Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Camping in Sinharaja

Crested Hawk Eagle

This camping trip to Sinharaja over 14-15 October, 2007, came through my colleague Anuruddha Bandara of Eco Team. It involved three Canadian families (Lange, Seretski & Morris) based in Qatar comprising of 6 adults and 6 well-behaved kids. They were holidaying in the luxurious Lighthouse Hotel & Spa in Galle from where I picked them up. We had a 4 hour drive in prospect to reach our campsite in Sinharaja. Therefore, I made plenty of stops en route to show interesting wayside natural history. These included several Common Garden Lizards, a roost colony of Flying Fox and several birds including an obliging juvenile Crested Hawk Eagle.

I had a lot of fun asking nature queries from the kids. Having noticed that not everybody was involved in giving answers, I decided to really test the general knowledge and asked the name of Paris Hilton’s dog. Stevie, the 12 year old girl of the Morris family who were dodging all my nature queries before jumped up with a big grin “Tinkerbell!” And she was fully involved thereafter!

Breakfast at campsite

We arrived at our campsite, which was situated 3 kms from the park’s entrance by lunch time. After enjoying a good long lunch, we explored Sinharaja rain forest in the late afternoon along the Waturawa Trail. It was terribly overcast and bird activity was poor. For those equipped with digital cameras, I introduced the wonderful and fun world of macro photography. We had several obliging subjects for this in the form of Kangaroo & Green Garden lizards, Green whip & Sri Lanka Keelbacked Water Snakes, False Lantern-fly & a good-looking Green snail (Beddomea albizonatus). Our highlight of twilight came in the form of a Sri Lanka Frogmouth, which I spotlighted near campsite.

We enjoyed a barbeque dinner with a good bonfire, which was reduced considerably by the time we finished our dinner due to a rain storm. I had absolutely no sleep in the night before, having started at 2.30 a.m. after watching the Rugby Semi Finals. However, that didn’t stop me from playing a good game of scrabble with the two Mikes of the trip. One of them; Mike Morris who played Srabble for the first time, played like a pro even earning 50 bonus points scoring all 7 & led by the time we stopped the game half way through!

Sri Lanka Keelbacked Water Snake

I arranged a 4 WD Jeep to reach the entrance to commence our morning’s walking along the flatter terrain of the main reserve. We had nice sunny skies in the morning and were fortunate to witness a full-blown mixed species bird flock in action close to the entrance very early in our walk. I scoped almost all the flock associated birds that stayed long enough for all the participants, which was great fun. These included Orange-billed Babbler, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Red-faced Malkoha, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Lesser Yellownape, White-faced Starling, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Malabar Trogon, Yellow-browed Bulbul & Black-capped Bulbul. I had told enough stories about Sinharaja’s bird flocks during our long drive, so everybody knew what to expect and were happy to experience this unique phenomenon firsthand. We also had cracking views of the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, which flew towards us to almost touching distance in pursuit of a flying insect, which it caught. Bonnie Morris took a good picture of it.

Full House by Stephen Jay Gould

Dave Lange, the main organizer of this trip gifted me a book titled “Full House” by the famous author Stephen Jay Gould, dealing on one of my favourite topics; evolution, which was very nice (I think all my future clients reading this should do such good things!!). Mike Morris admitted that he is well & truly hooked on birds thanks to this tour, which was extremely nice thing to hear as a guide. He also got introduced to macro photography & scrabble so he had at least three good things to say about this holiday!

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