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The Wagtails Paradise - Kerawalapitiya

At first, when photos start emerging on social media of Wagtails taken at the garbage disposal site in Kerawalapitiya, I was sceptical and thought it must be just a few wondering birds who were attracted to all the garbage. After 3 trips now to the location, I'm mesmerized by the allure of the place and its birds'. It's a true Wagtail paradise and much more!

Located only 20-30 mins away from the heart of Colombo, this unique site borders one of the most abused ecosystems in Sri Lanka - Muthurajawela Wetlands.

The original wetland ecosystem has been landfilled, cleared and tons of garbage has been dumped on it. Additionally, it borders some of the biggest industrial complexes such as the 'Yugadhanavi' power plant and petroleum processing plants. One can only wonder how this landscape must have been prior to decades of abuse by humans. The existing wildlife is an indicator of what must have been in the past.

The site became a 'must-go' location for bird lovers in 2021 as it became a hotspot for observing Wagtails and Pipits. Although it's the Yellow Wagtail's that has come down in large numbers, the more rare Citrine Wagtail's and White Wagtail's were also observed.

It's also a great location to photograph Pipits. Although I was not lucky to see it, some folks have observed the rare and vagrant Red-throated Pipit at this site. My captures are mostly of Paddyfield Pipits.

This unique ecosystem fueled by the mountains of garbage must be a breeding ground for lots of insects and hence the attraction for many bird species. Additionally, the large mounds of sand piled up artificially provide a unique backdrop to the location.

Some of the other species I managed to photograph are below.

One of the more memorable encounters is coming across a Clamorous Reed Warbler among the beautiful reeds. After climbing up the sand dune with much effort and perilously climbing down the other side, I was greeted by the call of this beauty. However, even after spending the better part of an evening trying to take a clear photo, I was unsuccessful. This shy beauty never came out into the open and always stayed among the reeds. Hence the unclear photos below.

The diversity of birdlife found in this small patch of land is a testament to the uniqueness of my country. With ever-increasing human activity, clearing of Muthurajawela wetland habitat and the pollution that eventually follows, I fear this location has a limited lifespan before the migratory birds stop coming down to it. I hope to visit many times more to try and capture as much of it as possible before it disappears altogether.

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