Friday 15 April 2016

Sri Lanka 2016 - 4

Sri Lanka bird trip 7-21 February 2016. Part 4 - Kandy - Sigiriya - Negombo

In Part 4: British tea factory machines over 100 years old. The most expensive Lion beer in Sri Lanka? More nature photographs

For other parts

Part 1 - Kitulgala and Sinharaja
(Is this the longest tail of any flycatcher?)

Part 2 - Embilipitiya and Tissamaharama
(Kingfishers fall out. What's the wingspan of a fruit bat?)

Part 3 - Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains
(How do the Sri Lankans drive?)

Kandy (no. 11 on the map).
On Thursday 18 February we descended from the lofty heights of Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, a major city to the North West. On the way, we visited a tea factory. The usual visit to a local production facility with its own tourist shop is something of a cliché. I enjoyed the visit. I was amazed that most of the machines were over 100 years old, often belt driven, and probably made in a Sheffield or Bradford engineering factory!

Tea separating machine. At least 100 years old and still going strong!
Only the stuff that comes off the front is 'tea'.
The four spouts at the side are all for 'waste'.

Tamil tea pickers. They posed for us. Tamils originally came from
India to work on the tea plantations.
The Sri Lankans didn't want to do this hard work.

After the factory tour, it was de rigueur to stay for tea!
The beautifully packaged tea of the shop was very expensive.
View from the tea room.

In Kandy, we were supposed to stay at the Hotel Suisse. This is a charming old colonial style hotel overlooking the lake. The view would have been something like this:
The lake in Kandy

On arrival, the manager explained that there had been a water leak on our floor. He had arranged for us to stay at the modern OZO hotel, which overlooked the Hotel Suisse. Now, personally, I didn’t mind. As we were in a big city anyway, I preferred a room with modern facilities to the Victorian plumbing of the Hotel Suisse. We got the best of both worlds in the end. We enjoyed lunch in the grandiose dining room of the Hotel Suisse, but stayed at the OZO.

Lunch in the majestic dining room of the Hotel Suisse. This photo shows the whole party.
From Left: Tharanga, David, Phil, Anne, Alan, Sasha, Tony, Greta, Gary, Henry

After lunch, we headed to the nearby Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, home to a host of trees, plants and birds. This was quite a busy place, with tourists from all over, including Sri Lanka.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy. The main fountain.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy.
The gardens were well tended. Shame the weather was a bit drizzly.
This is a cannon-ball tree. Truly. Wouldn't like to be underneath when they drop!

I called this the 'tornado tree'.

Lesser Hill Myna. Last of the three mynas.
Black-rumped flameback. One of a family of woodpeckers.

The next morning it was another early start to beat the traffic. Our destination wasn't far away, but the traffic in the city was heavy from quite early on. The Udawatta Kele Royal Forest, Kandy is a mature forest on a hill near the city. We found several new birds there, although the number of new birds had, of course, slowed considerably as we approached the end of the tour. For me, as a photographer, this meant that I could concentrate on getting better photos of birds we had already seen.

Udawatta Kele Royal Forest, Kandy
Brown-capped babbler. A very underwhelming bird, almost lost in the dimness.
White-rumped sharma. Here is the white rump.
It's quite pretty, and trogon-like. It didn't call much.
You just noticed it on a branch.
White-rumped sharma. I managed to get quite close to this individual.
It didn't seem to mind. Eventually I left it after photographing it for 7-8 minutes.

Sigiriya (no. 12 on the map)
Our last overnight stop was at Sigiriya. The hotel was quite a large complex. It was nicely planned with many chalets, a swimming pool and open sided dining area. In all other hotels we had visited, the price of a large Lion beer was fairly standard. Typically 350-450 rupees, even in the best hotels. At Hotel Sigiriya it was 875 rupees! All other drinks were similarly overpriced. Hmm! Is that just profiteering?

The dining-room was open at the sides, with nets to stop monkeys and giant squirrels from coming in. David had trouble adjusting to Sri Lankan food. When the hotels offered Western food, he made the most of it. At Sigiriya, he ate a record fourteen pancakes with syrup at one sitting! That was after the main course. But, hey! Who's counting?

The area around the moat at Sigiriya Fort was a magnet for all sorts of birds. We had a great time there. The white-naped woodpecker eluded us on this trip. We looked hard at Sigiriya but to no avail. I didn’t mind. I was very happy with what I saw and photographed. Here are some of them:

Indian robin. The red is on the tail instead of the breast!
Not like our robin at all.
Indian robin - female. The same as the male but brown.
Male and female European robins are indistinguishable.
Asian paradise flycatcher. This is the brown version of the white one in Part 1.
The tail is short here, so it's either a female or a juvenile. A beautiful bird.
White-browed Bulbul - a plain member of the bulbul family.

Grey-bellied cuckoo. Well, it's grey. What more can I say?
Jerdon's bushlark. Looks like a pipit but the bill is huge. Wonder who Jerdon was?
Oriental magpie-robin. Size of a robin, looks of a magpie. Very common.
Coppersmith barbet. This one was looking for a home.
He found it in the photo below.
Coppersmith barbet. It got right inside the hole.
The branch must be very weak at his point.
Golden-fronted leafbird. Looks similar to a barbet but no relation.
Asian paradise flycatcher - brown morph.
The same huge tail as the white model in Part 1.
Indian cuckoo. In a tree above the foyer of the hotel (the one with the expensive beer -
maybe seeing rare birds on the doorstep is factored into the cost of beer!).
Orange-headed thrush. Also seen in the grounds of the hotel.
Sri Lanka green pigeon. A lovely pigeon. This is the male. An endemic species.
Sri Lanka green pigeon. This is the female.

The Bandaranaika International Airport, Colombo, is actually to the North of the city. For our last night we stayed at Negombo, which is also North of Colombo and just 15-20 minutes from the airport. Virtually no chance we would miss our flight! After Sigiriya, the whole of the next day was taken up with the long journey South to Negombo. Traffic was bad, there were frequent road works and we arrived just in time for dinner.

On the way we stopped for tea at a roadside cafe. Nearby, we heard giggles from a woman enjoying a massage.

David at Hotel Sigiriya on his 14th pancake!

Roadside massage parlour

The following morning we had time to explore the hotel grounds for birds before leaving. The grounds were surprisingly productive. No new species, but closer to birds we had already seen. Lovely!  

White-bellied drongo. A large flycatcher and very common.
Black-hooded oriole. Has a rich flutey song. 
Asian Koel. This is the male. The female is actually much prettier. Common, but not easily seen. The song, however, always gives away the presence of these birds.

The hotel gave me the key to the ‘business centre’ so I could print some crosswords for David and me to do on the plane home.

Home at last.

And suddenly, it was all over. Check-in, shopping, boarding, flight home, landing, passport control, baggage reclaim, customs, home, bed. My own bed! How wonderful to sleep in your own bed again after a spell away. Even after a very good trip, well planned and executed. Thank you Gary, Tharanga and Limosa Holidays.

You have just read Part 4 of 4.

For other parts:
Part 1 - Kitulgala and Sinharaja
(Is this the longest tail of any flycatcher?)

Part 2 - Embilipitiya and Tissamaharama
(Kingfishers fall out. What's the wingspan of a fruit bat?)

Part 3 - Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains
(How do the Sri Lankans drive?)


  1. Looks like a successful trip but you make no mention of actually climbing the rock fortress at Sigiriya. I can't believe you didn't.
    Which was your favourite birding/wildlife spot ?

  2. Thanks Dave. No, I didn't climb the rock fortress unfortunately. Favourite spot? Sigiriya was pretty good. Also Sinharaja and the National parks. Well, I enjoyed it all really. Sri Lanka is a great place.


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