It's a stretch to talk of an upside to land mines, but there's no denying that one result of northern Sri Lanka's status as one of the most heavily mined places on earth is that the area has become a haven for creatures with little use for land. Sri Lanka is a paradise for tropical birdshome to more than 400 species, of which at least 23 are found nowhere else. But it's only in Tamil Tiger-controlled territory, where a carpet of unexploded ordnance has made the jungle and salt marshes no-go areas for humans, that the birds have the place to themselves. There you'll find kingfishers, wagtails, fish eagles, yellow and green bee-eaters, sandpipers and plovers, all from the Arctic; storks and spoonbills from India; and indigenous birds such as blue magpies, paradise flycatchers and Ceylon crested drongos. But bird watchers beware: there may be a cease-fire between the government and the separatist Tigers, but peace talks are stalled and tension is never far below the surface. If that isn't enough to deter you, hire a local guide and stick to the main roads, which were cleared of mines long ago. Your life is in danger if you go into the bushbut at least it's safe in there for the orange-billed babbler, and thousands of its winged friends.