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 Post subject: Bellanwila - Attidiya - A sanctuary in the city
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 25, 2006 2:57 pm 
Bellanwila - Attidiya - A sanctuary in the city

@ RH / June 2006

Bellanwila - Attidiya, a sanctuary in the city. A wonderful gift of nature, a haven for birds and so close to the metropolis.

Early morning is a magical time at Attidiya. As dawn breaks through the cool mists that surround the marshy waters, one can observe the rich bird life at Attidya as they move freely around looking for food and preening themselves for the day.

Silhouetted against the orange dawn, we could see the dark outline of the Adam's Peak range of mountains. The air was damp with the remnants of an early morning mist and the peaty, dark soil was soft and muddy as we began a nature trek through the sanctuary.

The best travelled trail begins close to the information centre at Attidiya and continues through the marsh, alongside the Bolgoda canal on to the opposite boundary of the park on Attidiya road.

Halfway down the trail there is a viewing tower built by the department for nature lovers to view the wild life of the park at close quarters.

According to a study done by the Society for Environmental Education, there are some 166 species of birds sighted in the area of which most are residential and around 40 migratory. The area also has a recorded 71 species of butterflies and 44 species of fish.

The rare birds inhabiting the marsh are the Indian Shag, the Blue Breasted Banded Tail and the Ruddy Crake. Rare visitors including Spot Billed Pelican, White Ibis, Painted stork and the elusive Glossy Ibis which is believed by bird-watchers to be migratory.

There have been reports of crocodiles inhabiting the canals now and then.

There are also small mammals like the fishing cat here. Some have recorded sighting jackals too.

During the couple of hours we spent there, we recorded 35 bird species and a couple of water monitors. Our eyes feasted on flocks of Purple Coot feeding among the marshes, Storks watching still ponds for breakfast and wide winged purple herons flying overhead with quiet grace.

There are other trails to follow inside the park depending on- as one young bird watcher put it- how much mud you'd like to get on yourself.

Bellanwila - Attidiya, a wonderful gift of nature- but severely threatened by pollution and abuse of land. Although there are several authorities overseeing the sanctuary, the protection afforded to it is so low that the condition of this 372 hectare marsh had been going from bad to worse in the last few years.

Bellanwila - Attidiya was declared a sanctuary under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in 1990, after much agitation by NGOs . But it was only very recently that the area was surveyed and the boundaries of the sanctuary properly identified. 90 percent of the land area inside the sanctuary belongs to private owners, thus limiting the authority over the activities of the area.

The Attidiya- Bellanwila Bird Sanctuary is a 30 minutes drive from Colombo city limits.

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