Grand Slam at Yala – Gehans Journal

de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2006). Grand Slam at Yala – Gehan’s Journal. Sunday Times Plus. March 19th 2006.
Gehan’s Journal

11 & 12 February 2006
Yala – Grand Slam

The evening game drive produced my first grand slam of the big three on one game drive. We had one of the Padikkema cubs, the female was on a tree at Padikkema. She continued to sleep, despite half a dozen jeeps milling around for a glimpse. Over an hour later Wicky had seen her come out from the small tree she was on and sit astride a large exposed branch on a large Palu tree. She was not bothered at all about the vehicles. Yala continues its run of good luck with at least one or more leopard cubs that are showbiz personalities. A very confident Sloth Bear was on Heen Wewa Road. He came out and sat down beside our jeep, showing the pale ‘V’ on the chest area which is seldom seen. There were three vehicles at the sighting and the Sloth Bear was completely unfazed by our presence.

A few meters away, was a tusker in Buttuwa Wewa. The tracker thought it was Mahasen. Continuing along the road we passed a jeep which had had another tusker crossing the road. Completing the circuit around Maliththankotuwala, we came back on the main road to watch another Sloth Bear come striding confidently down the road. It is clear that the mammals of Yala National Park are becoming increasingly more confident with another mammal, the human. As long as people stay within their vehicles, keep their voices down and don’t do anything silly to un-nerve the animals, the animals are taking people in their stride. When most people complain of the park being over visited, what they mean is that they cannot enjoy a leopard sighting without several other vehicles coming along. This can be avoided by spreading the traffic out across more of the protected area.

The next morning we heard a gun shot near the old Boralu Wala on the main road, before Rathmal Wala. Spreading out the visitor traffic may help increase the diligence to ward off poaching. The next morning was yet another Grand Slam of the Big Three. The Boralu Wala cubs opened the innings. A nervous Jackal alerted our tracker, Chandrsena, that something was afoot. The male cub dashed across the road. The female showed more confidence and came slinking towards us. Another vehicle was too hasty in coming for a slice of the action and both cubs retreated into cover. They sat down about ten meters away. We left them and were rewarded with a Sloth Bear on the Heen Wewa Road, possibly the same one we saw on the main road the previous evening.

Turning into Maliththankotuwala we stopped to photograph a Brown Shrike and a Blue-tailed Bee-eater. The noise of elephants trumpeting prompted us to reverse back onto the Heen Wewa Road and we found a small family with the tusker Mahasen within sight.

The Palatupana Lewaya held a good mix of waders. Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, etc were present. The lake in front of the Yala Village hotel also had a small number of waders in close proximity to the approach road. Some of the Marsh Sandpipers had acquired breeding plumage and were beautifully patterned on the mantle and wings. We stayed at Yala Village, where photographer James was touring with Naturalist Chauffeur Guide Wicky, and Master Naturalist Deepal Warakagoda was leading a tour of thirteen people with Kay White. Master Naturalist Uditha Hettige was also in the park with his clients.

The freshwater holes within the park also had Green Sandpiper. The road to the former Yala Safari Game Lodge held at least seven Indian Nightjars. We heard Jerdon’s Nightjars. Both species of nightjar are endemic to the Indian subcontinent.
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 (