Lanka white-eye (very common) , scaly breasted munia and loads of grey wagtails. House sparrows was also very numerous....unlike in Britain.

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