Thursday, February 07, 2008

Independence Weekend Vacation at Michael's

Since the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of February was a long weekend it was decided that the four of us, Palitha, Gehan, Namal and I would chill out on Saturday and Sunday at Michael and Nancy van der Poorten's estate in Wariyapola. Gehan picked us up from home around 6.30 a.m. on Saturday morning and we left about half an hour later. As Palitha was working that day he had decided that he would come to Michael's later on in the evening.

We had a breakfast stop and a stop to buy some fruit and goodies for Michael. We reached Michael's around 9.30 a.m. We relaxed the whole day - just lazed around observing the birds and butterflies. The highlight of the afternoon was the visit by the lesser yellownaped wookpecker to the birdbath. We then had lunch and thought we would take an afternoon nap. We were informed by Michael that we should be up by 5 p.m. to observe the white naped woodpecker who made his appearance around that time. Our afternoon nap was a knock-out blow, as even at 5.00 p.m. when we eventually woke up we were so groggy it was unbelievable. We had tea and walked to the spot where the woodpeckers make their appearance - they were there!!! - the pair. Namal and Gehan tried photographing them but it was rather tricky. Light was beginning to fade and we called it a day.

Walked back to the bungalow, showered and lazed around further. Palitha who had being working all day called us and informed us that he would not be joining us as it was rather late. We had our customary evening drink and the topic of conversation that evening was the Sri Lankan situation, politics and politicians, had dinner and retired for the night around 10 p.m.

3rd February - The alarm went off at 5.00 a.m. - we had planned to go to Matale as we had news of a three toed kingfisher nesting in that area. We had tea and left Michael's at 6.10 a.m. The drive was absolutely awesome, as it was just at the crack of dawn that we left and the sun was just making its appearance. The road too was devoid of traffic - that made our journey even more pleasant. At Kurunegala we bought some short eats for breakfast and had them along the way. We then drove to our destination where we met the local boy who had this information for us and who then took us to the location of the three toed kingfisher.

It took a while for the kingfisher to make its appearance. We later on observed that there were two birds. We were not sure as to whether it was a juvenile bird and parent or whether these two were a nesting pair. Photography was a challenge as it was in rather a dark area that the birds made their appearance. We decided to call it a day and head back to Michael's. We informed Michael of our decision and told him we would have lunch on the way and stay the night and go home the following day. He instead asked us to come to his place for lunch - which we did.

We reached Michael's around 1.30 p.m., we showered and then had lunch. The lesser yellow naped decided to make its appearance again at the water bath whilst we were having our lunch. We had 40 winks and then decided to try for the white naped woodpecker. Not much luck. We decided it might be good if we could photograph the woodpeckers the following morning if they made their appearance. We went back to the house, showered, had our drinks, had dinner and went to bed.

4th February - Woke up early, had tea and headed to the site of the woodpeckers. Woodpeckers were present but not very obliging. However Namal and Gehan were able to photograph Alexandrine parakeet - who I must say were very obliging. Retuned to the house for breakfast and after breakfast Michael took us on a tour of his estate. Had lunch, had a small nap. Had tea and set off back to Colombo around 4.30 p.m. We were sad to leave Michael and Nancy who were so very hospitable and I am sure they were sad to see us go as well!!! Gehan dropped us around 6.30 p.m.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nuwara Eliya - Golf Club, 10th - 12th Jan, 2008

Palitha was supposed to pick us up at 5.00 a.m. on Thursday the 10th, but when he did make his appearance it was around 5.30 a.m. He deliberately got late because coming early would mean getting stopped at the many check points along the way and the unwanted questions that would be asked as a result of his equipment. We packed the vehicle and then left to Homagama to pick up Lester. We then proceeded to Kitulgala - the rest house - where we were going to have breakfast and if possible some birding. Birding was out of the question as it was raining, breakfast on the other hand was something else - string hoppers, and we stuffed ourselves as if we had never seen food in our lives. Everyone complained later on that they were very uncomfortable as they had eaten too much. We proceeded directly to Nuwara Eliya from Kitulgala. Chinthaka who was also on his way to Nuwara Eliya on business and who had left much earlier than us informed us that it was raining very heavily in Hatton. We reached the Golf Club around 12.30 p.m. The weather was bright and sunny!!!

We unpacked and then decided to do some birding at "Victoria Park". Before birding we decided to have something to eat. Everyone decided that short eats and tea were adequate. We were joined by Chinthaka and Janaka. Janaka is the local doctor who is interested in wildlife as well. Janaka left our company as he was on duty, Chinthaka joined us at the Park. The park was however very disappointing as there were not many birds to be seen. All we saw for that afternoon was the Indian Pitta, the Pied Ground Thrush, the Yellow Eared Bulbul, forest wagtail, grey wagtail, the Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher and some of the other common birds.

Chinthaka had to leave for Colombo that afternoon - he left our company around 4.00 p.m. Gayan, another guy who works at the Alpine hotel in Nuwara Eliya saw us in the park from the road and called Palitha and asked if he could join us. He turned up a few minutes later. We stayed at the park till about 6.15 p.m. We had tea and Christmas cake at the Club.

Dinner was Pork chops, fries and veggies followed by Caramel for afters. The pork chops and the caramel was disappointing. Retired to bed.

11th January, 2008 - We had contemplated the previous day whether to go to Horton Plains or hang around at Victoria Park and try to photograph the Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher It was decided to go to the Park and try our luck there. Luck was not on our side - I woke up around 5.45 a.m. and realised it was raining - not the ideal thing for birding. Stayed in bed till around 6.30 a.m. and eventually got up and got ready. We had breakfast at the Club - a breakfast of Pineapple juice for the 3 of us and Papaya juice for Palitha followed by toast, bacon, eggs, marmalade and tea.

We headed back to our rooms wondering what to do. A little while later, to our amazement Lester discovered that there were a pair of Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatchers just outside our room. Namal and Palitha tried photographing the bird, but the weather was a dampener. We just hung around until lunch. Janaka joined us for lunch at the Club. Lunch was rice and curry, which was really tasty. We then decided to take a stroll in town to buy some trousers and shirts. Having bought what we wanted we went back to Janaka's place and hung around there. Lester informed us that Deepal had wanted us to join him for dinner at Gallway Lodge. We left Janaka's place and went back to the Club. Got ready and picked up Janaka and went to meet Deepal. Met Deepal who had two guests with him. Dinner was buffet. Had our dinner, dropped Janaka and went back to the Club.

12th January, 2008 - The next day the weather was as bad as the previous day. We went to "Remarko" and had breakfast and then set off to the park and stayed put in the vehicle and came back to the Club. All of a sudden the weather cleared - blue skies. We all trouped into the vehicle and went to the park. The good weather was just a teaser and short lived. We decided to call it a day and head back to Colombo. Came back to the club, packed and headed back to Colombo. We stopped on the way to have some short eats and came back home around 5.30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Days visit to the Chilaw Sand Spits

We had received the news, sometime ago, of the presence of two Eurasian Oyster Catchers at the Chilaw Sand Spits - these are migrant birds. We had originally visited this location and were rather successful in photographing these birds. However we decided to try our luck again.

December 29th, 2007.
We left home around 4.45 a.m. and drove to Pitakotte in order to pick up another friend of ours who decided to join us in this mission. We picked him up and set off on our journey. We were to be accompanied by another couple and their youngest son who decided to meet us quarter of the way. We met them and then headed off to Chilaw. We made good timing - having reached Chilaw town around 6.30 a.m. Here we decided to have a snack for breakfast - it was sausage buns, soya buns, etc and coffee.

We then drove to the Sand Spits and were very fortunate as we spotted one of the birds. My husband then walked up to the other vehicle which was close behind us, to inform them of the observation. Then he got his camera equipment ready. Having done all that we took a look at the area where the bird was originally located but it seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
Whilst we were driving up and down the beach looking for the birds my husband noticed some crows attacking something a little further ahead. Closer examination revealed a bird - it was a whiskered tern being attacked by crows. Not having the heart to leave the bird to die, my husband put a cloth round the bird and brought it into the vehicle.

In the meantime we suspected that the oyster catcher would have flown to the other side. Closer observation with the binoculars proved our suspicions, and not only was there one bird, but the other bird was there as well. Now what? Well! we decided to give the birds some time and thought it would be a good idea to have some tea at the Chilaw rest house.

We called one of our expert friends as to what to do with the injured bird - he informed us to give it glucose and not to force feed the bird as he would choke. We went to the Chilaw rest house, had our tea, gave the injured bird a little sugar dissolved in water which was the next best alternative to glucose and set off to the beach again. Both birds were on the "correct" side of the beach but my husband was only able to get about 2 or 3 photographs as the waves disturbed them and they flew further up. From now on it was a cat and mouse game.

We then decided to go to Navadunkulama, which is about an hours drive, to try our luck there - as Osprey had been sighted in earlier years. We actually did see the Osprey but no photo opportunity. We hung around there for a while enjoying the beauty and the tranquility of this awesome place and then decided it was time to head back to the Chilaw rest house to have lunch.

We had a sumptuous lunch of rice and curry, with prawn and cuttle fish too. We then headed back to the sand spits to try our luck again. The birds were there again, which meant more photography, but it was rather tricky as the lighting was not so great. It was a very hot day out there!!

We decided to stay till sunset in order to photograph it. We then decided enough was enough and after a very tiring but most enjoyable one day we set off home.

The injured tern was taken by our other friends in order that they could look after it. We were subsequently informed that they had taken the bird to the vet the following day who had treated it. The bird died a few minutes of them returning home from the vets.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Next Morning.....

We decided to take the next morning easy, since, unlike in Yala where there is plenty of leopard, Udawalawe does not offer the same opportunity. We therefore decided that we would have breakfast at about 7.00 a.m. and set off on our morning round at about 7.30 a.m. This trip was more of a birding trip!!! We drove toward Timbiriyamankada where there is a waterhole. There we were audience to a great spectacle of a crested hawk eagle catching a serpent. It was an amazing battle between the two of them. The serpent had his body wrapped around the eagle's leg and the eagle kept pecking the serpent aiming at his head. At one point the serpent and the eagle were eyeballing each other. You could almost feel the anxiety of the serpent as it knew that that was the end for him. The snake attacked too and ended up with a feather in its mouth. While all this was occuring a couple of crows were mobbing the eagle so much so it took off with the serpent wrapped around its leg to probably enjoy its brunch away from the crows and our prying eyes. We proceeded further and encountered 2 adult elephant and 2 baby elephants drinking at a waterhole. They seemed rather thirsty as they drank for quite some time giving plenty of photo opportunity for whoever was interested.

Some miscalculation in the quantity of food ended up in us having to go to the park entrance and to the Udawalawe town. While the other vehicle proceeded to town we enjoyed a cup of tea at one of the shops. One hour later we started our journey back to the bungalow to enjoy yet another river bath and lunch. Since this took up a considerable amount of time we did not have time for an afternoon snooze. We had only a half an hour break before we set off on the evening round. The evening round did not produce that many great opportunities only a few elephant. We headed back home to a sumptious dinner and turned in for the night.

The next morning was our departure day. Some decided that they would stay at the bungalow - that included me - some decided to do a round to a particular place called Weheramankada to look for the Rufous woodpecker. The party of three had only left 5 minutes and the Rufous woodpecker made its appearance at our doorstep on two occasions. They came back not having had much luck. If only they had stayed behind like us they would have seen this bird. Another river bath was in order. We packed had breakfast and left our bungalow to return home.

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