Kulu’s Yala Camp has been a Birdwatcher’s Dream this January

21 Species including 7 migrants in the space of a few hours – a great morning of birdwatching at our very own campsite by the Yala National Park.

Recently (January 2017), we took a morning off from a typical game drive, and hung back at camp with one of our guests to enjoy the calm and tranquility of waking up with the birds. Kulu Safaris’ camp is located on the fringe of Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park, famed for its leopard sightings.  Yala is home to not just wildlife, but a rich spectrum of birdlife as well.  The nature of commercial activity in the park has not won Yala as a birdwatcher’s paradise in Sri Lanka (yet!). But to the keen birdwatcher, a little treasure of a birding destination awaits.

Since most of the other guests were on game drives that day, there was very little human activity on our 6-acre property of regenerating forest-land, on which we offer 6 semi-luxury tents. Dawn broke over a chilly January morning, and the strong mocha-pot coffee was gulped down. As our last Land Cruiser  made its way out of camp, the only audible sounds was the chirping of birdcalls. Dressed in our khakis and equipped with cameras and binoculars, we stealthily took a gander through the many wooded path ways that snake in and around camp.

We eventually slipped beyond the camp fence and onto the dry lake-bed  in front of camp. Due to the drought, we recorded a very different portfolio of birds, compared to the usual visitors that would have comprised of teals, terns, plovers, storks and waders.

In a 6-hour span, we were able to photograph 21 species of birds, of which 7 were winter migrants. Migrants typically visit us from November through around March. Other migrants who were around, but escaped our lens included the Indian Pitta, Yellow Wagtail, and Brahminy Starling.

Below is a quick photo essay of our sightings from that special morning, this January. Follow our Instagram account @kulu_safaris to stay up to date of all our sightings.

Please write to us at safari@kulusafaris.com with any questions.

Enjoy!

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Red-vented Bulbul (resident)
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Purple Sunbird (resident)
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Purple-rumped Sunbird (resident)
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Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (uncommon resident)
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Ever the entertainer: Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Winter migrant)

A pair of Small Minivets (male and female) (uncommon residents) add a some flashes of striking colour.

Two very special guests – winter visitors, both at camp, made the decision to hang back at camp totally worth it! An Orange-headed Thrush, and what we suspect is a pale-morph Booted Eagle.

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Orange-headed Thrush (rare winter migrant)
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Pale-morph Booted Eagle (very rare winter migrant)
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Brown Shrike / Philippine Shrike
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Barn Swallow (Hirundo Rustica) Common winter migrant
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Sri Lanka Woodshrike (resident)
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Grey-bellied Cuckoo (uncommon winter migrant)
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White-browed Bulbul

 

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Asian Paradise-flycatcher (common resident)
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White-browed Fantail (common resident)
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Blythe’s Pipit (Regular winter migrant)
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Common Tailorbird (common resident)

A Hawk-eagle caught what may have been a giant squirrel and invited himself over for lunch …

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Common Iora (common resident)

Of course, the best part of birdwatching is sitting back with a beverage 🙂

And, complete list of birds that you may see in Sri Lanka is found in our Field Notebook that can be found in each tent.

Kulu Safaris Campsite in Yala is a great base for the avid birder and wildlife observer, who enjoys an experiential twist to their holiday in Sri Lanka. Visit http://www.kulusafaris.com or write to us at safari@kulusafaris.com to insure about your next birding visit!

Best time to visit Yala: May-July ?

#Summer2016 has been phenomenal for leopard sightings thus far!

Yet again, 2016 proved that the months of May-July could well be the best time to visit the Yala National Park, to spend a few exciting days on safari in Sri Lanka with Kulu Safaris.

 

This year, we were blessed with some unexpected rain in May that helped keep Yala greener for a little longer that usual. However, with the onset of the annual dry season and lower visitation numbers from May-July, we have experienced some great leopard sightings, with very few vehicles around to crowd the animals. Our guests had exclusive, front-row seats to some fascinating animal behaviour!

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An adult leopard on an evening patrol of its territory

Yala Block 5 in particular has been very rewarding for our guests. Strong populations of spotted deer have definitely underpinned the health of the leopard population in this block.

True to our pioneering ethos, Kulu Safaris was a key proponent in encouraging the Department of Wildlife and Conservation to prepare and open Yala Block 5 for visitation. As the first regular visitor to this sector, we were careful in how we approached animals while on safari, always keeping a respectful distance from wild animals (in effect, we stayed well outside the comfort zone so that they never felt threatened by vehicles).

Our guests especially enjoyed the diversity in vegetation and ecology that Block 5 offered, as well as the undisturbed leopard sightings; thus Kulu spent a lot of time exploring this sector. As a result, we are seeing an encouraging degree of comfort amongst the adult leopards that are resident in this sector — they already seem relatively habituated and tolerant of vehicles. We are also looking forward to watching the first (since Yala Block 5 was opened commercially) set of leopard cubs grow up over the next year as well!

All in all, Yala Block 5 has afforded us excellent wildlife viewing this summer, and we expect this trend to continue.

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This cat’s hungry — as you can see from the hollow in its lower stomach

Two amazing sightings stand out as highlights of this summer thus far. The sighting with the best optics was undoubtedly the wild-boar kill that a huge female leopard hoisted up a tree. The strength and ferocity of a wild-boar makes it a relatively high-risk meal for a leopard. Although leopards are known to commonly steal piglets from a sounder of boars, it requires patience and immense skill for a leopard to successfully take down an adult boar.

The video of the wild-boar kill below is a quick edit of what was a relatively long and uninterrupted sighting. The leopard was not comfortable with the positioning of the boar so decided to drag it elsewhere, probably further away from the road to a quieter location. From our angle, the drag looked quite comical but the leopard was determined to move the kill and did so successfully – this was one strong cat!

 

The other amazing sighting was an actual kill that happened right in front of us. On a game drive, we stopped to watch a herd of deer because of alarm calls. We also knew there was a leopard prowling nearby but we had lost visual.

More often than not, a deer can outrun a leopard if it has even the slightest advantage, such as warning or line of sight. Thus, leopards use their stealth and camouflage to get as close as possible before springing an attack. And this particular hunt is a perfect example of just how close a leopard can get to a herd of deer, undetected. (For us watching, it was NatGeo material! – minus the lenses).

In the video below, the deer are grazing with the leopard hidden in the tall grass, just a few feet away from the target, unaware of its presence until the very last moment. The time that lapsed from launching itself at the deer to the actual takedown was less than a second!

 

Kulu Safaris offers several special deals during low-season to take advantage of the exclusive access to wildlife during this time. So we advise our fans and partners to keep an eye on our promotions page !

We also welcome large groups who enjoying booking camp exclusively for themselves for a special and exclusive wildlife experience, so please write to us at safari@kulusafaris.com with your inquiries.

Until next time!