5 March 2020
A long, hot and winding drive south today in preparation for a few days at one of Sri Lanka’s birding hotspots the wet zone forest at Kitulgala.
Kitulgala stands on the south bank of the Kelani River (site of the filming of Bridge on the River Kwai) it is one of the wettest spots in Sri Lanka as it sees two monsoons each year. The Makandawa Forest on the south bank of the river is one of the best birding spots in the whole of Sri Lanka and the place where the endemic Seredip Scops Owl was first found in 2001.
We stayed at the Kitulgala Rest House on the north bank of the river with great views over the river and the forest, unfortunately this is the best thing you can say about the Rest House as we strongly suspect it has not had a penny spent on it since the cast of the Bridge on the River Kwai stayed there in 1957 ! A great location with good birding in the garden but very tired.
On our first afternoon we did some birding in private properties on the north bank targeting some of the tricky species that Kitugala is renound for, the most notable success being the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher which we managed to track down skulking in a very dark gully and the endemic Orange-billed Babler.
The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher was extremely flighty making a close approach virtually impossible, for this next shot I therefore resorted to using my MC14 1.4x teleconverter which effectively upped the focal length to a FF equivalent of 840mm but so dark was the gully that even at iso 3200 I could only manage a shutter speed of 1/25s handheld but even at this very slow shutter speed the incredible image stabilisation of the EM1 mkII kept things sharp.