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MARCH, APRIL & MAY

Dear all, Feel free to circulate. To contribute or to un-subscribe, please see below. Regards Gehan.
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (March, April & May 2006)
– A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne & Ayanthi Samarajewa
HIGHLIGHTS
[*] Possible sighting of Marshall’s Iora in Sri Lanka and Blue Whales off the coast of Mirissa. See BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS.
[*] Wildlife of Mannar, Sri Lanka’s Dragonflies in trouble, and Dolphins off the coast of Negombo. See ARTICLES & TRIP REPORTS.
[*] Free downloads of photo booklets on Butterfly, Birds & Dragonflies. See PUBLICATIONS.
EVENTS SUMMARY
– Saturday 29 July 2006, General Meeting. 8.30pm onwards. NBLT, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL)
BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS
Chandima Jayaweera (Jetwing Eco Holidays) on tour with research student Georgina Ash from Oxford Brooks University reports a Bear on Mada Para, Yala National Park at around 9.10am on 25th May 2006.
Chinthake de Silva on a visit to Karativu and Oluvil (Eastern Province, south of Batticaloa) on 23rd & 24th May reports the presence of 50 plus Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. These birds may be ‘loiterers’ as this migrant species usually leaves Sri Lanka from around April.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne visited Talangama Lake on Saturday 13th May with Nirma and Amali. He reports; “Arrived around 4.45. One Whiskered Tern on the main lake. A Shikra was eating something, probably a small bird. A Drongo was mobbing it. We spent most of the time looking at the plants. Pagiantha dichotoma was in flower and fruit.
We saw a Redspot (Zesius chrysomallus). It was perched on a Malabarithcum plant. I was able to approach it close for a photograph. It showed a bit of its coppery upper wings. It suddenly took of, stopped in mid air and fell down. It seemed to tumbled like a dead leaf spiralling downwards. It then settled on some leaves a few inches above the ground. I am not sure if the dead leaf display was because it had sensed an aerial predator.
On the paddy fields Indian Pond Heron acquiring breeding plumage. White-vented Drongo arrived to roost just as it was getting dark. A number of small Pipistrelles were hawking for insects.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne also sends in the following report on 10th May 2006. ”
A few note worthy observations based on a few visits by me with several people (Phil Dearden, Ayanthi Samarajewa, Wicky Wickramasinghe, Hasitha Kumaradasa, Nirma de Silva Wijeyeratne, Karen Coniff etc) over the first two weeks in May to the Kotte Marshes.
Butterflies: I have had two sightings of Large Oakblue, one of the two largest Lycaenid butterflies in Sri Lanka. One sighting of the Painted Lady, which I had so far only seen before at Horton Plains. Kithsiri Gunwardena has also seen it only at Horton Plains.
Kithsiri Gunwardena tipped me off on the Apefly which he noted when he searched for the Oakblue. I had three individuals. (In general don’t get too close to the parliament as you may have free food and accommodation courtesy of the tax payer in police detention).
Birds: The reed beds on the footpath towards the Parliament have Tawny-bellied Babbler (seen twice), Great Reed Warbler (once) and Cinnamon Bittern.
Dragonflies: Several Pruinosed Bloodtail (Lathrecista asiatica). Karen and I saw Sombre Lieutenant (Brachydiplax sobrina) mating. We also had a Gynacntha sp. I also photographed Blue-eyed Pondcruiser (Epophthalmia vittata cyanocephala) on a visit with Wicky.
Access: Go down Sri Lanka Nippon Mawatha, past the standing Buddha and park on the left near the bare ground (cricket field), before the football training center. From the Nawala side, Sri Lanka Nippon Mawatha is on the right hand side, skirting the Diyawanna Oya, past the Kotte Road, which it is roughly parallel to. You will need to double back from the Parliament-Waters Edge/Battaramulla Arpico roundabout.
[Since this note was written, naturalists are advised to stay within the area which the general public go walking, play cricket etc. Avoid the wooded paths which skirt the wetland and lead towards the parliament. Security is very high around the parliament].
Niranjan Bandaranayake and Anne Whip visited Geoffrey Bawa’s Lunuganga estate on 4th May 2006. Birds seen include a pair of White-browed Fantail, a pair of Small Minivets, one Black-headed Cuckooshrike, one Brahminy Kite, a pair of Jerdon’s Chloropsis, a pair of Red-backed Woodpeckers, a flock of White-rumped Munias, Brown-headed and Ceylon Small Barbet, Common Iora (heard), plenty of White-vented Drongo and a White-throated Kingfisher flying out of a hole in the ground near the riverbank, a pair of White-browed Bulbuls, Shikra (call heard) and one White-breasted Waterhen.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (2nd May 2006) carried the following report.
Pathmanath Samaraweera reports an Oriental Plover (the third record in the South Asia region) on 1 May at Kalametiya, in the open area reached through the Gurupokuna junction turn and then the road to the left by the Sanctuary board after the Wildlife Dept. office and the broken culvert.
Ayanthi Samarajewa reports from Hunas Falls Hotel on 30th April 2006. “Species seen included Ceylon Swallows flying around with a single Hill Swallow seen among them on an electric wire. Ceylon Hanging Parrot, Hill Myna, a pair of Common Kingfishers, White-throated Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Great Tits, Oriental Magpie Robin, Jungle Crow, Plain Prinia, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Common Tailor Bird and White-bellied Drongo”.
Niranjan Bandaranayake and Anne Whip visited Ranweli Hotel, Waikkal and went boating down the Gin Oya on 23rd April 2006. Birds seen included Little Cormorant-a few, Common Kingfisher-7, Pied Kingfisher-4, Stork-billed Kingfisher-1, White-throated Kingfisher-1, Little Green Heron-1, Yellow Bitterns–3, Rose-ringed Parakeet-3, Common Sandpiper-1, Red-Wattled Lapwing-2, Pond Heron-2, Black-winged Stilt-1, Purple-Heron-1andCommomMyna-3.

On the same trip they visited Dambadeniya rock fortress and Panduwasnuwara archaeological reserve. Some of the birds seen in the forest surrounding the Dambedeniya rock fortress include Red-vented Bulbul-plenty, Black-Headed Oriole-plenty, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot-1, Common Iora-1, Black-headed Cuckooshrike-1, White-Vented Drongo-plenty.

They also identified at the Panduwasnuwara archaeological reserve site Red-backed Woodpecker-1, Little Green Beeeater-1, Brahminy Kite-1, Common Iora-1, Asian Openbill-one bird was seen in a small lake by the side of the Hettipola-Chilaw main road.

Ajantha Palihawadana sends in the following sighting of a Black-naped Oriole,
“We had noticed some strange calls of an Oriole in Vihara lane, Wakwalla, Galle at the beginning of April this year. In. late April we saw a different bird moving with a Black- headed Oriole flock. The call was different and had a diagnostic hard kick note, vocal especially in early morning. I managed to record the call on a Sanyo SUM-3R6 HP 7. The bird was shy and always moving in the top of the trees. We identified this bird as a male Black-naped Oriole. Finally Charith Senanayake Managing Director, Rainforest Rescue International managed to photograph this beautiful Oriole.
This is the only confirmed record from Sri Lanka of this rear Oriole after 100 years
This bird was there until the end of May and disappeared. We hope the bird will come back by next year. If anyone needs the recorded call for analysis, we would be happy to pass it on.

Simon Scarff sends in the following report from Mirissa on whales. “During April while we have been out sports fishing off the South Coast we have had 3 sightings of Blue Whales. All were within 3-6 miles off the coast in roughly the same position between Mirissa and Dondra Head. The first sighting was on 6th April when we saw a mother and calf blowing in the distance at about 8am but they sounded very promptly when they heard our boat engines. The second sighting was on 11th April at 11.30am when we sighted a school of about 6 whales. The most exciting sighting was on Sat 15th April at about 4.40pm when we found a larger school – probably 8 whales including mother and calf. This time we stayed with the school for about 45 minutes whilst they sounded, dived and blew about the boat.
Anouk Ilangakoon has since identified these as Blue Whales, which apparently are seen fairly frequently during the first quarter off the South & West of Sri Lanka. At Mirissa Water Sports we will now be keeping accurate logs of the sightings so that we can begin to predict the arrival of the Blue Whales for future whale watching tours.
This period is also a good time for dolphins around the coast. Since January on our fishing trips we have regularly been accompanied by pods of spinner dolphins, particularly in the last few weeks during the peak yellow fin tuna season. For pictures please access our Mirissa Water Sports website. http://www.mirissawatersports.com/”.
Gehan and Nirma de Silva Wijeyeratne (with Maya and Amali) and Hasitha Kumaradasa visited the Gothama Thappovanaya on 11 April. The Gothama Thapovanaya is off Koswatta Junction near Aggona at Kalapaluwawa. A troop Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys are using the few acres of afforested land as a roost. On their visit they saw around five of the Leaf Monkeys.
Rohan Cooray reports the following from Bundala. “I have been able to observed, photograph and identify a Barn Owl(Tyto alba) in Bundala on 16th March 2006 at around 8.45 p.m. near Bundala Kokariya Wewa. Rasika Gamage and Vikum Sudesh Kumara from Bundala village were also present. This bird was observed for nearly 10 minutes at a distance of 2m from our vehicle. According to them they have not seen this bird in this area and accordingly this would be the second confirmed observation about this Owl from Hambantota District”.
Chandima Jayaweera (Jetwing Eco Holidays) on tour with Ian Hirst report on 5th April at Yala National Park a Leopard on Mada Para at around 10.10am.
Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) carried the following sighting in their e-groups on 14th March 2006.
Marshall’s Iora (Aegithina nigrolutea)in Sri Lanka
– Chintha Kaluthota
During an IBA survey session in Yala East National Park, Chinthaka Kaluthora spotted a species, which was doubtfully recorded in the past. His observations are given below.
“During a survey session in the 1st week of March in the Yala East National Park, I was able to record a species, which was doubtfully recorded in the past in Sri Lanka.
I was in the canopy of a big Tamarind tree, about 15m from the ground, when a small black and yellow bird appeared on a Mustard tree (Malitthan) lower down the Tamarind tree. It was similar to Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) but the plumage was clearly different on the upperparts. It had a black cap, wings and tail while, its hind-neck and mantle were yellowish green. There were two broad white wing bars and some white lines on the wing. A central white line along the tail was also observed. My position on the Tamarind tree gave little freedom of movement and therefore I couldn’t observe the bird for a long time. After some time it flew into the scrub jungle. I first thought it could be a colour variation of the Common Iora. However, the presence of considerably more white lines on tail and wings prompted me to further investigate and identify the bird. I checked the field guide of Kazmierczak & van Perlo (2000) for further clarification and I found that the bird being a close resemblance to Marshall’s Iora.
I had the opportunity to observe this bird for three consecutive days (4th, 5th, 6th March) at the same location. On the third day, a flock of three birds was observed. Two were with the black cap and the other without the cap. Wings were black with two white bars on scapulars and white lines on tertials. A central white line along the tail was prominent, but the edges were slightly marked in white. The bill was not strong as in the common Iora. The bird without a black cap showed yellowish green upperparts except on the wings.
According to Legge (1982), Marshall’s Iora can be distinguished from Common Iora, by the presence of white on tail feathers. He also mentions (referring Hume) that the non-breeding males have white central tail feathers. However, Legge did not record this bird from Sri Lanka.
According to Rasmussen & Anderton (2006) Marshall’s Iora was previously considered as aberrantly common species in Sri Lanka. However, male specimen from Uva (BMNH) differ markedly in plumage and bill size from Sri Lankan subspecies of Common Iora A. t. multicolor although it shows slight resemblance to the Common Iora by having less white on tail and a much darker mantle (Rasmussen & Anderton, 2006). Some other authors consider this specimen as an intermediate between Marshall’s and Common Ioras (Ripley, 1982. Ali and Ripley, 1971. Grimmett et. al., 1998). However, all the major literature (Checklists and field guides, etc.) do not record the presence of this species in Sri Lanka
The North Indian subspecies of Common Iora (A. t. humei) breeding males have black cap with a gold and black collar, and olive green upper mantle (Rasmussen & Anderton, 2006). This form is much closer to breeding males of Marshall’s Iora, but without white on the tail. However, there are no previous records of this subspecies from Sri Lanka.
Based on this evidence, I conclude that the bird can be either the Marshall’s Iora or a form of A. t. humei. However, the strongest possibility is that it is Marshall’s Iora in moulting into its breeding plumage. To solve this problem FOGSL plans further investigations on this bird. Hence, FOGSL invites our members to observe Ioras carefully especially when they visit the South Eastern dry zone. Please send your observations to FOGSL.
Chinthaka Kaluthota
References;
·Ali, S. & Ripley, S.D. (1971) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan together with those of Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Ceylon. Volume 6, Oxford University Press, Pp. 245.
· Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. (2005) Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vol, 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. Pp. 683.
· Kazmierczak, K. & van Perlo, B. (2000) A field guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent, UK. Pica press.
· Legge, W. (1982) A history of the Birds of Ceylon, 2nd Edition. Volume II. Thisara Prakashakayo.
· Grimmett, Richard, Inskipp, Carol and Inskipp, Tim (1998) Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd. 888pp.
· Ripley, S.D. (1982) A synopsis of the birds of India and Pakistan, together with those of Nepal, Bhutan and Ceylon, 2nd revised edition. BNHS.
Chandima Jayaweera (Jetwing Eco Holidays) on tour with Isabella reports on 7th March in Yala National Park at around 8.15am a Leopard at Rukvila. On 8th March at 9.45am a Bear at Rukvila. On 9th March at 9.30am on Gonalabbe Madapara a Leopard sighting. On 11th March on the main Yala road another leopard sighting.
Chandima Jayaweera (Jetwing Eco Holidays) on tour with Robert Kwak and family report a Leopard on 1st March at Rukvila, Yala National Park.
ARTICLES/TRIP REPORTS
Sri Lanka’s remarkable dragonfly fauna is clearly in trouble – many endemic species under pressure of severe habitat loss in last decades
By Matjaž Bedjani?
Kolodvorska 21/b, SI-2310 Slovenska Bistrica, Slovenia, EuropeE-mail: matjaz_bedjanic@yahoo.com

The island of Sri Lanka is – together with south Indian Western Ghats – classified as one of the biodiversity hotspots. Apart of being one of the hottest in biodiversity terms the region has by far the highest human population density in this prestigious company. In the case of Sri Lanka’s Wet zone, which accounts for only a quarter of land’s surface in central and south-western part of the island, but contains roughly estimated three quarters of island’s endemic biota, a density of even 700 people/km2 can be calculated!
Altogether 116 described odonate species are known from Sri Lanka. The level of endemism is high – 53 taxa or 45.7% are confined to the island. Not less than 20 endemic dragonfly species from Sri Lanka threatened with global extinction are included on the new IUCN Global Red List of Threatened Animals. With almost 40% of described endemic dragonfly species classified as globally endangered, the Sri Lanka’s remarkable dragonfly fauna is clearly in trouble.
The fate of several endemic species is very unsure and some of them might even be extinct. Enigmatic Sinhalestes orientalis, taxonomically isolated representative of a monotypic genus, has not been found for more than 140 years, since its original description. Remarkable species radiation seen in the genus Drepanosticta is a story of 15 endemic species jungle dwelling with mostly very restricted ranges. Due to the undergoing loss of habitat many of them are persisting only in small remaining pockets of their original habitat. Five of them have not been found for more than 60 years and are classified as critically endangered. Quite similar situation applies also to the three endangered endemic species of genus Heliogomphus, all of what may probably only represent the tip of an iceberg.
The main reason for this very concerning situation is rapid destruction and fragmentation of rainforests, which has approached catastrophe proportions in the last decades. Also destruction of forest corridors along streams, impoundment, extraction for irrigation, soil erosion, over-use of pesticides and careless pollution of rivers and streams in the central and south-western part of Sri Lanka, have brought many endemic dragonfly species near or to the brink of extinction.
And what can be done to influence the future prospects? Effective nature conservation measures in declared protected areas as well as the establishment of a network of new small protected areas and corridors in the Wet zone is of biggest importance for effective long-term preservation of a rich endemic fauna and flora of Sri Lanka. As far as dragonflies are concerned, the work dealing with taxonomy of larval forms and adults, with additional research of biology and ecology of selected endangered species should be conducted immediately. Given its remarkable diversity and endemism, serious odonatological faunistic mapping should be focused on the Wet zone of Sri Lanka. Only such approach can produce a basis for professional elaboration and future monitoring of single species oriented conservation programmes.
The “Talangama’s Dragonfly Ditch’ an irrigation channel rich in Endemic Dragonflies
By Karen Conniff
A small ditch running through the middle of the Hokandara paddy fields in the Talanagama Wetland Complex has become a rich source for observing endemic dragonflies. Last year in February I noticed an endemic damselfly called Adam’s Gem or Libellago adami next to a small bridge where I crossed the paddy fields on my morning walk. My interest grew and I went back just to walk the ditch. I eventually chose a 200 meter stretch and visited it about twice a week at varying times during the day.
Libellago adami both males and females were common from one end of my 200m to other. The males, I noticed, were perched just above the water level and females perched higher up almost in line with a male below them. I first visited in April when there were far more females than males. This is uncommon in Odonates as the females usually remain away from the breeding site until they mate. Later in May the ratio changed and the number of males increased and females decreased. Still I never saw them mating.
Other Odonates began to interest me as I visited the ditch more often. I noticed Sri Lanka Orange-faced Sprite (Pseudagrion rubiceps ceylonicum) and endemic Blue Sprite (Pseudagrion microcehpalum), Marsh Dancer (Onychargia atrocyana), Stripe-headed Threadtail (Prodasineura sita) endemic Yellow Featherleg (Copera maginipes) plus many other very common damselflies and dragonflies where on the ditch or in the surrounding paddy fields. It seemed that during each visit I found something new.
In April I noticed large exuviae, the cast off remains of the larval form. I knew something big had emerged and I started to scan at a higher level in the surrounding assortment of plants and trees. One morning I spotted a small Gomphid dragonfly; it was not moving much making it easy to photograph. I had a feeling that this was special and that it was probably not what had come out of the large sized exuviae. I determined from my photos that I had seen a new endemic on this small ditch. Its new English name is Transvestite Clubtail – I prefer Cyclogomphus gynostylus. I had found a female specimen.
Not long after I found Cyclogomphus, at the beginning of May, I had another surprise. The occupant of the large exuviae appeared one evening when I was at the end of my 200m stretch. It was another endemic called Sri Lanka Forktail, or Macrogomphus lankanensis. The light was a bit low but I managed to get several photos. I was so exciting to see what the adult looked like after seeing about 9 or 10 of the exuviae.
I returned in May this year with Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and bird artist Hasitha Kumaradasa just to have a look around when Gehan spotted Cyclogomphus gynostylus on the opposite side of the ditch. Muddy feet and a few dozen photos later we left and I was really happy to see that Gynostylus was again on the canal. The photos have shown that we had seen a male. On a second visit with Gehan and Hasitha, I found the same large sized exuviae of Macrogomphus lankanensis, but we were not as lucky with spotting either Gomphid. It was not as disappointing as it sounds because there were still other species to observe and photograph in tandem and ovipositing.
Both of these Gomphid dragonflies are rare and both are now on the IUCN red list of globally threatened species. To view the IUCN red list of threatened species you can visit the following link. http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/redlist2006/redlist2006.htm
Wildlife of Mannar – A Trip Report
by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
Saturday 1 April to Monday 3 April 2006
Wicky Wickremesekera, Supurna Hettiarchchi (Hetti) and I spent three days birding in the area from Giant’s Tank to Talaimannar (at the far end of Mannar island) during three days in April.
Road Conditions & Security
Wicky and I left Colombo at 5.00 am and picked Hetti en route from near Negombo. We took the A3 to Puttalam and then the A12 to Anuradhapura, A9 to Rambewa, A9 to Medawachchiya and the A14 to Mannar. An early departure allowed us to keep driving speeds low, to comply with speed limits and still get to Giant’s Tank by 3.30 pm. It is another 30 – 45 minutes to Mannar. The police are maintaining a lot of speed checks on the road. This is welcome if it reduces road casualties. However, there are many complaints about whether safety or the meeting of quotas is the priority. The conduct of some errant police officers does not help the image of the police either. The A2 remains in a good condition. The A12 is not very good. The A9 and the A14 are better maintained, perhaps to enable the military to gain speedy access.
Beyond Medawachchiya we noticed a flurry of activity with more bunkers being built and existing bunkers being renovated. The bunkers besides the roads now seem to being built bigger, with more space to accommodate more soldiers, roofs and wider earth embankments. The strip of land besides the road had been cleared afresh extending 50m or more. This was noticeable in Mannar. The patches of Lantana which lined the road hosting swarms of butterflies have now been bulldozed out to improve the security of the bunkers and soldiers on foot patrols. As Lantana is an invasive alien, its temporary disappearance is not a bad thing.
Apparently the LTTE controlled areas in the Wanni have a good number of luxury 4 x 4 vehicles ‘sourced’ from Colombo. On this trip, unlike on my previous visits I found the checkpoints asking for the revenue license, etc. They also asked for the Vehicle Registration Book. This has the chassis number on it. We did not have it but the police were satisfied that were not transporting a stolen vehicle. I am not sure what having it would have proven. If an owner keeps the vehicle registration book in the vehicle and it is stolen, would not the thieves be also be able to show it? However those travelling up in luxury 4 x 4s may wish to take it along. At one checkpoint they opened the bonnet and noted the chassis number.
In Mannar and at Giant’s Tank we always spoke to the nearest military personnel and explained that we were birders who will using telescopes, binoculars and telephoto lenses. As long as you don’t attempt to photograph any military installations, they are comfortable with it. They are used to both local and foreign birders and naturalists exploring the area equipped with optics. If you remain in clear view, as we were when we were watching birds, they are not too worried. They no longer are comfortable with people sticking long lenses at the famous Thalladi Pond which adjoins the army camp at the start of the causeway. The pond was poor for birds at the time of our visit. Perhaps because it is now being used as a bathing pond.
At Talaimannar we needed clearance from the naval checkpoint to be allowed through. We were warned not accept any offers for a ride out to the Adam’s Bridge islands or for a general boat ride. In February and March two Dvora Fast Attack Craft had been destroyed up the LTTE. This may be the reason why they were being strict on who goes out to sea.
Unlike on other trips, we seemed to have more civilians interested in what we were doing and what equipment we had with us. I had deliberately left behind my Telinga Mike and Parabola as I did not want to be mistaken by either side for being a covert intelligence operative. I would like to avoid any abrupt termination of my birding career. There were times when we wished we had brought sound recording equipment to record the vocalisations of birds which are rare in the south.
On our first night we refrained from a night drive as we were not quite sure of the ground situation. On the second night we did, but stayed on the main road and returned to town by 8.30 pm. Although we spot lighted one Loris which had called, we decided not to drive around scanning the trees with spot lights. I think if one were to take a local and explain to the military that you are searching for nocturnal mammals, away from the military camps, mammal researchers may be given some room for field work at night.
Saturday 1 April 2006 Giants Tank
Near Chettikulam we had an Oriental Honey-buzzard. Near the sector 13 base camps several Banded Peacock butterflies in flight, singly. Lesser Adjutants in flight before Murunkan.
Just before Giant’s Tank we had a Shikra like bird. It seemed different because the upperparts were a pearly grey, lighter than the usual grey on the Shikra. The underwing lining was white and the under-wing lacked barring. The first few primaries had a contrasting black tip. It was being mobbed by Black Drongos and it flew from tree to tree beside the main road. The Black Drongos which mobbed it used the calls of Shikra in their repertoire of calls. But the raptor did not call. The flight seemed less strong than that of a Shikra. But this may be because it was only travelling a short distance at a time. We followed, not being able to get a photograph or a perfect sighting. We checked the books and thought it could be a Chinese Sparrowhawk, because of the pale upperparts and the black wing tips contrasting with the white under-wing. The Chinese Sparrow-hawk has not yet been recorded from Sri Lanka. The Chinese Sparrowhawk lacks the fine barring on the breast and has a more diffuse brownish orange on the bread. We looked for this feature but it flew off without giving us a good look at this feature. However I thought in one of the glimpses I had of the bird I had made out fine barring. Furthermore I thought I had observed a mesial stripe on the throat which is absent in the Chinese Sparrowhawk. It was a crow sized or smaller with a red iride, an adult male. It never called. I suspect it was a male Shikra because of the fine barring on the breast and the mesial stripe. The pale upperparts may be because it is a bird from Northern India. According to Pamela Rasmussen in the Ripley Guide: Birds of South Asia, the birds become paler towards northern India. This may well be the first hint of the resident Shikras being supplemented by migrant birds.
We reached Giant’s Tank around 3.00 pm having left Colombo at 5.00 am. Several sightings of Banded Peacock winging its way rapidly low over the ground all the way from Medawachchiya. Around Giants Tank were many Castors, Common Rose, Crimson Rose, Zebra Blue, Grass Jewel, Common Tiger, Plain Tiger, Indian Crow, etc
Large numbers of Asian Groundling (Brachythemis contaminata). Some herbs had about 4 or 5 perched on one stem, close to each other. The common species such as Green Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) were also present.
Giant’s Tank had Whiskered, White-winged Black and Caspian Terns. No Common Coots were seen by us from the embankment near the kovil with a sentry point, near Murunkan. On Mannar Island, we failed to record any White-winged Black Terns.
On the causeway, we had a Reef Heron and five Oystercatchers. You are not allowed to take photographs from the causeway and not even supposed to stop on it. The military personnel wanted us to seek permission from a brigadier to use a tripod mounted telephoto lenses. We opted not to spend our time doing this as it was around 4.30 and not much time was left, with us yet to have some lunch. We never saw the Oystercatchers again. The Cream Top Hotel, a road side cafe in Mannar town served us some excellent cuttlefish and prawns with roti for a very late lunch.
We then headed back over the causeway to Vankalai. The area was dry. We saw Flamingos in the distance. With light fading, we headed back to the Manjula Inn run by Sam and his Iromini. Most of the northern passerines residents such as Black Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike, Grey Francolin, Collared Dove, etc were seen by us. We also saw a group of Spot-billed Duck at the wetland before the Thalladi Pond, near the turn off to Vankalai.
As we were not sure of the ground situation, we decided against a night drive in search of wildlife.
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SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS is an ad-hoc e-mail of birding and wildlife events, sightings and short notes of interest to birders, photographers, conservationists etc. To receive a copy, please e-mail gehan.slwn@jetwing.lk with “Subscribe Wildlife News” in the subject header. SLWN values your privacy, to be removed, e-mail with “Unsubscribe Wildlife News” in the header. Please e-mail your sightings, events etc to gehan.slwn@jetwing.lk. The media are welcome to extract details, but please attribute the source and author(s). Past issues are on www.jetwingeco.com