Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Sri Lanka November/December 2015 Part 10 Tissamaharama

We were down to one whole last day before leaving Kirinda and heading up the coast to our last stop at Mirissa. I wasn't expecting too much in the way of birding there although there was an option to make an early start and head for the Sinharaja Forest. That would be a £100 trip and from what I could gather, entering from the southern end a possible waste of money. I knew I also had the option of whale watching trips from Marissa too so once again I had to decide what to do on the last day. It would be a shame to waste an opportunity, I might never come back but did I really want to spend another £100 going back to Yala ? No, I had to draw a line really and I felt the return visit may well be an anti climax as the first one had been so outstanding.
Then I remembered!
I'd read about the Wirawila Tissa sanctuary which wasn't very far away. Doable by TukTuk perhaps ? I asked how much it might cost and the hotel manager reckoned you could hire a TukTuk for a whole day for 2000 rupees, that's about £9. That was the answer! I ordered a Tuk Tuk for the next morning and off we headed towards Tissamaharama ( say that after a few beers!) which is the largest town in the region. The TukTuk driver must have had an idea of where I wanted to go and off we went passing hoards of people transferring from coaches to safari jeeps heading to Yala. Most of them appeared to be Sri Lankans and I guess it's a great way to spend a Sunday, however my thought was avoid weekends if possible. It's even more crowded than normal weekdays.
Anyway, we passing alongside a lake which had a sort of promenade and I spotted some Jacanas. I asked him to stop and sure enough I was soon snapping away.
The sun was still coming up and the light a bit iffy but I was getting better views than anything I'd seen in Bundala.
In fact the sun was coming up quite quickly now.
A pair of Pelican were out on the lake.
and a Darter fishing very close in.
Better still a pair of Cotton Pygmy-Geese were a little way out too. My best ever views.
This was pretty good. Where next I wondered and off we went first stopping at a temple where in a nearby tree there were dozens of Night Heron, some still arriving at the roost.
A few hundred yards further and trees packed out with hundreds of Fruit Bats, again some of them still flying.
Others doing their Dracula impressions.
Off we went again and this time turned up a rough track that followed another lake.
A Little Cormorant was sunning itself.
I got out of the TukTuk and told the driver I was going to walk around the lake. The main reason was the noise from the TukTuk was pretty deafening and was scaring everything away. I wandered on and the TukTuk followed at a distance behind. He'd warned me to be careful of Crocodiles so perhaps he was keeping an eye on my safety. I did actually come across a huge one but it was a distance from the track and no threat. I walked past a man keeping an eye on the field on the opposite side of the track and just as I settled down to photograph some Grey-headed Purple Swamphen he started banging and clapping. The Swamphens were off and I wasn't too pleased either. I can only assume he was scaring off birds on his side of the track but he did me a favour too. Looked what he flushed from the reeds in front of me!
It settled out in the open too!
I approached with trepidation and care but it had no effect. Crepuscular and shy says my guide book.
Really ?!
It wandered out in to the open
and out came the neck!
I doubt I'll ever get such prolonged and close views ever again. OK so the bokah might be wanting but hey! The Yellow Bittern might have stayed longer but unfortunately for me a local came and opened the sluice gates in front of where I was stood and the Bittern flew off. Still I had had enough time to get as many shots as I needed.
I had barely got to terms with that experience when a pair of Tawny-bellied Babblers appeared in the scrub alongside the road.
I'd only had a brief glimpse of one on my last trip and certainly no decent images.
I was already feeling well rewarded before finding some more Swamphens that looked good in the bright sunshine compared to the dull light at Bundala.

Nice looking birds but a slight anti-climax! I was being spoilt now.


I was still photographing the Swamphens when a young lad on a pushbike approached my TukTuk driver. It appeared he was offering to show me some Owls if I was interested.
Interested ?   You bet!!!
We followed the boy on the bike for a short distance before stopping outside a small bungalow. There in the eaves a pair of Oriental Scops Owls were roosting.
Moving to the other side it was quite bizarre as whilst I was setting up the camera I was also saying hello to the boy's mother who was ironing just inside the open front door.
With people coming and going all day it seemed this pair were bomb proof.
Would I like to see some Brown Fish Owls next?
Of course I would!
The driver suggested that I gave the lad a few rupees which I had intended doing anyway but I hadn't anything smaller than a 1000 note so we stopped at a shop to get some change and he was delighted with the 300 I gave him so off we went to see the next Owl. Sadly though it was a non starter. We were shown a narrow footpath that took us down to a river where there was a tree the Owl favoured, however, the river was a raging torrent and had flooded over the banks. No way was I going anywhere near it. Getting a photo suicidal as far as my gear went if not for me too. We thanked the lad and bade him farewell.
My driver took it I'd had enough and headed back to the hotel. It was still quite early at around 10am but I didn't argue. I had had an amazing morning and was happy to spend the rest of the day by the pool. On our return I asked him what I owed him and the reply of give me what you think you should pay always makes you realise that they know they will end up getting a lot more than they probably should be getting. Gave hime 1700, and he seemed happy. My morning trip albeit fairly short had delivered more than Bundala had and all for less than £10.
My 8 days had gone well, so well I didn't even bother going out in the evening. I knew I had some decent images in the bag so no matter what I got in our final week was a bonus. A whale perhaps?

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