Category Archives: Birds of Sri Lanka

Small Pratincole at Yala NP beach/ Sri Lankas

Tiny grains of sand whirl up. The wind on the southern coast of Sri Lanka is very decent again. There is sand and salt in the air. The combination of wind, sand drifts and blazing sun does not allow many visitors to enjoy the beautiful beach just 100 meters from the hotel in the dunes. First, we walk past a few smooth rocks to the south, between limestone boulders, half standing in the sea. Some limicoles can be seen. A narrow, gray bird crouched next to a rock in the sand catches the eye. With its pale, sandy gray overall appearance and it black rump, the bird can hardly be distinguished from its background of stones, rocks and sand. Only the black beak with a hint of red at the base and the white eye ring are noticeable from a closer distance.

It is a single Little Pratincole or Small Pratincole (Glareola lactea). The Pratincole is really beautiful to see and can also be photographed at eye level. I crouch in the sand to photograph the bird at the same level. The Small Pratincole has chosen a place on dry land but not far from the wet beach. What the bird does in the hot wasteland is not clear. There is also a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). Some Greater Sand-Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) can be seen on a dune as well. At first I had seen at least 5 Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) on one of the rocks, which are occasionally wetted by breakwaters. For such a barren coastal landscape, there is a surprising number of birds. In the end, the Little Pratincole flies up, but only to sit down again after a few meters. This time it is standing on a rounded rock. I continue to walk north. Only a Greater Sand-Plover can be seen here.

Breeding is reported from India and Sri Lanka. But the bird is locally migratory, depending on water levels of rivers, but present in many Continue reading Small Pratincole at Yala NP beach/ Sri Lankas

White-bellied Fish-Eagle in Yala NP

Weißbauch-SeeadlerIf you are an eagle fan and think that there are masses of White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) on the Volga or even think that Brandenburg is densely populated with this bird species, you really have to go to the Lunugamvehera National Park in the south of Sri Lanka. Such a density of large fish-eating eagles like here at the Weheragala Reservoir I have really never seen before. Well, the White-bellied Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is not as powerful as the White-tailed Eagle; the weight is also much lower (max. 4 kg against over 7 kg). However, the wingspan is almost as impressive with over 2 meters. The White-tailed Eagle is of course also a little larger. The most impressive thing about this early morning is the rather slow back and forth flight of individual White-bellied Sea-eagles against a green jungle background. Again and again a White-bellied Sea-eagle flies in and then disappears into an old giant tree right next tot he dam. Great flight pictures with a beautiful background.

One reason for perfect shooting is the excellent position on a 25 meter high dam, where the White-bellied Sea-eagle flies along at almost the same height like you are standing. On the other hand the high yield in images is due to the rather low demands on the focusing technique. The auto-focus on the Canon EOS 1 DX has enough time to focus on the flying target. The contrast range is so high that the bright bird is perfectly captured in front of the dark green background, although the depth of field of the Canon EF 600/4.0 L IS II USM is low. Scrap – otherwise high within flight photos (BiF) – is almost non-existent with this series. For quite again and again another immature White-bellied Continue reading White-bellied Fish-Eagle in Yala NP

Marshall’s Iora in Sri Lanka

Marshall’s Iora (Aegithina nigrolutea) – recently called White-tailed Iora – is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent, where it prefers lowland thorn scrub and tree groves. It is closely related to the Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) and the two were previously considered conspecific. In Sri Lanka I had the opportunity to observe a male neaer the Weheragala Reservoir in the Yala National Park that only needs to be agitated slightly. Then the bird stands on the dry branches of a bare tree. After a short time it changes to a bush with lush green leaves. A little later, the bird decides again for the lower, more stable branches of the bare tree. After a while, the bird begins to take the rival male seriously. The wings are stretched and the beautiful white stripes come into their own. Then it comes down so far that I can photograph the male at eye level in a tree that looks like a black locust. From time to time the white-tailed iora sings. Finally, the male of the White-tailed Iora begins to search leaves and branches for food at a short distance; possibly as a skipping act. The whole performance has now lasted more than half an hour. Very remarkable. This is the only place far and wide to reliably see the Marshall’s Iora / White-tailed Iora in Sri Lanka, as my guide emphazises.

Marshall’s Iora is not a well-studied species, and it is suspected to be under pressure owing to destruction of its habitat, especially due to cutting down of scrub forests. Although it is treated in literature as Continue reading Marshall’s Iora in Sri Lanka

White-browed Fantail flying over a fountain

Weißstirn-FächerschwanzThe White-browed Fantail (Rhipidura aureola) is aiming for its future “bathtub” in low flight. A little later, the drops will splash for several meters. The White-browed Fantail had already bathed extensively in the shallow fountain a few minutes before. The feathers are soaked with water. The White-browed Fantail is obviously not afraid of water. Proper cooling is also important in the south of Sri Lanka. Birds should also try to keep a cool head and, on the occasion, get-riff of roommates living on their feathers. First the White-browed Fantail comes on the ceramic rim, secures and sips from the water in the bowl. The cool water feels good. Then the bird stands in the middle of the flat pool area. The water goes up to the belly of the standing bird. Then it’s time to plunge ist head, fling the water in a rotary motion and wait until the water drops come down again. Then fly up again with your wet feathers on ist stomach and spread the water drops in the area. Done!

For birds, cleaning and maintaining the plumage is an important hygiene measure and necessary preventive health care. The white-browed fantail, for example, uses extensive water and dust baths to rid its more than 1000 feathers of parasites such as ticks, mites and fleas. He whirls the water around. With a little luck, you might even Continue reading White-browed Fantail flying over a fountain

Oriental Skylark versus Eurasian Skylark

Kleine FeldlercheThe Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula) is basically an “eastern” species.  Nonetheless, the species is a local migrant and winter visitor in Israel. The best places to observe them are the are alfalfa and lucerne fields in the valleys. During migration periods, these larks are regularly seen along the Mediterranean coast. The Lesser Skylark is often seen in small groups of about 3-5 birds, but sometimes in larger concentrations in winter. It is therefore quite possible that the Oriental Skylark will be encountered at some point in Western Europe. Therefore it is good to have the most important characteristics for species identification ready – especially in differentiation to the Eurasian Skylark.

Many observers familiar with the Lesser Skylark explain how strikingly different the structure of the Lesser Skylark is from its close relative, the Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis). Of course, the species is most likely to be confused with the Eurasian Skylark, especially with the smaller subspecies. However, when visibility is good, the attentive observer should not perceive the separation of the species as a serious problem.

A trip to Sri Lanka gave the chance to observe and photograph several individuials of the nominate subspecies gulgula in Bundala Nationalpark in southern Sri Lanka. Alauda gulgula gulgula is spread as a breeding bird over almost the whole India subcontinent, from Continue reading Oriental Skylark versus Eurasian Skylark