After 12 nights of travel, 13 if you include the plane, we were heading down out of the mountains and towards the south western coast of Sri Lanka.
Our chosen destination was the Kirinda Beach Resort, a place we had discovered quite by accident when we stopped for lunch on our previous visit. We had enquired about prices then and it seemed reasonable, the standard of accommodation very good and the location.... well, outstanding. Well, I say outstanding, much depends on expectations. To us it had everything we wanted.
Rooms were these well appointed cabins in the grounds .
They had a rather unique raised up swimming pool which was not particularly big and with only 3 sun beds surrounding it, limited room.
The views though were fabulous. Directly over looking the adjoining usually totally deserted beach.
The nearest village a good walk away but with little of interest to attract your attention.
To lots this location might be perceived as boring, to me it was near perfect.
Outside the entrance to the hotel a lane that took you through largely agricultural or unused land to one side.
an if you headed towards the village it was low density housing with one or two low key resorts.
The Kirinda Beach Resort had few residents during our stay and I think they deserve much better. The food was wonderful, the staff magnificent but it's location is the best bit. Kirinda is well placed between Yala and Bundala national parks, both easily reached without getting up earlier than 5.30am! Well you have to get in to the parks at dawn to see them at their best.
I licked my lips in anticipation but in the meantime, the moment I arrived I wanted a proper look at my surrounds.
Unfortunately it rained, as it did on several occasions during our stay.
You could see the gathering storm over what would become my playground for the week.
It was now the beginning of December and if anything it should have been drier on the coast. Not so. The monsoons continued right through to mid December this year, something to take note of for future visits, what with global warming etc.
Anyway, when the rain ceases to be a downpour it's often a very light drizzle which doesn't get you too wet, besides it's always warm so it's bearable. I went out for a walk without my camera equipment to save that getting wet and by the time I got back it had virtually stopped but it was early evening and fading light. Still, when I spotted this delightful sight in the field opposite the hotel I dashed in to collect the camera.
What a beauty ! What a Star!
A fair size too, must have been at least 25cms long.
Once the gear was out I had to look for other subjects too.
A Green Bee-eater was using a perch under the shelter of a tree.
you can still see the odd drop of rain in the shot.
A family of Indian Robin were ferreting about for food.
The male was more wary than the female and retreated to a post.
Unfortunately I was forced back in by the rain, but I had a whole week to explore and I was up and out by 6.00am the following morning.
My first find was a local unused rice paddy. Crossing a fairly wet field to get to it, I then gingerly worked my way along the retaining banks of the paddy to get nearer to some feeding Black-winged Stilts. I was still testing for the light and took this picture as a check. I couldn't believe what I had just captured, no signs before I put my eye to the camera viewfinder. It turned out surprisingly well!
I spent ages with the Stilts, the sun had returned and it was getting stronger by the minute making conditions more challenging with the contrasting feathering of black and white.
The old adage of make hay while the sunshines is oh so true.
I took lots of shots, some would think too many.
But I fouled up on lots of the sunnier ones!
but fortunately, not all.
What I didn't realise was that the work on the nearby river would soon mean that this particular field would be fairly dry within a day or two.
Anyway there was plenty more. I returned for breakfast and was straight out again.
So much to explore and photograph!
Cattle Egrets were plentiful
The fields held lots of hunting Bee-eaters.
The large boulders that were part of the local landscape all seemed to have a Peafowl perched on top.. sometimes shared
An alarm clock wasn't necessary as the Peacocks kick of at around 4.00am while it's still dark.
The other alarm call was the one sounded by the Red-wattled Lapwing. Everytime anyone approached they were at it. I could have cursed as they caused unnecessary panic to other birds too!
I was the child in a sweet shop, the proverbial pig in....
I came across Common Kingfisher
Jerdon's Bushlark.... I think!
and a fly past Stork-billed Kingfisher.
I could take bird in flight shots with the 600mm after all, well for a moment or two.
Out on the mud flats there were lots of birds but they were inaccessible both because there was no cover to hide my approach and the mud itself was thick and gloopy. I stuck to the edges to get some shots of Great Thick-knee.
I even managed to catch a Mongoose crossing the road.
I had truly found a piece of photograph paradise, especially if the weather held up. As it was now late morning I headed back to the hotel but caught one more goody as I returned.
Oriental Honey Buzzard.
Landed in a tree nearby
Viewing was a bit awkward but who's complaining!
I spent a few hours by the pool and I was off again.
Great White Egret.
The sun was going down when I discovered these roosting Eurasian Thick-knee.
Top of the league for colour though had to be the Coppersmith Barbet which I found in the same tree as a Brown-headed one.
Best bird of the day... maybe, there were so many.
I was in danger of exhausting all possibilities. I'd even taken those fall back shots when you can't find anything else.
Claire had hardly seen me all day but she was happily ensconced by the pool and I wasn't too far away. I had certainly made hay that first 24 hours.
Had I exhausted all the local species ?
We had Yala and Bundle trips to fit in so I wasn't in the least bit concerned. I decided I would have another local day before heading to Yala.