Pride of Kumana, the Black-necked Stork

May 08, 2011  •  Leave a Comment
Situated just above the Yala National Park, Kumana National Park is recognized as a bird sanctuary. Since it is at the other end of the country from it's commercial capital Colombo, it hits lowest number of visitors compared to any other national parks in the country. Most number of visitors visits the park on bird migration season starting from September to April. Park rangers says that January-March is the best period for bird watching at Kumana since there are lot of breading birds at the park on that period.

Kumana National Park is home to Sri Lanka's last few pairs of resident Black-necked Stork. Though they are mainly seen at the Kumana, occasionally they can be seen at Yala and Bundala National Parks as well. Black-necked Storks are the tallest birds found in Sri Lanka. When at the edge of the water with the look they have, they can be easily mistaken as a humans. The Black-necked Storks usually seen in pairs. My first sight of this bird was at Yala, when we were there on a camping trip on February 2010. It was way to far, we could only see them as dots on the horizon. On that day I got to know that they are very rare and only few pairs are exist in and around Kumana. Black-necked Storks are a species of birds used to migrate to Sri Lanka on migratory season but has stopped doing so for decades now. Few pairs of birds that were left over is still found in the southern part of the country. Some says these pairs are breading at Kumana National Park, but there are no evidence to prove that.

It was on my first camping trip to Kumana National Park we saw a pair of this wonderful bird at the other side of the Yakala Lagoon. They stood high above other bird species and quite far from the road. We took few shots  to make sure what we saw were what we thought we did. Yes..! They were Blacked-necked Storks.

A pair of Black-necked Storks, Yakala Lagoon.

This was the first time I have seen them as clear as much as this but we had to go to the camp site and prepare it before night falls, so we left the sight hoping to return  for them on the following day. I knew they were residents in Kumana, so they must be hanging around the area and must not be that difficult to spot.

On the following day morning we were going around Yakala lagoon and Kumana villuwa and other areas searching for birds, specially the pair of Black-necked Storks we saw on previous day. Kumana villuwa is a tremendous location for photographic backgrounds. I haven't ever seen those colors I saw in Kumana villuwa and surrounding area. Even a commonly seen Indian Darter made a drama out of it.

Sun bathing Indian Darters at Kumana villuwa.
Morning session was disappointing in terms of Black-necked Storks, but there were enough bird sightings for a session on a off season.

Kumana always make it exiting to be there as when we were cooking and collecting firewoods for the night there was a single elephant just about 50 meters away from our camp sight on the river. I was the one who stood next to it and our guide shout not to hesitate of move, I stood still for about a minute till it look away and moved toward water and ran and grab the camera to the a photograph.

An elephant at Bakini gaha camp site.
It remind me that we saw few elephants crossing the river to Yala on the previous night. Tracks on the river bed gave us a better idea about the camping location as there were lot of tracks of elephants and leopards and few other animals. Our camp site was on the Kumbukkan river bed. The river is the border line between Yala and Kumana parks.

Evening session was not better than the morning one, but just before we turn around, we got lucky. Suneth (our tracker) spot a pair of Black-necked Stork on a side of Yakala lagoon. We were careful to not to alert them and got closer as much as possible for better photograph. It wasn't too bad.

A pair of Black-necked Stork, Yakala Laggon.

A Jackal is passing by.

It's time to take off

We returned with a successful day at Kumana. It was better then seen many leopards as Black-neck Storks are so much rare in Sri Lanka. But that doesn't mean we have stopped our leopard hunt..!

Check Birds gallery for my best shot of a Black-necked Stork.




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