Portrait of a bird guide
Tili Karunanayaka in ‘listening’ mode – a great bird guide who ‘understands’ photographers. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

The importance of the right match

Birdwatchers and bird photographers are different species. So, when they go someplace where a local guide is necessary, it really does pay to match like with like.

For a recent second trip to Sri Lanka – this time for the primary purpose of photographing a challenging list of their top birds in under two weeks – I managed to score one of the best bird/photography guides ever.

Thilina Karunanayaka (‘call me Tili’) works for bird and wildlife tour specialists Walk With Jith, and his skills, relentless enthusiasm, creative awareness and contacts are worthy of special mention.

Wildlife artist

A former heavy truck driver, Tili learned his craft from several famous Sri Lankan guides and has taught himself to mimic the calls of every land bird in the country. He is also an amateur wildlife artist, which enables him to appreciate the importance to photographers of good light and composition. Bird photography is not a numbers game. It takes time and requires considerable patience.

Put simply, the images I managed to capture on this trip would not have been possible without his unfailing patience and devotion to my being able to photograph birds and animals in the best possible situation. Sure, we lucked out on a few occasions – like the rarer waders at Bundala – but that’s the name of the game.

Thanks, Tili – I hope you get to see this month’s blog and some of the images you made possible.

(My comments and the link to WWJ above are unsolicited and provided without any financial or other reward.)

©Tony Neilson, Natural Images 2019

A crimson-fronted barbet working on a nest hollow
A crimson-fronted barbet working on a nest hollow – another Sri Lankan endemic. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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To write a blog post or submit some of your best images with the backstory, please contact Tony Neilson.
Email: tonywneilson@icloud.com.au