JUNE, JULY, AUGUST & SEPTEMBER 2006
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (June, July, August & September 2006)
– A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne & Ayanthi Samarajewa
[*] See BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS. Butterflies & dragonflies at Sinharaja, Bolgoda and Kotte Marshes, Glossy Ibises back, etc.
[*] See ARTICLES/SHORT PAPERS Mammals of Masmulla Forest Reserve.
[*] See TRIP REPORTS Wildlife of the Western Ghats.
[*] See PUBLICATIONS Wader book, Photo booklets, Sri Lanka Colour and many more.
[*] See PRESS RELEASES A new bird from India and Siyoth a new Bird journal.
BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS
Migrant birds have begun to arrive. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows, Brown Flycatchers, etc are in towns and the countryside. Ploughed paddy fields are having waders such as Wood and Marsh Sandpipers and Golden Plovers stopping over.
It’s the tail end of the season for The Gathering of Elephants at Minneriya. Several visitors had sightings of over three hundred elephants gathered on the shores of Minneriya Lake in the largest concentration of wild Asian Elephants.
Ranjith, a volunteer guide at Sinharaja phoned Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne on 18 September 2006 after a group discussion with other guides on the fruit feeding habits of the Red-faced Malkoha. Yasaratne, Ratnasena, Gunaratne, Sunil and Ranjith have seen Red-faced Malkohas feeding on Bowitiya (Osbeckia spp.) and Nylon Bowitiya (Clidemia hirta). The observations have been mainly near the entrance ‘barrier’. Ratnasena has also seen it feeding on Bombu (Symplocos cohinchinensis). Ratnasiri has seen it feeding on Kenda (Macaranga peltata).
The Red-faced Malkoha is one of the most symbolic Sri Lankan rainforest birds. It is regularly seen by birders. The lack of detailed observations of the feeding ecology of such a charismatic species under scores how little research is being undertaken in Sri Lanka.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (8th September 2006) carried the following report.
· Chinthaka de Silva reports six Glossy Ibis at Pillewa on 8 September flying over the road at 8.45 a.m from east (the side of the temple) to west.
Chandima Jayaweera (Eco Holidays) on a Nature tour with Tony and Sally Harden (UK) from 21st to 30th August 2006, send in the following report. On 22nd August 2006 we visit Horton plains and the following sighting were recorded. Sambar, Sri Lanka White-eye, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Orange Minivet, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher and Black-lipped Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris) etc.
At Yala National Park on 24th August 2006 at around 1555 hrs we have seen rare Mouse Deer at Rukwila. Same day at 1645 hrs Bear at Thalgasmankada road and 1700 hrs Leopard at Komawewa drinking water. After that we came down to Suduwelimulla at about 1730 hrs were we spotted 2 Leopard Cubs and the mother. On 25th August at about 0735 hrs a Young Male Leopard at Madapara. Another Leopard sighting at 1820 hrs at Kotigala. We had six Leopard sightings at Yala within two days.
On 29th August 2006, we were at Sinharaja Rain Forest. The following sightings were recorded during the visit. Butterflies seen included, Ceylon Tree Nymph, Glade-eye Bush Brown, White Four – ring, Grey Pansy, Commander, Clipper, Common Grass-yellow, Tree-spot Grass Yellow, Common Blue Bottle, Tailed Jay, Red Helen and Common Rose etc and Dragonflies seen were Pied Parasol, Orient Green-wing and Blue Sprite.
The following birds and other wildlife sighting were also seen. Red-faced Malkoha, White-faced starling, Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Myna, Ashy – headed Laughingthrush, Orange-bill Babbler, Spot-winged Thrush, Scimitar Babbler, Crested Drongo, Legges Flowerpecker and Trogon etc and Kangaroo Lizard, Whistling Lizard, Green pit-viper, and Buff-striped Keelback and Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys.
J.K. Wijedasa reports that on 15th August 2006 on the Colombo Museum Front Lawn between 1400-1630hrs he observed two Red-wattled Lapwings fiercely defending their nest against two crows and a Black-shouldered Kite. He says “I spoke to some staff at the Museum who confirmed that there are a few Red-wattled Lapwing nests on the museum lawn near the front wall. He also confirmed that they take extreme care to safeguard their eggs when mowing the lawn.”
In April 2004 J.K. Wijedasa also saw a Black-shouldered Kite in Mirihana eating a small bat.
The following birds were seen by Niranjan Dias Bandaranayake on an afternoon/evening visit to Uda Walawe National Park on 26th August. Wooly Necked Stork (White-Necked Stork, Parsons Stork) -a pair on grassland near main wewa inside the Park, Grey Heron-one at waters edge near main wewa, Large Egret in main Wewa, Cormorants a few in main wewa, White-bellied Sea Eagle-a pair on dead trees jutting out of the main wewa, Hawk Eagle-2 separate individuals on tops of dead trees inside the park, Serpent Eagle-one on top of dead tree inside the park, Black Robin-one on ground inside the park, Brown Fish Owl-a pair perched on a branch inside a tree on road closer to main wewa. I was told by the tracker that this pair is resident in this tree, Malabar Pied Hornbill-6 (three pairs) birds seen flying from tree to tree, Green-Bee Eater- a few single birds seen flying from one tree to another, Peacocks and Peahens – so many, especially on the grass around wewa in the evening, Rose-Ringed Parakeet-common, Spotted Dove-common, Red-Vented Bulbul-common, Oriental Magpie Robin- a few, Common Mynah-common, Pipits-common, especially in grassland surrounding the main wewa, Iora-female seen on tree at entrance to park on the way out.
Chandima Jayaweera (Eco Holidays) on a Leopard Safari to Yala National Park with Cathy, Peter & Party (Australia) from 13th August 2006 to 16th August 2006, send in the following Leopard sightings. On 14th August at 1700 hrs Leopard at Suduwelimuula and 1720 hrs another sighting at Modawala. On 15th August at 0630 hrs a Cobra (Naja naja) on the main road and Leopard sighting at 0930 hrs at Gonawiddahalabba Junction and 1720hrs another Leopard at Rukwila.
Supurna Hettiarachchi – Hetti (Eco Holidays) on a Birding Tour With Roger Walsh
from 8th Aug to 20th Aug 2006 report the following, Two Leopard Sighting at Yala. On 18th August one female, Rukwila junction (Main Road) 0620 a.m. Around 10.15 a.m another female on Suduwelimulla camp road. Birding highlights include a Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) seen at Sinharaja near barrier gate 6.00 p.m on 19th August 2006.
Chandra Jayawardene, Naturalist, Seashells Hotel, Negombo report the first migrant for the season was observed on 2nd Aug, during the Dutch canal Tour, a Common Sand Piper. Also at Annaiwulundawa on 10th Aug, at tank No.6 – Soruwila tank a solitary Glossy Ibis was observed. I presume this was the first sighting (recording)of a Glossy Ibis in the Annaiwulundawa area.
On 2nd August 2006, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne with Wicky, Lewis Borg Cardona, Ali Chambers and Lal Goonawardana visited Minneriya National Park. Lewis was preparing an in-flight radio program for Sri Lankan Airlines. They had over two hundred elephants within a 300m radius of their vehicle. The Gathering is in full sway with several people including Ajanthan Shanthiratnam reporting over 300 elephants at Minneriya.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne visited the Kotte Marskes on the outskirts of Colombo on 30 July. He says “With butterflies and dragonflies in mind I arrived at the Kotte Marshes from the Sri Lanka Nippon Mawatha, near the football training center. Arriving around 11.30 am, this was well past the time I would usually arrive on a week-end. If birding was the objective I would have been here at dawn and left by 8.00 am. A nice feature of butterflies and dragonflies is that they become active just as when the activity of birds decline. A Marsh Dancer (Onychargia atrocyana) was perched in the shade. I thought it would be a newly emerged adult as the colours were pale. A few feet away I found an adult with its body gleaming a metallic blue, although in poor light it can look almost black. Lemon Emigrants, Common Jezebel and Grass Yellows were sipping nectar from Balu Nakuta (Stachytarpheta indica). Tailed Jays were abundant. Their larvae feed on species of Annona. The footpaths of the marshes were lined with Anona glabra, some of which were being pruned back by a group of local people engaged in a shramadana.
An Asian Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) flew past with something large dangling from its mouth. It perched and I watched it devour a hapless juvenile or female Pied Parasol (Neurothemis tullia). All dragonflies are voracious predators. But each of these hunters are hunted in turn by other hunters. A female Scarlet Skimmer (Urotheims signata) bore little resemblance to the all scarlet male. It reminded me of a tiger with brownish black rings against a yellowish body. It kept adopting the ‘obelisk position’, to minimise the heating effect of the sun. Painted Waxtails (ceriagrion cerinorubellum) and Yellow Waxtails (ceriagrion coromandelianum) kept low on the ground. A dark butterfly drew my attention. It was a Chocolate Soldier. Soon I noticed a few more. The Common Sailors which had been frequent in my previous vists a few months ago were absent. A site like the Kotte Marshes is never the same on two different days.
The going was good. I wondered whether I would see a species of butterfly I had not yet recorded in the Colombo district. By an amazing co-incidence a Yamfly caught my eye just a few minutes later. Its a distinctive butterfly with a faded orange underparts and a pair of tails on its hind wings. It hardly ever opens the upper wings completely open. But when it partially opens its wings, one can see a black tip contrasting with a bright orange upper surface. It is in family Lycaenidae with the ‘blues’. But unlike the confusingly similar blues, the Yamfly is easily identified.
I have previously encountered this butterfly only in the lowland rainforest sites of Sinharaja and Morapitiya, on the exposed logging roads leading to the dense rainforest. At the Kotte Marshes it was in a densely shaded path covered on either side by Anona glabra”.
Ayanthi Samarajewa reports from her home Garden in Werahra, Boralasgamuwa on 16th July 2006 from 1.25 to 1.45pm. 6 Asian Open-bills soaring above every high in the sky, along with 3 Spot-billed Pelicans. 4 Red-rumped Swallows flying very low above the house, I believe they were hunting for insects. This is the first time I have recorded this species in my home garden. During the same time I observed a Shikara soaring and a Ceylon Small Barbet calling from a Jake tree near by. Butterflies observed during the time included Common Tiger, Physic, White-four Ring & Chocolate Soldier.
Niranjan Dias Bandaranayake observed the following birds in the Kandy Lake from
22-24 June 2006. Openbill storks-10 feeding in a row at the edge of the Lake, White-throated Kingfisher- a pair, Little Cormorant-plenty in lake and on trees surrounding it, Small Egret-very common, Median Egret-one seen near spillway, Yellow-fronted Barbet-cry heard.
The following birds were also observed by Niranjan Dias Bandaranayake on a subsequent visit to the Kandy Lake from 8-10 July 2006. Openbill Stork-a pair in lake, Little cormorant-plenty, Black-crowned Night Heron- two single birds on edge of lake, Openbill Stork-3 birds( seen eating what looked to me like snails at waters edge), Little Egret- a few, Median Egret-one near spillway, White-throated Kingfisher-a pair on tree inside premises of Hotel Suisse, Yellow-fronted Barbet-calling, Common Kingfisher-saw one bird perched on a twig in the lake, but flew off across the lake when I got close.
Vernon Tissera writes critically on a visit to Yala National Park. “I visited the Yala National Park recently. I was in one of the bungalows with our family.
On attending to all the formalities such as the payment for the vehicle, at the office, a senior tracker was asked to accompany us which he refused to do straight away. A 2nd tracker was asked the reply was the same. A third was asked which met with a similar refusal.
This was the 1st time in all the years of visiting this park [since the 50’s] I was made to feel so embarrassed. In the end I complained to one of the senior hands who asked me what the trouble was. I explained the embarrassment that I had to face and when asked who refused to go I pointed out to the senior tracker who immediately said he was on beat duty and that’s why he was unable to accompany us. The other two had left the area by then.
In the end the senior person to whom I complained found a person to accompany us and advised me that he was a good tracker. On making inquires from this youngster, he advised me that he assumed duties at Yala, a couple of months ago. I had no objection to having a raw hand as I know the park so well. On our round in the evening low and be hold I see the senior tracker who was going on beat duty accompanying a jeep load of tourist.
Having visited the park for so many years and stayed in the bungalows, I am aware it was always a rule that bungalow bookings were allocated a tracker even before the arrival of the visitor at the office. How then and why has this rule changed? Quite obviously the tip at the end of the day is much more attractive, in fact, many of the trackers undertake two stints a day thereby earnings huge tips. What surprises me though is the non compliance of an order. Not at all surprising in this day and age when discipline is at its lowest and employees are allowed to do as they please, backed by unions.
The Park Warden or his assistants were not available I was told, as they were on duty driving Elephants in the Lunganwehera area.
Driving round the park.
The safari drivers are a law unto themselves. More often than not they are allowed to go round the park with out trackers. They do as the please. Many a time they drive off the track on to bunds [Sudu Vally Mulla]. Areas where earth has been removed, for road use, where Leopard are often seen. They drive at high speed from one point to another. They leave the track and block others view especially when a leopard is sighted. They get down from jeeps at their will and pleasure.
Tourist are allowed to do as they please, they talk and laugh as loud as they wish, they get out of vehicles they stand well above the hood when a leopard is sighted so as to obtain better pictures, all taboo to we Sri Lankan’s. It ends up in animals leaving the spot. The genuine wild life enthusiast is done down. None, of the trackers will enforce any law and order.
How are the drivers of safari jeeps, allowed to go with out trackers? Is the law for us and the law for the safari drivers different? Very often roads are blocked by safari vehicles who do not allow us to pass, it ends up in unpleasantness. One dare not get into an argument with them for fear of a show down either in the park or when one leaves it.
It has been said that many of the trackers have a share in the safari jeeps. Is this then the reason for there to be little or no law and order in the park? While it is understandable that these safari drivers wish to please the tourist they take round, there should be a limit to what they are allowed to do. Certainly many of them do not adhere to park norms.
I have been to many parks abroad. I have never ever witnessed the chaos that goes on in our Sri Lankan National Parks. All the Guides/Trackers are trained and observe the rules and regulations of the Park. Under no circumstances will they bend the rules for any one. There is law and order in these parks.
I also understand that jeep drivers are arranging for the filling of water holes, a very laudable gesture indeed. But, is this the reason they are allowed to do their own thing in the park?
Payment for bookings.
A new rule has come into force recently, as regards the payment for extra visitors i.e. over and above the normal 5 one pays for a bungalow. If one decides to take more than 5 visitors after the initial payment one has to do so at the Head Office. The old rule allowed one to do so at the park office. While, the new rule may not inconvenience those living in and around Colombo, It is quite obvious the Department has not given any thought to those living out station. If one has to add to the initial 5 one has to go all the way to the Colombo, Head office”.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne comments as follows.
“Vernon Tissera is right to point out that there is an issue with some vehicle drivers not respecting the park’s rules. Many of the Sri Lankan Tour Operators have in recent years asked that the Safari Jeep Tour Operators conform to the rules. It damages the reputation of the tour operator based overseas and their local ground agent if an overzealous jeep driver goes off road or is seen to be dis-respectful in other ways of the welfare of animals and the parks rule. This still leaves a number of small freelance safari jeep drivers who are not under pressure to operate to ethical standards. A minority of them give the safari jeep drivers as a whole by acting in a cavalier fashion.
In the last few years as a frequent visitors, I have found that now the biggest problem is actually from the holiday makers from cities such as Colombo. Whilst the majority of safari drivers are now learning to behave themselves, the City crowds are bullying their way around in the park.
The solution would be to introduce an accreditation for safari jeep drivers were they are taught a code of conduct as well as basic natural history. As in other parts of the world, accredited safari jeep drivers can play the dual role of tracker and driver. Anyone who does not maintain the standards expected can have their accreditation revoked. The Department of Wildlife Conservation has plans, but I am not in the loop as to when it will begin. Many companies from the Tourism Industry have offered their support and promised to release resources to make it a success. The trackers also need to be given leadership training so that they have the confidence to exercise authority over visitors. This is not as easy as its sounds. They can be trained to reign in a boisterous group or people who are over anxious to get close to a leopard. It is much harder when a Minister’s son is threatening to terminate their careers if the tracker raises as much as squeak of protest. I agree with Vernon that the lack of good conduct we are seeing in the national parks is a reflection of a general break down in how the nations goes about not doing business.”
Sunela Jayawardene sends in this account from a visit to Minneriya National Park. Minneriya National Park. “Driving into Minneriya National Park around 3.30pm on the 11th of August 2006, accompanied by the tracker assigned to us, we parked at a distance, allowing the gathering elephants unstressed, access to the water. A steady stream of jeeps followed us in. We noticed that, except for 2 or 3 other vehicles, trackers were absent in the majority of vehicles. We inquired about this from our tracker [who requested anonymity as, he was afraid that his temporary status would be jeopardized]. We were told that the Park Warden, had decided that day that the ‘Safari Operator’ vehicles need not be accompanies by trackers! It was not clear as to whether this was because of a shortage or whether other tasks had been allocated to some of the trackers preset.
We watched up to 20 vehicles fan out about 5 –10 metres in front of the elephants emerging from the forest. The line of vehicles completely blocked the herds’ access to water. Several people got down from their vehicles and took photographs of the elephants and each other and the drivers strolled between vehicles, chatting! No park official made any effort to curb this dangerous activity.
Our previous experience in parks has been that, a shortage of trackers compels visitors to travel in convoys led by the available trackers. The complete freedom given to commercially motivated safari drivers and the lack of supervision was disturbing. I really do believe that, the reason that trackers are reluctant to enforce the law should be investigated. More importantly, the jurisdiction of a Park Warden to arbitrarily overrule established management practices should really be queried, in the interest of both wildlife and visitors.
This is in stark contrast to a visit to Minneriya on the 2nd September August by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Wicky Wickremesekera with Radio Journalist and Producer Lewis Borg-Cardona and Ali Chambers. Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne comments “We pulled up where a group of safari vehicles were parked at a comfortable distance from the elephants. The park rangers and safari jeep drivers behaved in an exemplary fashion and made sure the elephants were not disturbed. An hour later around 200 elephants had gathered calmly around the vehicles. The elephants were so comfortable, that small groups drifted towards the vehicles whilst others walked to the water avoiding the jeeps. One juvenile in one of the groups that drifted towards the jeeps made a show of force but most of the elephants were un-perturbed. But the juvenile’s antics prompted a few of the jeeps to move away. The only real annoyance to the spectators and elephants was one group of tourists who chose to crack jokes at the top of their voices. It is a pity that the conduct of visitors and jeep operators can change so dramatically between one day and another. Perhaps the trackers need more coaching on visitor management and be given the confidence and authority to reign in visitors who don’t conform with the conduct which is expected. There is no reason why visitors should be allowed to get down from the vehicles when the elephants are nearby. There is also never a need to drive right up to the elephants. With patience the herds will often gain the confidence to approach close to vehicles on their own volition.
Our companions Lewis and Ali enjoyed The Gathering and thought it was one of the most spectacular natural events they had witnessed. On that day they were also quite impressed with the way the park staff and jeep drivers co-operated to ensure the spectacle was enjoyed without harassing the animals. Lets hope the kind of behavior observed by Sunela is removed by issuing clear visitor guidelines for jeep operators and trackers”.
An Open Letter to Mr Anura Bandaranayake, Hon. Minister of Tourism
Nuwara Eliya, The Garden City Of Sri Lanka.
– Parakrama Bandara
Last week I visited Nuwara Eliya on an official visit for the private company I work at and I stayed with a friend of mine who is a resident at Police Lane in the town.
As I had visited the town almost after a few years, I had a look around and was shocked to see that a huge building was coming up at the centre of the town which if completed will definitely ruin the beauty of this valuable tourist resource which is world famous.
By asking a few persons I gathered that this building is built for the purpose of housing the District Secretaries office and several more offices may be housed in it later on.
Already about 4 stories have come up and by the look of it, it may be several more stories high by the time it finishes. I do not know what you may be able to do about the matter as it is an approved Govt. Bldg site but I wish to appeal to you that the whole concept of Nuwara Eliya being the Garden City would be washed off if this building is allowed to be raised any more.
As a suggestion, I wish to inform you that it is possible to stop further building and grow a garden on the top floor (Roof) to obscure it from the surrounding scenario which has many a hill covered with proportionate buildings which blend with it.
Looking down from the Police Lane it is possible to acquire some more area around the building to extend it length-wise or breadth-wise and not reach to the sky as it is doing so now. If immediate action is taken it may be possible to do something.
Last but not least I wish the Ministry could extend some Financial facility to poor residents who should be given assistance to paint their corrugated roofs which jut out of the Green colour to spoil the beauty of this most important Tourist Itinerary we have. ( In Kandy too a Roof Painting Loan should be introduced to beautify the city.)
I hope I have done my bit by informing you this sad matter and wish that you have the vision and ability to do something to save this Gem of a “Garden City”city given to us by the Suddas’(Colonials) becoming the “City of Cities.”
The above letter was sent to Mr Anura Bandaranayake, Hon. Minister of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism by Parakrama Bandara, 43,Ratanarama Road, Aberatna Mawatha, Boralesgamuwa. TEL: 011 2 509533.
Recycling is possible in Colombo!
By Karen Conniff
There are several places around the city: next to SLTA on Greenpath, Torrington Ave across from the cemetery, Kotte Municipal building, and other rubbish collection points. Ask around, some locations are not that obvious but you can recycle without too much trouble.
Begin by designating 3 special bins in the house for: Plastics, Glass, Paper & Cardboard – some places take batteries, and metals. Haul it off once a week to a recycle site near you. Simple!
Note: Plastics should be washed: you can take plastic bottles, food containers, old buckets & basins, shampoo bottles, bags, etc..
Spread the word. A change in attitude is necessary; start by thinking that most of what you toss away is reusable – not rubbish. You might even begin to have an interest in making compost. Just think you can reduce what is given for collection by half. If you lack incentive just visit the dumping site at the wetlands in Malabe or drive along the Japanese Friendship Road beside Parliament.
A Checklist of the Mammals of Masmulla Proposed Forest Reserve
(except bats) by Lilia Bernede-Beresford
1. Ceylon Pigmy Shrew (Suncus etruscus fellows-gordoni)
ORDER: Insectivora, FAMILY: Soricidae, Subfamily: Crocidurinae
I was able to identify this species from a dead specimen. I have seen shrews only thrice in over a year. They were observed at night foraging in the leaf litter and coming in and out of small burrows in the ground.
2. Western Ceylon Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus tardigradus)
ORDER: Primates, Suborder: Prosimii, FAMILY: Lorisidae, Subfamily: Lorisinae
3. Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (Tracypithecus vetulus vetulus)
Suborder: Anthropoidea, FAMILY: Cercopithecida, Subfamily: Colobinae
Loud calls from male purple-faced leaf monkeys can be heard on a daily basis at dusk and dawn and I have regularly encountered small groups (average of 4 members) foraging and traveling amongst the tall canopy of the forest. I believe most of those groups are Bachelor groups trying to encroach into a ‘reproductive’ group. They are often seen settling down for the night near slender loris sleeping sites. Members of a group can sometimes be seen foraging in the same area (sometimes the same trees) as the giant squirrel.
4. Western Toque Macaque (Macaca sinica aurifrons)
Subfamily : Cercopithecinae
The Toque macaque observed at MPFR forms larger groups than the purple-faced leaf monkey, ranging from 8 to 14 members consisting of an alpha male, a few beta males, females and several juveniles. I have often seen a group forage within 50 m of a group of purple-faced leaf monkeys.
5. The Black and Yellow Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura melanochra)
ORDER: Rodentia, Suborder: Sciuromorph, FAMILY: Scuridae
Possibly an intermediate form between R. m. melanochra and R. m. dandolena
6. The Western Ceylon Palm-Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum favonicus)
7. Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica)
Suborder: Hystericomorpha FAMILY: Hystericidae
I have seen this animal during my nocturnal walks through the forest about 30 times in 15 months, almost always alone, expect for one time when two porcupines were seen chasing each other through the forest, running straight past us, oblivious to our presence. One other instance, a porcupine was seen within 5 m of a ring-tailed civet, both ignoring each other’s presence, but being closely observed by a small slender loris female who was cautiously traveling a few meters above in a Humboldtia laurifolia tree.
It appears to be highly territorial and we will often hear one shake its quills and stamp its feet on the ground until we are far enough. Fortunately, their sight is nowhere near as good as their sense of smell and when we are downwind of them we are able to get very close and observe it.
8. Indian Bandicoot (Bandicota indica)
9. Ceylon Field Mouse (Mus cervicolor fulvidiventris)
10. Indian Long-Tailed Tree-Mouse (Vandeleuria oleracea nilagirica)
11. Rat (Rattus spp.)
Suborder: Myomorpha FAMILY: Muridae, Subfamily :Murinae
Whilst conducting my night walks and following slender lorises through the forest I very regularly come across pairs of rats chasing each other amongst liana tangles, single rats feeding whilst perched a couple of meters high in a small tree, or rats foraging on the ground. I also have seen on several occasions a rat encounter a slender loris, both startling each other, resulting in the rat running the opposite direction and the slender loris instantly freezing on the spot. Some more daring slender lorises will go as far as walking to the rat sharing the same branch resulting in the rat running off.
12. Southern Indian Otter (Lutra lutra nair)
ORDER: Carnivora FAMILY:Mustelidae
I saw an otter only once during my time in MPFR. I was walking along an abandoned paddy field, looking for a slender loris that I had been watching foraging in the bamboo bushes on the edge, when I suddenly heard a ‘’flop’’ sound. I turned around and saw an eye-shine that looked similar to that of a civet. Upon taking a closer look I saw a mongoose running along a small stream by the paddy field, then stopped, grabbed something out of the water, flicked it up, and ate it. I realized very soon that the mongoose had just grabbed a large frog. It completely ignored us and carried on as if we weren’t there for quite some time.
13. Ring-tailed Civet – Ceylon small civet-cat (Viverricula indica mayori)
FAMILY :Viverridae Subfamily: Viverrinae
Of the three viverrids seen in MPFR, the ring-tailed civet is probably the most common one. I see this beautiful animal almost every night and always on the ground. It is not a very shy animal and I have been able to apoproach it quite easily a number of times. As we were watching one of our female lorises allo-grooming about 3 m up in a tree, a ring-tailed civet approached and lied down within 5 m of the loris, and within 10 m of us. The loris kept her eyes on it for a while and moved up slightly higher but did not attempt to move off. She carried on grooming whilst the civet rested. It stayed there for about half an hour after which it carried on searching for food.
14. Common Indian Palm-cat (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)
Subfamily : Paradoxurinae
15. Golden Palm-cat (Paradoxurus zeylonensis)
Subfamily : Paradoxurinae
I have seen the golden palm-cat more often than the common palm-cat and always up in a tree. They are both quite shy and difficult to approach. The closest I have ever got to one was a few meters away as it was lying on a branch about 1.5 m high. It climbed up swiftly as soon as it saw me. Based on my observations of slender loris anti-predator behaviour in the presence of this viverrid, I believe that these animals are probably the second biggest slender loris predators (closely following owls). I also was lucky enough to witness this animal chase one of our radio-collared slender lorises for about 40 mins. Of course, the fast and stealthy slender loris outdid the palm-cat who eventually gave up the chase and moved off. I was surprised however to see how fast and agile this large arboreal mammal could be on small substrates as it was following the loris.
16. Western Ceylon Brown Mongoose (Herpestes fuscus rubidior)
I have not seen this animal very often and most times my sightings have consisted of a head popping in and out of a hole in the ground. I was able to identify one of them as Herpestes fuscus rubidior as it settled almost on the path and just about 7 m from me, allowing me to take detailed description of its body.
17. Ceylon Rusty-spotted Cat (Felis rubiginosa phillipsi)
This cat has been the most difficult mammal to see at MPFR. I have seen it 3 times only and twice in the same night so most probably the same animal! I believe it was a roaming male that was just visiting the area in search for new territory or females. It did not appear too shy but slowly moved off as we got closer.
18. Indian Fishing Cat (Felis viverrina)
This other feline has been seen at MPFR (by myself and assistants) about 5 times. I once saw one resting ona b ranch about 1 m off the ground, and about 20 m from a slender loris we were watching. I walked towards the cat and managed to make detailed drawings of its facial and body markings. It was aware of my presence but did not seem the least bothered, most probably because I was using a red light. After watching it for about half and hour, I had to leave it to follow our loris but heard it jump on the ground and almost instantly heard a mouse/rat shriek.
19. Indian Wild Boar (Sus scrofa cristatus)
ORDER: Artiodactyla, Suborder: Suiformes, FAMILY:Suidae
Of all mammals in MPFR, the wild boar is most probably the most common and abundant. I tend to see them very regularly shortly after and during the rains. I saw a group of 16 animals cross the path about 10 m from me at about 20.00. I have encountered them numerous times in the day often leaving one of our dogs injured! They seem to prefer sleeping in bamboo clumps where it is humid and shaded, and never too far from paddy fields. I do not believe these animals are currently being hunted but trap guns and live wires are still being placed around plantations. One of the paths I regularly use has a live wire running along it and I have very rarely seen any mammals there. I suspect animals other than wild boars fall prey to these practices.
20. Indian Mouse-deer (Southwestern race) (Tragulus meminna)
Suborder: Ruminantia FAMILY: Tragulidae
This adorable and charismatic little mammal has been my ‘companion’ at MPFR from night one. I see at least one every night and often see them in pairs. I once saw a mother and her baby settled in nicely under a bamboo clump. They can be quite shy but if approached very slowly and quietly one can easily get within a few meters and watch it for hours. They are very cautious of humans and will often run off ina jumpy manner uttering a strange ‘bark-like’ nasal sound as they do so. Slender lorises have often reacted to this call and moved up a tree upon hearing it.
(See Groves for latest nomenclature of southerwestern taxon)
My Home Garden a Butterfly Hot Spot.
– Chandrika Maelge
Our home garden is located in Piliyandala, bordering the Bolgoda Lake. It is approximately 2-acres. The garden formally known as Damparagahawatha, is a typical home garden allowed to grow wild, with flowering plants such as Lantana, Blue Snakeweed, Ixora and Pinna amongst Coffee, Cinnamon, Coconut, Pepper, Karapincha, Lemon Grass and number of fruit trees such as Soursop, Custard Apple, Orange, Mango, Cashew, Jackfruit and Lime. On the lake border of the garden there is a small reservation area of mangrove plants consisting of Kaduru and Kirala.
I have known my garden to be good for birds (migrant & resident) and small mammals. Based on my observations on 22 & 30th July, 4th August and 9th September 2006, I was pleasantly surprised to discover 30 plus species of butterflies in our garden. Given below is the list of species,
5 species of Milkweed Butterflies:
Common Tiger, Blue Tiger, Blue Glassy Tiger, Common Indian Crow, Great Crow
4 species of Satyrs or Browns:
Common Palmfly, Nigger, White Four-ring, Dark-brand Bush Brown
2 species of Brush-footed Butterflies:
Lemon Pansy, Common Sailor
1 species of Acraeidae:
6 species of Gossamerwings:
Plains Cupid, Banded Blue Pierrot, Dark Grass Blue, Red Pierrot, Common Pierrot, Yamfly
3 species of Whites & Sulphurs:
Psyche, Lemon Emigrant, Common Grass Yellow
5 species of Swallowtails:
Tailed Jay, Blue Mormon, Common Mormon, Common Bluebottle, Crimson Rose
Golden Angle, Grass Demon, Bush Hopper
On all 4 days my sister Charmarie Maelge and I managed to do a few rounds in the garden to observe butterflies. Usual observation times were 10-11.30 am, 2-3 pm & 4-5.30pm. Blue Mormon, Great Crow, Golden Angle & Common Bluebottle were only seen once. Gehan’s Photo Booklet on Butterflies of Sri Lanka and Southern India proved to be a good field tool. I was able to identify 25 species of butterflies with its aid. Crosschecking the photos with Bernard d’Abrera’s ‘The Butterflies of Ceylon’ book, I was able to identify Dark-brand Bush Brown, Golden Angle, Bush Hopper, Grass Demon and the male and female of Common Palmfly.
Wildlife of the Dry Lowlands of Sri Lanka & Southern India
by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (2006). Published by Eco Holidays: Colombo.
A photographic guide to the commoner animals & plants of the dry lowlands. A 55mm x 100mm sized booklet comprising of 111 colour plates with captioned photographs in English, Sinhala, French and German. Covers the common mammals, replies, butterflies, birds, dragonflies and plants.
This books retails at Rs.700 and can be purchased at all leading bookshops and from Jetwing Eco Holidays at Jetwing House, 6th Floor, 46/26, Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 02, during regular office hours. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gehan’s Photo Booklet to the Butterflies of Sri Lanka & Southern India.
The GPB – Butterflies of Sri Lanka & Southern India retails for Rs. 300 and can be purchased at all leading bookshops and from Jetwing Eco Holidays at Jetwing House, 6th Floor, 46/26, Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 02, during regular office hours. Email: email@example.com
Kumar, A, Kankane, PL & Baqri, QH (2006) Geo-spatial Atlas for Wetland Birds of Thar Desert, Rajasthan. Zool. Surv. India, i-xii; 1-202.
India has 243 species of waterbirds and 67 species of wetland dependent and associated birds, almost half of which are migratory and come to the subcontinent from there breeding grounds in the northern latitudes of Russia, Central Asian countries, China, Mongolia westward to the Persian gulf. Detailed information on the distribution of most of these wetland species, their migration strategies and areas and timings of concentration is not well documented or easily accessible.
The country has been characterised by extensive loss of wetlands the in last few decades resulting in a decline in their ability to support a large diversity and abundance of waterbirds. Conservation of these waterbirds hinges on ensuring that safe feeding, resting and nesting sites are maintained and thus conservation and proper management of the remaining wetlands is of extreme importance. Identification of all sites of international and national importance for these species provides a system of prioritization to focus monitoring and conservation on wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) provides an internationally acceptable basis for assessment of such sites.
The study area is the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, an arid region fed by a major canal system and characterised by shallow reservoirs, freshwater ponds, escape reservoirs, saline lakes, rivers, etc. A total of 144 wetland bird species, including 17 Globally Threatened species, have been recorded from 275 sites.
On screen digitization was carried out using window based ArcView 3.1 GIS software, editing was done by using ARCEDIT 7.1.2 for the following spatial attributes, namely, state, district and development block boundaries, settlements, surface drainage, Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojna (IGNP) Command area, temperature regimes, evapotranspiration and rainfall.
All the available wetland birds record (published or otherwise) were geo-referenced on digitized map of the Thar desert and ARCVIEW platform and GPS point records have been plotted for each observation site. The set of two geo-referenced maps for each species pin point the present extent of geographical distribution of the species in the area and provide the number of individuals recorded at a specific site. Emphasis has been laid on the following aspects in the present study:
Production of the maps for distribution and concentrations of globally threatened species, 1% biogeographic population (SAPE, 2002), species listed under CITES, CMS, and Indian wildlife (P) Act, 1972, distribution and concentrations of species of Anatidae, distribution and concentrations of northern winter migrant species. In addition, maps are produced of the distribution and concentrations of five migratory waterbird species identified by Indian task force on Avian Influenza as potentially higher risk of being infected by the highly pathogenic influenza strain H5N1 based on unprecedented numbers of these species being killed by the virus in Qinghai Lake, China in 2005.
Based on Ramsar criteria 2 & 6, a total of 25 wetlands in the Thar desert meet the requirements for inclusion as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar list of sites. A consolidated prioritization based on the Ramsar criteria, IWL(P) Act, 1972, CITES and CMS identified a total of 18 wetlands, six wetlands are located in Pali, three each in Jodhpur and Bikaner, two in Jaiselmer and one each in Hanumangarh, Churu, Nagaur and Barmer districts. A review of adequacy of the Wildlife (P) Act, 1972 vis-à-vis wetland birds proposes that Indian waterbirds need more protection under the Act, either by upgradation of the current listing of schedules of the threatened species or by inclusion of a larger number of species under it.
Sri Lanka Nature Pictorial
Dr. Upen de Zylva is launching his new book called “Sri Lanka Nature Pictorial” The book a spectacular photographic presentation of the rich bio diversity of our little island. breathtaking images,….. most in landscape format, with lively captions….. a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who values the green and unspoiled corners of our country. This is 34cm X30cm 135 page hard cover book. This offer is available from Unigraphyics, No 732, Maradana Road, Colombo 10. Call Mahesh on 2694538/2693730 for details.
With the Dawn
by Nihal Fernando & Herbert Keuneman. Published by Studio Times Ltd.
Based on the Exhibition Wild Life ’73, an epic poem in words and photographs which unfolds the story of life in the jungle. 230 pgs, 200 black & white photographs, 18cm x 19cm (portrait), duotone printing in Korea. Two editions – Standard & Deluxe. Can be purchased now at prepublication discount. Closing Date for Prepublication Offer: 16th Dec. 2005. Contact: Studio Times Ltd., 16/1 Skelton Road, Colombo 5, + 94 11 2589062, + 94 11 595569. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.studiotimes.net
Waders of Europe, Asia and North America
Helm Field Guides by Stephen Message, Don Taylor
Published 2005 Illustrations 80 colour plates. Format Paperback 234x156mm mm. ISBN 9780713652901. RRP £24.99
This new field guide offers a complete identification reference to all of the sandpipers, plovers, stints and other waders found in Europe, Asia and North America. The superb plates show birds at rest and in flight, in every plumage variant likely to be encountered in the region. Species have been grouped, especially on the flight plates, so that similar species are shown close to each other. Facing text summarises key identification pointers to complete a quick-reference, field-friendly guide to this difficult and challenging group.
An additional service from Studio Times for the amateur & professional photographer.
Colour Transparency E6 Processing 35mm & 120 @ Rs 500/- per roll (normal service). Studio Times has taken over the unit and the technician from Studio & Lab (formerly M3) and with effect from April 2006, quality colour transparency processing will be undertaken by us.
Photo M3 and Studio & Lab has been processing our E6 film for over twenty years. We hope to continue the tradition of quality as established by Mr Marius Perera of Photo M3 and Mr Nihal Fernando of Studio Times and maintain services for those of us who have not been overtaken completely by the digital era.
Contact: Studio Times Ltd, 16/1 Skelton Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. Tel: 2589062, 2595569. Email: email@example.com, Web site: www.studiotimes.net
COLOUR By Dominic Sansoni
Reviewed by: Professor David Robson
First published on July 26th 2006 on Nasreen Sansoni’s blog. Reproduced with permission.
The Amazing Technicolor Dream Book
I first came to Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was then, in 1969. At that time the population was half what it is today and there was ample elbow room for ten million people to live together in a sort of imperfect harmony. I remember Colombo as a sleepy Garden City with tree screened avenues and gleaming bungalows and the rest of Ceylon as a kaleidoscope of palm fringed beaches, boulder-strewn hills, impenetrable jungles, glistening tanks, and ruined cities. But strange to relate my memories are all stored in black, white and grey. This may be because at the time I took only black and white photographs, photographs which have survived to this day on hundreds of celluloid contact strips. It may also be that my memories have been invaded by the flickering tableaux of Basil Wright’s “Song of Ceylon” which I first saw from an armchair in the Alliance Francaise in Ward Place in 1970, by the haunting images of Lionel Wendt and by the early photographs of Nihal Fernando.
It maybe also that one inheritance of Sri Lanka’s long colonial hegemony was a suppression of the senses. The British came from a cold grey island in a cold grey sea. They ate flavourless food, extolled pale skin and flaxen hair and wore beige clothes. All the colours and tastes of Sri Lanka were bottled up for four hundred years.
Colour broke out for me in 1971. A friend arrived from Germany with rolls of Agfa slide film and I gave up developing films in darkened bathrooms. It was also the year when I saw my first Ena de Silva batiks at one of her veranda sales in Alfred Place and the year when I discovered Barbara Sansoni Fabrics in Anderson Road. Soon we were all parading in our bright yellow kurtas, our black and brown striped handloom trousers and our batik sarongs. And in the April of that year the insurgency shattered Ceylon’s fragile peace splattering the colour red across the map.
Barbara Sansoni didn’t invent colour in Ceylon – it was always here. But she opened our eyes to it. Her brightly woven handlooms, made with the nuns of the Good Shepherd Convent at Nayakakanda, were a revelation. In 2004 Barefoot held an exhibition to celebrate forty years of design, colour and weaving. In its catalogue Sansoni described how her colour sense was heightened by her experiences of the landscapes and seascapes, the flora and the fauna of Sri Lanka. In a series of remarkable paired images, photographed by her son Dominic, she demonstrated how her colour combinations were drawn from nature: peacocks flying in Yala, hill terraces, the back of the bamboo forest, the striped squirrel fish.
Dominic could be said to have done for photography what his mother did for weaving. His first major book, “Sri Lanka, The Resplendent Isle” produced with Richard Simon and published by Times Editions Singapore in 1989, was a pictorial compendium which also celebrated the intensity of Sri Lanka’s colours: the saffron yellow of a sleeping Buddha, the topaz blue of the lattice screens in Messenger Street, the emerald green of a hillside of tea, the blue green of the southern ocean at Weligama, the blood red of a carved Ravana head on temple chariot in Jaffna, the pale mauves and yellows of lotus blossoms.
Now Dominic has again teamed up with Richard Simon to produce a book which focuses exclusively on colour. And unlike so many books of the genre this is an entirely Sri Lankan production. The book has been beautifully designed by Nelun Harasgama Nadaraja and superbly reproduced by Gunaratne Offset Ltd. The photographs have been left to speak for themselves and the pithy captions give just sufficient information in a near invisible Gill Sans font. There are no discernable themes, no hidden messages. The images are allowed to breathe: some stand alone facing a blank page, some are double spreads, some are casually juxtaposed with other images.
This is a beautiful book, beautifully made and filled with beautiful pictures. The yellow of the paper cover is the quintessential Sri Lankan colour, the colour of turmeric, the colour of a monk’s robes, but its black and red lettering aptly recall the wrapping of a Kodak film roll. The hardback within is an intense chilli red which burns the eyes.
Sansoni records the ordinary objects of everyday Sri Lanka. He challenges you to go out into your garden, to walk down your street, to go to your market and experience the sheer intensity of the colours which are all around you, the colours of nature and the colours of man.
In Sri Lanka the sun cuts a relentless near vertical arc across the sky. The first light of sunrise fills the world with a pale yellow hue, the midday sun burns down with a searing white intensity and the evening sun paints a warm orange glow on everything it touches. Sansoni’s pictures record the changing light and invoke the change moods of the days and seasons. My own favourites are of people: the women of Uddapuwa in their multi-coloured saris, the devotees at Kataragama, a young lady in Jaffna, but there are also images of buildings, of landscapes of flowers and fruit.
Over the past twenty years Sansoni has painstakingly recorded the miseries and horrors of the civil war and in his introduction Richard Simon wonders why he has not included any of those pictures in this collection. Ironically the book was conceived during that false dawn of peace which has so recently evaporated but it is being published at a moment when the threat of renewed war looms large again. Sansoni offers us a succession of pictures which are intended to please the eye and fire the imagination, pictures which help us all to see beauty in the commonplace things which surround us and remind us that life goes on in spite of everything. They serve as a hymn to peace rather than a litany of the horrors of war.
Sansoni, D. (2006). Sri Lanka Colour. A photographic portfolio by Dominic Sansoni. Designed by Nelun Harasgama Nadaraja. Hard cover with dust jacket. Published by Barefoot (Pvt) Ltd. Printed by Gunaratne Offsett Ltd. Price Rs. 4,800.
Wildlife of the Western Ghats – Periyar, Munnar, Eravikulam, Thattekad & Thrissur Kol Wetlands. By Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
10th – 18th December 2005 (A Tour by the Sri Lanka Natural History Society)
Gehan & Nirma de Silva Wijeyeratne, Kithsiri & Dilki Gunawardana, Tara Wikramanayaka, Cherryl de Silva.
Initially I handled the initial dialogue with Mohit Aggarwhal of Asian Adventures who handles the North Indian tours for Jetwing Eco Holidays of which I am a Director. Subsequently Tara Wikramanayaka and I dealt with Kalypso Adventures based in Kerala who handle the ground arrangements for Jetwing Eco Holidays.
Our guide was K.V. Eldhose who has a reputation as being probably the best local guide in South India. I was very happy to have had eight days in the field with him. I am now confident that Eco Holidays would like him to be the local guide on tours which we would run for twin center wildlife holidays between Sri Lanka and India.
Whilst on tour, the accommodation was changed as we had arrived just as a fierce hurricane was sweeping across the state of Kerala. Our guide Eldhose advised the ground agents to change the accommodation arrangements. He was concerned that if the rain continued it would be awkward for our group who were already suffering with wet baggage. Furthermore Kithsiri and I were sporting two digital cameras apiece and armed with an assortment of cameras, laptops and battery chargers which needed a reliable source of electricity and dry storage.
Eldhose owns Hornbill Camp in Thattekad where we were to spend three nights. The trip reports on the web have favourable comments about the camp site, but unfortunately we did not get to see it.
Our vehicle was a comfortable Tempo Traveller, apparently manufactured by Mercedes. For six people armed with an assortment of birding and photographic gear, it was an ideal vehicle with a good air conditioning and internal lighting system, adequate leg space and room at the back for baggage. The diver Rojin complemented Eldhose well. He and the vehicles was always immaculately turned out. Rojin was always smiling and pleasant. He maintained a cheerful disposition throughout despite a birding group being every driver’s nightmare to handle.
Saturday 10th December Arrival at Cochin and to Periyar
We took the 0800 hrs flight from Colombo to Cochin in Sri Lankan Airlines. The flight is relatively short, but check in is at 0500hrs. Therefore one arrives without having had much sleep. We were the last in several lines of the immigration queues and found that it takes an awfully long time for the queues to be processed. It was at least an hour before we got out.
We were to drive to Thekkady and from there to the Periyar Reserve, a few kilometers away. The drive time was put down at five hours. It took us at least 8 hours including a stop for lunch to reach Periyar. There was no way we could do the visit to Periyar Tiger Reserve which had been scheduled. En route we were met by Commander Thomas Zachcharias who runs Calypso Adventures. He also brought with him Eldhose, who was to be our guide. Thomas said that the one thing he was certain was that we would not see Tiger. Eldhose later also confirmed that it would be lucky if even one visitor of the several thousand who visit Periyar Tiger Reserve see a Tiger.
A part of the reason for this is that the number of Tigers in the reserve is less than 50. The other reasons is that most people access the reserve on foot on organised treks, with a guide from the official visitor center or by boat. Neither of which are a good way to see Tiger. Masinagudi not far from Ooty is supposed to be much better for seeing mammals including Tiger. In fact if mammal watching is the objective, Periyar may not be the best site. Lester Perera who has birded here in good weather however gives it rave reviews for birding. Periyar is no doubt a pleasant place overnight visitors who can relax in a forest setting at the Aryan Nivas or Lake Palace hotels inside the park. The boats leave at 0700, 1100 and 1400 for a ride which takes over two hours.
At Thekkady, the highlight of the evening was a visit to DC Books, a book shop which I would recommend to every keen wildlife enthusiast. They have a good selection of wildlife books and the six members of the Sri Lanka Natural History Society turned out to be very good customers. The next morning Eldhose also stopped at a small bookshop on the main road leading to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, a few kilometers from it. This had a small but useful selection of wildlife books as well.
Sunday 11th December 2005 Periyar
A Crested Drongo, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, were seen in front of the small home stay we had been put up. For our bad luck a hurricane had brought un-seasonal bad weather and it began to rain. We drove to Kamban the site of the Grey Babbler and Common Babbler, neither of which obliged. A Spotted Owlet roost gave some of us a good look. We were able to compare the Jungle Prinia which looked different to the Sri Lankan race. We also watched a flock of Red-rumped Swallows in flight and on the telegraph wires. What was a race found in Sri Lanka has now been split by Rasmussen into the Ceylon Swallow. The Indian and Nepali races of the Red-rumped Swallow are scarce and very scarce migrants respectively to Sri Lanka. The Indian bird is distinct in the field from the newly split Ceylon Swallow by having a pale rump, almost looking white in flight in the field and clear streaks on pale underparts.
Other birds in the area were Pied Bush Chats, a male was collecting nesting material. Spotted Doves, Laughing Doves and Eurasian Collared Doves were at one time perched on the same telegraph wire allowing good comparisons to be made. There were clusters of Black Drongos.
It rained almost the whole morning and it was raining when we arrived at Periyar. A troop of Bonnet Macaques and two Wild Pigs were at the information center.
We decided to skip the boat trip because in addition to the rain, which adversely affected the viewing, the water levels of the lake were high. This reduced our chances of seeing animals like Gaur and Sambar who might be grazing on the edges of the lake or coming down to water to drink.
The drive to Munnar was long, taking around another seven hours. The rain and thick fog in places slowed us down. We passed some beautiful stretches of forest besides the road which would have been excellent for birding in good weather. We alighted briefly from the vehicles at one forest patch when the rain ceased. We had White-cheeked Barbet, Common Flameback, Grey Drongo, Lesser Hill-myna, Brown-backed Spinetail, Malabar Whistling-thrush (h), Indian Swiftlet etc.
From near Munnar, we took a road to Suriyanelli to a tented camp run by Calypso Adventures. The last kilometer or so is by jeep. The four tented camp are placed atop a concrete base with a good toilet attached to each tent at the back. They are set against a horizontal space gouged out of steeply sloping cliff face. In good weather the site is quite spectacular. The tents took a severe buffeting during the night from the hurricane winds. The dining area was open on all sides and we huddled around a Primus Lamp for warmth as we had dinner.
Monday 12th December To Munnar
Much to our relief the cyclone was passing away and we headed to the High Range Rifle Club at Munnar. We checked in and emptied our bags to let things dry out. The previous night’s rain had entered the tents wetting our clothes.
In good weather, the birding began right in front of the entrance porch to the club. A Tytler’s Leaf Warbler offered close views showing that it had no wing bar and a well defined eye line. The legs were dark although the plates in Rasmussen (by John Anderton) suggested otherwise. Long-tailed Shrikes at the club were very confiding. Oriental White-eyes, a Purple Sunbird in eclipse, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, etc were in front of the door step.
After check in we drove a few kilometers from the club and alighted in an area where a few remnants of forest was mixed with cleared areas. Our first Western Ghat endemic, the Kerala Laughingthrush (Grey-breasted Laughingthrush) was seen. It is a common bird in the degraded hill sides which is a mixture of grassland and small bushes. It keeps to the bushy areas. A confiding bird, it can approach very close. We saw it in pairs. One bird was seen collecting nesting material. Although it is common, its a striking bird and we did not seem to tire of admiring it. Here we also had good views of a pair of female Nilgiri Flycatchers with a male.
The first butterflies also seemed to make their appearance as the sun rose. The Red-disc Bushbrown was rather wary. The Indian Cabbage White seemed to be the most common. Both species are butterflies of the hills of Southern India. The roadside had a lot of Lantana and Candle Cassia (Cassia altata) in flower. Various other species, especially of legumes were in flower.
The stream near the High Range Rifle Club had Little Grebe and Moorhen. Hawking over the water were Red-rumped Swallows and Hill Swallows (Hirundo domicola) a sub-continental endemic. Most of the Red-rumped Swallows were brown in colour, probably immatures. A single Eurasian Crag Martin was observed. Subsequently in the evening we observed a flock of Dusky Crag Martins in the air with a single Eurasian Crag Martin. The Dusky Crag Martins looked black a lot of the time from below. The Eurasian consistently looked lighter at every angle.
Square-tailed Black Bulbuls were common. It is split from the Himalayan Black bulbul by the square tail (versus fork tail) tail and the lack of dark moustachial stripe. The call was reminiscent of the race found in Sri Lanka. But the Sri Lanka race’s call is more strident, and richer, more ‘bullying’.
A Tickell’s Leaf Warbler was observed well showing clear yellow underparts and a single wing bar. Greenish Warbler and Large-billed Leaf Warblers were also present gleaning in the canopy. The White-cheeked Barbet’s call was reminiscent of the Brown-headed Barbet’s call in Sri Lanka. It also had a rolling the call which started off very similar to one of the oft heard calls of the Yellow-fronted Barbet, a Sri Lankan endemic.
We had two sighting of the Indian Yellow Tit, split from the Black-lored Tit found in Northern India. The black bar on the shoulder is bordered by two white bars in the Indian Yellow Tit. This was very clear in one of the adult birds we observed. In the Black-lored Tit, yellow bars border the black.
In the evening we drove a few kilometers to a degraded hill side with a few dense thickets. Eldhose soon found us a female Black and Orange Flycatcher. A pair of Indian Golden Orioles were observed. The male clearly shows the black behind the eye which is absent in the European Golden Oriole. Nilgiri Flycatchers and Grey-headed Canary-flycatchers were also present. The Nilgiri Flycatcher seems a common endemic in this hill habitat. Indian Blue Robin was heard but true to form remained hidden in the undergrowth. A Grey Junglefowl walked confidently within Cherryl’s view but disappeared when the rest of us went in search of it. However, we had a few good views of it during the rest of the tour.
In the evening on a degraded hill side we were treated to the sight of two Nilgiri Wood Pigeons. A Malabar Whistling Thrush which was calling emerged on to a tree beside the road. It was fanning its tail and slightly flicking its wings as it called. We were struck by the glossy blue on the upper tail, wings and forehead.
13 December 2005 Eravikulam National Park
We left the High Range Club at 0615 as it was important to be amongst the first visitors to enter Eravikulam National Park. The later you get, the harder it becomes to see certain species like the Nilgiri Pipit which show themselves well to the first few visitors. On our way a Malabar Whistling Thrush flew across the road. It seems to be a fairly common bird judging by the calls we heard on the tour from various habitats. The bird perched on a bare branch and began to sing. Once again we observed it fanning its tail and spreading its wings as it sang. Some of the song was very similar to that of a White-rumped Shama.
At the park entrance fees apply. Rs 200 to foreign nationals and very much less to residents. Video and still photography permits also apply. Small vehicles, but not large coaches are allowed to drive up to a small information centre titled ‘The story of Eravikulam National park’. The display area is small, about 20-25 feet by 16 feet. But it is an informative and extremely well presented introduction to the park. There is a stunning collection of photographs to accompany the narrative. It was well worth the modest Rs 5 charged and we visited it twice.
People in larger vehicles need to book a jeep at the turn off from the main road for the few kilometers up to the information centre. The jeep hire is where the tickets are sold. For the return trip and for a half an hour wait, the jeeps charge Rs 150. For every half an hour extra you should pay at least Rs 50, to compensate for the loss ‘hires’.
On entering, as if on cue, a pair of Nilgiri Pipits gave good views from just a feet away. The birds are very strongly marked and unlikely to be confused. We heard the Painted Bush Quail calling but did not see any. Visitors are supposed to turn back after about a kilometer from the information center. Around here is a patch of forest. Here we heard the endemic Nilgiri Langurs calling and had distant views. They are very dark, with extremely long tails and brownish hair on the crown.
In the same thicket a singing White-bellied Shortwing gave us a close but awkward view through a thicket. Grimett et al (1998) and Kazmierczak (2000) state that the nominate race major has rufous flanks and the race albiventris has grey flanks. The race albiventris is confusable with White-bellied Blue Flycatcher. What we saw and photographed is albiventris.
In Rasmussen & Anderton (2005) what were two races of White-bellied Shortwing (Brachypteryx major) is now split into White-bellied Blue Robin (Myiomela albiventris) and Nilgiri Robin (Myiomela major). Rasmussen states that White-bellied Shortwing has a ‘well defined, frosty whitish brow, over black lores’. The plate shows this clearly. The bird we saw in the field did not show a distinct white eye brow. The brighter blue crown just about extends over the eye as a thin strip. The plate in Kazmierczak offers the best rendition of the three field guides we had.
Indian Yellow Tit, Tickell’s Warbler, Plain Prinia, Red-whiskered Bubul, Pied Bush Chat (very common), etc were also seen.
A raptor flew in close but evaded ID. A female Indian Kestrel perched on the telephone wires. The upperparts were strongly barred. We were wondering whether we would miss the Nilgiri Tahr when a herd of around fifteen came into view. We had beautiful views of them outlined against the crest of a hill with a wide valley in the background.
In the evening we set off to a Spotted Piculet site past the turn off to the Eravikulam National Park. Large swathes of mist blew in and we thought the time may be better spent visiting Eravikulam once again.
14 December 2005 Thattekade Salim Ali Sanctuary
En route to the Thattekade forest we stooped at the Mottled Wood Owl site. Although a lot of village people and livestock pass under the tree regularly we were cautioned to keep a distance of at least 50 m away and to avoid pointing at the birds. Apparently the owls are shy and will fly away if they feel they are under scrutiny. A bare tree nearby had a Streak-throated Woodpecker on it. We never saw one again and I regretted not taking a safety shot before attempting a closer approach. A Crested Hawk Eagle and a Honey Buzzard flew over. Blyth’s Pipits seemed to be everywhere. They would take off with their characteristic, short soft call. A Blue-bearded Bee-water was seen at a distance.
We then drove onto the bridge near the Thattekade Maha Devi Temple. There were no River Terns, but a few Whiskered Terns. The entrance to the sanctuary is just over the bridge, across the temple.
The Godfather of modern Indian Ornithology, Salim Ali, who was from Mumbai, had proposed a long time ago that the Thattekade forest in Kerala be proposed as a nature sanctuary. Thattekade is now finally a bird sanctuary covering an area of 25 square kilometers encompassing a wide variety of habitats. The area around the sanctuary is fairly heavily inhabited and there are many roads leading into the sanctuary. There are also roads leading to houses within the sanctuary. Many of these access roads are not regulated for tourist traffic. It is probably not economical to attempt to collect tickets from the few visitors who enter the sanctuary other than from what I suspect is the ‘main gate’ opposite the Thattekade Maha Devi Temple. A ticket office here issues tickets. For foreigners it was a couple of dollars.
The jeep track passes a lake on the left which can also be observed from the main road outside the sanctuary. The lake held a flock of Lesser Whistling-duck. Just before the lake, barely a 100m from the gate we encountered a mixed species feeding flock. We had White-headed Myna, Black-naped Oriole and Racket-tailed Drongos. Common Hawk Cuckoo, Red-whiskered Bulbul, etc were also present.
The jeep track runs through degraded forest with Teak trees. The teak must have been planted for commercial harvesting. Although the forest is degraded, it was still good for birds. We had Malabar Grey Hornbill, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback and Rufous Woodpecker. A Drongo Cuckoo was nearly overlooked for one of the Bronzed Drongos. At close range, the white barring on the under-tail showed clearly. The highlight for many was a male Malabar Parakeet regurgitating food to a female. I missed this because I was busy photographing what I believe was a Common Cerulean butterfly. We saw an Orange-headed Thrush of the race cyanotus found in peninsular India. The vertical, balck and white stripes on its face were very striking and not seen on the nominate race citrina which migrates to Sri Lanka.
As the sun warmed up, a lot of butterflies were about. These included Chocolate Soldier, a lot of Common Castors, Southern Birdwing. Less than a kilometer in was a bridge which was literally swarming with butterflies. The damp soil had many Lycaenids mud sipping. Common Nawabs were perched on the cement embankment. A Tawny Raja sped about in a mad zigzag fashion. I would not be exaggerating to say at least 50 plus butterflies were present of several species.
The highlight was Malabar Banded Swallowtail which we came across on our way back. It obligingly settled on a rock and allowed frame filling photography. Eldhose said it was very rare and that we were luck to even see it. Indeed it is so rare, that it is not even featured in S.T. Satyamurti’s Descriptive Catalogue of the Butterflies in the collection of the Madras Government Museum. On the bridge we also took frame filling photographs of what I subsequently identified as a Bamboo Treebrown. Despite the efforts of Kithisiri and mine in visiting many book shops, we failed to find a good field guide to the butterflies of India. Unexpectedly, I found Meena Haribal’s The Butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya and their Natural History very useful for identifying some of the species. The title adds includes many species found also in other parts of India and Himalaya. Indeed! If I visit South India again I will take my copy into the field. I had bought this book on a Jetwing Eco Holidays visit to Northern India in October.
According to the edition of 1992 I have of Haribal, the egg of the Bamboo Treebrown is not known. Thattekad seems a good place to do some research on this little known butterfly. On the under-wing, the Bamboo Treebrown has a distinct thin diagonal pale strip which distinguishes it from the other species of Lethe butterflies in the books I have consulted.
Other butterflies recorded at Thattekad included Common Cerulean, Quaker, Common Jay, Angled Pierrot, Banded Blue Pierrot, Common Five-ring and Tamil Yeoman.
Within the forest, overlooking a pond was a three storeyed structure with a room with two beds. Apparently tourists can book the cottage cum wildlife watch tower. Close to it was a pair of roosting Ceylon Frogmouths and yet another male at another site. Both Eldhose and an employee of the Forest Department asked us not to even touch the adjacent trees in case these in turn shook the tree the birds were roosting on. Taking such attention to avoid disturbing the roosting birds clearly has its rewards as looking through the trip reports it is clear that birders have over several months continued to enjoy sightings of the birds.
In Sinharaja in Sri Lanka, Frogmouth roosts when discovered are soon subject to disturbance as the number of visitors on the main trail is very high.
In the evening, we drove to another village bordering the Thattekade forest. En-route we stopped at the Mottled Wood Owl site for another look with the sun behind us. A dead tree had around twenty five Crested Treeswifts. Having continued to the village for the nightjars, we parked and walked along a jeep track for about 300m. There was an area with wide but low rocks protruding from the ground. Behind it was forest. Eldhose pointed out areas that Savanna Nightjars roost in and added that the birds are disturbed inadvertently by villagers and their livestock. A Fairy Bluebird flew past. Red Spurfowl called but stayed well hidden. The music from a nearby temple and a hum from a generator or water pump was constantly in the background. I had my sound recorder with me. The ultra sensitive Telinga mike was picking up every detail in the music. Nevertheless it added a very Indian ambience to have Red Spurfowl calling mixed with the music.
As dusk fell a flock of Rufous Babblers flitted past, uttering their hysterically shrill calls. White-throated Barbets, Racket-tailed Drongos, Common Hawk Cuckoos added to the chorus of calls. A pair of Large Cuckooshrikes engaged in what I suspect is a courtship display. Each bird would flap its wings a few times and then glide with down-swept wings. As it commenced its glide it would utter their characteristic single sharp note. The pair then maneuvered very close to each other.
As dusk began to fall an Indian Nightjar, an Oriental Scops Owl and a Jungle Owlet began to call, sometimes all calling at the same time. An Indian Pitta would occasionally break in. A Common Hawk Cuckoo sang. It continued to sing till around 7.00 pm when it was very dark. Suddenly a clear whistle rang out. A Great-eared Nightjar. We listened to two or three Great-eared Nightjars for a while. The calls faded away except for one bird in the distance. Kithsiri whistled the call in imitation a few time and to our surprise and delight a Great-eared Nightjar responded immediately. It flew over us to investigate and was joined by another bird.
As we left a mysterious owl called, very reminiscent of the Serendib Scops Owl recently discovered in Sri Lanka. The Jungle Owlet can make a similar call. So perhaps it is nothing new. But who knows, does Thattekade Forest hold any surprises?
A Workshop on Birdwatching for Beginners
BirdLife International – the international partnership “for birds & people”- organizes World Bird Festival 2006. The World Bird Festival is carried out during October and encourages the conservation of birds through a diversity of activities including nature walks, indoor meetings, lectures, seminars, film showings, children’s events and exhibitions.
Through the World Bird Festival, BirdLife aims to raise public awareness of the importance of birds and their habitats. As the partner affiliate of BirdLife for Sri Lanka, the Field Ornithology Group organizes a Workshop on Birdwatching for Beginners. It will be held at University of Colombo on 28th October. A field workshop has also being organized to Thalangama wetland, on next day morning.
The lectures will be conducted under the guidance of Prof.Sarath Kotagama at NBLT at Department of Zoology, University of Colombo.
Schedule of the workshop is as follows…
09.30 – 10.30 : Introduction to the Birds of Sri Lanka
10.30 – 11.15 : Bird Identification tips & techniques
11.30 – 12.00 : Birds, Traditions & Culture
12.30 – 12.30 : An Introduction to Popular Birding Sites in Sri Lanka
14.00 – 16.00 : A Documentary Film Show on Birds
The Field Birdwatching Activities will commence at Thalangama tank around 07.45 in the morning.
You can register for the workshop by contacting the FOGSL secretariat on 5342609/5342604 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only the first 50 registered personnel will be facilitated.
‘SIYOTH’ – The Journal of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL)
‘SIYOTH’ – The Journal of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) was launched amidst a gathering of distinguished guests on Friday 21st of July 2006. The first copy of Siyoth was presented to the Vice Chancellor of University of Colombo Prof. T.Hettiarachchie. The launch of a journal dedicated to birds is a landmark in the field of Ornithology in Sri Lanka.!
The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka launched a journal on birds; “SIYOTH”. At present apart from few bulletins, there is no journal that truly dedicated to birds. SIYOTH filled the existing empty niche in the country by providing an avenue to those who are interested in birds to publish their findings. SIYOTH also intends to carry a diverse array of articles ranging from those of a highly technical nature such as research papers to articles meant for the general public.
SIYOTH is biannual and priced Rs.300/=. You can also register into a subscription scheme. Please contact the editor of FOGSL email@example.com for more details.
Publishing a magazine of this caliber is not an easy task, and it was indeed the team effort and a fine example of voluntarism (as always with FOGSL) that helped us to put this together. It was not an easy process. Problems did arise, which left the editorial board to work over the clock to finish the last stages of the magazine.
The first challenge was finding the contents. Authors put their full effort in compiling articles and the photographers were willing to lend us their priced photographs to be used in the magazine. On behalf of the editorial board, It is my duty to convey our appreciation to each and every one of them. We are also grateful for the contributions by Dr.Michael Rands – Director & Chief Executive BirdLife International – and Mr.Richard Grimmet -Head, BirdLife Asia- for their messages of support and encouragement.
We cannot forget two special people. First, it was Manjula Perera; our designer. Designing a 64 page magazine within 2 days is a tough task by any means. But Manjula dared to take the challenge and delivered a great magazine. Our printer Prince Fernando of McLean printers provided us a quality product, again within a very short time period. I must also acknowledge FOGSL office staff for their effort and all the individuals who helped us. I would like to present my sincere appreciation and gratitude to Prof. Kotagama who was behind us at all times, encouraging and guiding us thru the production.
All what we have done wouldn’t mean anything if we could not print this magazine. *Sri Lanka Telecom*, listened to our request and agreed to assist us financially to make this venture a success. Without SLT’s assistance we wouldn’t have seen this journal coming out today. It is my utmost responsibility to thank Jagath Dheerasekara and the team at Sri Lanka Telecom. It is a privilege to work with local companies which help in conservation. I wish to reiterate our gratitude to Sri Lanka Telecom for their assistance.
Malaka Rodrigo – Editor / FOGSL, on Behalf of ‘SIYOTH’ Editorial Board. Dr.Devaka Weerakoon, Chinthaka Kaluthota, Tharindra de Silva & Madhubashini Jayawardena
NEW BIRD SPECIES DISCOVERED IN INDIA
With its colorful markings, the Bugun Liocichla is one of the most striking birds discovered in recent years. More importantly, according to the National Audubon Society, it is a vivid reminder of the natural wonders still unknown to science and of the need to conserve habitat for birds and wildlife both known and yet undiscovered.
Named after a tribe native to the region, the Bugun Liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum) is a member of the babbler family of birds, a diverse group of around 280 species found primarily in wooded areas of Asia, Africa, and Australia. The only member of the babbler family found in North America is the Wrentit of the Pacific coast.
Astronomer Ramana Athreya, who discovered the new species, first caught a glimpse of the olive, yellow, black, and red bird while birdwatching in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in remote north-eastern India in 1995.
“Even then I knew it was something very special,” said Ramana. He returned several times to search for it, and in May 2006 was finally able to net the approximately nine-inch bird. Because of its rarity, Ramana released it the same day, after observations confirmed that it was a new species, rather than keeping it as a specimen for study. “With today’s modern technology, we could gather all the information we needed to confirm it as a new species. We took feathers and photographs, and recorded the bird’s song,” explained Ramana.
“This is the kind of paper you dream about receiving,” said Aasheesh Pittie, Editor of Indian Birds where the description of the Bugun Liocichla was published. “The discovery of a new bird is really special, but when it’s a stunning species with no geographically close relatives, and in a part of the world where bird collectors have sampled birds for more than a century, it’s nothing short of miraculous.”
Announcement of the discovery was made by the Bombay Natural History Society, which is India’s partner organization with U.K.-based BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation organizations working in more than 100 countries. Audubon is the U.S. partner of BirdLife International.
“We congratulate Ramana Athreya on his extraordinary discovery,” said National Audubon Society President John Flicker. “It reminds us that even in our complex and technological age, there is much that we are still learning about the natural world. Hopefully, it will inspire more people to explore the wonders of nature and to play a personal role in safeguarding habitat for this bird, and other life around the globe.”
“This is a truly striking bird that will give many birdwatchers a good reason to visit the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in northeastern India,” said Paul Green, Director, Citizen Science for National Audubon Society. “The discovery of this new species is a reminder to us all of how much we rely on the skilled observations of naturalists in the field to document the often surprising diversity around us.”
To download a PDF of the scientific paper about the Bugun Liocichla published in Indian Birds, go to http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2006/09/bugun_liocichla.html
REQUESTS FOR SUPPORT
Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS)
Namal Kamalgoda from the WNPS sends in the following request for support. “If you have been to Bundala you will know that the park is choked with cactus. This highly invasive plant has taken over a major part of the park, and has displaced the natural vegetation. This in turn has affected the bio diversity of the park. Bundala is a Ramsar Site and is one of the most important wintering locations for migrants birds. It is also the southern most point of the South Asian flight path for migrant bids.
Linea Aqua Pvt Ltd in association with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society is in the process of collecting funds for the removal of the invasive cactus at Bundala. A pilot project of 5 acres was approved by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC). This was for the purpose of costing. This has now been completed. It is expected to cost Rs.111,000 per acre. This project is community based and is expected to provide valuable employment to local villages. This is a meaningful project expected to have a long term “real” benefit to this park. If you are able to fund an acre as an individual or as a group we will appreciate the funds. This would be an ideal opportunity for any of the corporations that you work for to sponsor a few acres as part of it’s CSR. If you want further information please call me on 0772280270 or email me. We will be happy to forward a formal proposal, to any institution that may require it”.
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS is an ad-hoc e-mail of birding and wildlife sightings, events, short notes, articles, and publications etc of interest to birders, photographers, conservationists and tourism professionals reaching over 4,500 subscribers. To receive a copy, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “Subscribe Wildlife News” in the subject header. SLWN values your privacy, to be removed, e-mail with “Unsubscribe Wildlife News” in the header. Please e-mail your sightings, events etc to email@example.com. The media are welcome to extract details, but please attribute the source and author(s). Past issues are on stag2.mydemoview.com/jetwingeco