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 Post subject: Yala's feathered beauties
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2005 5:13 pm 
Yala's feathered beauties

"Sometimes in eco-tourism, good things come in small fluffy brown packages," says wildlife photographer and writer Gehan De Silva Wijeyeratne, in his book Leopards and other wildlife of Yala.
@ Sunday Observer

Yala is especially sought by birders or ornithologists due to its shore bird populations, says Gehan.

The different species of birds who get attracted to the coastal wetlands and saltpans are mostly migratory, travelling thousands of miles, and could be from as far as the Arctic Circle, he points out.As you know and may have experienced, Yala, Sri Lanka's national park in the South-Eastern coast is visited mostly for the elephants, leopards, sloth bears, spotted deer and other large animals that could be seen in this park.

However, Yala is a paradise for birds, says Gehan.Yala block 1 area has many tanks and lagoons where you can see thousands of birds. Goda Kalapuwa, Mahaseelawa Kalapuwa, Buttuwa Kalapuwa, Gonalebbe Kalapuwa, Wilapala Wewa, Buttuwa Wewa and Jampuragala Wewa are some of the lagoons and tanks you can visit to see them.

Let us look at a few excerpts from his book and learn about these wonderful birds, many of them visitors to our country. Make a note to enjoy the shorebirds and waders the next time you visit Yala.

Who the shorebirds/waders are...

"Waders are birds of the shoreline, frequenting mud flats, estuaries and freshwater wetlands, found basically almost anywhere where it is wet and muddy, but not too deep. Our coastal wetlands and man-made saltpans attract waders by the tens of thousands. On the face of it, they are nondescript birds in drab colours, or at least drab most of the time when they are in winter plumage. So what makes them so special?


The attraction...

"First of all, birdwatchers ..... have a fascination with them, one reason being they are difficult to identify. Examine any field guide to birds...and most people soon conclude that waders are tricky.

Birders delight in this trickiness... Another reason why waders are special is that they undertake long migrations. The Greenshanks and Green Sandpipers that are seen in the Palatupana saltpans, would have travelled from the Arctic Circle.

They will return each year to breed on the Taiga. For migratory birds such as waders... Sri Lanka has inherited a uniquely important position. Sri Lanka is at the southernmost point of the migratory flyway for many birds reaching us from Asia and Europe.

How they can be retained in Sri Lanka

"Beyond Sri Lanka is only the inhospitable icy vastness of Antarctica. This makes our wetlands of tremendous conservation value, internationally. If we don't look after our wetlands, other people's birds will suffer heavy winter mortalities (deaths).


Fewer birds will return each spring to begin the breeding cycle anew. From a scientific perspective (point of view) as well, Sri Lanka is very important. Efforts to obtain bird migration data by scientists in Asia and Europe will not be complete without data capture in Sri Lanka.

What Yala offers to birders...

"The fascination with waders is such, that the opportunity to study them in winter plumage and subsequently moulting into summer plumage will be of interest to birders.

The other advantage with wader-watching in Sri Lanka is that the waders are so close, so unbelievably close. ... In Sri Lanka, at many places they can be seen at very close range.

What the author experienced at Palatupana


"As the sun set over the Palatupana Saltpans, we watched hundreds of Curlew Sandpipers mixing with Little Stints, Marsh Sandpipers, Redshanks and Greenshanks. ... Sometimes in eco-tourism good things come in small fluffy brown packages."

- V.F

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