Since war is over on 2009, we have been traveling to Mannar in search of once a legend in Sri Lanka, Greater Flamingos. I have seen in photographs taken by Mr. Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, in 2004 that there were thousands of them in lagoons of Mannar. However after 2004, there were no records of seeing these beautiful birds in Sri Lanka, not from Mannar, Jaffna or Bundala few of the most popular places to see them.
In my first visit to Mannar was on March 2011, we were desperate to find them. Our host Mr. Laurance from Four Tees Rest Inn told us he has seen few birds at Korakulam, an abandoned lake on Thalaimannar island, few days before our arrival. We were determined to locate them and travel all around Mannar, Thalaimannar, Vankalei, Thirukoneshwaram area, but couldn't find any clue.
My second Mannar visit was on February 2012 and it wasn't a lucky trip either for flamingos, but we have seen so many other bird species that we couldn't find in other areas of the island. It was a haven for shore birding and in each visit Mannar has attracted us more and more.
Finally we got a news from Bundala National Park on September 2012, there is about 20-30 flamingos seen in Bundala Salt pans. Few photographers has managed to capture them, but there was no signs of them when we reach there for a quick run. However we witness the arrival of Comb Ducks and many Glossy Ibis during that visit to Bundala. We have also traveled around Humbantota searching for flamingos but without luck. Following day we got the news of flamingos seen in Hambantota Maha Lewaya, only Harsha could give it a try and he has finally seen and captured flamingos there.
My first flamingo sighting - Mannar Salt pans
On the end of 2012 we heard there is a flock of about 1000 flamingos in Mannar, unfortunately we were busy in the time we first heard the news and thought we could give it a try bit late in the season. They were witnessed and photographed by many friends before we go there in January 2013. Our plan was ruined when we had to travel back to Anuradhapura from Thanthirimale when we got there around 5:30 in the morning due to Malwathuoya had flooded and taken the bridge on Thanthirimale-Murunkan road. It was around 11.30 when we reached Mannar salt pans, and the light was very hash. It was the first time I witness them alive and there were about 30-40 flamingos feeding in the middle of one of the salt pans. However, the flock was seems to be very afraid of visitors and went away to a different pan. We left them with plans to return in the evening but it was the last time we saw them during that trip.
flamingos in early morning light
On March same year we went again to Mannar in search of birds with the arrival of our good old friend Madhawa from UK. This time the trip wasn't aiming at flamingos but a general birding trip and "An Introduction to Mannar" to Madhawa. It was three days spent in Mannar. We saw a long pink and white strip in both side of Mannar causeway and realizeed that flamingos are still there but could not see them until the final day. It was my friend Saranga who has spotted them in Korakulam, the abandoned lake, early in the morning. We try to sneak in as much as possible, but a village boy has appear from the other side and the flock got scared and flew away.
There was more than 150 birds in that flock. We drove straight to the salt pans and were very lucky to find few of them there. We got down from the vehicles and sneak in behind the banks, but they were quite far in the pan. However, we managed to capture few shots before they flew away.
Later in the 2013 we heard there is a flock of 20-30 flamingos in Bundala area and saw some photos from friends on facebook, but didn't have time or enthusiasm to get there this time. I was planing to explore hill country birds with my friends in December second weekend, but only Niroshan was interested in it. So though of getting more attraction of fellows and changed the destination to Bundala. There were four of us ready to explore Bundala when I received the news from Aruna that Flamingos are back at Mannar. He has got the news from my dear friend Mr. Laurance, I immediately call him and get the news confirmed and the tide was turning from Bundala to Mannar. We wanted to give the earliest shot as possible before others scare them away.
It was around 8:00 when we reach Giants tank due to some technical difficulties, and when we got down from there we realize the Giants tank has become a butterfly paradise
. They kept us there over an hour, busy shooting 15-20 different species of butterflies and made us late to visit our main focus - FLAMINGOS!!
When we reach Vankalei this time it was sad to see both distraction done to the century by trail way construction as well as the deserted marshes of Vankalei due to no rain. There were not much shore\lagoon birds around, however the water level in the causeway was higher then I have ever seen before. Finally we reached the salt pans and there they were, feeding in the middle of a salt-pan. We got down and sneak in got few photos, but the harsh light doesn't allow us to reveal much colors.
To our delight there was no others in the site which means they are all ours during these two days. We went to Four Tees with the intention of returning in the evening. After a wash we jumped in to beds for a quick nap, so tired driving all day we were quick to fell in sleep and if not for the wise decision of Harsha to set an alarm, we would have missed the evening session that day and these flamingos in evening light would have been a dream. We have done a commando sneak in that evening and were amazed by the outcome of that effort.
flamingos in evening light
With Know how to get close to them, following morning was brilliant. We reach there at about 6.30 in the morning and sneak behind the banks of salt-pans and capture many shots. Flamingos were filling the full frame and there were few Northern Pintails to delight my day. I will share one of the many best shots I could take during that day.
Flying away or just coming back?
We have returned from Mannar with lifted hearts and much earlier then we expected. Hope you all have enjoyed them as much as I did. Thanks for reading and keep visiting..!
Note: All the photographs in the blog is copyright property of Danushka Senadheera. Unauthorized use of images is prohibited under intellectual property and copyright laws. Please contact me if you want to use them.