I've made many friends through writing this blog and reading other ones and Amila Salgado is one of them. I've read and gazed at Gallicissa since before birds were invented and have never failed to be mesmerised by Amila's inspiring and stunning photographs.
In the past we'd spoken on the phone, texted, emailed commented and communicated in just about every way you can imagine. We just hadn't met face to face. That all changed week before last as we'd arranged our first "proper" meeting.
Nerves, tension, excitement, fear, butterflies and apprehension. These were all the things Amila would have been feeling as he waited to meet me. He's lucky he's not a woman, or he would have had to deal with the whole swooning at RD thing too, though there were a couple of moments when I caught a glimpse of a slightly lusting look in his eye.
We'd arranged to meet at my hotel and C was there too. We sat in the place formerly known as the coffee shop and ate some food, waiting for the Birdman to arrive. It's a strange thing meeting fellow bloggers you know, if you've done it you'll understand. C asked me how I'd recognise him and I realised that it had never crossed my mind that I wouldn't, despite the fact that I couldn't really recall what he looked like.
I'd seen his picture on his blog but my failure to describe him was spectacularly successful.
"Well he's Sri Lankan, and about average really" was my quite detailed way of outlining what I knew and could recall to C.
"How will you know it's him then?" she asked.
"I don't know, it's not as if he's going to turn up in full birding gear with binoculars and all, I've just got a feeling we'll find each other." I retorted, unsure if it was a retort or just a response.
We waited for a while. I did that thing where you look at everyone passing by with an air of expectancy, waiting for someone to catch my eye with the matching quizzical look. Then I saw someone and I smiled.
He wore green, the green colour that trees are made of. It was a good thing I hadn't seen him in a jungle or I never would have found him. Though come to think of it I might have seen him in a jungle, just without knowing it. He looked like the lovechild of Steve Irwin, Crocodile Dundee and Mervyn Silva, though he was carrying binoculars, not a gun.
There was little doubt in my mind that this was the Birdman. He saw me, smiled and headed over. I reciprocated, without the heading over bit.
For about the next hour I had one of the most enjoyable and interesting about the next hours ever. I love people who have a passion and Amila is one such chap. His enthusiasm and joy from birds and birding is infectious, I say that as a person whose love of birds is quite limited to a good chicken curry.
He had me and C enthralled with bird related tales. I remembered some of them, a testament to the way in which he captivated us. For example I now know that there are thirty three species of bird that are indigenous to Sri Lanka but some South American countries have thousands. I know that the most successful birder in the world has seen about ten thousand species and the second most successful one has got over eight thousand and Amila has taken him around in Lanka.
At one point in the conversation he grabbed the binoculars and looked out of the window at some bats of some sort. This is a man on a mission. My mind veered off at only one point, when I wondered if there any chaps in the world whose hobby is looking at binoculars and how they would view them.
As he told stories of birds, birders, forests and foliage I hung on his every word. I felt as if I was about to give it all up, rush off and buy some binoculars and become his apprentice. I didn't though, what with still having to pay the bill for my lamprais and all.
Then we went our separate ways. If he was half as pleased to meet me as I was to meet him then I'd have been twice as pleased as he was. As he strolled off the world felt like a good place and birding, just for a minute mind, took on a new and totally different meaning to me.
I was reminded that I've made a load of interesting and good friends through blogging. Amila couldn't make it to the bloggers' get together because of a seawatch. Stormy weather brings rarer sea birds closer to the shore. I know that because he told me so. It seemed totally right that he chose birds over bloggers, a no brainer really.