My days at Ging Oya quickly assumed the same routine. I was up at first light, had a walk around the gardens then got one of the pushbikes and cycled around the local area, looking at the beach, the lagoons, the open area, getting back to the hotel just after 9.00.
The number of species seen was pretty limited but some species were more common here than at Habarana.
The hotel held 2 species of sunbird (purple rumped and Lotens) and although I saw these all the time they kept very much to the tree tops so the pictures taken were very much of "record shot" variety.
|Male (top) and female Loten's sunbird.|
Pale-billed flower pecker was also a frequent visitor to the garden tree tops.
The grounds also held a pair of greater coucal (as did a lot of the gardens) but the local ones would never let me get close. I did however manage some shots in the open area.
Asian Koels were very common in the whole area and could be heard all day everyday but these were exceedingly shy and it was difficult to even see them. One morning however my luck changed. A few hundred yards from the hotel was a bridge over the Gin Oya river and in a tree beside the bridge was a female and 2 males and they showed for ages, ignoring the people and traffic on the bridge. This was quite a busy road and I think the locals thought I was crazy to spend so much time photographing what were pretty common birds.
We never saw an Indian roller around Habarana but they were quite common in the Gin Oya area. There was always one near the beach and another pair lived around the open area. Normally they didn't let me get very near but every once and a while they sat on the wires and ignored you. I never ever saw them perch on anything other than power lines.
A bird we saw just the once in Habarana was the Sri lanka swallow but there were several here that hunted around the open area however their hunting range was quite large so they would only come through once every 10 or 15 minutes and be gone in an instant. I did find them on the wires one morning and got marginally better shots - really smart looking birds.
Another common bird was the white bellied drongo but like the roller the only time you saw these was perched on wires.
Other birds seen in/from the hotel garden were magpie robin, lesser flameback woodpecker, black headed oriole and on the river, striated heron, little and great white egret, Indian pond herons, red wattled lapwing and white fronted kingfisher.
Outside the grounds, and new for the trip, I saw spoonbill, pied kingfisher.
For the rest of each day we went for gentle bike rides around the local area visiting some of the shrines, hotels, bars and beaches.
One day we did have an excursion to the Munneswaram Hindu temple at Chilaw. This was 40 km from Ging Oya Lodge but due to the traffic it took just over an hour to get there but it was worth the time and effort.
The noise inside the temple was near deafening as 3 piece band made as much noise as they could and the air was thick with smoke and the smell of incense. Ceremonies were going on as we wandered around but no one seemed to mind us being there (as long as you've taken your shoes off).
The wall paintings and carvings were also quite amazing - these were gods who meant business:
Externally the carvings were somewhat sun bleached but they were still very impressive.
We did stop off at another temple, Punchi Kathargama, on the way back home and whilst very impressive it was no where near as inviting.
Back on the subject of bird watching the owners of Ging Oya Lodge had suggested I tried the Anaiwilundawa Wetland but these were a bit too far to go for the time I had available being another 15 km beyond Chilaw (so in excess of an hours drive). You would really need to be lodging at or north of Chilaw to visit these (or depart pre-dawn).
So that's it. We only saw a small fraction of it but Sri Lanka was a marvelous country; the people very friendly and the bird watching around Habarana superb. Both hotels we stayed in were also fantastic for totally different reasons.
I do hope to go back and visit some of the other areas - the hill country for example and perhaps Yala and Bundala National Parks. I just need to do some more research!
Finally if any of you are in the Habarana area and need a guide, either for sightseeing or a bit of general bird watching, then contact Rukmal at Habarana Tours. http://www.habaranatours.com/services
(see part 1 of this report for some more comments on Rukmal.)