THRIVING WILDLIFE OF GALLE AND RUMASSALA – GEHAN’S JOURNAL
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2006). Thriving Wildlife of Galle and Rumassala – Gehan’s Journal. Sunday Times. May 14th.
Anoma Alagiyawadu and I examined a flock of terns at the bridge within sight of the Lighthouse Hotel. A flock of 300-400 Little Terns were roosting on the beach. Less than half a dozen Gull-billed Terns in breeding plumage and a similar number of White-winged Black Terns in non breeding plumage were also present. Only about 5% of the Little Terns had the yellow bill acquired in breeding plumage.
Before lunch, Anoma and I visited the home of Sameera Akmeemana who had done the layout of the dragonfly poster of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle. His house is a few hundred meters inland from the Galle Fort at the base of a scrub and tree covered hill. It’s an amazing reservoir of wildlife. There was an endemic Whistling Lizard (Calotes liolepis) holding territory on a mango tree. This may be one of the first records from such an urban environment. It characteristically stayed about ten feet above the ground. A troop of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys, an endemic mammals, perched on the trees in the neighboring gardens. A family of Brown Mongooses bickered. Apparently a mother has two cubs. One dashed across. I remain without a photograph of one. About two years ago Sameera had even had a Fishing Cat crossing his garden. A pair of Spotted Doves flew in and were not concerned at me crouching down and photographing them.
Around 4.30 pm we visited Rumassala. It still has perhaps a few hundred acres of degraded forest and secondary forest and scrub. We took the walk down to jungle beach. It was good for butterflies. Several Plum Judy’s were present on grassland near the beach, around 5.30 pm. Near the temple we had a view of one of the two largest Lycaenid species. It flew out showing its relatively large blue wings and then dove into a shaded thicket which was about 10 feet above the ground. The height at which it roosts may be one of the factors as to why it is so hard to see.
Common Sailors and Common Pierrots were present in good numbers. Although Common Sailors are a common butterfly, this was the first time I made a conscientious effort to photograph the under-side. In preparing the first edition of a 28 A5 page Butterflies of Sri Lanka and Southern India booklet, I had realised I did not have a photograph of the under-wing. A Nigger was active when dusk was settling in. We also saw what may have been a Long-winged Skimmer (Lathrecistica asiatica), but could not be sure as it flew away. On the beach we watched hermit crabs laboring along the sand dragging the shell of a long dead marine snail.
Gehan’s Journal is an ad hoc series of lightly edited extracts from the ‘on the hoof’ notes maintained on his laptop by writer and photographer Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (email@example.com)