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DateLine Sunday, 25 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Malala - Gem of a Bird Sanctuary

Off the coastline road - just a few kilometres east of the Hambantota town is the picturesque lagoon known to all and sundry as Malala. It is a legendary sheet of fresh water set in the flat country, amidst sylvan surroundings.

Painted Storks, Ibises and Egrets on dry ground beside the water

Malala has always been synonymous with migrant birds, especially aquatic species. There could be a few places in the south-east coast better suited for watching birds. During the latter months of the year Painted Storks, Pelicans, Grey Herons, Spoonbills and Ibises congregate there in their hundreds.

When the water level is at a low ebb, during the height of the dry season, flocks of Indian Cormorants and Darters literally cover acres of the shallows to fish in concert, while Little Egrets and Pond Heron mixed together to share in the abundance of aquatic food supply.

In the reedy margins Little Grebes and Black-winged Stilts would also be seen.

The Open Bills are regular visitors in the paddy fields fringing the lagoon and time and again one would see solitary Black-necked Storks in their midst.

Winter Haunt

Malala to my intimate knowledge is the most favoured winter resort of the migrant birds in the whole of Hambantota lagoon wilderness. Not only do commoner species occur there in incomparable numbers but also rarer ones that the average bird watcher is unlikely to see in the more reputed places along the east coast.

Between September and November, vast concourses of Golden Plover, Sand Plover, Courser, Stint etc. invade the open spaces beside the water, followed by platoons of wild duck, which swim around fishing in the placid surface.

The majority of the ducks that visit Malala are usually Pintails and Garganey, but rarer species have also been recorded there. For instance, in 1974 a pair of Ruddy Shellduck was spotted in the lagoon by the Ceylon Bird Club.

The Black-tailed Godwit

The Black-tailed Godwit is an annual visitor to Malala during the drier months and flocks up to a hundred have been recorded there at one time or another. The Bar-tailed Godwit too, has been reported occasionally.

After the National Salt Corporation included Bundala in its development programme, the Greater Flamingo selected Malala as their undisturbed feeding grounds.

In 1975 a flock of 2000-strong arrived at the lagoon in July and stayed there, till about the end of September. A flock of these fascinating creatures in the water, set against the jungle back-drop, makes a never to be forgotten sight for the visitors to Malala.

The open parkland in the east approaches to the lagoon is the favourite haunt of the Great Stone Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Kentish Plover and other ground dwelling birds, to mention a few.

The skylarks, finch-larks, bush-larks and pipits are all there throughout the year, including parties of the Yellow Wagtails, during the migrating season.

The Indian Pratincole is a breeding resident in the vicinity and the Little Pratincole has also been seen in fairly large congregation.

If one is lucky, one might be able to plush the Painted Snipe out of the lush grass on the waters’ edge. Once the writer got the rare opportunity of doing so with five snipes, one after the other.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Mount View Residencies
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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