For bird watchers and nature explorers interested in learning and enjoying our bird sounds!
Link to MP3 Bird Sounds Album
Link to Bird Sound Ringtones
For bird watchers and nature explorers interested in learning and enjoying our bird sounds!
Link to MP3 Bird Sounds Album
Link to Bird Sound Ringtones
Blue-throated Flycatcher Cyornis rubeculoides
I had been looking for a Blue-throated Flycatcher in Sri Lanka for a very long time as it had been known as an extremely rare migrant here. Due to the close resemblance of the male Blue-throated in the general appearance of plumage to the resident Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) a male can easily be overlooked by being mistaken for the latter in the field. Thus, a rare occurrence of a Blue-throated in the country can possibly go unrecognized and unrecorded. This may have been the reason why this migrant flycatcher did not come to our attention in the past many years.
Early last year there was a pair of Blue-throated Flycatchers photographed in Wilpattu National Park. But I had no chance to visit the site. Then in October of the same year I very closely missed one in South India, which was moving in a small ‘bird wave’ seen by my colleague Uditha while photographing birds at a site where I was too busy recording bird sounds. On our subsequent search for the bird there we failed to find it again.
Thereafter, on 12th January this year on a visit to a forest patch in Tanamalwila I noticed a small flycatcher capturing insects near the ground. Close observation of this bird revealed that it was a male Blue-throated Flycatcher! I was thrilled. Finally I had managed to find one by myself. I managed to get a few photographs and make some recordings of its songs on the second visit to the site on 14th.
Its songs are reminiscent of the song of Tickell’s Blue but richer and more “musical”, and varied too. The sound clip below features a couple of songs of the Blue-throated, that from the recordings I made.
Although I spotted the flycatcher closely at two sites and managed to get a few photos on both occasions, on my second visit I did not realise that actually two males were involved in the sightings. My fellow birders (and bird photographers) Dulan Ranga, Gehan Rajeev and Uditha Hettige who visited the site later found that there were two males. It was confirmed by the difference in their markings seen in the very good photographs they took.
On my third visit to the site on 25th January, together with Palitha Antony and Gehan Rajapaksa and my family, I managed to make out the two birds by the small differences in their plumage. Below is a (poor) photo I was able to take of the second male.
Dawn Chorus at Talangama wetlands
I missed participating in the International Dawn Chorus Day this year, which was on Sunday 1st May (http://idcd.info/idcd/). While participating in the 2nd Global Big Day (http://ebird.org/ebird/globalbigday) on 14th May at the Talangama wetlands, together with a fellow birder Dr. Senaka Abeyratne, I thought experience the dawn chorus there as it was the place where I was on the IDCD last year. We reached the wetland just before dawn and began to count the bird species for the Global Big Day event. At the same time, while the dawn was disappearing I recorded calling of birds at the location. Sound track below features a part of the recording I made.
In the bird chorus above calls of the following birds can be heard in order of their appearance on the sound track: Red-vented Bulbul, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-browed Bulbul, Common Myna, Asian Koel, White-breasted Waterhen, Lesser Whistling Duck and Common Moorhean.
Link to eBird-Sri Lanka Global Big Day: https://www.facebook.com/people/EBird-SriLanka/100009564846715
Songbird in rainforest
This March I spent several days bird watching on two occasions at Sinharaja rainforest. Every day early morning I heard Spot-winged Thrushes (Zoothera spiloptera) start singing their melodious songs as they were breeding at the time. Some already had young ones either still in the nest or fledged and hoping on the ground behind mother, calling a soft trill requesting to be fed. Males of the pairs mostly spent time singing of their beautiful songs while their females incubating on the nest or feeding young.
One evening while it was raining, not heavily though, I came across a male thrush singing on top of a small tree nearby a stream. It carried on singing despite the rain continues till late evening. I captured its sessions of singing on my new sound recorder I have been putting on test during my field visits.
At one time there was a ‘mixed-species feeding flock’ moving in the canopy above the tree where the thrush was singing, trying to find last bit of food for the day before dark. A part of the recordings of its songs is produced below. Calls of Orange-billed Babblers and a few other birds in the flock heard in the background of the sound clip below.
[Photo by Uditha Hettige]
New Zoom H6 digital recorder that I’m trying on recording nature sounds.
International Dawn Chorus Day
Sunday 3rd May is the International Dawn Chorus Day. The birds that utter their sounds in the early morning make the dawn chorus. This day is marked to enjoy this nature’s daily wonder and thereby understand importance of the natural world and its conservation.
On this day people can experience the dawn chorus either in their home garden or at another habitat nearby. Listening in the early morning you can learn what birds mix their sounds in to the dawn chorus this time of the year. Also, you can enjoy melody and pleasant nature of the sounds of these birds. We are in the tropics can experience the birds that breed in the area this time of the year would be the first to come to sing in the chorus. If you wish, you are welcome to share your experience of dawn chorus that you will hear on the day, in this blog by emailing your relevant notes, etc.
Enjoy the dawn chorus in your area on the Sunday 3rd May.
Below is a part of recording of dawn chorus that I made at Nilgala forest a few years ago.
In this chorus the following birds are present (roughly in order of they appear along the sound track): Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Coppersmith Barbet (in background), Marshall’s Iora, Common Iora, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Black-capped Bulbul (in background), Black-headed Oriole, White-rumped Shama (in background), Grey-breasted Prinia, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Cinereous (Grey/Great) Tit and Brown-headed Barbet (in background).
Heronry at Diyawanna Oya
There is an active heronry at Diyawanna Oya near the Parliament, where Black-headed Ibises, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets, Night Herons and Little Cormorants are still continue nesting. Breeding activities of waterbirds at this heronry has been going on for a several months now. Before Sinhala New Year my friend Plaitha, a wildlife photographer, and I paid our second visit to this heronry mainly to photograph some of the birds in their breeding plumage.
Black-headed Ibises, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets and Night Herons at the heronry.
While Palitha was photographing the birds I tried to capture sound at this heronry. Though passing traffic was quite loud I managed to get some sound recordings of the nesting site. Track below features some selected parts of the recordings.
Palitha had also captured the sound recordist at work.
Deepal Warakagoda, April 2015.
Sound of Koha in Sinhala New Year time
The sound of Koha ( Asian Koel, Eudynamys scolopaceus) begins to come to our notice somewhere in the period of February to April in every year. It is generally believed that this distinctive sound connects with oncoming Sinhala New Year in April. Hence the author of this sound is popularly known as Avurudu Koha in Sinhala. The familiar sound of the Koha is the song of male bird, which the males sing to attract their females for breeding.
Asian Koel, female
The song of Koha:
The Koha is one of the few birds in our country (amongst a few other cuckoos), which does not build its own nest for laying eggs. Instead, the females lay eggs in nests of crows. Nests of both House Crows (Corvus splendens) and Large-billed Crows (a.k.a. Jungle or Black Crows) (Corvus macrorhynchos) are victimized by the Koels . So, the male Koels begin to sing when the crows start building their nests in an area. The nesting season of the crows is around April and so is the time for male Koels to sing for their mates to inform to get ready for egg laying.
It’s now Sinhala Avurudu season and so we have started to hear the sound of Avurudu Koha from various parts of the country.
Deepal Warakagoda, 7 April 2015.
Dawn chorus at a scrubland
On the 3rd of May, the International Dawn Chorus Day, I visited a scrubland about 20 min. from my home. It is a scrubland with a few tall trees. When I visit the habitat it was around 5.30 am and was still dark, and there was a small drizzle. Due to the rain birds were a little slow to start. A pair of Common Iora was the first to start singing. Brown-headed Barbet and Red-vented Bulbuls also started in the background.
When the rain blew away the birds started their usual chorus which led by Common Iora, White-browed Bulbul, Brown-headed Barbet and Red-vented Bulbuls. A Common Palm Squirrel was calling throughout.
Uditha Hettige, 4th May 2015
Today, International Dawn Chorus Day, I planned to visit a wetland to experience the dawn chorus there, while my daughter and wife agreed listen to the dawn chorus at our home garden. I reached Talangama tank by 5.10 am while it was still dark about 20min before to the dawn of the day. When I arrived there a male Oriental Magpie-Robin had already started to sing its beautiful songs from a tree along the tank bund. Soon an Asian Koel started to call and then a White-bellied Drongo began its repertoire, while shrub frogs vocalizing from plants in the area nearby. Those birds started to sing well before dawn as this is their breeding season.
Before the dawn waterbirds that vocalized was only a pair of White-breasted Waterhen while the magpie-robin was still singing its powerful and melodious song. It was also lightning and thundering that time.
Dawn was around 6.30am when other birds at the wetland began to fill the chorus with their sounds. White-breasted Kingfisher, White-breasted Waterhens and an egret were amongst others in the dawn chorus.
Soon after the dawn the chorus became significantly rich with bird sounds. More individuals of most of the birds mentioned earlier contributed to the dawn chorus. There was also a Purple Heron calling while it was leaving the night roost (heard between 33 sec. and 36 sec. in the sound track below).
At dawn egrets and herons were roosting at their regular night roost began to flying out while Asian Openbills and Black-headed Ibises were still remaining at the roost. Mainly the Black-crowned night Herons were heard while they were leaving the roost.
Common Kingfisher, a pair of Little Grebes and Red-wattled Lapwing heard at other places.
There were other birds, such as Greater Coucals, Green-imperial pigeons, Spotted Doves, White-browed Bulbuls, Red-vented Bulbuls, Common Mynahs, Black-headed Orioles, etc. from trees on bank of the tank or from surrounding home gardens participated in the morning bird chorus. Heavy rain began by 6.30 am following the lightning and thundering that continued from predawn.
As it expects from having an International Dawn Chorus Day it indicates profusely to the listeners the presence of a rich birdlife at wetlands and adjoining habitats in suburban areas, and also it signifies the importance of preserving these habitats.
Deepal Warakagoda, 3rd May 2015
Dawn chorus at home garden
In the end of April my father told me that the International dawn chorus day is on 3rd of May. He told that he is going to Talangama Tank to listen to the dawn chorus there on that day and asked whether my mother and me can do the same at our home garden. So, today my mother and me went in to the garden at 5.20 a.m. equipped with an audio recorder which my father set up for me yesterday. At first there was only insects and shrub frogs calling and it was still dark. Dawn was around 6.30 a.m. and the first one to call was the Asian Koel.
Then the other birds began to call, Red-vented Bulbul and Yellow-billed Babbler joined the koel.
The Oriental White-eye joined the chorus with singing its rather soft, undulating and melodious song. And the Red-vented Bulbul continued to sing with more of its different types of songs.
And there were two Red-vented Bulbuls singing from their own territories while the other birds continue their chorus. The finest songbird in our home gardens the Oriental Magpie-Robin participated only with a single ‘peee..’ note in the background.
As the dawn chorus continues more birds joined in. Such as Common Tailorbird, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Greater Coucal, and the Rose-ringed Parakeet flew over.
Two Common Tailorbirds joined in the chorus with their very loud calls. The Brown-headed Barbet came in to the chorus with its fast, loud song while the parakeets flew over and thunder rumbled in the sky.
While I was recording my mother wrote down the birds which called. At about 6.20 a.m. we had to stop our listening session, because the rain started to pour down. The dawn chorus day is meant to listen and enjoy the chorus of birds in the morning, so actually my mother and me enjoyed it very much today. Also it was an opportunity to learn about the bird calls further.
Himesha Warakagoda, 3rd May 2015
Fulvous Whistling-ducks in Sri Lanka
At noon July 8th I heard a very exciting piece of news on the phone from a birding friend Tara Wikramanayake that she found seven Fulvous Whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna bicolor) at Anavilundawa tank that morning and further more a pair had ducklings with them. The news was first unbelievable to me as this whistling-duck has been a rare vagrant to Sri Lanka with just over a handful of records in the country for the last eight decades, was rarely recorded even before that, and never as a breeding resident. It was hard to believe not only that there were that many together now but they were also breeding here! However, she was quite certain about her discovery and her lengthy description of her observation in the morning convinced me to think that it would be worth making a visit to Anavilundawa. I quickly phoned a few of my birding colleagues Palitha Antony, Uditha Hettige and Chinthaka De Silva and planned to make a visit to the site next day morning.
On 9th July at mid morning we reached the tank and soon after our arrival Chinthaka and Uditha spotted a largish whistling-duck flying over us to the adjoining tank (Suruwila Tank) and disappearing behind trees in middle of the tank. Though the distinguishing features were not seen well both of them thought that it could well have been a Fulvous Whistling-duck mainly due to its size. With that sighting we knew that there was something unusual at Anavilundawa. Soon, equipped with our optics and sound recording gear we continued walking on the bund of Anavilundawa. We didn’t have to walk far, we spotted a pair of whistling-ducks which appeared quite rufous, which was standing amongst Water Hyacinth in the water not far from the bund, and they were unmistakably Fulvous Whistling-ducks! Little further up we found the pair with ducklings and also a few more adult birds in the tank. All these sightings amazed us and we were very happy that our visit here paid off so well. Later in the day Uditha managed to count 20 adult birds in the area.
So, Tara was absolutely right, not only that now this whistling-duck is found in several pairs in the country but they are breeding here too.
Breeding pair with ducklings at Anavilundawa. Photo: Palitha Antony
The closest known breeding grounds of this whistling-duck is in North-East India and elsewhere in India it is a rare vagrant as it was in Sri Lanka before. This protected wetland in Sri Lanka becomes the only other known breeding site in the whole of the South Asia region. It is a sanctuary and also a Ramsar Site. It is very unexpected that such a vagrant has suddenly begun to breed here. It is difficult to explain why. Possibly a flock flew down to Sri Lanka during the last migrant season and for some reason stayed back at the end of the migrant season to settle in Anavilundawa with other breeding birds there such as Lesser whistling-ducks, Common Coots, Common Moorhens, Purple Swamphens, Pheasant-tailed Jacans, etc. This tank is surrounded closely by many large trees and is well vegetated, most of its surface being covered with water plants, and has the atmosphere of a jungle tank. The nearby two large tanks, Suruwula and Maiyawa, are more open and very suitable as further feeding grounds. All these factors may have played a role in these whistling-ducks staying on in Sri Lanka as this wetland complex provides a secure and suitable habitat for breeding. Only time will tell us whether they will continue to live and breed here.
Fulvous Whistling-duck at Anavilundawa taking off, showing its distinctive features – large cream streaks on flnks, cream on uppertail and all dark upperwing. Photo: Palitha Antony
We observed that two further pairs engaged in breeding behaviour, one pair engaging in courtship display and the other pair in copulation. Five days later Dr. Senaka Abeyratne and his two sons Varuna and Akila, visited this tank and found another pair with ducklings not more than a few days old.
Second breeding pair with ducklings at Anavilundawa. Photo: Senaka Abeyratne
The Fulvous Whistling-duck has a quite different call to that of the familiar whistling call of the Lesser Whistling-duck. I managed to take some good sound recordings of this call and one is featured below.
The Call of the Lesser Whistling-duck that was made on the same day at the site, is given below for comparison. There is also call of the Fulvous Whistling-duck heard once in this track.
Myself, Chinthaka and Uditha looking at the Fulvous Whistling-ducks at Anavilundawa tank. Photo: Palitha Antony
The Sunday Times of today carries a long article on this: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150726/plus/a-rare-feast-of-beautiful-vagrants-158224.html
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Deepal Warakagoda, July 2015.