Thursday, 30 October 2008


Another garden post.

About 5 months ago, while photographing insects in a overgrown section of my yard—"designated" to lure in the Himalayn winter visitor Indian Pitta among other things—I had a brief encounter with a smallish terrestrial mammal. I couldn’t get a good look at it due to thick vegetation. It ran slowly in the under growth, froze for a moment, and moved out of my radar as I strained my eyes to catch a glimpse of it. My gut feeling suggested that it was a mouse deer aka. chevrotain (Me-minna)—a mammal that would not only be new to my yard but also to my local area!

And then, a local man who helps us with our gardening chores, Premadasa, recently mentioned to me a couple of days ago that he saw a Chevrotain in this very section of my yard about a month ago!

He is familiar with this animal as is apparently found in his area, which happens to be thickly wooded. Oh! And my mother too described features of a small mammal with yellow stripes that she saw in one late afternoon!

This is extremely good news, and I will be on the look out for this very special mammal.

After analyzing the skulls and skins of this mammal found in India and Sri Lanka, Groves and Meijaard in 2005, ‘split’ the population of the Mouse Deer found in the wet zone in Sri Lanka into an endemic species. Thus, it is now regarded as Yellow-striped Chevrotain Moschiola kathygre (Groves and Meijaard, 2005). Click here to download that paper published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Below is a picture of an unfortunate Yellow-striped Chevrotain preyed a stray dog at the Sinharaja 'word heritage' rain forest. I reported this earlier in this post.

Coming back to my garden's record, this is an extremely exciting news as my area is residential one and is not woody as it used to be.

The most exciting mammalian find in my yard before this, was in mid 2007, when a pair of Golden Jackals turned up at broad-daylight! I showed it to my mother and a few gasping neighbours who at once confessed that they would have easily overlooked them as two stray dogs! I belived them.

Here is a record shot of a pair Golden Jackals seen at Bundala National Park on a bird watching tour that I led with 11 British birders in 2006. Click here to read its full trip report.

On the birding front, 2-days ago, I had a new bird getting added to my garden bird list in the form of Indian Pygmy Woodpecker (formerly, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker). This species is found in my local area at a spot that is 1.5 km away from my residence, but this was the first occasion I had it turning up in my yard. It betrayed its presence by its distinct call, and moments later, I had a good sighting of it.

With this, I now have 4 species of Woodpeckers in my garden list. The other three species are the Black-rumped Flameback (the commonest Woodpecker in most home gardens), Lesser Yellownape (occasional visitor to my garden), and Rufous Woodpecker! The latter is the most exciting one out of this list. It was recorded in 1991—during a fine morning when I was getting ready go to school! It hung around for few days in my yard, betreying its presence by its signtature call. I had no sightings of this species in my garden since then.

A Large Cuckooshrike, which is an occasional visitor to my garden, was also heard a few days ago.

Moving on to invertebrates, I spotted this Long-horned Grasshopper species for the first time.

Its identity was narrowed down by Dr. Priyantha Wijesinghe as follows.
Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Phaneropterinae: Mirolliini?

He commented “This is something of a mystery, but that is probably just my lack of familiarity with the species. By the way, it is illustrated on p. 103 of Henry's autobiography 'Pearls to Painting”

I took my copy of G.M.Henry’s autobiography, and turned to page no.103, and—lo and behold—there it was in the form of an excellent work of art by Henry!

This was found low-down in an ornamental plant in the shade of a (Malaysian) Rambutan tree Nephelium lappaceum. As the Zumala that I found in Sinharaja rain forest, this looked rather bizarre with the posterior end of its tegmina looking somewhat like a headdress of an Egyptian Queen!

I was chasing a dragonfly when I ran into this Spiny orb-weaver Gasteracantha geminata (Fabricius, 1798) female (also identified by Dr. DPW). It was dealing with a termite prey. I took only this shot of it as I try not to get distracted with other life forms when I am chasing a particular target.

Looking at the set of pictures that went into my Scrabble and Dragonfly tips post, I found this picture of a juvenile Elusive Adjutant that I had mysteriously overlooked!

It is quite sharply focused in both the eyes than the similar looking picture that I used for that post. I did very little post processing with this as everything was just right. It was shot at natural light, hand-held.

By the way, his kinkiness the Painted Waxtail that I posted in this post was, as I suspected, suffers from a birth defect caused at the immergence from exuvia. This was confirmed by my dragonfly mentor Matjaz Bedjanic. He went on to say that the said individual “….is suffering from a emergence defect and his abdomen is has not been damaged during copula. Normally such specimens [with birth defects] don't survive long”.

That is all for now.

Edit: Dr. Priyantha Wijesinghe has sought opinion from Dr. Sigfrid Ingrisch, an expert on Orthoptera to narrow down the identification of the Long-horned Grasshopper above. And the question mark means it is unidentified.


spookydragonfly said...

Egyptian Queen Headdress for sure! That is one unusual looking insect! As for that poor creature laying there...all I can think about is how it must have suffered. Then again, I've saved a frog and a toad out of a snakes' mouth...guess I have to toughen up!

Anonymous said...

As usual, it was a brainful! THX

Sasani said...

lovely pics as always Amila!

The two jackals are so cute!
I've been fortunate enough to observe some sort of jackals or fox in our garden on a few occasions. They pretty much resembled the popular fox however without the bushy tail (much to my disappointment) and no they were not dogs!. There were usually three of them coming through the shadows at dusk or dawn to enjoy the ripe jackfruit that lay fallen on the ground. Unfortunately my camera wasn't that powerful to capture the moment.

mboi said...

wow miminna and wolves close to colombo? you live close to colombo right?

the most exotic mammals i've seen close to my old house in kandy was the 'diyaballa'. i think it's english name is the indian otter. there's this small creek that runs near our house and sometimes they run through the water in the early morning when i'm waiting for the school bus.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, spookydragonfly.
Yes, it was an weird design! I remember reading in your blog that you made those interventions. I wouldn’t get involved it unless the predator is a domesticated one. In this case half the animal was gone so observed what followed next in bystander apathy!

Hi Kalu,
Thanks. I excluded a few other sightings until my next garden post as this was getting too long!

Hi Sasani.
Thanks for sharing that interesting sighting. Was in Sri Lanka?

BTW, have you seen the Dingo where you are now?

Thanks Mboi.
I live at Bomiriya (90210!), Kaduwela – Colombo District. There are lots of well-wooded patches in my area still and they pack in plenty of surprises. Nice to hear about your otter sighting in the schooling days.

A naturalist friend (who is now a top Biologist) identified Otter from foot prints near the insalubrious canal that runs alongside St Peter’s Collage at Bambalapitiya (the best school in Sri Lanka, my overseas readers) back in 1989! It is also found in my local patch but sightings are rare. Eurasian Otter is the widely used name as it is found in Europe and Asia.

flowergirl said...

The grasshopper and spider are real cool!

S.C.E. said...

Some more amazing bug shots especially that odd looking grasshopper leaf type thing!

Sasani said...

Hi Amila,

Yes the fox sightings were in Sri Lanka, in our own garden (my parents' garden technically)
Incredibly enough we get some very unusual visitors there, one being the fox, despite the proximity to Colombo. Maybe it's got to do with that Attidiya sanctuary only a couple of km's away, and the un-irrigated paddy fields.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Amila - I was showing K, my 12 yr old, your blog last night. She was astounded by your photography and staring at some of them with eyes wide open. You have a new fan there!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Flowergirl,
Thanks - good to hear from the neighbourhood. This particular spider is also found in India.
I bet you have seen it.

Hi Stu,
Thanks! We have a fascinating array of Orthoptera here. You will see a few regular types in a post to come.

Hi again, Sasani. Yes, Attidiya area has got the Golden Jackal.(BTW, we do not have fox or wolf in SL, although in Sri Lankan English we refer 'nariya' as fox). My area also has similar well-wooded marshy areas and scrub jungles to Attidiya so the Jackals that I had turning up may have come from those patches.

Hi RD,
I am pleased you introduced my blog to K! I love to welcome children to my blog - which is why I keep it as child-friendly as possible! Please say hello to her.

Tabib said...

What variety of nature pictures!.
Love it all, except that killing one.

Have a great weekend!

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, Tabib.
You too have a super weekend!

Vickie said...

Hi Amila,
Okay, I give up. I've looked and looked at the spider photo and I can't figure out what I'm looking at. Is he upside down? And now I'm laughing. I have no idea how you could possibly answer that question. What a busy garden!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Vickie,
The spider is the triangluar thing and he is not upside down. The blurry brown thing is his large termite prey, which gives a good indication as to the size of this tiny spider. I agree that with its bizzare shape, it is a bit confusing to comprehend.

I have done a lot of habitat enrichments over the years and I am reaping the harvests now...!

Larry said...

Congratulations on the new spcies for your yard list.-I wasvery excited when I saw a coyote in my yard once.-I can imagine you must have been excite when you saw those Golden Jackals. That last insect shot is outstanding!I can't ven imagine taing a photo that would come out that sharp an perfect.-Well done!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Larry,
Thanks! Yes, the Golden Jackals took me by surprise especially to find them in broad daylight. What a great feeling it must have been to see a Cayote in your yard! It sure must have been like a scene from Wild America!

Thanks again for your compliments on my dragonfly shot!

oldcrow61 said...

What fantastic insects you have there. Wonderful photos. The picture of the jackals brought back a memory of being in India. We had rented a small cabin in the Himalayas and at night the Jackals would come around, howling and yipping. I found it a wonderfully comforting sound.

Gallicissa said...

So you have been at the neighbourhood, OC! That must have been a special experienece to have those noisy Jackals around your cabin.

Doug Taron said...

Your garden has way more interesting wildlife than mine does. Now you need to get a photo of the chevrotain in your yard. We don't have mouse deer here in the US, but we do have deer mice.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, Doug.
Yes, I am keen to photograph it in my yard - but it is quite secretive, so it won't be easy. Thanks for letting me know about deer mice - that sounds interesting!

The Right Blue said...

That last image is breathtaking. Such detail. You are a very skilled macro photographer.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks a lot, Bobbbie!
I too am quite pleased with the last one. I can't imagine how I missed it earlier.

fishing guy said...

Amila: That is an amazing close-up of the dragonfly. Congrats on the great photo.

Gallicissa said...

Hi fishing guy,
Good to hear from you. I am pleased about that capture - as it was taken hand-held and in natural light. Thanks for dropping by.

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