SRI LANKA A TRUE BIRDERS PARADISE

WRITEUP & PHOTOGRAPHS BY – DHILIP DE ALWIS (NATURALIST - “THE OTHER CORNER” – HABARANA – SRI LANKA)

Sri Lanka is a paradise island with remarkable bio-diversity. Sri Lanka though it is a small country the magnitude of bio-diversity is very high. Because of this, the paradise country is ranked 10th highest in the bio-diversification. Also Sri Lanka is a tropical island which is close to the equator and the geographical change is dramatic. This geographical variation is led to many ecological systems which has become the natural habitats of many species.

Also Sri Lanka is ranked amongst the world’s twenty fifth bio-diversity hot spot. In comparison with countries of it size, Sri Lanka has a high density of species of avifauna. More than 453 species have been recorded including the migrants. Around three quarter of these species of birds are endemic to Sri Lanka and simply cannot find anywhere in the world. As per the counts there are 237 breading residents, 216 migrants and out of which 33 species and 68 sub species are endemic to this island. When time to come, these numbers may increase with the research work on avifauna.

It is a fact that Sri Lanka also has been recognized as a birders paradise. Most of the avifauna are found in the wet and hill zones. The rest is found in the dry zones. The winter migrants comes to Sri Lanka with the help of the North East monsoons in October and they reside until the South West monsoons which comes during the month of May where the migrants will travel back to their own destinations. Large number of migrant bird species which annually move from the “Northern Autumn winter” to the tropics along the “Central Asia Flyway” and their Southern journey ends in Sri Lanka. Some of the migrants travel from distant Siberia and Western Europe. In 2010 our Ornithologists have detected more than one million aquatic birds (show birds) at Vidattativu Laggon near Mannar area. Lester Perera, Isuru De Zoysa, and I detected close to four thousand Pallas’s Gulls (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus) the largest member of the Gull family in Mandathive Island – Jaffna in 2013.

CENTRAL ASIAN FLYWAY

The Central Asian Flyway (CAF) has also been referred to as the Central Asian-Indian Flyway and the Central Asian-South Asian Flyway. It covers a large continental area of Eurasia between the Arctic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the associated island chains. The CAF comprises several important migration routes of waterbirds, most of which extend from the northernmost breeding grounds in Siberia to the southernmost non-breeding wintering grounds in West Asia, South Asia, the Maldives and the British Indian Ocean Territory

The concept of flyway is essentially an operational concept linked to waterfowl whose populations one wishes to manage over their entire migration space.

CENTRAL ASIAN, EAST ASIAN-AUSTRALASIAN, AND WEST PACIFIC MIGRATORY BIRD FLYWAYS

The CAF range is essentially centered on one of the three major wintering areas of waterfowl in the Old World, namely the Indian subcontinent, the other two being Africa, in territory of the African-Eurasian Flyway (AEWA) to the west, and south-east Asia in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway (EAAF) to the east. These wintering areas are geographically separate, and present entirely different ecological, historical and cultural situations.

The flyway covers 30 countries of North, Central and South Asia and Trans-Caucasus. The northern catchment area of CAF inevitably overlaps, and considerably overlaps, with both those of AEWA and EAAF, mostly within a single country, the Russian Federation, though sixteen of the 30 countries

encompassed by the CAF are located in the AEWA area. They are: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China People's Republic of, Georgia, Iran Islamic Republic of, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom Chagos Islands and Uzbekistan. The remaining countries in the Central Asian Flyway are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Qatar and Yemen

The Central Asian Flyway covers at least 279 migratory water bird populations of 182 species, including 29 globally threatened species and near threatened species that breed, migrate and spend the non-breeding winter period within the region. Species such as the Baer's Pouchard Critically endangered. Northern Bald Ibis, White-bellied Heron, Baer's Pochard and Endangered. Greater Adjutant and vulnerable - Black-necked Crane, Indian Skimmer, Lesser Adjutant, Masked Finfoot, Socotra Cormorant, Wood Snipe and near threatened. Black-headed Ibis, Lesser Flamingo, Pygmy Cormorant, White-eyed Gull are completely or largely restricted to the Central Asian Flyway range.

WHY SRI LANKA IS IMPORTANT ON ASIAN MIGRATORY BIRD FLYWAY

Sri Lanka is the southernmost land mass of the Central Asian Flyway and is the final destination of many migratory birds exiting the eastern and western Indian flyways and the Andamon islands. The Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka has declared four Ramsar sites and declared other Protected Areas in Sri Lanka which are wetlands habitats of migratory water birds. These include: Anawilundawa Sanctuary, Bellanwilla - Attidiya Sanctuary, Bundala National Park, Gal Oya National Park, Giants' Tank Sanctuary, Kumana National Park, Muthurajawela Sanctuary and Yala National Park

Bird distribution in Sri Lanka is largely determined by its climatic zones. The dry zone is largest of the three, covering more than half of the area of the island, with a prolonged dry and hot period and only one monsoon (the northeast monsoon from October to January).

The wet zone, with two monsoons, is in the southwestern quarter of the island, where the few remaining rain forests are found and humidity is high.

The central hill zone rises to over 2450 m (8-10,000 ft) and has a cool temperate climate. Most of the 26 endemic species are confined to the wet and the hill zones, with only a few extending into the dry zone as well, and below given the list of some of the endemic bird species in Sri Lanka.

1. Lanka Spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata) 2. Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl (Gallus lafayettii) – National bird of Sri Lanka 3. Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtoniae) 4. Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus) 5. Layards Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae) 6. Red Faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus) 7. Sri Lanka Green Billed Coucal (Centropus chlororhynchos) 8. Serendib Scop Owl (Otus thilohoffmanni) 9. Chestnut Backed Owlet (Glaucidium castanotum) 10. Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis) 11. Sri Lanka Yellow Fronted Barbet (Megalaima zeylanica) 12. Black – Capped Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus) 13. Sri Lanka Spot - Winged Thrush (Zoothera spiloptera) 14. Sri Lanka Thrush (Zoothera imbricate) 15. Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (Bradypterus palliseri) 16. Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyias sordidus)

17. Brown Capped Barbbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillus) 18. Sri Lanka Orange Billed Barbbler (Turdoides rufescens) 19. Sri Lanka Scimitar Barbbler (Pomatorhinus melanurus) 20. Ashy Headed Laughingthrush (Garrulax cinereifrons) 21. Sri Lanka White Eye (Zosterops ceylonensis) 22. Sri Lanka Bleu Magpie (Urocissa ornata) 23. Sri Lanka White Faced Starling (Sturnornis albofrontatus) 24. Sri Lanka Hill Mynah (Gracula ptilogenys) 25. Black – Throated Munia (Lonchura malacca) 26. Sri Lanka Green Pigeon (Treron pompadora) 27. Sri Lanka Woodshrike (Tephrodornis (pondicerianus) affinis) 28. Crimson – Backed Goldenback Woodpecker (Chrysocolaptes stricklandi)

The bird watching in Sri Lanka will seduce bird enthusiasts. Kumana, Singharaja, Horton Planes, Udawaththa Keley (Kandy), Bellanwila (heart of the city), Muthrajawela, Minneruya, Kawdulla, Kitulgala, Minipe, Adamspeak, Yala, Udawalawe, Wilpaththu, Kottawa cum Piliyanadala area, Roomassala, Galoya are some of the famous places for Ornithologists to observe and study about the feathered friends. Other than the above mentioned locations generally entire Sri Lanka is a place for bird watching. I have observed many birds (other than the forest birds) from my garden at home (Close to the city) and many local birders also must have experienced the same.

There are key things to know before you step out for bird watching program.

1. Bird watching is a group or individual activity. 2. Dress in green, khaki or brown so that you can easily hide from their sight. 3. Silence is golden and it is very important. A “first timer” in to this activity must clearly keep it in mind. Most of the birders mainly concentrate on the call of the species and the observation is done thereafter. Good Ornithologist always keeps their eyes and ears open to nature. If you disturb him by talking or any other means he may lose the best part of the program. All you can do is to follow him/her and write down notes (if possible do up a small sketch of the specimen) to ask questions at the end of the program to clear your doubts. 4. Patience is important 5. Wellbeing and comfort of the birds are important and also the anticipation too important. 6. Be prepared with relevant information. 7. Start early in the morning. 8. Make notes and location references if you have a GPS it will be an added help to your program 9. Field Guide is always useful. 10. Try to remember the local names too.

Sri Lanka a land like no other is a pearl in the Indian Ocean. Blend of beautiful nature creations like sunny beaches, misty hills, rain forests, valleys etc. It is a Paradise for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts because of the rich bio diversity. This splendid country is famous not only because of the cultural triangle but for wildlife too. It is the duty to protect this golden land from pollution, and to avoid taking any environmentally unhealthy materials when you are taking part in these activities. **(Certain information regarding recent research on the above been gathered by Wikipedia website and the fundamental information are gathered from the literature of Leggy, Phillips and GM Hendry). Also from bottom of my heart I must very much thank the Top Management Viz Mr. Rahula Dassanaieke (MD) and Mrs. Shyami Dassanaieke (Directress) for the support that they rendered to me to go ahead with this article. No doubt “The Other Corner” is a true birders paradise and 75% of my bird photography is done in the hotel premises.

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