Saturday, November 18, 2006

William Aiya meets King Kong

William Aiya of Maradana challenges - wrestler King Kong

It was early fifties as I recall the Illustrious Showman, the late Mr. Donovan Andree - got down world famous wrestlers, i.e. Dara Singh, King Kong, Tiger Holden (Australia), Red Scorpion, Ali Riza Bey (Egypt), The Flying French man - George Pencheff - Flying Kick Expert, "Angel Face" - Zibisco, Haraban Singh, Hooded Terror etc.

Referee was Wong Bock Lee. These open air Bouts were held at B.R.C. Grounds, Colombo. The Late Mr. Donovan Andree was also responsible for organising shows like "Holiday On Ice" and the "Harlen Blackbirds" at the B.R.C. Grounds, Col. 7.

I can remember somewhere in 1955 - Donovan Andree was voted "Personality of the Year" by 'Ceylon Observer' readers, and if I am not mistaken Sir John Kotelawela came second. Mr. Andree was awarded the "Stanvac Trophy" (Standard Vacuum Co.) by the Ceylon Observer. He was the one who introduced Erin de Selfa - top Singer who I met at the Kinross Club - Wellawatte sometime ago - before the dreaded Tsunami. Years ago she sang at the London Paladium.

In 1980, Mr. Semage - got down wrestlers, Dhara Singh, John Powers (tattoed all over his body). The Prince etc. held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium - I took my very young 2 sons and wife to these bouts - Mr. Semage gave me passes - for this - my wife was attached to the President's Office then.

Jiffry Younoos (Deceased - Lake House) and I Premil Ratnayake (Lake House) and a crowd of about 15 went to B.R.C. Grounds - for a wresting event. With us was Williyam Aiya of Maradana, who owned a Club, with a small billiard table opposite Ananda College. Next to this Club, a big water sump was built and filled with water by the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions), this was wartime. William Aiya was a tough Guy and very straight, pint sized mazcular man, a James Cagney look, and very much tattoed on his chest were the words, "Budhu Sasuna Babeleva" and along the shoulders were the words, "Danna Apita Boru Mokatada" tattoed.
All of us sat on tiers - cheaper seats. First came Tiger Holden a real villain - smoking a cigar and mug of beer in his hand - he used to drink the beer and throw the mug at the crowd, who hooted him. He would burn his opponent and the Referee Wong Bock Lee - with his cigar, and be disqualified. But, he would not leave the ring - minutes later Dhara Singh and Ali Riza Bey - climbed the stage and removed him bodily - but he gave them a fight too.

Most popular with local audience was Dhara Singh, Ali Riza Bey and Haraban Singh - most hated were "Tiger" Holden, King Kong and "Angel Face" Zibisco because they played foul and even manhandled the referee. Flying Frenchman George Pencheff - always a favourite with some superb Flying Kicks.

The Grounds B.R.C. was always full for these fights one by one the fights ended. The last for the night was King Kong vs Dhara Singh - referee Wong Bock Lee. People cheered as Dhara came on to the ring - he bowed to the crowd. When King Kong came on stage, he was greeted with hoots - spat at the audience and showed his fists threatening the on-lookers. During the fight King Kong assaulted the Referee, when ordered to go to his corner.

He grabbed Dhara's eyes with his fingers, bit his ear, and at the end, Dhara was bleeding from his forehead and carried away in a stretcher. Some people say that these fights are staged - but we do not take this for a fact. Everyone was worked up now - as their favourite Dhara Singh was carried away in a stretcher William Aiya was the worst effected and angry.

William Aiya was a straight forward guy, who I have witnessed, taken on two or three tough guys at once, and also I remember Kalu Abey of Waidya Road, Dehiwela, still living taken on more than that and even challenged two Mr. Ceylons at the venue on the day of the final selection. William Aiya told us and a few of the crowd to come with him to King Kong's tent, which we did - about 25 of us, we reached his tent, and William Aiya stood closest to the tent and shouted "Ado King Kong Waren Do" several times and we were all joining him in the shouting.

After about few minutes King Kong emerged out of his tent - with a chair in his hand, lifted high above his head, dashed it on the ground and with a big roar - came towards us - what happened then was history - we took to our heels, falling over each other and ran for dear life. I cannot remember how I went home. I met William Aiya - only 2 weeks later - at Maradana and he gave me a sheepish look and did not utter word about King Kong.

- Maurice Dahanayake

Bambalawatta

RANDOM MUSINGS OF A SENILE MIND

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”
Wordsworth: Preludes

In the Nineteen Forties and early Fifties, Bambalawatte was the centre of the universe. It was where all the meaningful action took place and where the principal actors were mainly Burghers and a group of expatriates drawn from half a dozen nationalities.

This was brought most forcibly to my mind after reading the recent obituaries which appeared in the local press – one to Zoe Jayatilleke by Tita Nathanielsz; the other to David Gladwin Loos , C.C.S.. by Bradman Weerakoon.

The two articles made reference to a host of distantly remembered persons who figured prominently in those halcyon days, persons who were just names to me but spoken of quite frequently by, or were known to, my younger aunts like Beryl and Aileen and older cousins such as Allanson, Rene, Noel and Inez.

Bradman Weerakoon in his appreciation of David Loos brought to mind a dozen or so distinguished young Burgher Civil Servants of that time. While David stood out as the “Adonis” in that constellation there were others equally note-worthy such as Neville Jansz, Anton Mc Heyzer, Donald Speldewinde, Raine Wright and someone whose Christian names alone made an indelible impression on my generation of Government Service collegues as we perused the old “Civil List” – Dirk Philippus Rutgert Paulusz.

In various ways they distinguished themselves during their period in the C.C.S., despite the fact that many left prematurely either to take up more lucrative appointments in the private sector or to seek their fortunes abroad. I am informed that even in today’s war-affected Vavuniya, a portrait of Donald Speldewinde continues to hold pride of place in the Kachcheri, while the MacHeyzer Stadium is still the main venue for sports in Trincomalee.

The persons referred to in the Zoe Jayatilleke obituary included Harry Nightingale, the swimming coach; Greg Roskowski; Rolf Sando Mirsky; Marjorie Sample; Dr. Justin “Dadda” Flamer-Caldera and his brood; Harry and Olga Koch;Stanley and Christobel Livera; ‘Budgie’ Metzeling; the Driebergs and the Felsinger sisters Jean and Miriam. Though not referred to, other names conjured up by association were Yvonne Gulam-Hussain (nee Toussaint); Dr Larry Foenander, Rodney Jonklaas and Trevor Oliver (Tod) Dias.

Associated with the above and what gave Colombo at that time a very cosmopolitan character was Yvonne Bradley, a dance instructress from England; Madame Maryse Fumet, a French cookery expert; Thelma Kai who taught Hawaiian dancing and the Hawaiian guitar; Rupert Wagn, a Dane who taught the piano; Frank Harrison, a ballroom dancing teacher from Australia and Gerd Von Dinklage, a German who was Sri Lanka’s pioneer spear-fisherman..

To these must be added Ms. Marjorie Sample and Mrs. Spencer Shepherd and the two earlier mentioned Poles, Greg Roskowski and Rolf Sando-Mirsky, the latter name also bringing to mind his preferred mode of transport- the Triumph Speed Twin on which he met his untimely death..

The scenes of much of the activities of the above named were the Otters Swimming Club; the B.R.C.., Colts Cricket Club, and the Havelock Rugger Club. Strangely the D.B.U. did not feature in their revels, being much too straight-laced for the likes of the above.

A major influence in fashioning this sub-culture was the newly created Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon, headed by Clifford Dodd and assisted by Livy Wijemanne, Bob Harvey and Norton Pereira. The last of that line of Mohicans, Jimmy Barucha passed away earlier this year, creating a great void in the lives of many people of my vintage. What great pleasure Jimmy gave my aunt Daisy and me in Mutwal every Saturday night with his radio programme “Melodies that Linger”: and his characteristic introduction to each singer – “Now approaching mike- side is………”

But this little microcosm of life could not withstand the political changes that rapidly swept Ceylon from the mid 1950s. Most of the people referred to emigrated to Australia, U.K. or Canada while some of the expatriates returned to their countries of origin. The process for me was completed when we no longer saw “Pinkie” Gerreyn and Johnny Ayscough trawling the streets of Bambalawatte, the former on his Harley-Davidson, the latter in his Standard 8 Tourer.

Like many an ageing Burgher, I bemoan the passing of that happy, innocent era when men wore lounge suits or, at least, long-sleeved shirts and cravats to the 6 o’clock film show at the Majestic and the Savoy and their ladies wore hats and gloves to evensong at the DRC Church, Arethusa Lane, Wellawatte.

But “ tempus fugit “ and all of us have to accept the necessary changes which time must inevitably bring . As Shakespare wrote –

Golden lads and girls all must ,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust
.”



Rodney Vandergert

Christmas in Sri Lanka

Christmas in the good old days
By Noel Crusz

Here I am on the ocean liner THE PACIFIC SKY in the Coral Sea on a pre-Christmas voyage from Sydney to New Caledonia.

The memories of how we celebrated Christmas in Sri Lanka come back.

The house was painted, the walls white-washed with low black taredgings all round the rooms and the chairs were re-cushioned. The traveling tailor came home, measured the rooms, and made the curtains on ourold Singer sewing machine.

Red Mansion polish was applied on the cement floor, which got a shine from a heavy handled brush. Cake making was a ritual, where my mother laid the rules and we offered to help. We ate a good many cadjunuts and raisins There was the wooden ice-box with sawdust and a heavy metal covering for slabs of ice.

Two weeks before Christmas the children were taken in a hired car toPettah's Main Street. The well known shoe store was T.G.M. Perera's and we were fitted with the best shoes. Even Jamaliya's Shoe Store in Wellawatta took in orders for boots, the teenage fashion of the thirties.Before World War II, there was Ono & Co. This Japanese toy shop owned by a Mr. Numano had a wonderful array of toys from Japan.

The Main Street tailor measured us, as we provided China silk for our shirts. The silk of course was bought in early November from the Chinese peddlers who plied their trade on bicycles. Some of the Chinamen carried their bundles on their back, with a heavy stick for balance. Main Streetin Pettah in the early thirties was very narrow. It had to cope with the tram lines and bullock carts. Our Christmas shopping included a visit to X.P. Paivas for lunch andice cream. Round the corner was The Rupee Store, where for one rupee you could buy many things. Millers, Cargills, Simes and Whiteaways dominated the Fort shopping.We went to Hunters and Siedles and The Roche Brothers shops for many items.

I cannot forget the shopping in the golden mile of Colpetty, Bambalapitiya and Wellawatta. The Wickremesinghe Brothers headed by George imported the famous Mende Radiograms from Germany.We cannot forget the well known shops in Wellawatta: M.P. Gomez, A.W. Jansz, J.B. De Pinto, Nooranis, Jamaliya's Boot Works and many famous boutiques.

As a boy I went with my father to A.W. Jansz's store near High Street. We bought Dutch Edam Cheese, as an accompaniment for the Christmas breudher. I still remember Jansz bellowing to a tardy salesman:"What are you standing there shooting 'papaws'! Jansz sold liquor and all types of hardware. We bought wire-netting to build chicken coops.

The shopping spree in Colombo included a visit to Pilawoos for atreat of buriyani. Elephant House played a significant part in booking Christmas cakes. Yet there was one last item that was in the shopping list: Fireworks. We gazed in wonder at the array of fireworks in the Fireworks Palace opposite the Fort Railway Station. Sparklers, Roman candles, sky rockets, Catherine wheels, squibs, crackers of every size were there in the showcase. Christmas was on. The cake was made and sent to the bakery. The servants were pounding and roasting, making string hoppers and pittu, cutting up A.W. Jansz ham, with cutlets and seeni sambol. Churches saw long queues at the Confessional.

I remember well the Allied troops celebrating Christmas in Ceylon. In the Seminary in St. Francis Zavier in Bambalapitiya, the African troops came for Midnight Mass.

In Bandarawela, the Italian prisoners of war, brought tears when theysang the Adeste Fideles.

As I look out now at a placid sea, the Christmas memories for an expatriate find no sequence. There were Christmas trees from up-country estates sent by train. Carol parties on Christmas Eve went about in lorries.

Arthur Van Langenberg helped me to stage a massive Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve at St. Lucia's Cathedral Square in Kotahena. There were hundreds in the cast. The beautiful teenager Camille Cramer played Mary, as she was seated astride on a real donkey, led by a young doctor, who played Joseph. As Gerry Paul hit the Police drums, the donkey took off, with Josephclinging to its tail, and the audience, including Mary in ripples of laughter. As midnight came, there were a never-ending sound of fireworks andsky rockets, that would surely have awoken the Christ Child.

Carol parties came to the doorstep. At Kawdana, children in costume came around singing Sinhala carols. A hand cart with an illuminated crib was thebackdrop. They even brought a portable harmonium. Of course the homes saw families sitting for a feast of string hoppers, ham, breudher, cheese, mulligatany and cake. There were presents near the family Christmas tree.

The postman, the dhoby, the baker, the fishmonger were the regular Christmas early birds. They all got cash, plus a tot of arrack or gin.

As children we waited eagerly for the Sakkili Band. These were the poor men and women who carried the night soil buckets, before the water closet and drainage era. Many householders were generous in the cash tips they gave them. An extra pint of arrack helped them in their dance!

The famous Kukul Charlie also made his trek down all the lanes. Those were the days when Donovan Andree dominated and enriched the local entertainment scene. Donovan brought down the Ice Follies. Soon night came once more. We lit our fireworks, saw the servants lighting the big Roman candles and sky rockets.

The radio blasted yuletide melodies.As my ship went on its voyage, I was dreaming not of a 'White Christmas', but of the Christmases I spent in Sri Lanka. Nowhere in the world did I ever experience Christmas, as the Ceylonese prepare and enjoy it. I can still hear the hustle and bustle in Pettah, the cries of the street vendors and the pavement hawkers. The wailing of the mamma-pappa balloon, the rattle of the toy-carts, and the delicacies from the gram sellers are unforgettable.An Aussie Christmas is pea-nuts compared to a Christmas in Ceylon.

I do not wonder why my parents christened me Noel, and my sister Noeline.

I am reminded of J.P. de Fonseka who gave lustre to Christmas writing. He edited the Christmas issue of St. Mary's parish bulletin in Bambalapitiya. He wrote: "St. Thomas Aquinas theology avoids the Christmas cake and wine and toys and crackers and family reunions of children and parents... He considers the mystery of the GOD man, without whom the Christmas wines rejoice not and the crackers crack in vain."

[sent in by Anne-Marie Kellar in Colombo, whose parents marriage was solemnized by the Rev Fr. Noel Crusz during the time he was a priest]

Noel Crusz, the author of this wonderful piece, was the priest who married my parents at St Mary's Church Bambalapitiya in 1954. He was Dad's classmate and best buddy, and as a Wedding gift to my Dad he had arranged for Bing Crosby (who was in India at the time) to sing at the wedding, my Dad being a huge fan..Sadly, it was not to be, as Bing Crosby fell ill with diarrhea and could not make it.Noel Crusz gave up the priesthood and became a layman-- and achieved fame as a writer, journalist and broadcaster here and in Australia.

I really don't know if it's something in the air that is making so many people reminisce in the past few days of the "good ole days", as I've been getting so many such emails from folk all over the world, reminiscing about the days gone by!! They all are so nice to read and, even though I don't consider myself "an ageing Burgher" like this writer does, I still find lights coming on in the cobwebs of my mind when I read all these beautiful articles! Memories of the old days when we Burghers would never attend a wedding unless we had stockings, hat and gloves. And yes, we did dress so well--even to the rugby matches at the Havies and CH, when we wore the latest fashions, and it used to be a treat to the guys to arrive early just to watch the parade of all the outfits! Everyone wore their best to church on Sundays, and no one ever travelled overseas if they were not dressed in their elegant best!

Nowadays, when I see people so shabbily dressed all the time-- even to church, I cannot help but shake my head in disgust. People walk out of their homes to rugby matches, church, the cinema etc dressed as if they had just got out of bed, very often. And it is quite a common sight to see people at airports boarding planes in rubber slippers, shorts and even singlets!And what really makes me mad is seeing female guests at weddings dressed all in black!

My word, whatever happened to etiquette and decency?? It has always been a rule that no guest ever wore either black or white to a wedding! Oh for the days when, as the writer below states, "men wore lounge suits or, at lest long sleeved shirts to the 6 0'clock film show at the Majestic and ladies wore hats and gloves to even song at the DRC church ...."!

Call me oldfashioned, but I would give a lot to go back to those grand old days when people were so very decent and cultured and the way of life here in Colombo was so genteel and altogether so much more "civilised". Well, we can dream, can't we?

Anne-Marie Kellar, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Nov 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Birding in Colombo

BIRDING IN COLOMBO.

……. KOELS, COUCALS, BARBETS, and BABBLERS
.

Colombo is a bird watchers paradise, and is a prime location for observing our feathered friends and studying their habits, and is unmatched in any other capital city in the world. Few other cities enjoy such a varied landscape as that of

Colombo. Its diversity of scenery is reflected in the wonderful rich bird life that abounds in the gardens of the city.

This article is designed to help recognize and remember some of the common birds that frequented our home gardens, and still do, and it is hoped that it will bring back unforgettable memories of those wonderful days, when we had the time to ,”Stand and Stare” as a poet so aptly put it.

CROWS: The most common bird found in Colombo is the Crow, belonging to the family Corvidae. There are two species, the House Crow (Corvus splendens), Kolamba Kaputa (S) and the Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos), Kalu Kaputa (S). The House Crow is relatively smaller than the Jungle Crow with smaller beak, smokey-grey neck and glossy wings. Sexes are alike. The Jungle Crow on the other hand is larger with a heavy beak, and the plumage is black throughout. Both species mingle freely, but do not interbreed. Both species are notorious parasites of man and are seldom found at any great distance from human habitation. Their nests are a mass of twigs lines with fibers, and set in a tree with no attempt at concealment. They lay 3 to 5 eggs of a coloration of green to blue.

KOELS: Another common garden bird is the Koel. The Koel belongs to the family Cuculidae (Cuckoos), Koha (S) and is widely distributed in Colombo. Its presence is largely governed by that of the two species of Crows as they often victimize the crows by foisting their eggs on the Crows and leaving them to foster their offspring. Hence the breeding season corresponds with that of Crows.

During the breeding season they are excessively noisy birds with their monotonously reiterated, “ kuuuuuu-kuuuuu-kuuuuuuuu-KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”….increasing in pitch, call that can be heard from dawn to dusk emanating from a lofty tree. The male of the species is black with a bright red eye, whilst the female is speckled.

COUCALS: The Coucal, Attie-Kukkula (S) belongs to the same family as the Koel, It is about the size of a Crow, with a long and broad tail, with a slightly curved black bill, and chestnut wings. Its principle haunts are well wooded cultivation and scrub jungle, and is found in most home gardens. Much of its time is spent on the ground and in hedges. Its flight is slow and labored, and hops to the topmost branch of a tree for take off. The Coucal hunts solitarily and is a notorious robber of other bird’s eggs and young, and will eat almost any small animal like lizards, frogs, snakes, mice, and even snails.

The Coucal’s call is one of the best known bird-sounds, with its far-sounding, “Hoop oop oop oop oop” ending in a curious sound donk, much like a cork being extracted from a bottle. Its nest is a mass of creeper stems and leafy twigs, and the female lays two to three dull chalky white eggs.

BARBETS: Barbets belong to the family of Capitonidae, and although there are four species found in Sri Lanka, it is mainly the Brown-Headed Barbet, Polos Kottoruwa (S) that prevails in Colombo. This bird can be recognized by its large brown head and breast, yellow naked face, and heavy reddish-colored bill. Overall body, wing and tail color is green. Its monotonous call of, “Kottuur kottuur kottuur” can be heard over great distances to be answered only by its mate. It lives mainly on berries, fruits, and wild figs, and is often seen eating berries of the Jam Fruit tree (Muntingia calabura). The female lays three to four dull white eggs in a hole pecked out in a soft- wooded dead stump or branch. The nest hole entrance is about 2 inches in diameter.

BABBLERS: Babblers belong to the family Timaliidae. The most common of the species that invades the home gardens of Colombo is the Southern Common Babbler or “Seven Sisters”, Demma-litcha (S). This yellowish-grey bird is always found in flocks of seven or more. Its pale bluish-white eye gives it a curiously anemic look. It feeds on insects and vegetable substance, and most of the food is taken on the ground. The troop keeps up a noisy chatter, and its members indulge in a kind of dance.

The nest of the Babbler is a fairly deep cup, and the eggs, three to five in number, are a beautiful glossy turquoise blue. Breeding proceeds to some extent all year round.

SUNBIRDS: Sunbirds belong to the family Nectariniidae and are a family of very small birds. The commonest are the Purple-Rumped Sunbird, Mal-Sutticha (S) and the Purple and Lotens Sunbirds, Dum-Sutticha and Run-Sutticha (S).

FLOWERPECKERS: Flowerpeckers belong to the family of Dicaeidae and these birds are even smaller than the Sunbirds. There are three species. They are the Thick-Billed Flowerpecker, the Legges Flowerpecker, and the Tickells Flowerpecker. The (S) Sinhala name for all these species is generally, Batticha or Pillatchia.

ORIOLES: Orioles belong to the family Orioldae and few birds surpass them in ornamental value as their splendid plumage is commonly seen in gardens. There are two species of Orioles that are present. The Black Headed Oriole, Kahakurulla (S) is a race peculiar to Sri Lanka, and the Golden Oriole Kahakurulla or Varakamadulla (S) is a migratory bird from India.

The Black Headed Oriole with its beautiful yellow and black coloring is found frequently flying around from tree to tree displaying its bright coloring in between the green foliage of mango trees, and other similar fruit trees. It feeds on insects, berries, and fruit. Ripe jak fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is one of its favorites. The breeding season is from October to May and its nest is like a basket slung in the fork of a tree. The two to three eggs are creamy white spotted and blotched with shades of brown and purplish black.

The Golden Oriole’s behavior, eating habits, and nesting are very similar to those of the Black Headed Oriole.

DRONGOS: Drongos belong to the family Dicruridae. In total there are five species of Drongos found in Sri Lanka. However, only the White Bellied Drongo, Kawuda or Kawuda Pannikkiiya (S) is peculiar to Colombo. Besides its white belly, its most characteristic feature is its glossy black plumage, and its long deeply forked tail. They are arboreal birds of strong flight. Their diet is mainly insectivorous, taking most of their food on the wing. The Drongo is a great songster with various musical whistles, which include imitation notes of many of the other bird species. It has even been known to imitate the mewing of a cat. Its nest is rather small and shallow, and the eggs, two or three are pale cream to salmon pink.

KINGFISHERS: Kingfishers are very colorful birds and belong to the family Alcedinidae.
Sri Lanka has seven species of Kingfishers, and here again it is only two species that reside and breed in Colombo. These are the White Breasted Kingfisher, Liya Sudhu Pilihuduwa (S) and the little Common or River Kingfisher, Mal Pilihuduwa (S).

The attractive White Breasted Kingfisher is a feature of Colombo gardens and parks. It can catch fish if available, but its diet consists mainly of grasshoppers, frogs, lizards, centipedes, and worms, and its relatively large bill is put to good use.

The Common Kingfisher on the other hand prefers the rivers, canals, reservoirs or lakes in Colombo. Its diet is mainly small fish and it waits patiently on a branch overhanging the water waiting to plunge and dive into the water for its prey. It seldom misses its strike.

Both species of Kingfishers have their nesting burrows in a bank besides water. Their eggs, three to five in number, are a glossy white in color. It is sad to note that Kingfishers seem less abundant in Colombo now, most likely due to the degradation of the environment and air quality.

BULBULS: Bulbuls belong to the family Pycnonotidae and Sri Lanka has six species but only two seem to reside in the Colombo area. The most common is the Red Vented Bulbul, Kondaya or Konda Kurulla (S). Sexes are similar with a black crested head, mottled dark brown body, and bright vermilion under tail coverts. It feeds mainly on berries and insects of many kinds. The nest is a compact cup of small twigs lined with fine fibers. The eggs are profusely spotted and are purplish to reddish brown.

PITTAS: Pittas are of the family Pittidae, and the Indian Pitta, Avich-chia (S) is a regular winter visitor. It arrives from India in large numbers in September- October and departs again in April-May. The Pitta spends most of its time on the ground under big trees turning over dead leaves in search of insects. Pittas are one of the most beautiful types of bird species in India and have the most gorgeous coloring. They breed in the Himalayan foothills making large nests and laying four to five glossy white eggs with spots of purplish brown. Pittas have a clear double whistle which makes their presence well known.

ROBINS: Robins belong to the family Turdidae, and the Magpie Robin, Polkicha (S) is the most familiar in Sri Lanka, and is found in every garden in Colombo. The male of the species is a glossy blue-black and white. The female has a grey head and is duller than the male. Both sexes indulge in a curious gesture of tail raising and dropping of wings. This bird keeps late hours often being active until well after dusk. Its call is a four note chirp on a descending scale. The nest is a mass of untidy grass and fibers set in a tree hole, well above eye level. The eggs, of up to three, are of a blue to sea green coloration.

PARAKEETS & LORIKEETS: Parakeets and Lorikeets belong to the family Psittacidae.
Sri Lanka possesses five species, being: -

Alexandrine Parakeet, Labu Girawa (S)
Rose-Ringed Parakeet, Maala Girawa (S)
Blossom-Headed Parakeet, Panu Girawa (S)
Layards Parakeet, Alu Girawa (S)
Ceylon Lorikeet,Girra-Malitta (S)

These birds, although they are common in Colombo, are not strictly found in home gardens but are seen in flocks, flying to their places of roosting in the late evenings.

MYNAS & SPARROWS: The common Myna bird, Myna (S) belongs to the family Sturnidae, and like the House Sparrow family Passeridae, Ge’-Kurulla (S) are too familiar to need description, other than that they are both hangers-on of man. They are distributed throughout the Island wherever human communities exist.

I hope that even in a small and humble way I have helped readers to reminisce on the beautiful songs and colors of birds that formed part of our daily lives in those very happy and memorable days we shared while growing up in Sri Lanka.

I also wish to thank ALBATZ for the encouragement and support, and his kind permission in the use of his website.


ianhep@bigpond.com
Ian Hepponstall