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Birding at Kirala Kele, Hiyare

13 Dec

The second field visit under the MigrantWATCH 2016/17 has been done to Kirala Kele wetlands, Matara on 04th of December. During the pilot trip conducted a week before on 27th.November to Kirala Kele – rare migrant Baillon’s Crake was recorded; elevating Kirala Kele as a birding hotpot with lot of top birders and bird photographers in the country visiting the site. The MigrantWATCH team consist of 20 individual birders who had teamed up with members of University of Ruhuna Birders’ Club and Rahula College Birdwatching Society. Altogether, about 50 participated the birding session at Kirala Kele. After Kirala Kele, the team left for Hiyare forest.

Group photo taken at Kirala Kele showing section of the crowd (c) Sanjeewa Seneviratne

Group photo taken at Kirala Kele showing section of the crowd (c) Sanjeewa Seneviratne

Kirala Kele Group photo - FOGSL team

Kirala Kele Group photo – FOGSL team

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MigrantWATCH Video

7 Dec

All the winter visitors to Sri Lanka should have been now landed other than few exceptions. So we take this opportunity to release this video specifically done for FOGSL’s MigrantWATCH program. The video was compiled by  Jeewa Mendis with most of the clips found in the video were captured by herself. FOGSL take this opportunity to THANK Jeewa for doing this wonderful video.


It is DECEMBER again – the Bird Counting Month..!!

1 Dec


Bird Counting Month is an opportunity for you to pay attention to the birds. In ‘December’ Sri Lanka will be having the peak number of birds as it is middle of the migration season, hence the best time to do this exercise.
Participating for the Bird Counting is simple. What you have to do is to make a list of birds that you have been able to identify in a given location (with number of each species – if possible). The list should include the date, time, location, weather at the time, the habitat that the bird observation is carried out, and the name and contact details of the observer. You can also include the number of each species seen at the location, so that this number can be used roughly to compare the population next year. We will announce the method you can share your data shortly.
If you participated the Bird Counting last year, do the counting in the same area this year too. The list of birds and numbers can be tallied with the last few years. If the conditions of the counting are same, then yourself can have an assessment of the status of birds in that area.

Join the birding visit to Kirala Kele to be part of the official launching event of ‘Bird Counting Month’.
Pass the message.. Get your friends to join too…!!

Happy Bird Counting Month,

They have flown a long way – be kind

11 Nov

Published on SundayTimes on 30.10.2016.

As the bird migration season begins, experts are urging the public to watch out for exhausted migrants found in their gardens and neighbourhood in coming weeks.A number of exhausted or dead birds were found this week. A disorientated dead Indian pitta, commonly known as avichchiya, was found dead after having flown into a window at Pelawatte, birdwatcher Will Duncan reported on October 18. Another dead pitta was by seen Harshani Ratnayake the same day.
After flying hundreds of miles, weakened birds can easily become disorientated and lose their way. Records indicate Colombo can expect more Indian pittas this month so people are asked to be vigilant.

If an exhausted migrant is found, the bird should first be protected from predators such as dogs, cats, rats and crows. If the bird is able to fly and show recovery on its own, let it recover naturally under a watchful eye, the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) advises. Its MigrantWATCH program is aimed at assisting such troubled migrants.

If the bird is unconscious or takes a long time to recover keep it in a dark, quiet and warm place; a clean cardboard box with small holes for ventilation would be a good enclosure for the troubled bird. Handle the bird as little as possible to avoid adding to its stress.When the bird is able to fly, release it as soon as possible in a safe environment. Attend to traumatic injuries (broken bones) as necessary and if extensive care is needed, consult a veterinarian.

Launching MigrantWATCH 2016-17, biologist Vimukthi Weeratunga called for the protection of bird habitat. “Decades ago, we could see thousands of migrant birds in wetlands such as Bundala but such large flocks are rare today in southern Sri Lanka,” he said, using the example of the “star” migrant, the greater flamingo, that has abandoned the Bundala wetlands.

“Even small home gardens in Colombo could be vital for the survival of some of the migrant species so the public can do its part and make home gardens bird-friendly,” Mr. Weeratunga said.The blue-tailed bee-eater, forest wagtail, barn swallow, brown flycatcher and brown shrike are some of the common migrants to be seen even in Colombo.

Mr. Weeratunga, a veteran photographer, has photographed rare migrant birds and asked birdwatchers to be watchful because common-looking birds could turn out to be a rare migrant that might be paying their first recorded visit to Sri Lanka.The long-distance migrants can be badly affected by the impact of climate change. Last year, the University of Copenhagen conducted a study based on observations of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers across Europe and found that birds are affected by changing climatic conditions and that while some species benefit from these changes, birds of colder regions stand to suffer.

Sri Lanka lacks sufficient data to analyse the adverse effects of climate change and other environmental issues on birds so the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), based at the University of Colombo, is calling on bird lovers to record sightings of migrants and submit them to the MigrantWATCH program.

As part of the program, the FOGSL has scheduled a two-hour public lecture by Professor.Sarath Kotagama on New Updates on Bird Migration on Saturday, October 29 at 9.30am at the Department of Zoology of the University of Colombo. A field visit to observe migrants in Colombo’s wetlands has been arranged for Sunday, October 30 starting from Thalawathugoda Wetland Park, from 6.30-9am.

These events are free and all are welcome, and the FOGSL is keen to meet those who are new to birdwatching. For more information about these events and how to be part of this Citizen Science program, call organisers on 0712289022 or email

Malaka Rodrigo is a coordinator of the MigrantWATCH programme.

Field Visit to Thalawathugoda Wetlands

1 Nov

FOGSL launched MigrantWATCH 2016/17 with a lecture on Bird Migration on 29th.Nov followed by a field visit to Thalawathugoda wetlands on Sunday, 30th.Nov.2016.

It was a gloomy morning with a forecast of thundershowers. Ignoring the early morning drizzle, over 50 birders flocked together at the starting point around 6.30. Participants enjoyed the nature inside the newly built Biodiversity Study Park at Thalawathugoda and the birding was carried out until 8.30. A number of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Barn Swallows were spotted as migrants along with lot of other water birds. A mysterious bird later identified as a juvenile Rosy Starling puzzled the participants and became the ‘Bird of the event’.

Soon after the Group Photo – heavens break loose and there was a heavy downpour.

(FOGSL extends special thank to Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) for granting special permission to do birding inside Thalawathugoda Biodiversity Study Park which is still not open for public.)

The Group Photo : Over 50 participated the event

The Group Photo : Over 50 birdwatchers participated the event

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Launching of MigrantWATCH 2016/17

30 Oct

#MigrantWATCH 2016/17 has been officially launched today at University of Colombo. Prof.Sarath Kotagama delivered a lecture on Bird Migration and the kind of birds that migrate to Sri Lanka.

MigrantWATCH was launched on 29th of October 2011 exactly five years ago and its history together with the objectives of the MigrantWATCH too has been explained to the 80+ strong audience. An captivating video on Bird Migration particularly compiled for MigrantWATCH 2016/17 by Jeewa Mendis charmed the audience.

Photos by Rukmal Ratnayake


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Lecture on ‘Changing Patterns of Bird Migration’

27 Oct

MigrantWATCH 2016/17 event – a public lecture on ‘Changing Patterns of Bird Migration’ by Prof.Sarath Kotagama is organized on 29th.October at Department of Zoology, University of Colombo. A number of rare migrant birds were recorded in colombo suburbs including Comb Duck, so a field visit to Thalawathugoda wetland too has been organized to observe the visitors who settle in the city on Sunday, 30th of October.

These MigrantWATCH events are free and open for non-members as well, so be free to invite your friends who are interested..!! FOGSL also welcome the kids – the birders of next generation.



Flyer for first field observation under MigrantWATCH 2016/17

MigrantWATCH 2016/17: The Pitta Week

21 Oct

Past records indicates that lot of Indian Pitta arrive Sri Lanka at latter part of October. Based on records shared on this FB group, a number of pitta arrived this week. It is expected more are on the way, so let’s keep an eye on the Indian Pitta on coming week as well.

Being a stockier bird, Indian Pitta show more tendency to get exhausted by its long flight as number of tired pittas found in home gardens during this period of time. So let’s pay little more attention to such troubled migrants, specially on this last week of October.

Herewith sharing one of the past article posted on MigrantWATCH blog on exhausted migrants found during month of October –

Please share your records of sighting of Indian Pitta and other migrants.

Following are related posts to Indian Pitta sightings.. 

Indian Pitta - Will Duncan - 17.10.2016 - Thalawathugoda

Indian Pitta – Will Duncan – 17.10.2016 – Thalawathugoda

Illustrated talk on Migratory Birds of Sri Lanka

20 Oct

The MigrantWATCH 2016/17 was launched on 24th.September with a lecture by Vimukthi Weeratunga – a veteran photographer and a well known wildlife biologist who has also headed the Biodiversity Unit of IUCN Sri Lanka. Using his photographs of some of the rare migrants, Vimukthi discussed the importance of observations of migrant birds. He has also mentioned the threats these migrants face sighting the example of Flamingos that had abandoned Bundala Wetland.


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