Moving from the torrid heat of the equatorial coastal city of Colombo in the island nation of Sri Lanka and traversing 100 km, I made my way across picturesque villages and narrow mountain roads to reach the ancient city of Kandy. It was late in the evening and nothing much was visible except the garish neon signboards of resorts and homestays, but the chirping of avians amid the raucous calls of other big birds was soothing to my weary and exhausted self.
Getting down from the vehicle on the long waterfront, I made my way towards the man-made lake in the middle of this verdant hill country, which attracts devotees from far and wide for its Tooth Relic Temple. Even at this late hour, hundreds of people walked on the shoreline that was reverberating with the shrill calls of the nesting birds. Taking a few steps towards the shimmering waters, I saw a monitor lizard, storks, pelicans, herons, egrets, fruit bats and what not.
The rushing cars, buses and tourist vehicles around the waterfront hardly seemed to disturb the tranquillity of the lake or the birds that were peacefully going about their life.
Sunsets are the best times to look for thousands of lorikeets (fruit bats) that make a unique chorus. Kandy, being the royal seat of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the last king of Sri Lanka, is famous for its salubrious weather, tea gardens, Tooth Relic Temple and for the artificial lake built by him in 1807. It draws bird watchers and naturalists from all over the world as the huge lake, known as Kiri Muhuda, provides a perfect habitat for hundreds of local and migratory bird species.
The next morning I made my way to the shoreline and this time, I was fortunate to see barbets, hanging parrots, babblers, snake birds, herons and hornbills. There were early joggers and walkers in the shaded paths of the lake. Between November-April, one can see hundreds of species nesting around the lake. Half of the species travel thousands of kilometres to come here from far off Himalayas, Siberia and Europe.
Sitting on the porch of my resort, I looked at the varied species with awe and locked away in my memory the wonderful sight—fruit bats flying away in the evening, flocks of lorikeets flying in pairs over the water body and with night falling, egrets, Indian cormorants, snake birds and herons gracefully making their way home with all eagerness.