Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sri Lanka November/December 2015 Part 8 Bundala N.P.

Having had a day to wander locally and to avoid too many "goodies" all at once I was now ready for Bundala. This was the outstanding venue on our last trip, a birding wonderland. Claire said she'd come with me if it was a half day trip... with little but birds to see a full day was too much. I happily agreed as it's nice to share my interest, besides, I still had time to go back for another full day later on!
As Bundala is half the distance that it is to Yala I decided to depart at 6.00am instead of 5.00am. The light wasn't very good first thing.
Off we went , travelling the back roads through agricultural land, most of it pretty wet. I shouted for the driver stop stop when I saw these Red-rumped Swallows on a wire.
Even in the half light the deep colour on the breast looked stunning and a lot more intense than I recall when I have seen them elsewhere.
On the other side of the road a quite numerous flock of Parakeets were feeding on the ground.
But we didn't hang around. I was anxious to get to Bundala for the early light!
The only other stop we made was forced as these Tufted Grey Langurs were reluctant to move from their warm road surface.
Anyway, we were in the park now and I paid my fee to the driver, giving him 2x 5000 notes who returned with a guide and a 5000 in change. They obviously didn't have anything smaller so I had saved 1200 ... a £5'er on the entry. 
On our last trip I had been amazed at the diversity of species of wetland birds and absolutely knocked out to find both Yellow and Black Bittern, Ruddy -breasted Crake and a whole host of other species in just one very small pond. Yala had given me some great views of Storks and waders so I specifically asked could we concentrate on Crakes and Bitterns. One of the main reasons I had decided to take my biggest lens on this trip was for this very purpose.
The reply I got was that it was doubtful we would see any at all as many of the access roads were under water as we'd had so much rain recently.
Doubtful doesn't mean no chance so I remained optimistic.
Off we went and soon had views of Spotted Deer, still out in the open  before heading for cover when the sun came up properly.
A not so common appearance of a single Elephant came next.
Bundala isn't well known for mammals, certainly not Leopard or Sloth Bear, it's more a  bird sanctuary and consequently not nearly as popular. We were the only vehicle in the park.
We crossed over a grassland area and stopped to photograph some fairly distant Snipe.
There were lots in the fields around Kirinda but they were always deep in cover so it was good to get decent views here.
Our guide told me they were Pintail Snipe but they look just the same as Common Snipe to me.
Next up were a couple of Purple Swamphen, well they used to be anyway. Apparently the name is now Grey-headed Purple Swamphen. I'm never sure quite why there is a demand to increase the species count, maybe it's to sell guide books that need updating to keep in touch.
Anyway the gallinule looked good!
For once I could actually fit a displaying Peacock on the frame too.
It's strange but as you quite often see captive, even semi captive, Peafowl in the U.K. when you see them in their native state they don't quite have the impact they should have.
We moved onwards towards the wetland area I was so looking forward to seeing and it was there that reality dawned.
6 kms of road, and consequently prime site ,was under water. This was as far as we could go. I was devastated.
All we had to see was a single pair of Pheasant -tailed Jacana.
The female
and they, along with a Common Sandpiper was to be as good as it got down that route.
This wasn't the only water source to be fair, but what we found didn't have anywhere near the same appeal. One or two natural ponds with very little on them.
A family of Whistling Duck
An odd Marsh Sandpiper
but overall it was poor. We ended heading off to some man made ponds that I presume are farmed fish ponds.
There were lots of birds around but photographically it wasn't good. You are already disadvantaged by being high up in a jeep anyway, so photographing down a bank is even less desirable.
A mixed flock of small waders, mainly Curlew Sandpipers.
A single Spot-billed Pelican looked better as it was further away.
Likewise these two.
There were lots of Cormorants
and Terns.
And at one spot I was allowed to get out of the vehicle to get a better angle.
but everything flew further away pretty quickly so all advantage was lost
although these Turnstones were staying put.
I did get some good views of Spoonbill
and also saw a Striated heron which was almost a rarity on this trip.
A tiny Red-wattled Lapwing chick caught my attention.
but overall I was disappointed that there was nothing new to add.
We took a tour of the woodland area but by now the sun was up and everything was hiding.
A Land Monitor on a tree taken with my Olympus Tough at 11mm focal length
This one with a 600mm lens and 1.4 teleconverter then cropped 
Which is why the gear is so expensive.
Anyway, no matter what equipment you have if there is nothing to photograph it makes little difference.
I happily agreed to end the tour slightly early. At the time I felt a bit cheated but looking back it was my fault on several counts. I should have given some thought to the road conditions, I'd seen how flooded Yala was compared to our last visit. In hindsight perhaps if I'd gone there first I might have been happier with what we found, particularly if I hadn't been before. I had however so I knew what I was missing. The good news was I'd only signed up for a half day trip thus reducing the cost. I'd only had to pay 5000 rupees entry so all in all it was 10,500 or approximately £50. A bit expensive.
I certainly wouldn't be going back.
I had two more full days. I could return to Yala but on balance it would probably produce more of the same and that too would be an additional cost of nearly £100 for the day.
I decided to be sensible and cut costs and stay local around our Kirinda base but then I had another idea!

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