Rock Chicks – with a twist!

Wildlife is our business, but this special sighting took even us by surprise!

On an evening walk in a sleepy corner of Sri Lanka’s east coast, south of the popular surfing town Arugambay, we came across a birders’ dream! ! A pair of recently-hatched chicks on Crocodile Rock … read on to see which species!

While commercial tourism [with the great tunnel-vision that it is known for] promotes Arugambay is a “surfing destination”, its proximity to wildlife and sites of archeological significance are often overlooked (maybe just as well!) 🙂

We often do a guided a walk to explore the area surrounding our beach bungalow Kudakalliya, a few clicks south of Arugambay and away from the busy area of the town.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0021.JPG
Kudakalliya Bungalow overlooks a little estuary teeming with wildlife. Look closely to see one of the wild elephants who visit us !

That evening, we were exploring the mass of rocks and lagoons around “Crocodile Rock” which sits directly opposite our bungalow. The rock complex is flanked by beach, the ocean, a brackish water estuary and paddy fields. The combination results in some phenomenal biodiversity!

A walk on crocodile rock is usually an exercise of hypothesising and piecing together the history of this area, which appears to hold fascinating tales of ancient civilisation. A simple example of which is the series of steps cut out into the rock (with meticulous workmanship mind you).

KK Greater Thick Knee-2
Fascinating archeological site – these steps are centuries old. Who lived here? Geographically in the middle of nowhere, but archeologically this rock is flanked by a gorgeous beach, an estuary, fed by inland fresh water and jungle. Whoever lived here had perfected the art of chilling 🙂 

The captivating vistas that merges the gold, blue, green and golden hues of paddy, jungle, beach and waterways keep you staring out over the horizon at the best of times, and amidst our guides’ chatter about the history of this area and how people may have lived here and what they may have done here centuries ago, we almost missed this pair of Great Thick-knee (Great Stone Plover) chicks, hidden beautifully with the contours and colours of the rock!!

KK Greater Thick Knee-1
Cute! If you like your baby birds packing attitude 🙂

They were huddled together quietly trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves while preserving the last of the warmth of the rock as the sun on another stunning Arugambay evening.  The mother was probably out scouring for some grub before nightfall and would return shortly so we quickly left them, undisturbed.

KK Greater Thick Knee-3
Camouflaged too well for most predators…

Hmmmm who lived here?

Unlike mammals, baby birds can look quite different to their grown up plumage – below is an adult Great Thick-knee at our Kulu Safaris campsite, one of the best accommodation options on the border of Yala National Park.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BU4QtVtFNxa/?taken-by=shehanrama

Kudakalliya is the ideal location for the adventure seeker with a discerning taste for wildlife. A relaxed beach holiday that is enriched with wildlife at your door-step, Kumana National Park within an hour’s drive away, and the world famous Arugambay surf town a few doors down is quite compelling 🙂 But by law, we have to provide the disclaimer that once you spend a few days here, off-grid, in the company of waves, elephants, birds and spicy Sri Lankan food, there is a high risk of saying “F*&%-it” to your urban life 🙂

We look forward to receiving those who dare!

Kulu KK Stills WM BR-11
View from our bungalow – a pair of wild bull elephants begin their evening supper on the fodder of an off-season paddy field. 

 

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!

kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-1
Red-vented Bulbul (resident)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-2
Purple Sunbird (resident)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-40
Purple-rumped Sunbird (resident)
kulu-ch-bee-eater-feb-3-wm-br
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (uncommon resident)
img_20170126_193932
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.

kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-18
Orange-headed Thrush (rare winter migrant)
img_20170126_193824
Pale-morph Booted Eagle (very rare winter migrant)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-29
Brown Shrike / Philippine Shrike
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-6
Barn Swallow (Hirundo Rustica) Common winter migrant
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-39
Sri Lanka Woodshrike (resident)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-28
Grey-bellied Cuckoo (uncommon winter migrant)
img_20170126_193954
White-browed Bulbul

 

kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-35
Asian Paradise-flycatcher (common resident)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-33
White-browed Fantail (common resident)
kulu-camp-birds-jan17-sr-wm-12
Blythe’s Pipit (Regular winter migrant)
Kulu Camp Birds Jan17 SR WM-41.jpg
Common Tailorbird (common resident)

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

img_20170126_193852
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!

Sri Lanka’s Migrant Birding Season Begins!

Kulu’s guide Ramani is looking forward to this year’s migrant birding season in Yala National Park! Here’s what to expect:

The annual journey of migrant birds to Sri Lanka is now in effect!  It typically starts around mid-August during the start of the Northern Autumn and extends into April.

Approximately 200 bird species can be expected to fly in from Northern India, Siberia, Scandinavia and Western Europe. But not all our visitors are from the North. Some pelagic species of seabirds like Shearwaters, Petrels, and Noddies migrate to Sri Lankan waters from Southern Oceanic islands during the southern hemisphere’s winter (March-October).

These seasonal migrations which are thousands of miles long have captured man’s curiosity and awe for millennia. Birds migrate for various reasons, and many of which are complex and not fully understood. The simpler explanations include ease of sourcing food, safe breeding grounds, and favourable weather.

The specific routes they take may be genetically programmed or learned to varying degrees. Many (but not all) take the same routes to return home.

And not all birds return after the winter. The immature birds of many wader species spend the 2nd year of their life in Sri Lanka, instead of immediately returning to their breeding grounds. They leave for breeding when they have reached maturity the following year.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFc3VW_o0Tn/?taken-by=shehanrama

Yala National Park is well suited to host a broad array of birds because of its diverse ecology. During migrant season, Yala is home to a long list of visiting waders, shorebirds and forest birds so make sure to keep a look out on your game drive. Especially around water holes and lagoons.

dodo-guide-kids-jan16
A Kulu guide does a birding walk with some kids at camp

The location of our camp in Yala makes it a great place for bird watching as well! The lake in front of camp fills up with the November rains and birdlife in and around your tent is plenty! This is great for kids because we can keep them occupied with birding and nature walks 🙂

You can enjoy a great view of some of these migrants from the deck of your tent or sit out by the water in the morning and watch these vibrantly coloured bombers whizz by while you sip your coffee. Commons winter visitors at camp include Blue Tailed Bee Eaters, Indian Pitta, Forest Wagtail, Brown Shrike, and the Bhahminy Myna. We’ll also be on the lookout for waders once the lake in front of camp fills up. Heading out on the water early morning, in one of our kayaks with a pair of binoculars is a great way observe birds!

During game drives, we will be scouring the waterholes and marshlands in Yala for a host of waders and shorebirds that include several species of duck (Gargany, Pintail and Teal), Plovers, Stints, Sandpipers and Terns. We’ll also be on the lookout for the famous Combed Duck who returned to Sri Lanka in 2012, after 80 years in exile 🙂

Whichever you choose, migrant season has begun and we look forward to hosting our winter visitors on your annual trek to Sri Lanka 🙂

Kulu Safaris guide Ramani is one of the most passionate birders on our team of guides. Shas been involved in bird research projects in the past, and has had some great exposure to the nuances of bird behaviour and their habits. Ramani has also worked with some ornithological experts during their research projects in Sri Lanka. 

kulu-pair-seated-lake-view-solitude-jan16-wm-br
Bird watching is a great way to disconnect from the grid and spend time with nature