Opening my front door to a pitta..!!

13 Nov

FOGSL Member Will Duncan shares his excitement on seeing migratory Indian Pitta at doorstep of his own house..!!

“Pittas, sometimes referred to as the jewels of the forest, are keenly sought after by birdwatchers around the world. Absent in Europe and the Americas, birdwatchers from these continents spend hours, days or even weeks hunting for these elusive, beautiful, enigmatic and simply awesome birds. We in Sri Lanka are lucky to have one of these jewels the Indian Pitta as a visitor between the months of October and May. But that doesn’t mean they are easy to see!

At about 5pm on 17th October, the fairly familiar sound of purple-faced leaf monkeys galloping over our rooftop in Thalawathugoda interrupted my daughters violin practice and I decided to open the front door to see if they stayed. They hadn’t but my attention was drawn to a pair of red-vented bulbuls low down in a palm about 2 metres from my front door…but only for a second as my gaze fell to the floor below, and the ‘jewel’ that just stood there, looking at me.

I froze, literally frightened it would go before the rest of the family could share this experience, before I could grab my camera to record this event I had been hoping for since moving to Colombo 3 years ago. I whisper-shouted to my daughter and the pitta stayed. I grabbed my camera and the pitta stayed. It stayed, actively feeding and hopping around the palms and bushes just outside my front door until darkness fell. The bird was gone by morning. Having spent days, hours and almost weeks myself searching for pittas in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines, actually opening my front door to a pitta was extraordinary and I will never forget it. Neither will my jealous birding friends from the UK!”




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.

Cover of විදුසර magazine on migrantWATCH

5 Nov

විදුසර (Vidusara) Science Publication’s 26th.Oct.2016 issue carries a story on MigrantWATCH 2016/17. The editor used a photo of the migrant Bee-eater as the cover with a detailed article on page 07. Raising awareness on Migratory Birds and educate public on what to do, if they found an exhausted migrant are objectives of MigrantWATCH; so we carry out a media campaign through newspapers.

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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