Bird Watching, bird Photography in Sri Lanka

Bird Watching, Bird Photography in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a joy for bird watching and bird photography. It is a delightful country with friendly people, beautiful landscapes, delicious food and rich in wildlife with its long tradition of conservation due to the long history of Buddhism ideology. Today, there are 33 endemic birds from a list of 426 species. One bird was recently discovered and added to the endemic list in June 2004. The bird was it was officially called the Serendid Scops Owl, ottus thilohoffmanni, a tiny, rufous above with small black spots and no pale scapular stripe. The name was chosen to honor a leading  conservationist Thilo Hoffmann. It is amazing to discover something that had been there all this while only to be discovered recently.

Bird watching and bird photography in Sri Lanka is a joy. We managed to photograph 20 out of the 33 endemic birds of Sri Lanka.

Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
The endemic Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Geographically, Sri Lanka is a tropical island with beautiful beaches and mountains up to 2000m. It is roughly 430 KM long and 230 Km wide. One morning you could be in the dry zone and within the same day be in a wet zone in the hill country with cool temperature of 14 – 20 deg C.

Bird watching and bird photography in Sri Lanka is a joy.

Our bird photography started from ;

– Colombo, 1 night

– Sinharaja National Park (wet zone), 2 nights

– Yala National Park (dry zone), 2 nights.

– Horton Plains National Park (wet zone),2 nights.

– Minneriya National Park & Kaudulla National park (dry zone), 2 nights.

– Sigiriya (dry zone), 1 night.

Colombo, 1 night.

Total  12 days and 11 nights

Sinharaja is a must for bird watcher. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was discovered that 31 of the 33 species of the Sri Lankan endemic birds can be found in the small forest of Sinharaja. Our bird watching started from an elevation of 1000m at the Rainforest Eco Lodge. We managed to photograph 13 endemic species in Sinharaja including the Ceylon Blue-magpie. Weather was great in the early morning with perpetual mists and moisture. It normally drizzled in the early afternoon and the sky would pour by 4 pm in late November. We had one of the heaviest rain fall on 29 November where our cabin was under heavy rain for the entire night as if we were sleeping under a waterfall.

Be prepared with leech socks, rain coat and 1 to 2 Km walk carrying your camera and tripod while searching for birds.

Bird watching and bird photography Sri Lanka
Spot-winged Ground Thrush
Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
Ceylon Hanging Parrot, Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka

Yala National Park is totally different from the mountain region. It is at sea level, dry and dusty when driving on the safari. The park is well known for its leopards. Photographing bird is easy as the birds are very approachable from vehicle and there is no need to lug the heavy tripod. Shooting from jeep with bean bag or stabilizer is ideal. Besides leopard, we photographed elephants, wild boar, mongoose and crocodile. The park opens at 6 am in the morning. A morning jeep safari would normally end by 10-11 am depending on sightings. Since it is dusty, it is advisable that you protect your camera.

Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka

Horton Plains National Park has an entirely different landscape with grass land and cloud forest 2000m above sea level. This is where one would find the other endemic birds not found in Sinharaja such as the Ceylon Blue-whistling Thrush, Dusky-blue flycatcher & Sri Lanka  Bush-warbler. If one has not enough time to visit Sri Lanka, Horton Plains and Sinharaja are the two hot spots for birding. We arrived Horton Plains through a winding road from Nuer Ellia greeted with sun rise on the way up to park head quarter in the cool mountain air climbing from 1850m to 2000m. The weather is normally clear in early morning with mist and cloud forming at around 10 am. We tracked 8 km to World’s End stopping briefly at Mini World’s End. Views were spectacular over looking the mountain ranges with a vertical sheer drop of 1 km down the valley.

Bird watching, bird photography Sri Lanka
Elephants of Sri Lanka. Bird watching and bird photography in Sri Lanka is a joy.

Minneriya and Kaudulla National Park are adjacent to each other in the north central region. They are in the dry zone and well known for the elephant gathering. Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8890 hectares of Minneriya National Park is an ideal eco tourism location in Sri Lanka. The park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to Sri Lanka ‘s favorites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants. We saw hundreds of elephants in Kaudula National Park.However the central feature of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3rd century AD by King Mahasena). During the dry season (June to September), this tank is an incredible place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze on the grasses as well as the huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters.Bird watching and bird photography in Sri Lanka is a joy. 

You may want to read about Wildlife photography in Sri Lanka

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