People travel to faraway places to watch in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home’, said someone somewhere. For some this may encompass more. Living in India, I was aware that we shared a few endemics with the Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean. The determination being stronger, I ended up seeing more endemics than I would have had I not ventured out on this weeklong trip.
After a few months, I set forth this journey to feast my eyes, nourish my soul and impregnate my bird list. We arrived in Colombo on a late April night and were welcomed by a pleasant weather. Early next morning, after picking up our guide, we embarked on our journey to the Rainforest region. Sinharaja National Park is approx. 120 kms from Colombo. The road conditions are quite good. As soon as we left the somewhat occluding city, harnessing our binoculars, we moved closer to the window seats. The trailing city life always invigorates a birder’s zealous eyes. The desire to see the Sri Lankan endemics was kicked off by our first sighting of the Yellow Fronted Barbet. The country- side of Sri Lanka is similar to our coastal areas. Clean, rain-washed narrow lanes, lined with archetypal village houses with lush green open fields are weaved into the landscape. Several water bodies including rivulets and billabongs are perfectly synchronized with youthful bushes and tall palms. All these yielded several common birds. We stopped at a nearby bend to ask for directions, our guide’s keen eye quickly spotted a Purple Heron on its nest in a sour sop tree. Intermittent electric poles graciously hosted several White – Rumped and Scaly – Breasted Munias on their swinging wires. Several Shrikes and Doves later we stopped for lunch at a restaurant serving local food. It seemed more like a home with a large dining room open to visitors. Our host came and told us that the only option available at this meridian was fish curry and rice. Maintaining our unflappable conduct we nodded meekly. In a few minutes time the food arrived. I counted, there were a total of eight dishes. This included, some local greens, fried and tempered, a variety of vegetable curries with plantain, gourd and legumes, and finally in a large bowl the main dish, fish curry. I sought clarity, why did he say only fish curry is available? ‘ Rest are all accompaniments, he politely answered. Filling up ourselves with ‘accompaniments’, barely strumming the fish curry, we finished our meal. A few more hours of languorous drive and we were warmly embraced by the magnificent cloud forest.
Sinharaja National Park is 21 km by 11 km wide range, receiving an annual rainfall of about 2500 mm. The park is opened throughout the year. Our hotel for our 4-day stay was the rainforest Lodge. It is situated a few kilometers away from the main park. It is at a beautiful canopy level. As we disembarked and stretched ourselves, the National bird, a beautiful threesome of the Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl crossed our path.