Our guide had recognised that I was interested in wild life and so offered to take me for an early morning bird watching walk. Apparently he set off every morning following his love of nature, at around 5.00am, but suggested that 7.00am would be earlier enough for me to see some of the local bird life. I readily agreed and our rendez-vous was fixed for 7.00 in the main reception area.
I, somewhat bleary eyed, made it at the appointed time and our guide, looking as if he’d been awake for hours, was waiting for me. Soon we were outside the hotel, in an early morning misty rain and within minutes I’m looking into a small bush in which two long billed sun birds are attempting to feed on the bright flowers. They’re hard to focus in on, but I can’t blame my camera more likely that my eyes are still not "fully awake"!
I make a comment about the "drizzle" (mist like rain) and my guide explains that it wouldn’t be morning in Nurawa Eliya if there wasn’t the mist. "It’s usual most days, just like England" he smiled. Next we creep down some slippery stone steps to watch a white bellied drongo and his mate, before they were disturbed by the arrival of an egret. My guide explained to me that the pond and cattle egrets were slightly different in appearance with the pond egret having black legs and the cattle egret yellow legs. It’s all to do with the conditions that they’re hunting in and good old Darwin’s theory of evolution.
As we pass by the side of the house I was pleased to see a bird before my guide. "It’s the Pheasant Tailed Jacana", he whispered "and it’s rare to see because it’s such a shy bird". I stood by in awe as I tried to get a decent view of the bird. I’ve never seen one, or indeed heard the name before so I tried to creep nearer to get an un-obscured view. Not the best thing to do if you’re half asleep and as cack-handed as me. I managed to make it just to close as the bird scuttled off through the hedgerows and onto the golf course. In the blink of an eye it was gone. Unfortunately it disappeared before I could get my photographic evidence of a sighting, but now I’m aware of the bird I’ll be keeping an eye out for it when I’m in Asia.
Other than a "bucket load of crows" the rest of our exploration of the grounds was a bit thin and so we headed off down a track at the back of the hotel towards the town.
Although there weren’t any birds it was an interesting part of town and we passed the original golf club house and a few other "English" cottages before making it back to the main street. It was here that I saw a single Asian Koel in the company of a large group of Ravens, standing out distinctively with his yellow beak. My guide was surprised but confirmed my sighting. A gentle walk through the town and past a cinchona tree which my guide tells me is a source of quinine and was important for the treatment of malaria.
Next we head back to the hotel where we pick up the mini bus and drive a few minutes out of the centre of Nurawa Eliya to the nearby forest in Gallwaysland National Park.
Despite a lot of twittering we didn’t see one bird, but there were a number of monkeys swinging through the canopy of trees above us. The lack of birds really didn’t matter, because I saw a small temple, the local houses (up close), and villagers heading off to work in Nurawa Eliya. It was a good start to the day and I ended up seeing parts of the town that are not normally frequented by tourists.