The 23rd of September was a big day for the Junior School Nature Club. No one could sleep the night before as they were all bursting with excitement. The Nature Club had organized a special bird watching trip to the Udawattakele Forest Reserve. They gathered in front of the Junior School gates at dawn, all dressed in dark colours, with binoculars in their hands. The young nature lovers were joined by Mr. Ananda Marasinghe – Head Master, Mrs. Indu Gunawardena – Teacher in charge and Dr. Harsha Ariyaratne, founder of the Nature Club joining as a special guest.
Udawattakele or ‘the Garden above the Palace’ is a famous bird watching sanctuary that is home to more than 50 species of birds. With the clock ticking, the nature club set off to find as many birds as they could. Everyone including myself started to climb up the steep hill two by two in order to enter the forest reserve. We were all very curious about what birds we might find.
We didn’t exactly set off with a perfect beginning, with some of the members dragging their feet and some walking on dry leaves and twigs. But as time flew by, our bird watching skills improved. We mastered the art of communicating quietly and used sign language to indicate the location of birds. Dr Ariyaratne taught us how to identify different bird species by observing their appearance and behaviour. We also learnt how to identify a hidden bird from only its bird call, like in the case of the White Rumped Shama that sang a beautiful mysterious song. Pulling out our notebooks and pencils, we took notes and recorded all the birds we could see or hear. We jotted down the time each bird was spotted.
We were thrilled to encounter a number of endemic birds including the Spot -winged Thrush, Brown Capped Babbler, Yellow Fronted Barbet, and some other birds such as the Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Rose ring Parakeet and the Square Tailed Bulbul. At the end of the day, the team was able to spot over 23 species of birds. The most beautiful ones that especially won my heart were the orange minivet, the white rumped munia, the velvet fronted nuthatch and the common king fisher. Udawattakele also provides a perfect habitat for some migrant birds. The entire excursion was so much fun and it wasn’t just about bird watching. Mr Marasinghe and Dr Ariyaratne taught us many life lessons about teamwork and helping each other.
After 4 hours and 10 minutes of birdwatching, the nature club marched down the hill to return to school. We brought back heaps of new knowledge and happy memories with us and we were careful to leave behind only our footprints, keeping in mind what Chief Seattle once said.
Back at school, we gathered to summarise and discuss about the birds we saw. Birds are an important and fascinating part of nature and it is our duty to protect them. We thanked Dr. Harsha Ariyaratne for the wonderful briefing and then we had a scrumptious surprise, an unexpected carrot sandwich feast from our dear teacher that was very welcome indeed. Finally, everyone left for home to have some well-earned rest.
Review by Master Seth Harischandra (Grade 5A)