Launch of MigrantWatch 2019/20

1 Nov

The MigrantWatch 2019/20 has been officially launched with an event held at the British Council, Colombo. An exhibition on migratory birds was setup at the British Council Library and the main lecture was delivered by Prof.Sarath Kotagama which was followed by panel discussion including Dr.Sampath Senevirathne, Gayomini and Malaka Rodrigo.

The director of the British Council Sri Lanka doing the welcome speech

Prof.Sarath Kotagama delivering the lecture on Migratory Birds


MigrantWatch 2019/20 launched

27 Oct

The MigrantWatch 2019/20 has been officially launched with an event held at the British Council, Colombo. An exhibition on migratory birds was setup at the British Council Library and the main lecture was delivered by Prof.Sarath Kotagama which was followed by panel discussion including Dr.Sampath Senevirathne, Gayomini and Malaka Rodrigo.

Dragonfly Migration 2019 : Have you observed increase of Dragonflies..?

27 Oct
#Dragonfly_Migration: Eight years ago on 2011, a mass movement of dragonflies were recorded on west coast near Dehiwala, Wellawatte, Bambalapitiya etc. This was first observed by Nashath Hafi on 20th of October 2011 and Nashath who lives in Bambalapitiya now observed an increase of Dragonfly numbers around his area since yesterday. Remember yesterday is also the 20th of October and start getting another series of rains – which may mean onset of monsoon winds that could trigger this migration.
  • So if you observe any mass movement / sudden increase of dragonflies – please report.
  • If you know someone living near the coast (those part of fishing community would be the ideal to check this), please ask them observation of possible mass movement of dragonflies.

Globe skimmer dragonfly

Please read following articles for more info about this phenomena…

Expect thousands of ‘dual citizens’ at election time

27 Oct

While the dual citizenship of presidential election candidates has been a hotly-debated topic in the political arena, it is expected that thousands of other “dual citizens” will be in Sri Lanka by election day in November.

Exhausted Indian Pitta found fallen on 28.10.2018. Pix by Sarath N. Senanayake

Some of them are eligible for European passports while others come from Asian countries.

None, however, will come through immigration channels, and they do not care at all about the political drama in Sri Lanka.

These dual citizens are migratory birds that come here annually from northern countries at this time.

About 2,500 of the 10,000 world bird species engage in long-distance migration as a response to changing weather and the availability of food, spending their life in different countries.

Nearly half – 245 species – of the 508 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka are migratory and generally begin arriving in late August, staying on here until about March-April next year before returning to their country of origin to breed.

“As the main steps of the migratory routine are predictable and move in a rhythm, bird migration can be considered to be like a ballet dance – in fact, bird migration could be called the greatest dance in the world,” ornithology expert Dr. Sampath Seneviratne told the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society this week.

A helping hand for the Indian Pitta

“Birds that breed in European countries such as Russia, and in Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India, migrate to Sri Lanka.

“We need more research on migratory patterns as there is a lot to unravel,” said Dr. Seneviratne, President of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) and a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo.

Historically, migrating birds are believed to have arrived in Sri Lanka along three main routes to Sri Lanka, using designated pathways. This view was based on observations carried out in colonial times.

“It is time to have more advanced research to link the dots with the use of new technologies,” said Dr. Seneviratne.

The traditional method of researching migration is carried out with the use of rings fixed on birds’ legs.

If a bird with a ring fixed by ornithologists in one country is found in another country it acts as proof of presence of the bird at two locations.
Science has led to improvements in tracking. The new trend is “geo-tagging”, in which scientists place a satellite tag on a bird. The tag emits signals that pinpoint the bird’s location.

Dr. Seneviratne said satellite tracking by India has led to findings that contradict traditional knowledge of the main routes used by birds migrating to Sri Lanka.

“Geo-tagging is expensive, so we can’t do it in Sri Lanka at this point,” he added.

A national bird-ringing program carried out by FOGSL and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) under Professor Sarath Kotagama has revealed interesting patterns such as the same birds migrating annually to the same site – sometimes to the same plots – in a pattern used by their ancestors.

“Some people believe the ringing process puts birds in danger. But this is a myth and it is perfectly safe, and I’m bit disappointed when I hear such allegations,” the FOGSL President said.

“We need science, and without understanding birds, their behaviour and their migratory patterns it is not possible to conserve them.”

About an hour later the bird had revived







 published on SUndayTimes on 20.10.2019


MigrantWatch 2019/20 launch at British Council

27 Oct


The World Migratory Bird Day

27 Oct

Out of the blue, a visitor is blown in by the monsoon

27 Oct

An unusually large bird found this week on Muthu Panthiya island in Chilaw drew crowds as it had never been observed on land. Stricken by curiosity, the villagers caught the bird and handed over to the Anawilndawa wildlife office.

Surprise visitor: The Frigatebird. Pic by Hiran Priyankara

The bird, blackish with white underparts, had a very long, hooked beak and a wide wingspan and looked clumsy on the land, unable to perch properly. It was later identified as a frigatebird – a large seabird inhabiting tropical and subtropical ocean regions.

Frigatebirds are occasionally observed flying on the sky, but it is very rare to find one on land in Sri Lanka.

Named after a fast warship, frigate birds are fast on the wing, sometimes attacking other birds to steal their fish catch and snatching baby birds from other seabird colonies.

There are five species, and experts believe this bird could be a Christmas Island frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) or great frigatebird (Fregata minor).

Seabird expert Gary Allport of BirdLife International identified the bird in Chilaw through photographs as a female greater frigatebird aged two or three years.

“Greater frigatebirds are common in the Maldives and the strong monsoon winds could have assisted the bird’s passage from the Maldives to Sri Lanka [about 600km],” seabird expert Rex I. De Silva said.

“The presence of a Christmas Island frigatebird would be more difficult to explain as the bird would have to battle strong monsoon headwinds for approximately 3,600km to get here”.

Mr. De Silva said frigatebirds are notoriously difficult to identify as in a particular growth phase one species could resemble another in a different phase.

Frigatebirds have long and pointed wings that can span up to 2.3metres (7.5 feet). This is the ratio of largest wing area to body weight than any other bird in the world.

The birds feed on fish picked from the ocean’s surface while in flight.

The recent strong monsoon winds and weather might have helped bring the frigatebird to Sri Lanka’s western shores. Just a day prior to its discovery in Chilaw, Mr. De Silva, on his social media platform, “Seabird Watch (Sri Lanka)”, posted a note that the bad weather should be ideal for observing the seabirds as this is also the period of a mass seabird migration.

“August-September is in fact the best time to observe the great mass migration of seabirds. During the peak in September as many as 3,000-4,000 bridled terns (Sterna anaethetus) fly southwards within sight of shore in one hour,” states Mr. De Silva who has studied this fascinating phenomenon over many years.

Many seabirds take part in long annual migrations, crossing the equator after the breeding season. Nearly 50 seabird species have been recorded on the west coast of Sri Lanka.

One of the main studies conducted by Seabird Watch (Sri Lanka), a 13-year study of the mass migration of bridled terns off the west coast, is the most comprehensives and long-lasting study on seabirds in the northern Indian Ocean.

BirdLife International, the umbrella organisation of world’s bird conservation organisations states seabirds have become the world’s most threatened bird group, recording steep declines in populations almost everywhere.

There are only 2,400-4,800 mature Christmas Island frigatebirds thought to remain in the wild according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Published on SundayTimes 18.08.2019