- Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bird watching at Mannar

A team of Young Biologists headed  North on 31st March.Other than wanderlust in the long weekend we had hopes of bird watching at Mannar Peninsular. Leaving Colombo in the evening, we took Puttalam road and reached Mannar via Anuradhapura – Medawachchiya – Settikulama – Murunkan route. With the break of the daylight, we headed towards Vankalai National Bird sanctuary. Covering about 4,800 hectares, the latitudinous landscape consists of arid-zone thorn scrublands, waterholes and tanks, salt marshes, sand dunes, mangroves, lagoons and maritime grasslands. The Vankalai Sanctuary was declared as a RAMSAR site in 12th July 2010. The wetland provides feeding and breeding grounds and habitats for a large number of aquatic bird species, including migrant bird species that visit the island annually.

We stopped by a waterhole near Matota as a flock of Painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala) with their significant pink storks and spot billed pelicans( Pelecanus philippensis) were enjoying the morning sun with terns and gulls flying over them.

Brown headed Gull(Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus )Caspian tern(Hydroprogne caspia), Garganey(Anas querquedula),Eurasian Spoon Bill(Platalea leucorodia), Cattle Egret(Bubulcus ibis), Intermediate Egret(Ardea intermedia), Indian pond heron(Ardeola grayii), Purple heron(Ardea purpurea) were spotted and a call of Grey Francolin(Francolinus pondicerianus) could be heard from somewhere nearby. 
Long tailed Shrike(Lanius schach) which is considered somewhat rare was also spotted resting on a light post.

Droughts has hit the peninsular and stopping by a dried up salty marsh on the way, we could spot wading birds like Wood Sand Piper(Tringa glareola), Marsh Sand Piper(Tringa stagnatilis), Red Shank(Tringa tetanus), Greater thick knee(Esacus recurvirostris), Ringed plover(Charadrius hiaticula) enjoying the little water left. 

Moving in to the wetland,more aquatic birds like  Pheasant tailed Jacana(Hydrophasianus chirurgus), Lesser whistling duck(Dendrocygna javanica), Yellow Bittern(Ixobrychus sinensis) Black headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), Glossy Ibis(Plegadis falcinellus)), Asian Open bill(Anastomus oscitans), Black bittern(Ixobrychus flavicollis )could be observed.

Other than the migrants, Collared dove(Streptopelia decaocto), Yellow wagtail(Motacilla flava), Ashy Prinia(Prinia socialis), Little green bee-eater(Merops orientalis), Ceylon wood shrike(Tephrodornis affinis), Black Drongo(Dicrurus macrocercus), White browed bulbul(Pycnonotus luteolus) and Coppersmith Barbet(Megalaima haemacephala) could also be seen.

After a refreshing sea bath at Keeri Beach, we took a little detour to Mininthale where we spent the night on top of the Mininthale rock, which was indeed the best kind of end for a long day and headed back to Colombo by the dawn.

Painted Stork - Mycteria leucocephala
Spot-Billed Pelican - Pelecanus philippensis
Garganey - Anas querquedula
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Brown Headed Gull - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
Asian open Bill - Anastomus oscitans
Wood sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Marsh sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Red shank - Tringa totanus
Ashy Prinia - Prinia socialis
Common Ring Plover - Charadrius hiaticula
Pheasant tailed Jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Lesser whistling Duck - Dendrocygna javanica
Yellow Bittern - Ixobrychus sinensis
Black Bittern - Ixobrychus flavicollis
Gull Billed tern - Gelochelidon nilotica
Black Headed Ibis - Threskiornis melanocephalus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Greater Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Intermediate Egret - Ardea intermedia
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Indian pond Heron - Ardeola grayii
Grey Heron -  Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
Little Cormorant - Microcarbo niger
Grey Francolin - Francolinus pondicerianus
Indian Roller - Coracias benghalensis
Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
Indian Black Robbin - Saxicoloides fulicatus
Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Ceylon Wood Shrike - Tephrodornis affinis
Long Tailed Shrike - Lanius schach
Little Green Bee-eater - Merops orientalis
Coppersmith Barbet - Megalaima haemacephala
White-browed Bulbul - Pycnonotus luteolus
Black hooded Oriole - Oriolus xanthornus
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
White-throated Kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis
Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus
Asian Paradise Flycatcher - Terpsiphone paradisi
Rose ringed parakeet - Psittacula krameri

Notes - Samudra De Silva
Image courtesy- Indeevara Jayalath,Randima Mahagamage,Dushan Muthunayake
Edited by- Dushan Muthunayake

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