All Newsletters

APRIL 2011 – OCTOBER 2011

A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Riaz Cader.


[*] Blue Whale sightings off Trincomalee extend Sri Lanka’s whale watching season from May – August. See Birding and Wildlife News.
[*] An Englishwoman in Blue Whale Country. See Articles.
[*] The Sperm Whales of Kalpitiya. Tales from the Field. See Articles.
[*]‘The Gathering’ ranked amongst the world’s top wildlife spectacles by Lonely Planet. See RFI.
[*] Sri Lanka Natural History Society (SLNHS) write-ups from birdwatching excursions to Trincomalee, Haldummulla and Gingaththena. See Trip Reports.
[*] How Sri Lanka was positioned as being Best for Blue Whales. See Articles
[*] Third record of Red footed booby from Sri Lanka after 26 Year. See Papers.
[*] New comprehensive field guide to Birds of Sri Lanka. See Press Releases.

Mirissa Water Sports did their first sailing for the 2011-12 Whale Watching season on the 21st October and had sightings of 04 Blue Whales indicating an early start to the season. Their second and third sailings on the 23rd and 25th October produced sightings of 03 Blue Whales and a 01 Whale Shark and 02 Blue Whales respectively.

U L Nauffer was on tour with Australian clients Chris and Nicole Humfrey and witnessed a face-off between the three Rukvilla Leopard cubs and a large Mugger Crocodile on the 30th September on the Patangala Rocks in Yala National Park.

On the 17th August 2011, Wicky Wickramasekhara sighted a Ruddy Crake at about 1600hrs on the road to Kandalama Hotel.

On the 18th August 2011, Supurna Hettiarachchi was out at sea off Trincomalee and sighted 03 Blue Whales about 03 nautical miles from land at about 0930hrs and returning to shore sighted a fourth Blue Whale about a nautical mile out at sea.

On the 13th August, Suchithra Hettiarachchi was with client Miranda Bakker on a cultural excursion to visit Koneswaram Temple on Swami Rock at Trincomalee when they spotted 01 Blue Whale a few nautical miles from the shore. One week later, on the 17th August, Suchithra’s brother Supurna with clients Pauline Remco sighted 03 Blue Whales off Swami Rock.

Supurna Hettiarachchi was on tour with Pauline Remco and had seen the birth of an elephant calf in the open plains at Minneriya National Park on the 14th August at around 1630hrs.

On the 05th June, Wicky Wickramasekhara was on tour with Dr. Devona Lieberman and sighted 04 Grey Slender Loris on a nocturnal wildlife watching tour at Jetwing Vil Uyana. Earlier in the evening, about 60+ Asian Elephant were seen at Minneriya National Park marking the beginning of the Gathering. Suchithra Hettiarachchi also observed a Grey Slender Loris around Jetwing Vil Uyana on the 4th June with client Cris Dedigama. The highly elusive Grey Slender Loris can be seen virtually every night around the premises of Jetwing Vil Uyana on specially guided nocturnal wildlife tours with the Hotel Naturalist Chaminda.

Wicky Wickramasekhara was with wildlife photographer Joshua Barton at Yala National Park and photographed a Black Eagle perched on a tree off Heenwewa Road on the 29th May.

On the 27th April 2011, Chamara Amarsinghe (Naturalist at Jetwing Blue) was informed by Imesh Nuwan Bandara about a large gull-like bird captured by a local fisherman off Negombo. The bird was found in the sea about a 30 minute boat ride from the shore, was injured and unable to fly due to exhaustion and had shown little resistance when captured. Thereafter the bird was collected by a fisherman and kept in captivity for several days after which it was released. After consulting with Rex de Silva, it was later identified as a Red-footed Booby, a vagrant to the island known only from two previous records in Sri Lanka.

Between the 25th – 28th April 2011, Wicky Wickramasekhara was with British clients Ian and Jane Robinson at Yala National Park and had sightings of Black-necked Stork and a Painted Snipe.

Sarah and Terrence Girling were on tour with Tyronne Almaeda and sighted 03 Blue Whales off Trincomalee on the 25th April 2011.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Riaz Cader spotted a White-tailed Tropicbird and 02 Pomarine Skua on a whale watch from Mirissa on the 24th April 2011.

Riaz Cader accompanied Dr. Charles Anderson and his group on a whale watch on the 18th April 2011 from Mirissa and sighted 35+ Sperm Whales and 07 Blue Whales on a single whale watching excursion from the Spirit of Dondra. A pod of Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin were also seen earlier in the day and 02 Flesh-footed Shearwater were also observed.

Riaz Cader was with British client Mike Robinson and sighted a Fishing Cat at Talangama Wetlands at about 9:00pm on the 16th April 2011.

Upali Nissanka was on tour with Mike Robinson when they spotted a single Orca (Killer Whale) off Mirissa on the 15th April 2011.

On the 08th April 2011, Supurna Hettiarachchi along with Patrick Limb sighted and photographed a Rusty-spotted Cat at Uda Walawe National Park just past the entrance gate.


(*) SLNHS (Sri Lanka Natural Histroy Society) Trip Report: Trincomalee and Nilaveli from the 14th – 18th May 2011.

By Tara Wikramanayake

Ten of us, seven members and three guests left on this trip with great eagerness and anticipation as most of us had not visited this area for a very long time. After a somewhat inauspicious start (vehicle problems) we were finally on our way. We stopped for breakfast at Pangolla Weva, Ibbagamuwa, along the main road to Dambulla. Here we saw a Stork-billed Kingfisher with a fat fish in its beak. It was attempting to turn the fish in order to swallow it head first, but was being worried by a crow. It then took off to another spot where hopefully it would have its meal in peace. Other birds seen here were Lesser Whistling Teal, a solitary Indian Shag and some Purple Coot. We rushed along the well carpeted road and at Habarana, saw a lone elephant by the road. At Kantale Tank we noticed a dead tree close to the road with about 20 Little Cormorants. Srikumar spotted a Great Cormorant among these birds. It was preening and stood out from the rest.

We reached our destination- Nilaveli Garden Inn (NGI) and sat down to a late lunch- it was 3 pm!! The evening was deliberately left free and those who wished to walk down to the beach had a refreshing swim while others wandered around the environs of NGI. We soon had some interesting sightings-a Grey Partridge was foraging in a field among Rock Pigeons, Red-wattled and Yellow-wattled Lapwings; a Blue-faced Malkoha, Hoopoe and a male Common Iora were also sighted here. A Crimson-breasted Barbet (Coppersmith) perched on a tree- its breast glinting a coppery red in the light of the setting sun- a wonderful sight. Pleased with our various sightings, we returned to NGI for a wash and got ready for dinner.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed for Pigeon Island. The boat ride was short- a mere 15 minutes. The waters around the island were crystal clear and one could see the coral and sand glistening in a variety of patterns, below. Those of us who had snorkelling and swimming gear, swam in the natural pool, where many beautiful reef fish were observed. Meanwhile, the others walked along a nature trail which led to a cluster of little rock pools. There was one pool large enough to accommodate a seated adult. Here we observed some interesting creatures. The first was a lovely Indian Yellow-tail Angelfish Apolemichthys xanthurus which appeared to have got trapped in a pool. It later transpired that it could swim in and out of this pool and was perhaps just enjoying itself swimming here. A tiny white head with a black mask peered from a sandy hole. When it extended its head to catch passing small fry, we observed black stripes on its white body. We saw two of these creatures which were most probably a species of Goby. Another interesting creature which was partially hidden under a rock had black tentacle-like protrusions but we could not figure what it was. Tiny powder blue fish and zebra striped fish were in constant movement here. The island’s Rock Pigeons were abundant as were House Crows. No terns or gulls were in evidence. Although the sun shone on us with intense heat, we were refreshed by the constant breeze. The creatures we saw here made this a memorable island excursion.

A trip to Thiriyaya was scheduled after lunch. A 306 step climb leads to ancient ruins consisting of a Vatadage with a small stupa inside, guard stones, a simple moonstone, and six shrine rooms around the Vatadage- the largest one containing a reclining Buddha made of bricks. The small stupa has been identified as the Girikandi Chaitiya in which Lord Buddha’s hair relics are enshrined. There was a wealth of bird life in the woods here. White-rumped Shama, Brown-capped Babbler, Ceylon (Pompadour) Green

Pigeon and Ceylon Small Barbet were in the trees. A Black-naped Monarch Flycatcher was bathing in the pond while a Common Kingfisher watched it while perched on a dried up stalk.
The next morning we left for the Naval Headworks Sanctuary. The entrance to this Sanctuary was marked by a board declaring that the Sanctuary was under the control of the Dept. of Wildlife Conservation. However, to our surprise, we found a colony of settlers here. Apparently they had been settled by the government! A walk along the bund of a tank here revealed a large number of Openbills, Grey Herons and small waders. In the scrub we saw a few Indian Skylarks and Common Iora while House Swifts flew overhead. We walked into a wooded area where flying above us were a Ceylon Grey Hornbill and a pair of White-necked Storks. As we walked deeper into the jungle area, an agitated settler came rushing towards us and said that bear and elephant visited this location. He also said that a relation of his had been mauled by a bear here. There was fresh elephant dung to corroborate this so we rushed back to our vehicle.

We stopped at the many marshes en route and saw a few migrants who still remained in the island. 2 Eurasian Curlew, 1 Whimbrel, 15 Lesser Sand Plovers, 1 Larger Sand Plover and 2 Common Redshank were seen from a bridge along with 3 Great Stone Plovers. In the evening, we left for Velgam Vihare. En route, we saw a nest of a White-bellied Sea Eagle, with one parent and a juvenile. It had not acquired the grey and white feathers of the adult birds but was almost as large as an adult. While we were watching these birds, the other parent bird swooped into the nest thus affording us a perfect sighting of both parents and the young bird. While watching these birds, we also saw some Jerdon’s Chloropses, Little Minivets and a Franklin’s Prinia. Further down, a perched Crested Serpent Eagle calmly minding its business was rudely mobbed by an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle. We reached the Velgam Vihare area but decided to first visit the tank Periyakulam, close to it. This turned out to be a good decision as it was a scenic location. About 25 Little Terns were diving into the waters in a feeding frenzy. Brahminy Kites, Purple Herons, Little Cormorants and two Spot-billed Pelicans were seen here. As the sun set, Night Herons and mixed flocks of Egrets flew to their roost. A passer by informed us of another area where birds could be seen. This turned out to be the salterns which in wet weather, could not approached easily. We decided to go there the following morning after an early breakfast. When we reached the spot, the water had receded leaving a wide sandy shore while opposite was scrub jungle. Dr. Srinath Seneviratna who had brought his scope along, was setting it up and checking the birds in the water when he discovered a Black-necked Stork. We hurriedly checked the spot and sure enough, there it was standing in the water with some Large Egrets and Grey Herons. This was indeed a thrill and once we reported this sighting to the Ceylon Bird Club, were delighted to hear that this sighting was very special as a Black-necked Stork had apparently not been sighted outside the Yala complex in 40 years- the last sighting being at Periyakarachchi, in 1970, 15 km north of where we sighted it. Thrilled with this sighting, we decided to return to this spot in the afternoon as well, abandoning a trip to another location.

Later that morning, we visited Fort Frederick and Koneswaram temple. While passing the stalls leading to the temple, we saw a White-bellied Sea Eagle fly over the bay. The fruiting Ficus Benjamina trees attracted hosts of crows, Brown-headed Barbets and some Indian Koel. The afternoon’s visit to the salterns yielded another sighting of the Black-necked Stork. We also watched a female Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark feed a chick on its nest concealed behind a low mound on the ground. The mother constantly approached the baby with food in her beak. As soon as it arrived at the nest, the baby popped its head out and we could see its orangey-red gape when it opened its beak. As soon as the mother departed, the baby slid back into position disappearing from view as it was well camouflaged. We returned to our lodgings via Periyakulam where we saw 2 pairs of Malabar Pied Honbills feeding each other in a possible mating ritual. A young Crested Hawk-Eagle was standing on the tank bund over its kill- a House Crow. It was being mobbed by crows and it took refuge on a tree when a tractor disturbed it but it soon dropped its prey while flying from the tree. The moon had risen now and cast a shimmering golden path across the water. A soothing breeze cooled us while we walked along the bund where we spotted a Black Bittern crouched under some trees. We visited the ruins at Velgam Vihare before returning to our lodgings.

On our return to Colombo we stopped at Kantale Tank. Here, growing on a tree, was a clump of Vanda tesselata in full bloom. The beautiful flowers had a purpley-blue lip and grey-brown petals and sepals. At Habarana by the roadside we saw the nest of a Crested Hawk-Eagle with an adult bird standing guard a few feet away from the nest. This was indeed a very rewarding trip and we hope that we will be able to return to the Nilaveli area, perhaps in the migrant season.

(*) SLNHS (Sri Lanka Natural History Society) Trip Report: Birding in Haldummulla from the 9th – 10th July 2011.

By Tara Wickramanayaka

Ten of us set off early on Saturday and stopped en route at Belihul Oya Rest House to freshen up and have a cuppa. The river beckoned Dr. Malik Fernando who promptly made a bee line to the waters to check the freshwater life there. He soon discovered the mollusc Paludomus (Tanalia) neritoides variety dilatatus with which he was quite pleased. While we were standing on the balcony overlooking the water, we saw some Black-capped Bulbuls in the trees beyond. The large Rain Tree Samanea saman (Mara) at the entrance to the Rest House has proved to be a popular nesting site for a pair of White-necked Storks (we saw them in Sept. 2010 with two young) and on this occasion, we observed a juvenile in the nest while the parents kept a watchful eye close by.

We reached our destination- the National Research Medicinal Plant Gardens in Haldummulla and quickly settled in. As we were wandering around the well maintained gardens, observing the various species of plants growing there, we saw the dainty Pea Blue butterfly on the bloom of a fallen Golden Rod plant. It stayed in position allowing the photographers in our midst to “capture” it. This tiny butterfly against the golden blooms made an attractive picture and Ayanthi got a good image of it. We also saw Lime and Mime butterflies along with the smart black and white Sailor.

The many fruiting trees attracted birds and flocks of White- browed and Red-vented Bulbuls visited a ficus tree. We spotted a Ceylon Scimitar Babbler working its way up the trunk of this tree. Nearby, a Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike flitted about in a Teak tree. While we were walking along the many paths and roadways in the premises, Ayanthi spotted a Gold-fronted Chloropsis. We ended up in a nursery where we took shelter from a sudden heavy shower of rain. While here, we saw an enchanting sight- a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was fluffing out its feathers in a bush close by and enjoying a rain bath. We watched it bathing for about 10 minutes. The nursery held many plants and some of us bought them to enhance our gardens. We had to call for our vehicle to pick us up from the nursery as it was still raining and pangs of hunger were setting in. Mercifully, the rain cleared up after lunch and we started to walk around the premises once more. The puddles which emerged after the rain, attracted Ceylon Swallows who soon started to collect mud for their nests. We were able to watch and photograph these tiny birds as they busily collected blobs of mud in their beaks. A pretty Emerald Dove foraged on a rock below us.

We set out eagerly in the afternoon as we were hoping for sightings of the endemic Ceylon Wood Pigeon and the Small Scaly-bellied Woodpecker; the latter, an extremely localised bird. While walking towards the main gate, Ayanthi drew our attention to some Ceylon Wood Pigeons atop a tall tree. Two pairs of this attractive pigeon, their soft purple breasts glowing in the sunlight, afforded good views. We continued our walk and closer to our bungalow stopped to check out the area when lo and behold Ayanthi (again!!!) made a wonderful discovery; a male Small Scaly-bellied Woodpecker was on the trunk of a Grevillea robusta tree very close to us. It was picking out termites from the bark of the tree. It then flew across the road and started to feed on the ground. Thereafter, it started hopping about on some boulders scattered about in the garden, evoking G.M. Henry’s observation that this bird, unlike other woodpeckers, is in the habit of clambering about on rocks and boulders. This male was in prime condition and its red crown contrasted strikingly with the pale green plumage of its wings and back. After a while, it flew back onto the Grevillea and was feeding on the termites in such a frenzy that it was quite oblivious to our presence. Cameras were clicking non stop as this rare opportunity was not to be missed. A Ceylon Scimitar Babbler and some Common Babblers also fed on the termites. A pair of Ceylon Grey Hornbills and a female Large Cuckoo-Shrike flew onto some trees nearby. Thrilled with our sightings, we left for Bambarakanda Falls. By the time we reached the falls it was late evening and the only bird sighting was that of a Black Bulbul while a striking black and yellow wasp perched on a plant near a stream made an attractive study.

The next morning we set out looking for the female woodpecker but she did not appear. Some of the birds seen were a Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Pied Flycatcher-Shrike, Little Minivet, Ceylon Green Pigeon, Red-backed Woodpecker and Large Prinia. After breakfast, Dr. Malik set off on an expedition where he collected more Paludomus (Tanalia) neritoides variety dilatatus from the Poonagala Oya below Diyaluma Falls and the Lemastota Oya in the Koslanda area. This was indeed a rewarding trip.

(*) SLNHS (Sri Lanka Natural History Society) Trip Report: Birding in Gingaththena from the 17th – 18th September 2011.

By Tara Wickramanayaka

We left for our destination- the Ambathalawa Estate Holiday Bungalow (AEHB) keeping our fingers crossed as almost the entire country had been experiencing rain. Although we encountered a few light showers en route, we reached AEHB in bright sunshine. The staff at AEHB told us that we had brought the sunshine since they had continuous rain for a week. We explored the area around the bungalow which had a forest behind it and some tea in front. A clear view of Aberdeen Falls could be had from the premises. After we had settled down, we decided to drive to the base of the Falls.

The road leading to the Falls was bordered by many miniature waterfalls that gushed down the sides of the embankments. The rain experienced during the past week had filled every little waterway which now tinkled and gurgled with clear water. We drove up to the end of the motorable road and started the long walk. The more energetic members walked right down to the Falls and were rewarded with some stunning views of the Falls while others decided to take it easy and amble slowly, taking in the sights close at hand. We encountered Crested Honey-Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle and Shikra in flight, while a pair of Orange Minivets- the male at his brilliant best, a flock of Black Bulbuls, Small White-eyes and Common Hill Mynas were in the trees.

The intrepid trekkers returned rather late as it had been a long walk and all of us were rather hungry since it was now almost 3pm. After a quick snack of biscuits, we piled into the van and headed home. En route, Sri suggested that we stop near a gap where a good sighting of Aberdeen Falls could be had. What a good suggestion that turned out to be as we immediately chanced upon a mixed feeding flock on an Albizia falcataria tree. Orange and Little Minivets, Pied Flycatcher-Shrike, Red-vented Bulbul, Grey Tit, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Legge’s and Tickell’s Flowerpeckers, Small White-eye and Black-headed Oriole were busily examining the leaves of this tree and feeding on insects. This group made a colourful picture and just as we thought it could not get any better, Sri spotted a Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpecker on a Mango tree close by. We were able to observe this beautiful woodpecker for about five minutes as it worked it way up the trunk of the tree. At another location along this route, we saw a majestic Black Eagle skimming the tree tops and a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle perched on a tree.

We observed many butterflies in the gardens of AEHB. The Clipper, Blue Mormon, White Four-Ring and Common Rose were some of the butterflies that were flitting about. Toque Monkeys crashed about in the forest behind us while a Common Supple Skink was observed on a rock in the garden.
The next morning we visited Ambuluwawa where perched on a hill, was a large complex constructed for tourists, comprising a tower, viewing gallery and places of worship for all religions. The view from this summit is spectacular but as it was reputed to have been an area rich in biodiversity, one felt that it was a shame that the natural habitat was destroyed to accommodate the structures.

de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2011). An Englishwoman in Blue Whale Country. The Sunday Times Plus. Sunday 16 October 2011. Features. Page 8.
The role of an Englishwoman in launching whale watching in Sri Lanka
The story that I broke in May 2008 that Southern Sri Lanka is the best place in the world for Blue Whales had a varied cast of supporting characters. One of them was an Englishwoman who had fallen in love with the island. Sue Evans first visited Sri Lanka in the 1980s and in 2002 bought a bungalow at Polwatta Modera near Mirissa. A few months before the Boxing Day Tsunami (26 December 2004), she took up residence with her husband Simon Scarff. After the Tsunami, because of her background as a marketing professional, the charity, Build A Future Foundation, sought her help as a volunteer, with one of their projects. They had provided eleven

Tsunami affected fishing youth with a 54 footer boat and two sailing dinghies. One day, I received an email from her about the planned leisure sailing activities of Mirissa Water Sports (MWS).
How Simon Scarff with MWS photographed Blue Whales on one of their sailings in April 2006 and Sue Evans communicated this sighting to me is a story I have written in my previous articles and I will not repeat it here. If I may move the story forward, on the 1st of April 2008, I set out with MWS on my first sailing. At that time, very few people in Sri Lanka knew of Dr. Charles Anderson and his hypothesis of a migration of Blue Whales skirting the South coast of Sri Lanka in an East-West migration. I suspected that I was on to a big story at a time when no one had publicly made a compelling case in the media for Mirissa being an international whale watching hot spot. However, Southern Sri Lanka’s potential for watching Blue Whales had been brought to my attention as much as five years earlier by Dr. Charles Anderson in August 2003. Sue Evans and Simon Scarff were on my first sailing with MWS, when after about half an hour we came across our first whales.
‘Blue Whales’ announced the crew triumphantly. I was not so sure; they looked different. They were actually Sperm Whales. But the inability of anyone on board that day to tell apart Sperm and Blue Whales demonstrated how little most people knew as of April 2008. I was one of the first few to even bother with details such as whether a large whale in sight was a Blue Whale or a Sperm Whale. We went back to Sue’s house and I processed my Canon digital RAW files and consulted my books. I showed that we had seen and photographed both Blue and Sperm Whales close to shore, in a series of encounters. I was terribly excited. I was sure that if I ran more field trips and the results held, I could put Mirissa on the international map for Blue Whales. There was one snag: the cost. The boat charter at that time, was Rs 30,000 and we had taken it at a special rate of Rs 20,000. Even at the reduced rate, there was no way I could justify my team using Jetwing Eco Holidays money to research and develop Sri Lanka’s branding as a whale watching hot spot. I suggested that they offer me the terms which I had agreed with safari jeep operator Mola, when I marketed Yala as one of the top sites in the world for seeing and photographing leopards. Back then, I simply paid for the diesel, about Rs 500 a day. For the boat it would cost about Rs 3,000 for the diesel for several hours at sea.
I then rather dramatically told the crew to take a good look at me. Because, I said, if they did not agree, they will never see me again. But if they agreed to my proposal, I said I will know by the end of the month, whether I can put Mirissa on the world map.
I set off further South with the team of Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist guides, leaving behind a rather perplexed crew of fishing youth. They had not quite understood the collaboration I had proposed. It seemed risky. Sue Evans explained again to them that I had taken the story of the Sri Lankan Leopard in Yala and The Gathering of Elephants to the world. She reassured them that I will deliver my promise if the facts supported it. She advised them to accept my offer. They were to provide the boat and crew. Jetwing Eco Holidays would pay for the diesel and make a compelling case to brand Mirissa for whale watching. The fishing youth were in a dilemma. An Englishwoman and a corporate personality from the capital, were suggesting a strange new arrangement. They needed time to think it over. Later in the evening, Ruwan, the crew’s skipper phoned me. They had accepted. The advice of Sue Evans, the Englishwoman who had helped them before, had influenced their decision. The boat was in play.
Having explored the seas off Kirinda and taken a quick look at the leopards in Yala, we raced back for what became a series of exploratory trips. These were often accompanied by print and TV media. This continued into the 2008/2009 season when media such as Hi magazine joined me in search of whales and data. There were days when I had the entire boat and crew all to myself, just for the cost of diesel.
If it were not for this agreement brokered by Sue Evans for a special ‘diesel only’ rate, the ‘Best for Blue Whale’ story would not have gone out in May 2008. Furthermore, it is possible that the fishing youth may have gone on to other work. They were struggling to take bookings. I also suspect the efforts by Walkers Tours and the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation may have faltered. They began to sail from Galle which entails at least two hours sailing each way to reach the edge of the continental shelf South of Mirissa. Based on our data, it was clear that their strike rate would be very poor if four hours sailing time was needed to get to and back from the search zone from which another 2-4 hours may be needed on most days. Without my media blitz and if they also had a poor strike rate with uncomfortably long access times, it would have been difficult to sustain as a commercial product. Also without the media blitz, they would not have had a compelling case to make to clients and the tour operators. When they began, they too were not aware of Dr. Anderson and his hypothesis. As with previous efforts by others to start whale watching, it may have faded away.
However, Chitral Jayathilake from Walkers Tours and I were in regular dialogue. With the data I was sharing, he changed the strategy of the sailings for the next season by switching to Mirissa from Galle. My media blitz ensured that there were enough bookings in the next season (2008/2009) to sustain more than two whale watching boats. By 2011 this has grown to half a dozen.
Evans on our first trip quite nonchalantly pulled out an Admiralty Chart. This was nothing special for someone like her who was a sailor. I don’t think she had any inkling what a huge impact this would have on my ability to convince the media, tour operators and the world at large. For decades I had walked trails all over the world using Ordnance Survey maps and their equivalent. But not having a nautical background I had no idea that members of the public in Sri Lanka could buy the Admiralty Charts used on ships. I had gone out to sea many times looking for whales without Admiralty Charts. In fact three years after I broke the story, many engaged in whale watching in 2010/11, still don’t own or take out Admiralty Charts to sea. On that first sailing with Evans when she unrolled ‘Admiralty Chart No 813 Colombo to Sangamankanda Point’, I was gobsmacked. As an avid map reader, I could visualise immediately how the sea floor dropped away.
It was obvious that an effort to sail from Galle to whale watch was not going to be productive. The edge of the continental shelf is just too far way from Galle. It pinches in close to the South of Dondra. This was not new information. Indeed, some years earlier Charles Anderson had pin-pointed the area near Dondra as the most likely place to watch Blue Whales after consulting Admiralty Charts. But now using the Admiralty Charts, it was so much easier for me to explain to media, clients and tour operators why it made sense to sail from Mirissa. I was also struck immediately how clumsy my previous efforts had been. Without Admiralty Charts you are running blind. With them, you can look for the edge of the shelf where shallow water meets deep water and churning takes place, creating a food web and at the same time allowing a secure depth of water for large whales. With the depth contours on the Admiralty Charts, it was easy to connect the Anderson hypothesis of the East West migration of the Blue Whales and how they were skirting along the edge of the shelf. Evans had the details of a local company (Marine Overseas Agency) which was an agent for the British Admiralty Charts. We wasted no time in buying them, laminating them and taking them out to sea.
When I first called Evans to arrange the first sailing with MWS, she explained that my team would need to negotiate directly with MWS for a rate. I was not obliged to invite her to join us. But I knew she had worked hard to introduce MWS to the travel industry. She had also asked the crew to maintain a log of whale sightings on the boat and on the web after their first encounter. I was glad that I had invited her to join my first trip with MWS. In addition to persuading the crew to have confidence in me, she introduced me to a useful tool, the Admiralty Charts. A seemingly trivial thing but one I used with great effect to make a compelling case with the media. I later used depth charts with another Anderson insight. This led me to demonstrate in 2010 that the seas off Kalpitiya Peninsula is Sri Lanka’s third whale watching hot spot.
The publicity I gave for the whale watching bore fruit because of the strong take up by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the parallel efforts of Walkers Tours to launch whale watching with the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation. But in my mind, the birth of a sustainable whale watching industry founded on credible data is a story which was set in motion by a foreign philanthropist, a coalition of Tsunami affected fishing youth, a British marine scientist, a data collecting hotel naturalist and me connected by an English volunteer Sue Evans. My flair to publicise a story authenticated by field work and framed by a commercial agenda may not have happened if not for an Englishwoman in Blue Whale country. If Sue Evans had not persuaded the fishing youth to believe in me, there may be no Best for Blue Whale story out yet, with the rapid take up it has had from the industry and international media.
Sri Lanka being the Best for Blue Whale is a recent branding. However, as historian and architect Ismeth Raheem pointed out to me, the ancient Greeks knew about our whales. Ptolemy’s map of Taprobane in the 3rd Century AD, had an area near Kumana on the South-east marked as the Cape of Whales. Perhaps they knew something which has now been lost in time. Well as for me, I needed Dr. Anderson and his hypothesis to explain the movement and the precision afforded by Admiralty Charts and portable GPS units for recording details, to help make sense of it. But it is an extraordinary story of how as explained above, a few people brought together by a love of science, adventure, the sea, Sri Lanka and commercial opportunism, all came together at the same time and thrust this story on the world’s stage in a dizzyingly short space of time.
16. de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2011). The Sperm Whales of Kalpitiya. Tales from the Field. Hi Magazine. October 2011. Series 9, Volume 3. Pages 172-177.


Encounters with Sperm Whales off the Kalpitiya Peninusla.
The great beast of Moby Dick fame had swum to within a foot of where my daughter Amali was seated on the 16 footer boat. It then commenced a feeding dive from just three feet away as Amali started a film sequence on her compact camera which was later broadcast on TV. In April 2011, I was once again exploring the seas off the Kalpitiya Peninsula to consolidate my claim that it is Sri Lanka’s third whale watching hot spot and one of the top sites in the world for Sperm Whales. I was also expecting to photograph seemingly rare pelagic seabirds which only a handful of Sri Lankan ornithologists have seen. I was not disappointed. On some memorable oceanic trips between Tuesday 19th and Friday 22nd April, I came away with fantastic images of Sperm Whales and pelagic sea birds. The seas off the Kalpitiya Peninsula are special to me. Since February 2010, I have set out on many trips with a map of the depths and GPS units, in the spirit of old fashioned exploration, to discover and publicise Sri Lanka’s last frontier for big ticket wildlife
In May 2010, based on field work between February and April 2010 and access to data hitherto not in the public domain, I published articles in the Hi Magazine and Sunday Times. In them, I gave the first credible and accurate public exposition that the continental shelf is close to and runs parallel to the Kalpitiya Peninsula. I pointed out that it will take the 16 footer boats equipped with 25 horsepower outboard engines less than 15 minutes to reach the ‘Sperm Whale Line’, the 300 to 400m depth isoclines along which Sperm Whales are seen feeding and travelling on a North-South orientation. I had written that to see and photograph rare seabirds and whales, one should run a boat along the lines of longitude between East 079 38 and East 079 35. Between these two lines is a distance of 3 nautical miles (38-35 = 3). Three nauticalmiles is just under 6 kilometres. In April 2011, once again I found this zone to be the right strike zone for whales and pelagic seabirds (‘pelagics’).
I have written my most recent round of exploration as two encounters in the field. One with Sperm Whales and other with pelagic seabirds. Once again my field research was supported by Dallas Martenstyn and his co-investors at Kalpitiya. As usual, I headed out to sea with three tanks of fuel, two GPS units and food and water. During my field work in April 2011, with my wife Nirma and daughters Maya and Amali we occupied a tented room at Dolphin Beach ( Jetwing Eco holidays ( provided transport with naturalist chauffeur guide Lakshman Senanayake who was expert at picking out rare seabirds floating on the water.

On Friday 22nd April 2011, I asked the boatman Yasaratne to take the boat north along E 079 38, along which I knew Sperm Whales are regularly found, at least in April, travelling either North or South bound. Before long, Yasaratne spotted the first blow from a group of Sperm Whales. At one time, I could see four spouting ahead of the boat and another four behind the boat. At least eight were on the surface at that point in time and it is a guess as to how many more were underneath the water in feeding dives.

The previous day, my daughters Maya and Amali wanted to use the pool at Alankuda (Barr Reef Resort) which resulted in me running into Viren Perera and Giles Scott. Viren had read Philip Hoare’s book, ‘The Leviathan or, The Whale’, which he had bought at the recently concluded Galle Literary Festival. He had also read my articles on whale watching off Kalpitiya and was keen to join me. It had been a fortuitous meeting and as a result I was on the boat with Viren Perera, Giles Scott, Tim Edwards and Nirma and Amali.
The group of Sperm Whales were spread out over 2-3 nautical miles and were travelling at a speed of between 20 to 30 kilometres per hour. They were also feeding as they would repeatedly dive. We followed at a distance. After a while, once I was sure that Yasaratne was accustomed to the idea of keeping a distance, I asked him to do an ‘arc forward’. This is where we curve away from the whale and then move ahead to position ourselves between 0.5 to 1 km away from the approaching whale. The whale covers this in a few minutes and has the option of moving away or maintaining its bearing. With the engine cut off, our boat drifted away from the path of the on-coming whale.
This whale altered course to investigate us and came to within a foot of the boat. It swam alongside the boat and swam to within a foot of the boat. I could have reached over and touched it. It them swam about three feet to the front of the boat and then dived on a short feeding dive. I have found even with leopards in Yala, especially sub-adults, if you park a few hundred meters away from them, their curiosity overcomes them. They will come up to investigate the observers. Sperm Whales are highly intelligent, social animals. They are curious and will investigate boats. Around Kalpitiya they are used to seeing a lot of boats, small 16 footer speed boats and larger fishing trawlers on the sea. They are not afraid to approach the fishing boats which do not molest them.
I managed to take the image of the diving Sperm Whale by leaning back whilst standing on the boat. I had to lean back because it had come so close. The Sperm Whale was completely relaxed and not in any way stressed by our presence because we had not chased it for a close up picture. We gave the whale the option of getting close to us.
A few days later I gave an illustrated talk at Jetwing House to tourist guides. I emphasized that boats with tourists should never chase Sperm Whales. If stressed or angered, they could smash a boat injuring or killing its occupants, as they did in the days when they were hunted by whalers. If you keep a distance and leave it at the whale’s discretion to approach you, one is safe. Intelligent regulation of whale watching will become important as the efforts by me and others succeed in establishing Sri Lanka as one of the top marine mammal destinations in the world.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2011). How Sri Lanka was positioned as being Best for Blue Whales. Daily Mirror. Colombo. 28 July 2011. Page C8.

Imagine encountering an aggregation of 25 Blue Whales migrating together. This is the stuff of dreams for any marine biologist. On 5th November 2010, Anoma Alagiyawadu, the naturalist of Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel was on his 234th whale watch on a sailing with Mirissa Water Sports (MWS). He took down critical notes on this encounter of 25 migrating Blue Whales to add a spectacular observation to the on-going story of Sri Lanka and its Blue Whale migration. On Sunday 24th April 2011 when I joined him on one of the last sailings that season, he was on his 340th sailing. On that day, we had seven Blue Whales spouting simultaneously around the boat. Dr. Charles Anderson who was on another boat estimated that there were at least 17 different individual Blue Whales on that morning’s sailing, feeding in an area of approximately 5 kilometers square.
In 2010/11, Southern Sri Lanka completed its third, full and proper whale watching season, demonstrating further that it is ‘Best for Blue’. During this period, I found myself once again answering many questions from film crews, print media, tour operators and clients. There was also interest from students in marketing, who wanted to learn how a small group of people established commercial whale watching and generated column inches of international publicity.
In this article I would like to re-cap on the short, recent history of Blue Whale watching in Sri Lanka. In May 2008, I took the story to the world that the South of Sri Lanka is the best place in the world for seeing Blue Whales. The open release article which was published widely remains the best reference point (see the list of articles on To-recap briefly, the story rested on a hypothesis by the British marine biologist Dr. Charles Anderson. My role was to connect the dots between science and commerce by doing my own field work to ground truth the hypothesis and launch a press blitz to establish Sri Lanka as the number one spot for Blue Whales. Dr. Anderson had first suggested his migration theory in a paper published in Sri Lanka in 1999, which reviewed sightings and strandings in South Asia. Having subsequently reviewed his sightings records up to mid 2002, a total of nearly two thousand encounters, he refined his hypothesis further in a paper published in 2005.
Dr. Anderson and I discussed plans to search for the migrating Blue Whales at the British Bird Watching Fair in August 2003. But our plans were delayed by the Tsunami of December 2004. In the aftermath of the Tsunami, the Build a Future Foundation set up Mirissa Water Sports (MWS) as a sailing and angling business to provide employment for Tsunami-affected fishing youth on the south coast. In April 2006, the MWS crew stumbled upon a Blue Whale and it was photographed by Simon Scarff (a keen angler who as a volunteer was training the crew in angling, etc). Of course whales have been seen by many other locals, passing shipping crews and even researchers on visiting vessels. But previously, there was no scientist with a hypothesis which suggested that blue whales might be sighted regularly. Establishing a viewing season, a strike zone and a sellable strike rate, were essential requirements for someone like me in the private sector to launch an international story and to have it accepted rapidly by both the media and mainstream tourism. This twinning of science and commerce, a flair for taking a story international and the ability to ground truth it first with field work were pivotal to the breathtakingly rapid development of commercial whale watching.
Dr. Anderson eventually caught up with the Blue Whales in April 2007 on a recce I missed out as I was due to fly out to Milan. Subsequently, both Dr. Anderson and I pressed Anoma Alagiyawadu to record data on sailings. With the data I was seeing, I sensed we may have a sellable product. I set out to sea on 1st April 2008 to clinch what I thought would be one of the biggest positive media stories for Sri Lanka. It was an amazing trip with multiple sightings of Blue and Sperm Whales. With assistance from Sue Evans a volunteer helper to MWS we subsequently negotiated with MWS to take me out for future trips for the price of diesel. This was in return for a promise that if the data held up, I would put Mirissa on the international map for whale watching. After several amazing sailing with MWS, I came away with a strong set of field data and thousands of images of Blue Whales (and also Sperm Whales) during April 2008. I launched a press blitz in May 2008 which publicized Sri Lanka as the top spot for Blue Whales. Anderson provided the scientific theory, MWS the boat and crew, with the Jetwing team I did the rest to collect more data and to make sure the story was accepted internationally and commercial whale watching became a mainstream tourism offering.
On 1st April 2008, when I was joined by volunteers Sue Evans and Simon Scarff, it was in doubt whether MWS would remain viable with their business model for leisure sailing. Their original plan was to take bookings for either two small sailing craft for ‘self hire’ or to have the 54 footer, wooden decked Spirit of Dondra available for hire with a full crew. These would be pleasure sailings with food and beverage served aboard or for hire by specialist anglers. Since their April 2006 encounter, they had added whale watching to their offerings, but whales remained a random encounter. No convincing story for why whale watching was viable, was in circulation. The Anderson hypothesis, although clearly stated in two technical papers, was not in the public consciousness. There was a worry that MWS may even close shop as the 2007/2008 season drew to a close. Sailings for any reason were so few. The crew’s experience with whales was so limited at that time that on my first sailing with them they could not distinguish between Sperm and Blue Whales.
My press blitz in May 2008 changed all of that. A few months later, the publicity shy patron saint of MWS, a wealthy philanthropist, visited me in office. By then with the team at Jetwing Eco Holidays, we had rolled out whale watching itineraries and briefed the foreign offices of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and developed a 16 page brief which offered credible reasons why there was a high strike rate for seeing Blue Whales. I assured him that during the next season there would be sufficient demand for a second boat. MWS continued to sail and did indeed launch a second boat in the second full season of whale watching in 2008/2009. This extended to three boats for the 2010/2011 season.
The press blitz continued, with me explaining why sailing from Mirissa offered the quickest access to the whales. The efforts of Jetwing were complemented by a team led by Chitral Jayathilake from Walkers Tours who had also started whale watching with sailings from Galle, in a boat lease agreement with the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation. We all received enthusiastic support from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau who further disseminated the story. Consequently, whale watching became established in the mainstream tourism vocabulary in an amazingly short time. By 2008/2009, the first full whale watching season, it was firmly established. So much so that by April 2010, the end of the second full season, I began to chase another story. This, once again inspired by an intuition by Dr. Anderson, was to establish Kalpitiya Peninsula as Sri Lanka’s third whale watching hot spot. This field work was supported by Dallas Martenstyn and his co-investors at Alankuda Beach. It has established the Kalpitiya Peninsula as South Asia’s hot spot for pelagic seabirds and one of the best if not the best in Asia for pelagic seabirds.
The recent and rapid development of whale watching in Sri Lanka is characterized by a strong partnership between science and commerce. Anderson provided the scientific lead for both Mirissa and Kalpitiya. I brought in an eye for a commercial opportunity and the ability to develop and launch tourism products rapidly into mainstream tourism using the business clout of the Jetwing family of companies together with a well honed flair for taking the stories (e.g. The Gathering, Leopard Safaris, etc) to the local and international media. The fact that I had a background in the applied sciences, was a popular science enthusiast, a field naturalist and photographer also helped. This background made me receptive to the insights by Dr. Anderson and I recognized the need to give due credit to the scientific insights and to leverage it.
I especially understood how important a scientific backbone would be to hang the story on, to make it credible to both local and international media. This need for credibility holds true for clients and tour operators as well. This was the reason why I applied intense pressure on Jetwing Lighthouse naturalist Anoma Alagiyawadu not just to record data, but to let the Jetwing Eco Holidays have it in a format which could be disseminated on the web for anyone who wished to process or view the data to have access to it. The stream of data used by me helped to create publicity, generated even more sailings which in turn generated even more data. This created a positive feedback loop which made whale watching a viable business. I think my insistence on this steady feed of data was pivotal not only to gathering and delivering the data but keeping the whale watching boats in business and avoiding another attempt at developing whale watching to fizzle out. The interaction between Dr Anderson and me allowed science and commerce to be bridged to create livelihoods. This in turn makes a strong financial case for conservation.
There were many others of course who provided the vital ingredients. The boats and crew becoming available is one. The efforts of the Build a Future Foundation to help the tsunami affected fishing youth by setting up Mirissa Water Sports provided a crucial piece of infrastructure; the later tie up between Walkers Tours and the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation also helped here. There was assistance from many others including volunteers such as Sue Evans and Simon Scarff and Jetwing Lighthouse naturalist Anoma Alagiyawadu. The Jetwing Eco Holidays team and the media invited, were hosted on my research trips by the Jetwing Lighthouse in 2008 and 2009. The Jetwing Lighthouse also supported Dr. Charles Anderson under the Jetwing Research Initiative, an investment that has been rewarded handsomely with new business and publicity generated for it. The Jetwing Eco Holidays team plays a huge part in the continuing publicity campaign and at present the website lists over a hundred media actions to brand Sri Lanka as being Best for Blue.
Whale watching is now firmly established in the tourism literature and everyone from small guest houses to tuk tuk drivers to the large destination management companies are offering it. Now, it is almost as if whale watching has always been around, ever since Ptolemy marked a Cape of Whales on his 3rd Century AD map of Taprobane. This article was written as a handy summary in response to the questions on the rapid development of whale watching in Sri Lanka since May 2008. The challenge ahead will be in the intelligent regulation of whale watching so that it develops as a economic asset but with due regard to the safety of clients and the welfare of marine mammals. The rational development of whale watching off the seas of the Kalpitiya Peninsula will pose similar challenges.


Third record of Red footed Booby from Sri Lanka after 26 Years

By Chamara Amarasinghe and Imesh Nuwan Bandara
On the 27th of April 2011, Chamara Amarsinghe (Naturalist at Jetwing Blue) was informed about a large gull-like bird captured by a local fisherman in Negombo (7?14`N and 79?47`E) , in the Gampaha District of western province, Sri Lanka. The bird was found in the sea about a 30 minute boat ride from the shore. The bird was injured and unable to fly due to exhaustion; it showed little resistance to being captured. Thereafter the bird was collected by a fisherman and kept in captivity for several days. It was later identified as a Red-footed Booby (brown morph), a vagrant to the island known only from two previous records in Sri Lanka. With very little data, this species is still pending population status (in Sri Lanka) as it is still relatively unknown to the island.
The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is a large pelagic sea bird and the smallest of the booby species. Found in the warm waters of the world’s tropical and subtropical regions, this bird is rarely seen outside of the breeding season, spending most of its life at sea and choosing only to come ashore when building a nest in the coastal trees and shrubs. They feature streamline and aerodynamic bodies with long pointed wings (wingspan around 1m across) and a sharply pointed tail that are perfectly designed for hunting their underwater prey and diving at high speeds.
The Red-footed Booby is also one of the most polymorphic sea birds on earth, typically occurring in three major colour morphs that vary notably in plumage; the White, the Black-tailed White and White-tailed Brown However, as the name suggests, all the morphs have the distinctive bright red feet that are characteristic of this species.
The most common morphotype typically found in the Indian Ocean is the White. As the name suggests, the plumage is primarily white all over; however the primary and secondary feathers are inked in black. The brown morph (which has a slightly paler shade to the head and ventral area) famously known for its abundance in the Galapagos also occurs in and around Sri Lanka: having been reported from Laccadive island to the pelagic regions of the surrounding waters.
Boobies are strictly a marine species, feeding primarily on small fish that exist within 30m of the surface. The boobies will typically fly to a height of 4-8m scouring the ocean for signs of fish or phosphorescent squid, then wrap their long wings around their body, close their nostrils and dive at high speeds into the water, sometimes reaching over 97ft in depth. These remarkable birds live in colonies that exceed hundreds of individuals during the mating season. Females lay only one chalky-blue egg every 15 months, and both birds share the parental duties to rear their young. Booby chicks have a slow maturation rate but once they reach adulthood, are expected to live for around 20 years, thus balancing out the slow reproduction with good longevity.

Identification (Brown Morph).
Colour: The bird had a greyish to brown plumage with the under coverts of its feathers being a noticeably paler shade. The bare skin that surrounds the yellow eye and the bill were a striking pale blue in colour. Beneath the lower mandible was a small pouch-like area made up of bare blue skin that can be expanded during mating displays. The head was dusky brown to white which faded into the overall body colour partly down the nape. The breast sported a darker area than the rest of the body which was clearly visible when viewing the bird face on. The bill was generally a dark brown (with a black tip) except for the base of the lower jaw which was a light pink. The rest of the facial skin around bill and eyes was often peachy in colour but with a slight bluish sheen from the side.
Morphological Characters: In this particular morphotype, the bill was significantly shorter when compared with the other birds from this genus. The head displayed a bare skin area around eye and on the pouch, although the pouch did not seem to expand to the large capacities as those of its counterparts. The bird had a large wingspan (1m across) with short ‘domestic duck-like’ flesh coloured legs. The 14 tail feathers were pointed in shape as were the wings for increased aerodynamics and the bird’s feet were bright red with curved rounded nails that were dusky white in colour.
Culmen 08.00cm
Gape 10.16cm
Wingspan 144.78cm
Tarsus 03.81cm
Head to Tail 68.58cm
Middle Toe (without nail) 07.62cm
Weight 900gm

Records in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka there are two previous records of the Red-footed Booby (Harrison 1999). The first specimen of Red-footed Booby from Sri Lanka was captured somewhere in Ceylon and brought to the Colombo Museum on 2nd July 1936 (Henry 1955, Phillips 1978). The second record is from Dehiwala which is reported by de Silva 1985, about 25 years later.
Whilst held in captivity, the bird was fed with small fish much like its natural choice of prey in the wild. A voracious feeding behaviour was displayed by the bird, and rather than gnawing or tearing the fish, the booby would swallow its prey whole. The bird was often observed frequently preening and arranging its feathers, sometimes displaying aggression when disturbed by its captors. Oddly, when the time finally came for the bird to be released, it showed no sign of desperation to leave its human confines; rather, it just walked and hopped around its pen before finally choosing freedom.
Diamond, A. W. (1971a). The Red-Footed Booby on Aldabra Atoll, Indian Ocean: The sea birds of Aldabra. (Phil. Roy. Soc. Trans). London. Pp196-219
Howard, R & Moor, A. (1980). A complete checklist of the birds of the world. London: Macmillan.
Neilson, J.B. (1978). The Sulidae: Gannets and Boobies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Pp1012.
Del Hoyo, J, Elliot, A & Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the birds of the world: Volume1. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. Pp 696.
Le Corre, M. (1999). Plumage polymorphism of Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula) in the western Indian Ocean: An indicator of biogeographic isolation. Journal of Zoology, 249, pp 411-415.
Harrison, J. (1999). A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka.
Henry, G.M. (1998). A Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka, (Third Edition-Revised and Enlarged 1998).
De Silva, R. (1985). A Short Note on the Second Record of a Red-footed Booby Sula sula rubripes Gould from Sri Lanka.
Rathnavira, G & Kotagama, S. (2010). An Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka.

We would like to thank Lal Edision Fernando for initially alerting the author about the captured specimen, Mahinda Marasinghe for assisting with the measurements, Rex de Silva for providing the papers about the previous record of the Red-footed Booby in Sri Lanka from 1985. Kithisiri Gunawardena also assisted with details of previous records of this species in Sri Lanka. Georgina Gemmell and Tara Wikramanayaka very kindly did some extensive editing and re-writing of our original manuscript.
(*) ‘The Gathering’ ranked ‘sixth’ amongst the world’s top wildlife spectacles by Lonely Planet.
The Gathering is a seasonal event in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka that commences in June and runs through until onset of the North-east Monsoon at the start of October. At its peak in August and September there could be over 300 wild Asian Elephant in a one kilometer quadrant and as many as 450 elephants grazing on the green pastures left over on the drying lake bed of Minneriya National Park. This is the largest known annual congregation of elephants in the world and is an event on par with the Wildebeest Migration in East Africa.
On the 1st September 2011, ‘The Gathering’ was given international recognition by Lonely Planet (The world’s largest publisher of travel guides) by being placed sixth amongst the world’s top wildlife spectacles.
(*) Helm Field Guide: Birds of Sri Lanka.

With a rich avifauna of more than 450 species that includes 29 endemics, the island of Sri Lanka is one of southern Asia’s most popular birding destination.
This new field guide provides full coverage of every species on the Sri Lanka list, including most vagrants, with particular emphasis placed on endemic species and races. Detailed text highlights key identification criteria, along with accurate colour maps. Packed with spectacular and detailed plates by leading bird artists such as Alan Harris, Tim Worfolk and John Cox, Birds of Sri Lanka is the definitive identification tool for the visiting birdwatcher and another majestic addition to the Helm Field Guides series.
About the Author(s):
Deepal Warakadoda is Sri Lanka’s leading field ornithologist. A tour leader, photographer and conservationist, Deepal made his name with his stunning 2002 discovery of the Serendib Scops Owl in Sri Lanka’s Sinharaja Forest. This owl was a species completely new to science ­ the holy grail for any birdwatcher. Richard Grimmett and Carol and Tim Inskipp are widely respected as the leading experts on the birds of southern Asia. Their major work was the epic Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (Helm, 1998), from which has sprung several highly acclaimed field guides.
This publication is currently available for sale in Sri Lanka at Rohan’s Bookshop in Liberty Plaza.
(*) Jetwing Eco Holidays Facebook Fan Page
For image galleries, the latest news and article links on Sri Lankan wildlife you can join the Jetwing Eco Holidays Facebook Fan Page.
(*) EFL 2012 Calendar – ‘Sri Lanka’s Natural Heritage’ now on sale.
The calendar ‘Sri Lanka’s Natural Heritage’ will contain photographs from a number of Sri Lankan nature photographers and cover a range of landscapes in Sri Lanka. It will highlight some of the serious issues threatening the wellbeing of Sri Lanka’s natural environment with each picture highlighting the importance of that ecosystem and the degradation it faces.
Through this calendar, EFL aims to create awareness on how the individual can support conservation efforts in the country and become part of a larger community working towards protecting our finite natural resources and preserving our beautiful landscapes for our future generations.

Funds generated through the sale of this calendar will enable EFL to continue its work on the conservation of Protected Areas, research on threatened ecosystems, disseminate information and organise educational programmes related to the environment. The Environmental Foundation Limited is a non profit, public interest organization working for conserving Sri Lanka’s environment and natural resources since 1981.They are dependent entirely on funding from donors, well wishers and on the funds generated through the sale of publications to maintain the services provided by the organisation.
‘Sri Lanka’s Natural Heritage’ 2012 calendar is currently being sold for Rs. 700/- at ODEL, Sarasavi Bookshop, Gandhara, Vijitha Yapa and Barefoot. To purchase the calendar directly, please contact Vimukthi Weeratunga on +94(0)772 963 919 or
De Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2009). Birds of Sri Lanka. National Trust – Sri Lanka: Colombo. 215 mm x 275mm. 218 pages.

This is the first title to be published in the Heritage Publications series of the National Trust – Sri Lanka. The book covers over 100 species of birds in 208 pages. 215 mm x 275mm (slightly shorter and fatter than A4). The book is lavishly illustrated with beautiful photographs and the text is written in a style to foster an interest in birds amongst the public.

Harrison, J. (2011). A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. 49 colour plates by Tim Worfolk. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 224 pages. 200x140mm. Paperback ISBN 978-0-19-958567-0. Hardback ISBN 978-0-19-958566-3.

Somaweera, R. & Somaweera, N. (2009). Lizards of Sri Lanka: A colour guide with field keys. Chimaira Buchhandelsgesellschaft mbH, Germany. 304 pages with over 600 colour illustrations. ISSN 1613-2327. ISBN 978-3-89973-478-2.

This book on Sri Lankan reptiles covers all known lizards (agamids, chameleons, geckos, skinks, snake-eye lizards and varanids) and has colour illustrations for all species, including the lesser known species. It gives comprehensive information (current taxonomy including all known synonyms and chresonyms), details about the type specimens, vernacular name, range, distribution in Sri Lanka, diagnosis, size, natural history and conservation status for all Sri Lankan species over eight chapters. Detailed colour illustrations depict most of the morphological variations known for each species. The book also features a set of field keys with thumbnails for each lizard family.

Wijegunawardane, V. (2010). Sri Lankan Elephant: A Celebration of Majesty. 212 pages. 11″(H) x 14.25″(W). Published in December 2010 by the Author. ISBN 955529240-X. Contributions by various authors. Illustrated with photographs by Vajira Wijegunawardane.
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